Cocktails with.. Loch Ness Gin

Loch Ness Gin launched in September 2016 so, as today is the last day in that month, it seems a fitting time to post my review. It’s always so nice to see a gin on its journey from conception, through development, to the finished product; and this has been one such product for me.

The gin is made in Athbhinn Dores, Inverness, which is on the shores of Loch Ness. The family of the husband and wife team behind the gin have lived and worked in that part of the Highlands for over 500 years.


Unusually for a European Gin, Loch Ness use their own, local juniper, which they harvest especially for that purpose. Here are my tasting notes.

On its own
The nose is soft and creamy, with pleasant hints of citrus and spice. The softness follows through onto the palate, making the gin very accessible and easy to drink. There are light, fresh, leafy cucumber notes, as well as a touch of plump, juicy berries. The more traditional gin notes of juniper and angelica come through towards the finish, intermingled with creamy spice notes.
The gin starts off soft and gentle, but has a botanical character that gradually builds, the more you drink.

Gin and Tonic
Crisp and refreshing, with a luscious, leafy note and a hit of salinity, before some creamy citrus. Easy to drink and super-smooth.

So subtle and elegant, this Martini has a mysterious mix of spice with flirtatious, herbal, leafy notes. The result is an eminently sippable Martini with a sweet lift at the end.

A full and plump Negroni with a long, lingering finish; lovely, bitter intensity; and a background chord of herbaceous spice. Superb! Complex, will well-integrated flavours.

With Soda
Very crisp with a salty, leafy note reminiscent of samphire or seaweed, this is an exceptionally fresh drink with plenty of resinous, woody pine notes.

Pink Gin
A gentle, soft, and graceful drink with a light spice and gentle florality, plus a fresh leafiness on the finish.

French ‘75
Loch Ness makes a complex French ‘75 with a great, leafy florality and a hint of fruity berries. Elegant and luscious, with a touch of rose jam on the finish – superb.

In Conclusion
Loch Ness Gin is a great addition to a rapidly expanding selection of Scottish-distilled gin with a smooth and refined character.

Loch Ness Gin is available for around £45 for 70cl.

Bank Holiday Gin Tonics

With the Bank Holiday upon us (the last one in the UK until December) and the possibility that at least a few days in the long weekend will actually be dry and hot, I thought I’d share a few simple ideas for some gin tonic serves to impress your guests this weekend.


In this sort of heat (currently it is 28.8c here) I want a very cooling drink with plenty of ice, so a glass like the large copita/fish-bowl glass popular in Spain for the Gin Tonica is the best bet. It does take at least 8 cubes to fill one of these, however, so unless you have an ice maker, I suggest getting a bag or two of ice.

If you don’t have a copita glass, than a large wine glass or stemmed beer glass (think the Stella Artois Chalice) will also work well. The stem helps to keep your drink cool, keeping your warm hand further away from the drink.



Typically, I use between 25ml-50ml of gin and 150ml of tonic. These are slightly weaker than many might usually enjoy their gin tonic, but these drinks are meant to be long and cooling, and too much alcohol in great heat is not a great idea.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Plymouth and Millers

The Classic

Plymouth Gin with Lemon and Lime Wedges (aka the Evans Style)

Plymouth Gin has a light sweet spice to it, which is balanced out nicely by the slightly sharp lime, whilst and the lemon complements the citrus in the gin.

The 21st Century Gin

Martin Miller’s gin with Strawberries and Cracked Black Pepper.

An unusual garnish choice on paper, but ever since one of the Miller’s brand ambassadors showed me this, I’ve been hooked. Fresh, succulent fruit works well with the refreshing nature of the gin, and the black pepper adds balance and bite. For an extra chill factor, use frozen strawberries.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Apostoles and Shortcross

The Leafy Gin

Principe de Los Apostoles Gin with Rosemary and Baby Spinach

The gin itself is quite “green” – herbaceous and leafy – and the rosemary gives the drink distinctive, aromatic herbal notes as well as adding to the visual spectacle. The spinach adds more to the look than the aroma or flavour, although the leaves can also be a pleasant snack to munch on as you drink.

The All-Rounder

Shortcross Gin with Orange and Coffee Beans

I’m a big fan of Shortcross Gin from Northern Ireland and it has great mixability, including in a gin tonic. I’ve been experimenting with non-typical, but readily available garnishes and my good friend Julia Nourney suggested coffee beans to me. The beans add a deep, dark element to the nose, whilst still allowing the juniper to slip through. When you sip the drink, it is almost all about the gin, with just a little lusciousness from the orange. Almost a two-phase gin tonic.

The Maverick

Bombay Sapphire & Cola with Orange and Chocolate Bitters

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Bombay Sapphire & Coke

Putting gin with cola is seen by many, in the UK, as heresy, despite the fact that this is how gin is enjoyed in many countries in Africa and further afield. The only point that matters is – does it taste good?

