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.

Advertisements

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.

World Exclusive! – Cocktails with Herno Juniper Cask Gin

hernojunipercasktitle

Today, we have an exceptionally exciting product to work and we’re proud to say we were given the first bottle to review, too. That product is Hernö Juniper Cask Gin from the Hernö Distillery, the world’s Northernmost distillery in the small village of Dala, just outside the City of Härnösand in North Sweden. This spirit follows on from the great success of their Swedish Excellence Gin and their Navy Strength Gin.

A few Craft Distillers have already experimented with aged/rested/yellow gin, but most use ex-bourbon casks; other examples include Cognac and ex Jean de Lillet casks (the latter is used by Burrough’s Reserve), but, as yet, no-one has integrated that vital component of gin into their use of wood: juniper.

Until now…

JC bild 20130805

Hernö Juniper Cask has been matured in barrels made from Juniper wood. The barrels are Ankare in size, which is a traditional Swedish measurement dating from the 1600s that equates to 39.25 litres. After its time in the barrels, the gin is diluted with water from the distillery well to 47.0% ABV. It is purposefully not chill-filtered, in order to retain maximum character.

On its own
Colour: Light lemon/straw yellow.
Nose: Some lemon and orange, followed by a progression of crisp pine notes, woody notes of juniper and a little sappiness. Intense, inviting and engaging.
Taste: A rich, smooth and silky – almost honey-like – texture. There’s a herbal sweetness to start, before moving onto a light, green juniper note, followed by a darker, heavy flavour of juniper and rich, bold pine notes. Finally, there’s some citrus peel and a little woody sappiness.
Finish: Resinous pine, a hint of beeswax, citrus peel and a touch of coriander – long and harmonious.

Frozen
Very thick, with a silky texture. Big, full and bold flavours of green juniper, pine, and hints of sappiness, followed by citrus, coriander, and some herbs and spices, such as fennel. The flavour then progresses on to notes of vanilla and wood, before a long, dry finish of pine with a hint of beeswax. Intense, superb and a great way to enjoy the spirit.

Bees Knees
A great long drink: the piney, woody juniper notes work really well with honey, as opposed to sugar. This is a great way to appreciate the gin in a long, refreshing drink.

Herno Juniper Cask - The Barrel

Gin & Tonic
Some savoury spice notes come through on the nose, such as cumin and caraway. The flavour is mainly strong juniper and coriander, with a little sweetness to start, followed by a dry finish, which is long and lingering.

Martini
Looks superb – a very light gold in colour. This is a clean and crisp Martini, but, although it makes a good drink, I can’t help but feel that the vermouth detracts from the flavours of the gin at the ratio that I used (5:1). I think the solution to this problem would be to go dryer, i.e. use less vermouth. Also, mixing it with Lillet may have some potential.

Negroni
Very intense; perhaps a little too sweet with Martini Rosso (which adds a slight note of coconut), so I would recommend using a more bitter vermouth, such as Antica Formula or Sacred Sweet Vermouth. There’s a great, long finish of piney juniper with just a hint of sap. With the more bitter vermouth, this is simply superb.

Juniper Cask French ‘75
An intense French ’75, but nonetheless very good, indeed. This is full of excellent, strong pine notes, a little sappiness and a hint of raw honey. Complex and unusual. Superb.

In Conclusion
Hernö Juniper Cask is a superb spirit and certainly one of the highlights of 2013’s gin releases so far; I’ve not had anything as exciting and engaging and with such bold juniper flavours since I tasted Barr Hill from Vermont – coincidentally, fans of this gin are sure to be fond of Hernö Juniper Cask.

The gin is excellent on its own, but I enjoy it even more from the freezer. As mixed drinks go, I think the Bees Knees (a variation on a Collins) was my favourite.

A special thanks to Jon and the Herno Team for giving this exciting preview.

Cocktails with.. Dà Mhìle

DaMhile

Craft Gin is booming; since my return from Colorado, I have discovered three new craft distilleries! Today’s is one such distiller. Dà Mhìle (pronounced da-vee-lay) is based in Ceredigion in West Wales. Fans of Scotch whisky may recognise the name as that of an organic blended Scotch whisky, which the company has been selling for some time, but, now, they have their own distillery in which to make their products: both a whisky and an organic gin, which is what I’m looking at today.

Dà Mhìle Farmhouse Botanical Gin is bottled at 42% ABV and uses 100% organic ingredients. It is made using a mix of 20 botanicals, from familiar favourites juniper and coriander to five botanicals grown on their farm: elderflower, red and white clover, gorse and chamomile.

DaMhile Gin FINAL

The Taste

On its own

Nose: Green juniper, followed by a burst of herbal spice notes, including cardamom and sage. Then some coriander and, finally, fennel.

Taste: Plenty of coriander up front, along with some other citrus. This then moves onto some sweet spices, such as fennel and star anise, and finishes up with the dry juniper. After the citrus-heavy start, this is a herbal and piney gin with forest-like qualities.

