Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendars from Master of Malt

December is just a little more than a week away and many kids (young and old) are looking forward to their chocolate advent calendars (I always liked the Mars bar ones, as you got three “fun-size” Mars bars in it in addition to the usual chocolate shapes). The last few years have seen an increase in connoiseur calendars; that is, high-end advent calendars. These are calendars that not only allow people to celebrate Advent / the countdown to Christmas, but also allow them to sample a smorgasbord of their chosen interest; I’ve seen calendars full of tea, coffee, fine chocolate, perfume, and all manner of goodies.

Of course, we at SummerFruitCup are most interested in the boozy ones. What started as the tie-up between Gin Foundry’s Ginvent and Master of Malt’s Drink by the Dram has blossomed into a full array of offerings, including Master of Malt’s new “Pick your own Advent Calendar”.

Whilst a new gin, whisky, or other spirit each day is pretty exciting, the sheer range of what you get to try is superb, too: from small producers to large ones, spirits from around the world, new to old, and maybe even an advent calendar exclusive!

There is also a growing interactive factor on-line, with both consumers and industry folks being encouraged to engage in online conversations about each day’s drams. As such, we were kindly sent some advent calendars from the folks at Master of Malt.


Ginvent Calendar 2015


24 x 30ml drams of delicious juniper libations from Europe, the US, and Australia, covering a range of different styles and one that is exclusive to the Ginvent calendar.

There will be daily tasting tweets led by the Gin Foundry (around 19:00 GMT) and, of course, we (@summerfruitcup) will be joining in, too. You can also check out the daily animated openings of each door on DT’s Instagram account.


Whisky Advent Calendar 2015


24 x 30ml drams of whisky, including a 50 Year Old Scotch, a blended whisky that was awarded “World’s Best”, and an award winning Japanese whisky.

There will be daily tasting tweets (around 18:00 GMT) by Mrs B (@saraandthebear) and you can check out her (crafty) daily Instagrams here.

There’s still time to get your own calendar from Master of Malt; here’s a list of their full range:

Whisky Advent Calendar RRP £149.95

Ginvent Calendar RRP £114.95

Botanical Ginvent Calendar RRP £124.95

Bourbon Advent Calendar RRP £139.95

Rum Advent Calendar RRP £149.95

Cognac Advent Calendar RRP £149.95

Tequila Advent Calendar RRP £149.95

Mezcal Advent Calendar RRP £149.95

Armagnac Advent Calendar RRP £149.95

Absinthe Advent Calendar RRP £134.95

Vodka Advent Calendar RRP £99.95

Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Calendar RRP £99.95

Cocktails with… Carpenter’s Gin

Carpenter’s Gin is made in Homerton, East London by distiller Edward Rogers who was also an accomplished carpenter with a particular talent for crafting furniture. His gin is made in small batches: the equivalent of eighty 700ml bottles at a time.

1 Carpenters Gin

The gin is bottled at 40.0% ABV and is made using botanicals including:

Almond Powder
American Oak Chips

On its own
Nose: A creamy nose with hints of cardamom, vanilla, and spice.
Taste: Very smooth upfront, with luscious, zesty citrus and coriander notes, before some broader spice notes and a lovely, dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
An excellent Gin & Tonic, very classic in style. It is dry and refreshing with a lovely citrus brightness and a mellow smoothness. A shining example of a succulent Gin & Tonic.

Pleasant to sip; very soft and smooth. There is a good interplay between lemon and lime citrus and warm spice notes. A delicious cocktail that is elegant and easy to sip.

Carpenter’s Gin makes a really rich Negroni with a silky texture. It has a pleasant, woody-vanilla mellowness that is followed by a clean, herbal, and bitter finish. The lingering richness at the end is accompanied by a touch of fragrant spice. A complex and evolving drink.

In Conclusion
I enjoyed Carpenter’s Gin and it’s great to see a craftsman moving from one medium to another. I think that the use of oak chips as a botanical is a nice nod to Edward’s past and it does make a difference, especially in the Negroni, which was my favourite drink.