In my opinion, it does. Bombay Sapphire, with its complex botanical flavour and light pepper notes works really well with cola, creating a flavour that is reminiscent of an old-school botanical cola; there are even some dry, piney notes in the background. The orange adds a little zest, whilst the chocolate bitters contribute to the drink’s finish.

In Conclusion

Summer drinking is meant to be friendly and fun; it’s a time to relax with friends and family. As such, the drinks should be fun, too. Hopefully this article has provided a little inspiration for you to up your summer drinks game.

Origins of the Gin Tonic?

It has been a question that made many a drinker, bartender, and writer wonder for many years; when was the Gin & Tonic invented? I recall one noted writer saying something like, “If tonic water was invented in the morning, then the Gin & Tonic was invented in the afternoon – after all, they usually drank beer in the morning.” A nod to how obvious the combination now seems.

Unless it was impeccably documented, the first occurrence of the two being combined will be impossible to ascertain. Even drinks created in the last few decades have suffered a similar fate. At best, writers can find the earliest possible references.

My starting point was 1858, when there are records of Erasmus Bond’s patent for “improved aerated tonic liquid” and, given that the oldest detailed recipe I have come across from a 1938 advertisement for Gilbey’s Gin, the first reference must pre-date that.

The Earliest Reference so far:

August 4th 1875 – The Medical Press & Circular – Page 88

Article titled:
“Indian Medical Notes – XLII  (From Our Special Correspondent) – Meerut, June 1875

Meerut is a city in the Uttar Pradesh Province in India’s North, about 200km south of the Himalayas. In this article, the correspondent talks about health and well-being, in particular warnings of avoiding “savoury sausage made with offal-fed pork, carrion, stale fish, sour beer, bad milk, or the cool refreshing cucumber.“

The correspondent goes onto the suggest that:

“Careful officers have a cup of tea about five in the morning, then, perhaps, about nine or ten, oatmeal porridge, fried mullet, strawberries, or sliced tomatoes – perhaps a light lunch of cold chicken, perhaps none; perhaps sherry and bitters at the club – the comfortable Wheler Club – perhaps a gin tonic well iced – anything to sustain Nature until eight o’clock dinner when the cautious drink claret or a little sherry”


What is noteworthy is the term “Gin Tonic” – no “and” or ampersand – and that it is iced, putting play to the idea that the British don’t like ice in their gin tonics; it is possible that a Mel Gibson character in the 1982 film, “The Year of Living Dangerously” is responsible for this.


My one concern was that “gin tonic” may refer to some other sort of medicinal mix, but a reference in the 1883 book, “Sunny Lands and Seas: A Voyage in the S.S. Ceylon” adds clarity. The author seeks consolation of “tin gonics” after an encounter at Hill’s Hotel in Lucknow, another Indian city in Utter Pradesh, on 17th January 1882.

In the foot notes, “tin gonics” are explained as: “gin tonics, vis. gin & tonic water”.

So it seems that, at the time that the Indian article was written, “gin tonic” did refer to gin and tonic water. It also suggests that tonic was an entity in its own right, i.e. not a home-brewed concoction.

What would it have tasted like?

This is a difficult question to answer, but we do have some information:
· 1875 was after the advent of continuous distillation and a time when gin was sold in bottles. It was also becoming dryer. Gin brands of the time included Tanqueray, Booth’s, Gordon’s, Plymouth, Gilbey’s, and Beefeater.

· The 1870s is when Schweppes released and began to export their “Indian Tonic Water”, so the tonic water was quite possibly sparkling and pre-bottles.

· The opening of the Suez Canal and introduction of the steam ship would have made it quicker and cheaper to obtain British export in India.

The next step
I firmly believe that there are other nuggets of information that can shed more light on the Gin Tonic’s origins and maybe even push its proven date of origin back a few more years. I look forward to further revelations.

Cocktials with… Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Gin

A question that is often asked of me, whatever country I’m in, is “What is your, or one of your, favourite gin(s)?”.

Of course, this is a dynamic and difficult question to answer; not least because some of my favourites are not available internationally. But one of my Top 10 gins that is readily available is Martin Miller’s. In fact, it has been in my Top 10 for over a decade. So it was with great excitement that I heard about Martin Miller’s 9 Moons – the first permanent edition to their range for 17 years.

Martin Millers 9 Moons

9 Moons shares the same botanical DNA as Martin Miller’s and Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gins. A high strength version of the gin then is rested for “9 moons” (aka 9 months) in ex-bourbon casks. The cool climate in Iceland helps to slow down the maturation impact of the barrel on the gin, which stops the wood flavours from overwhelming the spirit.