Gin & Tonic

Very spicy and leafy, with some menthol elements, too. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom stand out, as well as a hint of cedar. Some fruitiness accompanies the spice, making this exceptionally easy to drink. Very good, indeed.

Martini

Notes of coriander and ginger make this cocktail warming, intense and spicy, with a long finish. This really highlights the potential of the gin in savoury cocktails; something different and rather delicious. The finish lingers for a good while, which leaves you wanting another as soon as your glass is empty.

Negroni

Simply lovely; lots of spice: ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom, with a gingerbread sweetness, followed by a good bitterness. Complex and tasty.

Gin Collins

This drink really brings out some different notes of the gin with the citrus/coriander dialled back a bit and the all-spice/pimento notes coming to the fore. some of these herbal notes remind me of The Botanist; which shares quite a few botanicals with Dà Mhìle. It is important for a Collins to be refreshing and this certainly is.

Sweet Martini

The citrus and herbal notes of the gin work well with the red vermouth making this a flavoursome drink which is very raising to the appetite.

In Conclusion

I’m quite fond of Dà Mhìle and it’s bold flavours and that is aside from the fact that the whole gin is distilled in Wales and it is Organic (to the EU standard,which is more stringent than the USA standard). Before Dà Mhìle the only UK 100% organic gin was Juniper Green Gin which is nice enough but, unlike Dà Mhìle, lacks a certain wow factor.

Martini and Gin Collins were my cocktail highlights.

Cocktails with… Lubuski Gin

I got a chance to try Gin Lubuski last year, but, as there was only a little left in the bottle, I only got a sip. Last week, however, someone very kindly sent me some more, enabling me to write a full review.

Gin Lubuski is the best selling gin in Poland (with a 56% market share), with the American gin, Seagram’s, coming in second (23%) and Gordon’s way behind with only 2%. Gin Lubuski was first created in 1987 and is still made to the same recipe. It is distilled from grain, bottled at 40% ABV and contains the following botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica Root
Citrus peel
Liquorice
Cassia bark
Bitter almonds
Cardamom
Cinnamon
Star anise
Cumin
Calamus (Myrtle)
Marigold flowers
Bay leaf

Lubuski also make a lime-flavoured gin and a premixed Gin & Tonic that’s sold in an aluminium bottle.

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Juniper, floral notes (rose), coriander, and marmalade-like citrus.
Taste: Black pepper spiciness, floral juniper, which was quite dry and accompanied by floral notes of coriander, violet, lavender and rose. The finish was dry and peppery and of a long-medium length.

Gin & Tonic
This made a very juniper-heavy Gin & Tonic, with a good levels of spicy, citrus and slightly soapy coriander and citrus peel. It was very refreshing and relatively traditional, although there were some rarer herbal and floral notes, too. Very tasty.

Martini
Herbaceous, with some bitter notes and hints of sage and fennel. This was followed by a characteristic juniper dryness, but it had good balance and levels of complexity, with notes of spicy coriander and floral honey. Overall, very good and pretty classic, although I would say that it was, arguably, herbal enough to sit in the “Eastern European style”.

Negroni
This made quite a sweet Negroni to start, followed by a pronounced bitterness; unfortunately, I’d say that the balance is a bit off. The drink is quite juicy and easy to drink, but doesn’t have that classic bitter/sweet mix.

As I’m aware that gin can be consumed differently in different countries, I decided to take a few of the recipes for my review from Gin Lubuski’s website.

Gin & Coke
Definitely an interesting combination; this almost tasted non-alcoholic. The herbal and floral elements of the gin mixed well with the cola (I used CocaCola Classic) to create a taste similar to a more old-fashioned or curiosity style of cola. There was a hint of dry, bitter juniper at the end, making this actually rather tasty.

Gin & Grapefruit
The gin added a great herbal note to this drink, making the flavour of the juice much fuller. At the same time, the spirit also rounded off any sharp bitterness from the grapefruit. This was a refreshing, yet comfortable, drink; very nice, indeed.

Gin & Cranberry
A dry yet herbaceous drink the dry cranberry being a good match for the flavours of the juniper. With plenty of ice it is rather refreshing with a floral lift at the end.

Lubuski Martini
I’ve included this as:

(a) it is the only Martini suggestion on the Lubuski website

(b) when looking up the gin on their distributor’s website, I noticed that they also look after a vermouth brand: Totino, who produce the following varieties of vermouth: Rosso, Blanco (white-sweet), Tropical, Cherry and Peach (the last three are, obviously, flavoured vermouths). Noticeably, there’s no dry vermouth in their catalogue, but this is not uncommon for Eastern European brands.

Equal parts Gin and White Sweet Vermouth

This wasn’t a typical Martini, but, as the Blanco is a bit sweeter than usual, the drink is more palatable than if you used a regular dry. The vermouth brought out more of the gin’s citrus notes, although the bitter herbal and sweet floral notes remain.

In Conclusion

Once again, I have been impressed by an international gin. Whilst it is not as herbal as some others, such as the Czech Rudolph Jeinek, it is more herbal than your standard London gin. I found that it was best enjoyed simply with mixers, whether that be tonic, grapefruit juice or even cola!

