Terroir – the idea of capturing part of the essence of a gin distillery surroundings in the flavour of the spirit – has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more producers using locally sourced botanicals.Another trend is an increased interest in juniper, the key ingredient in gin; from how it is used to where it is sourced from.
Small British brands such as the Moorland Spirits Company (Hepple Gin), Crossbill Distillery (Crossbill Gin), and Becketts Gin all use at least some British-grown juniper; Crossbill is made using 100% British-grown juniper.
A few years back, Master of Malt’s Ben Ellefsen started his Origin project, where he placed a bounty on any source of juniper that could be traced to a specific geographic location. This resulted in seven single-estate, cold-distilled gins that he made with juniper from Italy, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Albania.
But what if you took terroir to a micro-level – rather than a single location, just one corner of a field, or even a single bush…
This is exactly what Jonathan Engels of Crossbill did for his new gin, Crossbill 200. The juniper is exclusively harvested from a single, 200-year-old juniper bush in the Cairngorms. The rosehips (Crossbill’s only other botanical) are harvested from around the bush.
On its own
Nose: Strong and resinous upfront, with just a hint of salinity, then a light, leafy, creamy vanilla and a hint of wood.
Taste: A symphony of juniper flavours: from green, resinous pine notes, then some floral spruce, before a little sweetness and a more jammy juniper note mixed with woody vanilla. Some florality then opens up from the rosehip, with hints of raisin and a touch of nuttiness.
Gin & Tonic
This has a very light louche. Upfront, there is some sweet anise, then creamy vanilla and light oak notes, before green, resinous pine and juicy, jammy juniper. This is an intensely flavoured gin that should stand up well to any tonic; excellent refreshment.
Thick and oily, with light, woody vanilla notes of young juniper and then a deep cedar note. The lighter juniper notes work really well with the slight tartness of the vermouth and its complex herbal flavours.
This is full of very leafy, green flavours with a hint of vegetal bitterness. It’s an exceptionally intense Negroni with fresh juniper and resinous woody notes, before a clean, earthy bitterness. The higher ABV adds intensity, but no heat.
A drink with a really luscious, slightly oily, texture. It’s smooth and refreshing, and more exciting than your average Gin Soda, even without a garnish. A lovely way to appreciate the subtleties of the gin in a long drink.
Gin Old Fashioned
The bitters work well with the creamy, woody elements of the gin, and the sweetness works well with the rosehip notes, balancing out the dry juniper.
Another fantastic drink: complex, full of rich juniper notes, a touch of spice, and a little florality from the rosehip. It’s a bit like a 3D – or even 4D – French ’75, transcending time….
I think that the idea and concept behind Crossbill 200 is superb; it’s fascinating and I’ve been keen to try it since I heard about it. With such high expectations, the spirit had a lot to live up to and – thankfully – I wasn’t disappointed.
My favourite drink was the French ‘75 – sublime!