Cocktails with… Griffiths Brothers Gin

The last gin we reviewed (a little while back – sorry folks!) was one from the Home Counties (Campfire Gin based in Tring, Hertfordshire). Today, we nip across the border to Buckinghamshire and the Griffiths Brothers of Amersham.

For those not familiar with Amersham, it is at the very top left of the Tube map, at the very end of the Metropolitan Line.

Griffiths Brothers Gin FINAL

The Griffiths Brothers make their gin in a rotavap named Roberta and it is bottled at 43.5% ABV. Here are its botanicals:

Juniper Berries
Coriander Seed
Angelica Root
Lemon Peel
Orange Peel
Orris Root
Grains of Paradise
Liquorice Root
Cassia Bark
Elderflower
Orange Blossom
Bay Laurel
Barberries

On its own
Nose: Bright and very citrus-y on the nose, with a hint of celery and black pepper, all followed by a touch of earthy, rooty liquorice.
Taste: Crisp leafy notes come through to start: bay laurel and the crisp crunchiness of celery. Then comes a symphony of citrus, from the zesty, pithy peel to the fragrant aromatics of the blossom. Additional crispness comes from the grains of paradise at the end, along with a lovely mouthfeel courtesy of the liquorice.

Gin Tonic
A delicious and delicate Gin Tonic with a very pleasant interplay between the gin’s citrus and leafy notes. It has strong flavours that stand up well to almost any tonic, creating a refreshing treat of a drink.

Martini
This cocktail has a lovely, light oiliness that provides plenty of flavour: delicate, floral citrus as well as hints of crunchy leaves, almost cucumber-esque. Then there’s a slight of peppery salinity before a touch of spice on the finish. I’d recommend garnishing this with a thin strip of cucumber peel.

Negroni
The orange comes through from the gin and works exceptionally well with the Campari and vermouth. The gin’s leafy notes add a fantastic additional depth to the drink.

In Conclusion
Griffiths Brothers is a flavoursome gin with a pleasant interplay between a range of citrus and crisp, leafy notes. My favourite drink was the Gin Tonic.

Whispers of Whisk(e)y returns… Johnnie Walker The Adventurer

Today’s review, which comes after far too long a break, takes a look at another whisky: one from the Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Collection, a series inspired by the journeys of those who took Johnnie Walker across the world. Available via travel retail, you might have spotted these as you explored the whisky sections of Duty Free shops.

DTS and I first encountered The Adventurer before a trip to America a couple of years ago and we were a little confused at its store placement: very much apart from the other Explorers’ Club whiskies and with little information available on it. Intrigued, we bought a bottle. That was a few years (and bottles) ago.

johnnie-walker-adventurer-final

On its own

Nose: A saline, almost briney smokiness to start, with notes of tobacco, dry wood chips, and echoes of pineapple. Lovely spiced notes build up over time.

Taste: Very soft on the tongue, but with more force of flavour on the palate afterwards. There is a pleasant smokiness, before lasting notes of dry, not tart pineapple, light wood, and chilli, then sweeter spice with more smoke on the finish. A lovely dram that, personally, I think is perfectly halfway between the Red and Black Labels.

Rob Roy

Pleasantly dry, but the Rosso comes through well. Wisps of smoke are followed by lots of complex herbal notes. The finish remains lovely and dry, with notes of dark liquorice and a hint of berries. Finally, there is a clean, light, and woody smokiness.

Old Fashioned

The Adventurer makes an unusually sharp, almost bitter Old Fashioned that makes a wonderful aperitif. Subdued honey notes are followed by the smoke and spice. Like the Rob Roy, its finish is very dry, but full of smoky flavours, along with a little lime and vanilla.

Whisky Soda

Exceptionally dry, this is a refreshing, grown up drink. The soda water lengthens the whisky well, without masking any of its flavours. To start, there is dry vanilla, before a flash of sweeter smoke, then more charred notes that linger on a refreshing, woody finish.

Whisky Ginger

Again, this works well, but produces a much sweeter drink than the others. It is creamy, too, with lots of vanilla and just a dash of smokiness – more than you’d get with the Red Label, but not as much as with the Black Label. The finish is long, with solid notes from both the ginger and the whisky’s oak notes.

