Cocktails with… Smooth Ambler Old Scout Straight Bourbon

As many of you will, no doubt, be aware, last Saturday (16th May) was 2015’s World Whisky Day. Now, we don’t need an excuse to drink whisky, but will nonetheless happily accept one.

Today, I’m taking a look at Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Smooth Ambler Spirits in West Virginia. This is a merchant bottled whiskey, which means that Smooth Ambler don’t distil it themselves (although they do distil their own), but that they found it, loved it, and decided that they wanted to take it under their wing and independently bottle it.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon

This particular example is a “high rye” whiskey, being made with a mash that is 36% rye (60% corn and 4% malt). It is aged for a minimum of seven years and is bottled at 49.5% ABV. The carefully handwritten label also tells me that this spirit is from batch 100, bottled on 4th December 2014 by Sarah, which I take to be a good omen!

On its own
Nose: A spiced, malty richness is accompanied by dry raisin, wood polish, and lovely hints of dark chocolate and cherry.
Taste: Explosion of warm spice at the start, then the leafy freshness of eucalyptus that is followed by rich, but dry wood. The result is a delightfully refreshing flavour with a full bodiness helped by notes of creamy vanilla, a touch of apple, and the remnants of that mintiness.
Finish: Rich, warm wood and a subtle hint of dark chocolate and peppermint. At the very end of the finish, there’s a creamy dryness reminiscent of coconut.

Whiskey Soda
Fresh, with delightful sweet, woody notes, as well as a little added complexity from some dry notes of stone fruit. This works well both in a strong drink (3:1 ratio) and in a longer, lighter version, say 6:1. It is a very pleasant way to enjoy the whiskey in a long, refreshing drink.

Whiskey Ginger
The whiskey adds creamy, full-bodied notes of vanilla (like an amazing vanilla ice-cream), plus an array of fruit notes that range from rich notes of dark cherry to much lighter, refreshing pineapple. This flows neatly into the flavours of the ginger ale. Perfect.

Old Fashioned
The whiskey integrates marvellously into this cocktail, with notes of spiced rye and a little black pepper, before the dry vanilla and wood notes of the whiskey take over. The finish is fresh and leafy, like eucalyptus.

To start, there’s a pleasant, fruity tang from the vermouth, along with a quick burst of spice and savoury cherry, before a long finish of dry wood notes with lots of vanilla and a little leafy sappiness.

In Conclusion
This is a marvellous whiskey. On its own, it’s got a lovely, rich, and delightfully refreshing flavour, and in all of the drinks that we tried it in, it integrated well, adding body and flavour. I struggle to choose a favourite, but it’s either the Whiskey Ginger or the Old Fashioned. I get the sense that most of this, though, will be enjoyed neat and shared with good friends.

– Mrs. B.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Yr Old Bourbon is available for around £55 for 70cl from Master of Malt.

For more on Smooth Ambler check out their Website or Twitter.

Cocktails with… Star of Bombay Gin

Star of Bombay marks a busy couple of years for Bombay Sapphire, with the release of Bombay Amber, the relaunching of Bombay Dry, and, of course, the opening of their own Distillery and Visitors’ Centre in Laverstoke, Hampshire.

Star of Bombay takes its name from the precious stone from Sri Lanka – a 182-carat sapphire. I’ve often heard that this was the inspiration for the “sapphire” in Bombay Sapphire. The stone has an interesting history and is thought have been given to Mary Pickford by Douglas Fairbanks (both stars of the silent age of cinema). Upon her death in 1979, Pickford bequeathed the stone to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., where it remains on display to this day.

It is made using the ten classic Bombay Sapphire botanicals and adds to that mix bergamot (a citrus fruit often used in Earl Grey tea) and ambrette seeds (the seeds of yellow hibiscus). It is also worth noting that the vapour infusion distillation process is slowed down, to allow a more intense flavour to be extracted. The gin is bottled at 47.5% ABV.

Star of Bombay Bottle Bombay Sapphire

On its own
Nose: A little citrus upfront, as well as coriander, some lightly briney, herbal, leafy notes, and a touch of chopped nuts. Juniper and angelica come through towards the end as the gin opens up.
Taste: Floral upfront, with the bergamot adding citrus and aromatic floral notes, which are followed by the spicy citrus-florality of coriander. As the flavour develops, more of the classic Bombay Sapphire notes come through, with a slightly oily citrus flavour and then dry juniper and pine, before woody menthol pepper on the finish.

Overall, Star of Bombay is a more intense and complex gin than the classic Bombay Sapphire.

Gin & Soda
This has a good level of flavour and allows lots of refreshing botanical notes to come through. In this drink, the floral citrus of the bergamot is a particularly pleasant addition.

Gin & Tonic
Star of Bombay makes a dry Gin & Tonic with a pleasant citrus freshness, as well as just a touch of sweetness towards the end. With a little ice-melt, it settles into a refreshing and cooling drink.

Smooth, spicy, and citrusy, with peppery juniper on the finish. I think that a lemon twist works well in this cocktail – the oil makes the gin even more aromatic. This is a smooth, but intense Martini with a leafy crispness and bold intensity to it.