Special thanks to Seva for the sample.

Cocktails with… Vilnius Gin from Lithuania

As I’m sure many of you will know, gin classification is a bit of pet subject for me. Following some recent revelations, I wanted to provide a little update but lets start with the basics.

Production Technique

There are three types of gin according to the EU, each defined by different production techniques: Gin, Distilled Gin and London (Dry) Gin. These are set out in EU Regulation: No 110/2008, but below is simplified guide that I wrote a while back.

So from here it should be clear that London (Dry) Gin does not have to be distilled in London and can actually be made anywhere in the world as long as it follows the specified production criteria.*

Geographical Origin**

Some gins also have Geographical Iindicative status. This has nothing to do with how they are made or how they are classified in the above three categories, but is rather an extra label given to them, usually as a perseverance of history, tradition or brand.

For a while, I thought there were only two products with a taste typical of gin (rather than genever or juniper spirit) that had such a protection:***

1) Plymouth – to class as a “Plymouth Gin”, the spirit must be distilled within the old city walls of Plymouth, which amounts to a small area that includes the Barbican and stretches up to Drake Circus. Only one gin qualifies for this at the moment, the one owned by Chivas Brothers, which is made at Blackfriars Distillery. In terms of production technique, it is classed as London Dry Gin, as no extra flavours or colours are added after distillation.

2) Gin de Mahón – this must be ,made in the port of Mahon on the Spanish island of Menorca. The one known brand that currently quaifies is known as Xorigeur and traces it’s history back to the 18th century. Further details can be found here.

But looking at regulations (110/2008)  I found there was a third product that we would recognise as gin, but that was geographically protected:

3) Vilnius Gin – this must be made in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Today, there is only one Vilnius Gin, which has been produced for the last 30 years at the Vilnius Degtiné distillery.

This gin is bottled at 45% ABV and includes botanicals such as Juniper, Dill Seeds, Coriander and Orange. Once distillation is complete, no extra flavours or colours are added and so (as defined above) its production method also qualifies it as London Dry Gin.

I usually don’t comment too much on the packaging of a gin, but I really like this one, with the handlebar moustache and the Edwardian lady and gentleman on the front. A little motto at the base of the label states that Vilnius Gin is:


“The Gin of All the Best Times”


Own
Nose: Lemon, orange and pine.
Taste: This was quite dry, with citrus and some earthy herbal notes, too. It was quite smooth, despite the strength; subtle; and rather classic in terms of style.

Gin & Tonic
A very smooth and fresh gin and tonic, not too complex but a enjoyable way to wind-down at the start of the evening, refreshing on a hot day. Tiny hint of anis at the end.

Martini
Very, clean and pretty dry with a silky texture and a tiny hint of cream and chocolate which add to the satin sensation. Medium to long finish with hint of juniper and citrus, very easy to drink and up there with the best.

Negroni
Smooth and flavourful, with a touch of sweetness and a very crisp, zesty, bitter finish. Clean, well-balanced and altogether rather lovely. This cocktail had a textbook Negroni bitterness with a long, long finish.

Sweet Martini
Quite clean; the herbal sweetness of the vermouth went well with the citrus, pine and earthiness of the gin, making this another clean cocktail with good balance.

L:R Vilnius Stranger & Vilnius Ginapple

The gin bottle also includes two recipes for cocktails, but these are given in Lithuanian; I have translated them for you below.

Vilnius Stranger
½ Vilnius Gin
½ Vyšnių Sulčių (Cherry Juice)
Citrinos ar žaliosios citronos skiltelė (Garnish with Lime)

You don’t see cherry and gin flavours together very often, but this really did work well. The non-sugary cherry juice, combined with the zestiness of the lime, ensures that the drink has a pleasant crispness. It is the gin, however, that provides the accompanying clean finish. Simple, but delicious.

Vilnius Ginapple
½ Vilnius Gin
½ Obuolių Sulčių (Apple Juice)
Obuolio skiltelé (Garnish with Apple Slices)

Quite a clean and fresh flavour; although I’m sure many will find this refreshing and easy to drink, I, personally, would prefer a cocktail with a little more character.

Special thanks to Irena for all her help with the article.

* There has been a move towards identifying gins that are actually distilled in the UK’s Capital City (such as Beefeater, Sipsmith, Sacred or anything made at Thames Distillers); some producers refer to their gin as “Being Distilled In London”, whilst others use the term “London Cut”, but this does not currently have any legal definition.
** In addition to these legal definitions, some describing styles also exist. Although they have a meaning that is generally understood by a relatively wide audience, this understanding is by no means unanimous and controversy surrounds some of them.
Examples include: “Old Tom Gin”, “Classic/Old School Gin” and “American Gin/New Western/New World/Modern/Contemporary/New Age/21st Century Gin”.
*** Dutch Genever/Jenever/Geniévre, Slovakian Slovenská borovička, German Korngenever, Steinhäger and French Genièvre Flandres Artois are also geographically protected.