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… Malawi Gin

There are a few gins made in Africa, but it is rare for them to reach the shores of the UK. Those that do usually have to be hunted down in specialist food shops, but Malawi Gin has a UK importer and I think it’s great that it does.

Malawi Gin was first produced in 1965 and is bottled at 43% ABV. It is made by Malawi Distilleries Ltd. in Blantyre, Malawi.

1 Malawi Gin Final

On its own
Nose: A faint sweetness with a hint of chocolate and creamy coconut, along with a floral note of rose and lime.
Taste: This is a very smooth, velvety spirit. It is accessible, with a restrained yet discernable botanical character. There are notes of soft rose to start, followed by juniper, coriander, and then a creamy lime note on the middle and finish.

Gin & Tonic
Light and elegant hints of lime, vanilla, and coconut: fresh, refreshing, and very juicy. This would be wonderful to cool you down on a hot afternoon. This is a Gin & Tonic that will please everyone, but especially fans of rum.

MGT - Malwai Gin Tonic - served Evans style; lemon and lime garnish.

MGT – Malwai Gin Tonic – served Evans style; lemon and lime garnish.

Martini
Another smooth drink with a creamy texture. It works especially well with a twist of lime peel as a garnish. There are hints of creamy juniper, plus an array of floral notes on the finish.

Negroni
Again, smooth and creamy, with the gin’s characteristic coconut notes coming through. The citrus combines well with the vermouth and Campari to create a tart, slightly bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Malawi Gin is an accessible gin with a smooth texture an unusual coconut and lime character. It might not be for ardent traditionalists, but it certainly makes some lovely drinks, including a refreshing and delicious Malawi Gin Tonic.

Cocktails with… Westwinds The Broadside Gin

Westwinds Distillery has been established for some years now and we have already reviewed their excellent Cutlass and Sabre Gins, so it was a pleasure to try a little “under-the-counter” sample of Westwinds Broadside Gin at Imbibe Live 2015, and even have a smaller sample for a more full evaluation.

Westwinds The Broadside is bottled at 58% ABV.

Westwinds Broadside Gin.jpg

On its own
Nose: Floral citrus, quite zesty and fragrant. It really “pops” out of the glass and is rather enticing.
Taste: Rich and juicy, reminding me of plum jam. There is a little sweetness, but there is also a great complexity in its fruit flavours, from the luscious flesh to the slightly drying skin and even a touch of nuttiness from the stones. The flavour profile then moves towards more classic gin flavours with notes of juniper and citrus.

Gin & Tonic
The fruity elements of the gin come through well, with the sweetness of jam and the bitterness of marmalade neatly combined. This is followed by some dry, leafy juniper that works really well alongside the tonic water.

Martini
This has a lovely, thick and velvety texture, big flavours, and a real buzz from the higher ABV. There are notes of sweet liquorice and more juicy, jammy fruit, all followed by crisp, leafy, and juniper flavours. Excellent.

Negroni
A full and powerful nose, before the gin bursts through like a lively firework! When it comes to flavour, it is fuller and more rounded than many; at the same time, it is mellow and soothing like a cosy cuddle. It has a light sweetness with a deep juniper flavour and plumy fruit in the background. The finish is crisp, like fresh salad or cut mango. An absolutely fantastic Negroni – a must try.

In Conclusion
Westwinds Broadside takes a bold and fruity spin on the Navy Strength category whilst staying true to the gin’s heritage, embodied by the plump and juicy character of the spirit. My favourite drink was, undoubtedly, the Negroni.

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.

melbourne-gin

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.

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

Negroni
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… Pierde Almas +9 Botanical Gin

Yesterday I had the great pleasure to hear Jonathan Barbieri from Pierde Almas Mezcal discuss the finer points of his Mezcal range at an excellent tutored tasting at Amathus, Soho. Whilst the Mezcals were fascinating and delicious it was the last product of the day that caught my attention.

Pierde Almas +9 Botanical Mezcal (Gin) has caused some discussion between myself and my good friend of http://www.theGinIsIn.com (America’s Gin Reviewer) as to whether a product that doesn’t call itself gin be a gin, does the inclusion of juniper in any botanical spirit automatically make it gin?

Pierde Almas Mezcal +9 Botanicals Gin

The question was resolved when I asked the distiller himself, who answered that it was a gin but that US regulation state that a product can only be classified in one drinks category thus a spirit cannot be a gin-mezcal or mezcal-gin.

The Pierde Almas Gin uses a double distillation of Espadin as a base, nine classic botanicals are then steeped in the spirit for 24 hours before distillation. Some botanicals are also suspended above the spirit in a mesh bag; “like a big tea-bag, but made from a hair net” in the top of the still (gin head) forming a rudimentary version of vapour infusion.

The nine botanicals are:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Orange
Orris
Cassia
Star Anise
Fennel
Nutmeg

The gin is bottled at 45.0% ABV and uses a slow distillation that results in a daily production of around 20 litres.

The Taste

Own
nose: smoke and citrus, with some savoury elements reminiscent of roasted peppers. As it opens up piney juniper and fennel come forward as well as a little sweet jammy citrus.

taste: A very smooth spirits, characteristic of the Pierde Almas Mezcals, the flavours of the Espadin comes through to start with a hint of vanilla. There is then unmistakable juniper in the middle; rich piney with a hint of resin. This is followed by some sweeter notes from the herbs such as the anise and fennel and there is a long dry finish with a little angelica, fennel and the residual character of the spirit base. It would be all to easy for the mezcal flavours to take over but, for me, there is a sense of harmony between the base and the botanicals.