Strong flavours come through from the gin, Campari, and the vermouth, with an intense, earthy bitterness on the finish. It is a smooth cocktail, with the floral citrus of the bergamot again coming through well. Bold and intense.

Star of Bombay Intense Gin Tonic Bombay Sapphire

Intense Gin & Tonic
[Equal parts Star of Bombay and tonic water – garnish with orange peel.]
Bright and delicious, oily and fresh, this drink has a wonderful interplay between the dryness of some of the gin’s botanicals and the tonic water, and the sweetness of the orange peel. A lovely drink to kick-off an evening.

In Conclusion
Star of Bombay is a more intense version of the classic Bombay Sapphire, with additional floral citrus from its new botanicals. The gin stands up well to mixing, especially in long, cooling drinks. My favourite, though, was the intense Gin & Tonic, turning a classic from a long drink to a short one.

Star of Bombay is available for around £32 for 700ml from Waitrose

Cocktails with… West Winds Cutlass and Sabre Gins

At the moment, there are not a lot of Australian distilleries whose gins are available in the UK; one is Four Pillars, and the other is West Winds.

West Winds gins are owned by The Tailor Made spirits company from Dalkeith, Western Australia and was established in June 2010. They produce two gins:
Sabre (40.0% ABV) – Described as an “Australian expression of a traditional gin”, this is made with botanicals including juniper, lime peel, lemon myrtle and wattle seed.
Cutlass (50.0% ABV) – West Winds’ second gin is described as a gin with “Australian character and a combination of juniper and uniquely Australian elements”. Its botanicals include cinnamon, myrtle, lemon myrtle, coriander, and Australian bush tomato.


West Winds Sabre (40.0% ABV)

On its own
Nose: Bright and zesty citrus, with notes of coriander and hints of vanilla spice, as well as citrus blossom.
Taste: Lots and lots of citrus: lemon, lime, and others, with coriander and a note of menthol pepper towards the end. This has a good flavour that’s contemporary, intense, and long-lasting.

Gin & Tonic
Fruity and juicy with a luscious vibrancy that makes this very refreshing. There are notes of dry juniper and angelica, especially at the end. This is a pleasant cooler that I could sip all afternoon.

Rich and fruity with floral notes, too, as well as a touch of grape, light, sweet spice, and bright, zesty citrus. There’s no need for a garnish in this Martini.

A floral, slightly juicy Negroni with plenty of citrus that makes it fresh, bright, and refreshing. There are some lovely light, sweet berry notes, too.

West Winds Cutlass (50.0% ABV)

On its own
Nose: Less citrus, but more spice. Notes of dark chocolate and lime combine into notes of chocolate limes.
Taste: Lots of citrus towards the end. This is typically more gin-like than West Winds Sabre, with more juniper and angelica, and some coriander, too. The finish is then vibrant with notes of citrus sherbet and milk chocolate.

Gin & Tonic
Bright and brilliant – full of zesty citrus, which invigorates the drink. This would make a great first G&T of the evening, with the 50.0% ABV adding a little punch.

Very smooth, and with lots of citrus, with notes of coriander, lemon, and lime. This also has a lovely texture; fresh, with hints of juniper and spice on the finish.

This makes a smooth and thick Negroni with a good level of flavour: bitter herbal notes and bright citrus, making for an intense and delicious cocktail.

In Conclusion
It is fair to say that both of the West Winds gins are fine examples from the growing community of international gin distilleries and the increasing number of Australian craft distillers. I like the straightforward nature and flavour intensity of the Sabre, which is a great gin for everyday drinking, and the Cutlass has additional complexity and a bright, more contemporary flavour.

I was impressed with both gins from West Winds and the approach to have two different gins in a portfolio. I especially enjoyed the Cutlass Gin & Tonic and the Sabre Martini.

Cocktails with… Dead Governor’s Gin

Today’s gin is made by Great Northern Distillery in Middle Swan, Western Australia, which is primarily a rum distillery. Their website suggests that their gin recipe comes from a scribbled note on the back of an old family birth certificate. Released on 29th May 2014, the gin is bottled at 37.1% ABV and, as such, it cannot legally be sold as a “gin” in the European Union or United States (where there are minimum strengths of 37.5% ABV and 40.0% ABV, respectively).


The Taste

On its own
Nose: Pine and spice. Light, but with a depth that is initially hidden.
Taste: This has a notably full mouthfeel: plump and interesting. The flavour profile is light, but the flavours build: there is coriander upfront, as well as some creamy vanilla and a touch of spice, followed by a dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
Quite light, but, with plenty of lemon and ice, this makes a refreshing drink. Nonetheless, I would have liked a little more of the gin’s character to come through.

Very clean and vodka-like, this cocktail is a little lacking in complexity and flavour, making it a tad disappointing. It is a pleasant drink, but not a great Gin Martini.

Fresh, leafy, and crisp, with plenty of sweetness from the vermouth and bitterness from the Campari. This is a lighter-than-usual Negroni, which would make it a perfect example for beginners to the drink.