The first release is limited to 2,000 bottles, but there is potential for further releases and what I can only imagine is a fine selection of excellent gin resting in interesting casks in Iceland.

The Taste

On its own
Colour: Pale Champagne
Nose: A medley of citrus – bright lime and grapefruit – plus violets, berry fruits, light vanilla, and oak.
Taste: To taste it is also quite citrusy, which is unusual for a matured gin; it is also fresh, with a crunchy leafy note. A little sweetness in the middle is reminiscent of liquorice with some violets, before the more resinous juniper and a slight creamy note of wood and vanilla. The finish is lightly bitter, woody, and earthy, with a touch of pepper spice, and, at the very end, is that familiar, Miller’s crispness.

From the Freezer
The liquid is a little sweeter and the wood flavours are more pronounced, as are the violet notes, making it seem to be part gin, part gin liqueur. It has a thick, indulgent texture and would be a good choice to serve at the end of a meal.

9 Moons makes quite a sweet Negroni, but a particularly complex one, too. Delicate, confectionary floral notes are followed by a combination of citrus flavours and an earthy bitterness. Overall, nicely balanced.

Sweet Martini
A cocktail with deep and rich flavour: the red vermouth works really well with the gin, adding a herbal bitter-sweet flavour. Clean, crisp, and complex wood notes come through on the finish, accompanied by a raisin and spice note, reminding me of Dundee cake.

Light and floral with dry notes and the a luscious crisp leafy note, exceptionally refreshing and a lovely way to enjoy the gin in a long drink without it losing it’s character.

In Conclusion
I really enjoyed trying Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Gin and I was particularly pleased to find that the Miller’s character that I love from their other three gins is still discernable in this spirit. My favourite serve was sipping it neat, and I thoroughly look forward to future releases.

9 Moons is available from 1st September. For further information, please visit

Cocktails with… Hernö First Craft Gin

Mrs B and I recently returned from a fantastic trip to Northern Sweden as guests of the lovely folks at Hernö Gin Distillery. Whilst visiting the distillery, Jon shared with us a gin made to this first ever recipe; the balance of botanicals is similar to that of their Artisan Gin with one variation: meadowsweet is replaced with almond.

Herno MEadowseet.jpg

Meadowsweet Infusion and Dried Meadowsweet at Herno

Although meadowsweet has been used in other gins, such as Hendricks and Caorunn, it wasn’t until visiting the distillery in Dala that I really understood what it adds to a gin. Tasting a maceration of meadowsweet in alcohol, lots of lightly floral hay notes come through; slightly reminiscent of bison grass or holy grass vodka.

That’s probably enough of a focus on a botanical that is not even in this gin! Hernö First Craft’s botanical mix does include: juniper, coriander, lemon, black peppercorns, cassia, vanilla and lingdon berries and is bottled at 40.5% ABV.

Herno First Craft Gin

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Floral, oily notes with woody juniper and citrus, along with aromatic coriander.
Taste: Quite dry, but with rich citrus, floral, and spice from the coriander that I see as a trademark of Hernö’s gins. There’s also a creamy nuttiness with a hint of chocolate and marzipan. The finish is of light, dry, resinous juniper and a little citrus peel.

Gin & Tonic
Full of flavour, with rounded coriander notes and a slightly bready malt flavour. Then comes citrus and a little berry tartness. Clean and well-integrated.

A crisp, bright, and juniper-rich, resinous Martini. Clean, like a shard of ice. A pure delight of a drink with a long, dry, spicy finish.

A resinous, yet smooth cocktail; a pleasant nuttiness comes through, with an underlying sweetness to it. This has a great texture and a good dose of bitterness on the finish.

In Conclusion
In comparison to their other gins, Hernö 2012 First Craft Gin is dryer in style, but still maintains the distillery’s signature character. Well-worth seeking out. My favourite cocktail was the excellent Martini.

Cocktails with.. Poetic License Picnic Gin – Strawberries & Cream

Summer is here, Wimbledon is around the corner, and when it comes to dessert, minds often turn to that cooling, delicious, and succulent treat – strawberries and cream.

Poetic License Picnic Gin Strawberries and Cream.jpg

The clever folks at Poetic License (whose other gins did well at last year’s Gin of the Year Competition) have managed to create a gin flavoured with strawberries and cream. Poetic License Picnic Gin is bottled at 37.5% ABV and is made using a mix of traditional botanicals and a blend of real strawberries and cream.

The Taste

On its own
Nose: A clean combination of strawberry and juniper.
Taste: First off, it is great is that this is a dry gin and not sweet at all. There are a range of dry gin flavours – juniper, angelica, and citrus – accompanied by fruity strawberry and creamy vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
Luscious strawberry and cream on the nose, followed by great, jammy strawberry notes on the palate that make this a fruity and delicious drink. The tonic adds a little dryness and lengthens this refreshing summer drink.