Ccoktails with… Mews London Dry Gin

Last month saw the third Craft Distilling Expo in London. A precursor to this was the Expo’s Gin of the Year Competition, which is open to all new, European craft gins that have been produced in the past year.

1 Mews Gin Final

One such gin was Mews London Dry Gin, which is made by Mews English Distillers and bottled at 37.5% ABV. It is made by vapour distillation using 11 botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica root, lemon, orange, orris, cassia, cubeb, liquorice, lavender, and pink peppercorns.

On its own
Nose: Relatively light, with some creamy chocolate and coriander.
Taste: Lovely texture: soft and silky, with a milky, vanilla creaminess and a dry finish. Very easy to sip.

Gin & Tonic
This is a straight-forward Gin & Tonic: it is relatively light, but accessible and refreshing with a little sweet spice. It would be well-matched with a pink grapefruit garnish.

Good, clean, soft, and smooth, with rich vanilla and chocolate notes, accompanied by light juniper and citrus.

With the standard equal mix of ingredients this is a good cocktail, but it improves considerably with a little more gin, which increases the dry juniper notes and provides for a more balanced drink.

In Conclusion
Mews Gin is a great example of the light, but nuanced botanical flavour that a distiller can achieve using vapour infusion. My favourite drink of those that I tried was the gin on its own, served over ice.

Cocktails with… Fred Jerbis Gin… from Italy

I’m always interested in gins from other countries and, whilst there are plenty of gins available from Spain, France, and Germany, I’d only ever tried one from Italy and, as nice as it was, that was a pretty standard, classic style gin.

As a result, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to try the hand-crafted Fred Jerbis gin, made by L.F. Opificium in Spilimbergo, North-east Italy. It uses five different production methods to capture its wide range of botanical flavours:

Pot Distillation
Vapour Distillation
Cold Maceration of Fresh Herbs
Cold Maceration of Dried Herbs
Hot Maceration

1 Fred Jerbis Gin

Fred Jerbis is bottled at 43% ABV and the gin is made using 43 different botanicals, including: Juniper, Angelica, Lemon, Orange, Mandarin, Orange Blossom, Liquorice, Iris, Savory, Thyme, Lavender, Saffron, Mint, Anise, Fennel, Mountain Pine, Melissa, Masterwort, Clary Sage, Wormwood, Yarrow, Hyssop, Marjoram, and Aromatic Calamus, amongst others.

On its own
Nose: Intense and complex, with an array of herbs, fruits, roots and spices. There are notes of fruit cake – like panettone or stollen – as well as rich orange and hints of woody menthol and wintergreen.
Taste: Warm and cosy in flavour, with lots going on, despite it being pleasantly mellow. Notes of cedar and woody spice are followed by forest aromatics and hint of meadow flowers. The finish is full of citrus with a bitter-sweet orange that lingers on the palate.

Gin & Tonic
A herbaceous nose with a touch of sweetness. So fresh and genuine, this is wonderfully cool and inviting. There are flavours of wintergreen upfront, before fruity notes (such as grape) and then drier, leafy notes that work particularly well with the tonic.

Gin Soda
An understandably drier drink than the Gin & Tonic, but less bitter, too. The soda allows some of the more subtle root notes to come through, such as dandelion & burdock. The orange is a little more in the background, replaced with vermouth-like flavours of anis, fennel, and artemisia.

Fragrant and somewhat floral. Smooth, but with plenty of flavour, this is a herbal Martini that’s raising to the appetite. The strong finish is of juniper, coriander, and citrus.

Very herbal, mellow, and smooth, with a pleasant, light jamminess that is reminiscent of fruit pastilles. There are also lovely elements of woody vanilla and spice, and sweet hints of anis and fennel. These are followed by a slight bitterness from the Campari, which is well-matched to the levels of juniper in this cocktail. Very good, indeed.

In Conclusion
Fred Jerbis Gin is a complex gin with a wide array of botanical flavours, from bright juniper to fresh, leafy herbs; from sweet spice to citrus. This variety of flavour is a result of their combination of distillation and maceration, and provides a great deal to explore. My favourite drink was the Negroni.

www.fredjerbis.it – Fred Jerbis on Twitter

Which glass for whisk(e)y? A tasting with Glencairn glassware.