 

It is worth noting that the Explorers’ Club Collection covers a broad price range, but The Adventurer is the cheapest, at around £32 for a litre in Duty Free. It can be found for around £40-45 in the UK. Given the combination of price point and the international theme of the collection, we decided to try a few additional, unusual long drinks alongside our normal line-up.

with Coconut Water

This is an unexpectedly brilliant, refreshing drink. The coconut water adds the extra sweetness and creaminess that The Adventurer holds back on, resulting in smooth notes of pineapple and light coconut that fade into smoke, dry apple, and oak on the finish. Exceptionally easy to drink, especially in warmer weather.

with Ting

These flavours, again, go surprisingly well together – there is bright, vibrant, citrus (lemon and grapefruit) that flows seamlessly into the light smokiness of the whisky. The finish has notes of vanilla and pineapple, and a continued stream of smokiness.

with Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola

Intrigued at how well some of these combinations were turning out, we decided to try The Adventurer up against one of my favourite (and most flavourful) soft drinks: Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola. The result? A tasty drink with great structure and body. Not too sweet, there’s a dry woodiness to start, that is quickly swept up in the complex, herbal flavours from the cola. The Adventurer’s smokiness appears on the finish – soft to start, but gradually increasing – and works very well with the more medicinal notes of the mixer.

In Conclusion

The Adventurer is a great addition to the Johnnie Walker line-up. With its light texture, but combination of distinct smokiness, dry pineapple, and spiced notes, it makes for a whisky that is both easy to sip – sitting midway between the Red and Black Labels in taste – and works exceptionally well in mixed drinks. A firm favourite in our household.

— Mrs. B.

Blended Drinks with the Amazon Basics Blender

Despite the fast-approaching wintery weather, you can still find yourself needing a cooling drink over the christmas time (am I the only person that goes to a relative’s house whose thermostat seems to be constantly stuck on “Inferno”?).

One great way to cool down is with a blended frozen drink, so I was delighted when Amazon sent me one of their Amazon Basic Ice-crushing Blenders to try out and immediately set out to test a variety of drinks, both with and without alcohol, but all perfect for a festive party.

amazon-blender-frozen-margarita

Frozen Margarita – Wasting Away in Margaritaville (Serves 2)
This is probably my favourite blended drink, especially if accompanied by the Jimmy Buffett hit.
100ml Blanco Tequila
300ml Margarita Mix
2 cups of ice
Blend ingredients together and serve.

This is a superb drink and the machine really blends the ice well, resulting in a smooth slush that is a treat to drink and stays cold for a long time.

amazon-blender-strawberry-daiquiri

Strawberry Daiquiri (Serves 2)
100ml White Rum
75ml Sugar Syrup
50ml Fresh Lime Juice
5-6 Strawberries
2 cups of ice
Blend ingredients together and serve.

The Strawberry Daiquiri is a fruity and pleasantly tart drink. It is also a brilliant, bright pink in colour. Again, the both the ice and fruit are thoroughly blended, with no large chunks.

~ CHOCOLATE SHAKES ~

For those who fancy an indulgent non-alcoholic drink, I’ve also undertaken some experiments with chocolates (many of which are synonymous with Christmas time in our household) in milkshakes.

amazon-blender-after-eight-shake

After Eight (Serves 2)
4-6 After Eights thins (wrappers removed)
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Vodka (optional)

A great combination of an after-dinner mint, drink, and dessert. The dark chocolate is neatly balanced out by the sweet mint fondant – superb.

 

Malteasers
14 Malteasers
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Bourbon (optional)

Malt is a long-established ingredient for a shake and the fun thing about this drink it that you get bits of the blended chocolate throughout the drink, rather than all sinking to the bottom.

amazon-blender-daim-bar-shake

Daim (Dime Bar) (Serves 2)
2 Daim Bars
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Golden Rum (optional)

This is another one of my favourites: the milk chocolate covers a mix of brittle caramel/toffee and nuts. As the centre of a Daim is brittle, it blends really well and the nutty, chocolatey, slightly salty flavour is well-distributed throughout the drink. We’ll definitely be making more of these!