Very dry with some of the more tart notes of the strawberry coming through in particular, as well as woody, earthy spice.

The Picnic Gin makes an unusual, but pleasant Negroni, with all of the classic flavours – bittersweet, herbaceous, spicy, and earthy – overlaid with the indulgent jammy flavours of strawberry.

Poetic License Picnice Gin Fruit Cup

Fruit Cup (30ml Picnic Gin, 15ml Red Vermouth, 10ml Ginger Wine, 100ml Lemonade)
The herbaceous, spicy notes of the other ingredients work well with the fruitiness of this gin. It is certainly a lighter Fruit Cup, but a great way to cool down on balmy afternoons.

With Soda
A lighter way to enjoy the gin, with strawberry notes upfront and a deep, resinous note of cedar-juniper in the background that makes this somewhat reminiscent of a juniper-cask aged gin.

In Conclusion
I think that Poetic License have done a fine job of capturing the bright, berry notes of strawberry in a gin that has great mixing potential. My favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

Poetic License Picnic Gin is available for around £33 from Master of Malt.

Cocktails with… Shortcross Cask Aged Gin

The sub-category of gin that is Aged Gin has really matured (sorry couldn’t resist) over the last few years. I remember doing a tasting back in 2011 when all that we could pull together were about a dozen varieties and that probably represented about 80% of what was available on the planet at the time.

Today, there are more than 200 varieties on the market, including a wide range of limited editions. Distillers have also started to experiment with barrels beyond the standard ex-bourbon, with a variety of different woods and finishes being used, such as Tequila, Applejack, and Islay Scotch.

Wine casks also have a lot of potential, whether that be fortified wine, such as port, sherry, vermouth, or madeira, or not. Shortcross Gin from the Rademon Estate Distillery is aged in an ex-wine cask.

1 Shortcross Aged Gin

Bottled at 44% ABV, Shortcross Cask Aged Gin is aged for around 3 months (essentially until it’s ready) in ex-Bordeaux oak casks.

On its own
Nose: Buttery and luxurious with a hint of fresh lemon curd, followed by vanilla and oily, resinous juniper.
Taste: This has an excellent, silky texture and wonderful flavours of cedar mixed with vanilla oak and rich wine notes. There are then some dry juniper, citrus, and a lingering spice on the finish.

Thick and viscous with rich raisin, fruit, and floral notes. These are followed by rich, creamy vanilla and a hint of very light sour cherry. The finish is pleasant and dry; complex and delicious.

Gin & Tonic
A fruity Gin & Tonic with woody spice notes. Rich fruit notes upfront are followed by a mellow and cosy palate, before a crisp finish.

Peter Cushing [Shake 2 parts Shortcross with 1 pt Ginger Wine]
Light and revitalising. Vibrant fruity notes to start, with hints of lemon. This gradually fades into gentle, but warm notes of vanilla, ginger, and a light, but complex woodiness. The gin comes through on the finish – and builds more on the palate with each sip – with soft notes of juniper, spiced vanilla, and more woody pine notes.

Sweet Martini
Amazing – this takes on a slightly fluffy texture when shaken, with rich, sherry-like fruit notes. Mellow and well-balanced, this is a delicious cocktail.

A complex, resinous, and intense drink, this is extra bitter with a sweet lift at the end. It also has a slight acidity and lots of woody, resinous notes.

Old Fashioned
The bitters really work well alongside the Aged Gin in this cocktail, which is well-integrated and easy to drink, with a pleasant, woody softness to it.

Suze Cocktails – Equal Parts Gin, Dry vermouth and Suze

Suze Original aka The White Negroni
This has a pleasant, bitter nose, with light citrus and gentian root. These come through on the palate, too, which is bitter from the start and becomes more so over time. Light and refreshing, it is herbal with a rooty bitterness that lasts on the finish.

Suze Agrumes
This version is similar, but richer in texture; there is less of a rooty bitterness, which has been replaced by a more full-bodied flavour. There is a more pronounced lemon note at the start, which, combined with the herbal notes of the drink, is reminiscent of honey & lemon lozenges. The finish is less well-defined, but still bitter and lasting.

Suze Fruits Rouges
At the beginning, there is a very tart, herbal berry flavour, with cherry notes being prominent. This smooths out to a more herbal finish; the cherry flavour remains, along with light, medicinal notes.

In Conclusion
Shortcross Aged Gin is a shining example of how a matured gin should be done: there is an elegant interplay between the flavour of the botanicals and those of the wood. The use of wine instead of ex-bourbon casks makes for a richer, fruitier, and more engaging gin that does not suffer from some of the overly sweet Christmas spice notes of some others.

We tried this in a whole array of wonderful cocktails, but my favourite was the Old fashioned or sipping it neat from the Freezer.