Gin & Tonic
A very unusual gin and tonic very smoky but with bright and fresh botanical flavours. The choice of tonic would be important here and for best results I think perhaps embracing the herbal nature of something like Fevertree Mediterranean or 1724 would be worthwhile. In addition I think the extra attention given when mixing a fine Gin Tonica with the aroma and flavours that goes with that serve and its thoughtful garnishes would be worth the extra effort. This is not a typical Gin & Tonic and may not appeal to the ardent traditionalist, however I think it is smashing.

Pierde Almas Jonathan and DTS

Martini
Delightful the chilled down gin is softened and allows some of the more delicate sweet spice notes to come through such a creamy vanilla, which works well with the dry vermouth. There is a little saltiness and a touch of smoke. This is a drink that will appeal to traditionalists and newbies alike.

Negroni
Fantastic nose smoky agave and wider mezcal notes mixed with juniper, fennel and anise. A rich and smooth Negroni will a charming interplay between the smoky mezcal notes and the bitterness of the Campari. However, the gin notes of the drink are not simply defined by the gin’s base and there is certainly plenty of the juicy citrus along with angelica and the botanicals noted on the nose. I’ve never had anything like it, simply delightful and a new favourite.

Cocktails with… One Key Gin

Generally, the thing that attracts and excites me most about a gin is likely to be something about how or where it is produced. Also, whether it made using a particularly intriguing process or titillating botanical. Is it the first juniper spirit that I’ve tried from its country or state of origin? But occasionally, what attracts me the most is the bottle.

Picture of The One Key Gin Bottle Close

Picture of The One Key Gin Bottle Close

One Key Gin Bottle Key

The Key

One Key Gin Bottle Opening

Opening

Such is the case with One Key Gin. A bottle for which you need a special key to open. The gin is made in Slovenia, as such it is part of my World of Gin series. Bottled at 40.0% ABV botanical include Juniper, Coriander and Ginger.

The bottle is made of blue glass and contains a cask metal key in the bottom, a bit like an allen key or they keys train guards use to access their control panels. On this key is a Mars or Male gender symbol. This fits into a small one each

Opened

Opened

cap on top of the bottle, which bears a Venus or Female gender symbol (I know, but seriously it does!) which unscrews to allow you to pour the gin.

~

But what does One Key Gin taste like?

On its own
Nose: A light-touch nose, with notes of citrus, coriander and a hint of suntan cream.
Taste: Quite juicy and succulent to start, this is all about citrus: coriander, orange and lemon, although are some pleasant juniper notes at the end.

Gin & Tonic
Clean and straightforward, with plenty of citrus, followed by notes of juniper and coriander. Given its light citrus elements, I think this would work well in the Gin Tonica serve. Not complex, but still good.

Martini
Okay, but nothing special in fact, on reflection, this is sub-par. Lacking the defined and clean flavours of a Martini and actually a little difficult to drink.

Negroni
A simple, but adequate Negroni: bittersweet, with the same citrus notes as previously noted, but nowhere near as multidimensional as a Negroni can be.

In Conclusion

Despite how great the bottle is, the contents is a real let down and I think that is a great shame. The exciting packaging deserves better that said there is plenty of room for improvement. The gin is also rather difficult to pour out of the bottle.

One Key Gin is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £38 for 70cl.

Cocktails with… Big Ben Indian Gin

BigBenGinTitle

Having picked the low-hanging fruit in the World of Gin, things have been a bit quieter recently in my quest to taste a gin distilled in every country in the world. However, today, I can finally tick off one of the countries at the top of my list – India.

Big Ben Deluxe “London Dry Gin” is made by Mohan Meakin Limited, a company that was founded in 1855 and which also owns the Solan Brewery. The gin is “blended with triple distilled alcohol” and bottled at 42.8% ABV. One website refers to it as being “(An) Ideal drink for ladies”.

Big Ben India Gin Bottle

On its own
Nose: juniper, pine quite oily as well as a bit of citrus and bark quite subdued.
Taste: juniper certainly with quite a lot of pine which builds and mixes with lemon and a little vanilla quite a lot of warmth at the end, slightly harsh but overall not bad. A very traditional style reminiscent of some of the old vintage gins I have tried from the 1970s. One for the traditionalists. Leaves a piney tingle on your tongue.

Gin & Tonic
Pretty average, with a little sweetness in the middle. The finish, however, is very long and dry. This gin actually works much better with a tonic syrup and soda water (as opposed to a premixed tonic water) and I recommend using a lime garnish or maybe even adding a dash of orange bitters.

Martini
Quite a light Martini, with plenty of lemon and some lavender. Far more complex and floral than I would have expected, given how it tasted on its own, and really rather good.

Negroni
A pretty standard Negroni, but one that ticks the basic boxes and has a good, strong, bitter finish with notes of piney juniper. This gin highlights all of the different aspects of this drink, whilst still playing an equal part alongside the vermouth and Campari.

In Conclusion
It was very exciting to finally try a gin from India and this very classic, slightly subdued version is exactly what I would expect. The gin isn’t made with an Indian palate in mind or inspired by their cuisine it is styled around the expectation of a classic London Dry Gin. Reasonably priced and equally mixable.