In Conclusion
Dead Governors Gin is a lighter option, both in terms of flavour intensity and ABV. I liked the Negroni and the spirit itself had a good mouthfeel, although it lacks the complexity to be sipped alone.

Cocktails with… Great Southern Distillery Gin

Great Southern Dry Gin is produced by the Great Southern Distilling Company in Albany, Western Australia. Bottled at 40.0% ABV, its botanicals include: juniper, coriander, angelica, fresh lemon, orris, cardamom, cinnamon, anise, and bloodroot. It is also based on the distillery’s voda, which is distilled from grapes.

Great Southern Dry Gin

On its own
Nose: Juniper, coriander, and a little citrus with just a touch of woodiness, too.
Taste: This is a good spirit with sweet spice notes and a light fruitiness, before a dry finish with notes of vanilla and orris.

Gin & Tonic
Dry, with notes of spice, especially cinnamon and cardamom, and some floral citrus. This is particularly easy to drink (very quaffable) with a clean, dry finish.

Clean and smooth, but without a huge amount of flavour or character. There are some light floral and spiced notes, including cinnamon.

This is a relatively light Negroni, with a little juniper and angelica, but it’s the sweet vermouth and the Campari that really shine through in this cocktail.

In Conclusion
The Great Southern Dry Gin is a complex and fragrant gin with some versatility in mixed drinks. My favourite was the “I’ll take another” Gin & Tonic.


Bonus Tasting:

Ginnifer Golden Gin (49.0% ABV)
Made by Great Southern Distillery of Albany, Western Australia, this is based on the grape-based Great Southern Dry Gin, which is made using a blend of nine botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon, orris, cardamom, cinnamon, anise and meen (bloodroot). It is then aged in French oak barriques.

Color: Golden yellow
Nose: Citrus, angelica, and coriander, with a little dry spice, too. Vanilla, pepper, and a touch of black tea.
Taste: Viscous and oily, the initial, classic flavors of this gin – juniper, angelica, and citrus – move onto the sweeter, woody flavors of vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. However, the flavors then move back to a long, dry finish of juniper and citrus.

Cocktails with… Melbourne Gin Co. Gin

Today, I’m looking at another sample kindly provided by James. I haven’t been able to find out very much about this gin from the Melbourne Gin Co.; even in Australia, it is illusive. What I do know is that it is bottled at 42.0% ABV and each of its botanicals are distilled separately. These include: juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, cassia, macadamia, sandalwood, honey lemon myrtle, organic navel orange.

After distillation, the gin is proofed with Gembrook rainwater.


On its own
Nose: Light, with citrus notes and a touch of piney juniper.
Taste: Smooth and light with lots of citrus. Easy to sip, the juniper in this is relatively dialled back. Accessible and easy to drink neat, I would say that this is a good, entry-level gin.

Gin & Tonic
This makes quite a light Gin & Tonic that is simple, but tasty, and relatively refreshing, with lots of woody, earthy angelica. I would recommend using a light-touch tonic water.

A clean, but very straight-forward Martini: smooth, with clear notes of vanilla and citrus. This is pleasant and drinkable, but nothing special.

A solid Negroni with notes of citrus, pine, and angelica, followed by a little more juicy citrus and a bitter finish. Middle-of-the-road, but good.

In Conclusion
The Melbourne Gin Co. Gin is a well-made gin in the style of the lighter, contemporary gins. It made a solid and enjoyable Negroni, which was my clear favourite of the drinks that I tried.

Cocktails with… Kangeroo Island Spirits’ Wild Gin

KIS Wild Gin is made by Kangaroo Island Spirits in South Australia and is one of four gins produced by the distillery. The Wild Gin uses a different juniper berry to the usual Juniperus Communis; namely, the native “Myoporum Insulars” aka Common Bobbialla or Blueberry Tree. These berries are slightly larger than those of Communis.

Kangeroo Island Spirits Wild Gin FINAL

On its own
Nose: Lemon shortbread, coriander, vanilla, and cream, as well as bright, zesty lime.
Taste: This is a smooth spirit with plenty of flavour: there is a pleasant smokiness upfront with some savoury, salty spice, as well as a touch of resin. Fresh and bright with a good level of flavour and balance.

Gin & Tonic
Good notes of cardamom and a cavalcade of spice: vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander, followed by juniper and citrus. The finish is dry and zesty with a touch of wood smoke.

Lime bursts forward to start, alongside a smoked spice – think paprika, but a tad sweeter. There are also notes of cinnamon, anise, and cardamom. All-in-all, this is a complex drink with a really great silky texture – delightful.

KIS Wild Gin makes a tremendous Negroni that is packed full of lime zest and creamy vanilla, plus a chord of spice – ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom – that works well alongside the Campari and vermouth. Finally, there is a long, mid-bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Kangaroo Island Spirits’ Wild Gin is a great example of the exciting gins coming out of Australia and how a distillery can put locally-sourced botanicals to good use in their gin. My favourite drink was the Negroni.