Ferrero Rocher
6 Ferrero Rochers
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Brandy (optional)

This makes for a tasty, but rather odd drink, as a lot of the Ferrero Rocher pieces float and create a foamy layer that you have to drink through. It is possible to filter this out, however, and the result is a super-smooth and delicious milkshake that tastes just like Ferrero Rocher.

Overall, I like the blender’s solid construction, ease of use, and ability to blend. As readers can see, it makes a great range of drinks, too. I also really like the lid’s seal, which helps to reduce mess and spills, whilst being easy to take on and off.

One top tip is that it’s a good idea to rinse the glass of the blender immediately after use to avoid any ingredients drying and sticking to the inside.

My favourite drink was the Frozen Margarita and the Daim milkshake.

AmazonBasics 1.5 Litre Ice-Crushing Blender in Black is available from Amazon.co.uk for around £25.

 

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.

Negroni
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.

Soda
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 www.martinmillersgin.com

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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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.

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

Negroni
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.

Introducing Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic

I’ve been a fan of the Pink Gin & Tonic – described as a Gin & Tonic with a dash of Angostura Bitters or a Pink Gin with added tonic – for at least a decade. In fact, it was once my go-to post-work drink.

Some brands have created a Pink Gin (a combination of gin and bitters), so you only have to add tonic, but – until now – there has never been a tonic where the flavours of bitters have been conveniently added.

Fever-Tree Aromatic Angostura Tonic FINAL1

That has changed in the summer of 2016, with the release of Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic Water, which is made with angostura bark. The tonic also has fresh citrus, cardamom, ginger, and pimento berry (All Spice) as ingredients.

It is worth mentioning that Angostura Bitters made by the House of Angostura (the bottle with the over-sized label) does not actually have angostura bark as an ingredient, although another old brand of bitters, Abbott’s, did.

Both have long been associated with the health and well-being of the sailors of the Royal Navy, with surgeons prescribing angostura bark as an alternative or supplementary anti-fever treatment to quinine bark. As such, it seems like a natural companion to the natural quinine in Fever-Tree Tonic.

On its own
Colour: Pale rose
Nose: Fragrant citrus, along with cola nut, cherry blossom, and woody, aromatic spice.
Fizz: A medium-level of fizz, with a pleasant intensity on the tongue as the bubbles burst.
Taste: Exotic spice to start, then almond and wintergreen, before moving onto cherry and citrus blossom. Pimento and cardamom then make a subtle appearance. This has a long, dry citrus finish with deep and clean, bitter, earthy notes.

Fever-Tree suggest that their Angostura Tonic goes particularly well with juniper-forward gins, so I thought I’d try it out with some of my favourites.

Fever-Tree Aromatic Angostura Tonic FINAL 2

With Plymouth Gin
There is a pleasant harmony between the gin and the tonic, likely in part because of some shared ingredients, including cardamom. There is a sweet lift at the end, accompanied by woody spice notes.

With Hayman’s Royal Dock
The extra strength of flavour and alcoholic power from this combination really gives the drink an additional “Wow!” factor. The gin adds a clean, crisp basis to the drink, whilst the tonic adds a lively character with citrus and spice. Refreshing to the last drop and well-balanced with a bitter finish.

With Makar
The crisp juniper of the gin counteracts the sweeter spice notes of the tonic, resulting in a deep and complex flavour, and a particularly dry Gin Tonic.

With Hayman’s Family Reserve
The light, woody notes and strong botanical flavours work well with the citrus and woody spice of the tonic. The result is a flavoursome mix that still provides lots of refreshment.

With Crossbill 200
Even though the tonic has a strong character, this punchy gin holds its down. The resinous vanilla and juniper wood notes of the gin, along with the floral rosehip, are neatly complementd by the spice and citrus of the tonic, creating a well-rounded drink.

In Conclusion
Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic is a great addition to their range, getting the balance between extra flavour and mixability just right. It is also one of the tastiest tonics to drink on its own, my favourite since I tried Fever-Tree Mediterranean. It also works well when mixed with vodka and I’d love to try it with aquavit.

All-in-all, this is well-worth trying and will be available in Waitrose from July 2016.