When enjoying whisky, obviously the spirit itself is of utmost importance, but consideration also needs to be given to the glass from which you enjoy it. There are a great plethora of glasses produced across the world that are designed to increase the appreciation of fine spirits.

Glencairn, a Scottish glassware company based in East Kilbride, Scotland, has a range of different glasses and, after recently picking up one of their stemmed copita glasses at the Cotswolds Distillery, I decided to take a closer look at their range and see how different shapes and styles can impact upon the drinking experience.

I tested all of these glasses out with Old Scout Straight Bourbon from Smooth Ambler Spirits, based in West Virginia.

L:R Glencairn Original, Mini, Cut-crystal & Copita

L:R Glencairn Original, Mini, Cut-crystal & Copita

The original Glencairn Glass

Height (full): 115mm, Height (stem): 20mm, Width (widest point): 65mm, Width (opening): 42mm

This glass, designed specifically for the appreciation of whisky, is most likely familiar to anyone who has been to a whisky distillery, shop, or bar.

  • It sits neatly in the hand and is easy and comfortable to sip from.
  • Doesn’t feel fragile.
  • The wider bowl also allows for a good view of the spirit and its colour.
  • The nose was full-bodied and extensive.

The miniature Glencairn Glass (sometimes referred to as the “Perfect Dram” glass)

Height (full): 86mm, Height (stem): 17mm, Width (widest point): 48mm, Width (opening): 31mm

This is a smaller version of the normal Glencairn glass. Although I can’t find it on their website, they are available on Amazon and, like the original, some companies are selling branded versions (we picked one up at the Cotswolds Distillery recently).

  • I find this lighter glass easier to hold, although some may find it too small.
  • The smaller volume means that you can have more glasses of different whiskies, rather than one larger pour.
  • In my direct comparison of the glasses, I found that the sweeter, fruity notes came through more vividly using this one than the others.

Cut Crystal Glencairn Glass

Height (full): 115mm, Height (stem): 20mm, Width (widest point): 62mm, Width (opening): 42mm

The Cut Crystal Glencairn is similar in size and design to the original, but is mouth blown and hand cut.

  • Beautiful to look at; this would make a lovely gift.
  • It is much heavier than the others, especially the base, but does feel a tad more fragile.
  • The “lip” of the glass is thinner, which I found less comfortable to drink from.
  • Both the nose and the palate seemed more spirituous from this glass.

Glencairn Copita Glass

Height (full): 148mm, Height (stem): 62mm, Width (widest point): 60mm, Width (opening): 40mm

Finally, we have the Copita glass, which the website notes is used for sensory analysis by blenders and distillers.

  • Excellent for exploring the nose and colour of whiskies.
  • Good if you prefer a stemmed glass (or are concerned about warming your spirit when you hold it).
  • Has a thin “lip”, but feels balanced and substantial compared to other stemmed glasses.

In Conclusion

There’s a glass here for every occasion and customer. If you’re after a detailed sensory analysis, try the Copita glass; if you want a good, solid glass that’s nonetheless great for exploring whisky, try the original or miniature Glencairn glass; and if you want to try something a little bit different and special, try the Cut Crystal Glencairn.

My personal favourite is still the miniature Glencairn, but I was impressed by the Copita Glass and would definitely use it again, especially when I have a whisky that I want to explore over a good period of time.

The full range of Glencairn glassware is available on Amazon and at a variety of other shops (see the official website for a map).

Cocktails with Furillen Gin from Herno Gin of Sweden

Today’s article focuses on a rather special gin from our friends at Hernö Distillery in Sweden. Namely, the gin made exclusively for the Fabriken Furillen Hotel on the Furillen Penisula of Gotland Island.

The gin is the only spirit served at Fabriken Furillen and is served, not from bottles, but from a 240 litre stainless steel tank. The spirit is made using wild juniper, fresh elderflower, and fresh rose; all foraged by the hotel’s founder, Johan Hellström. In addition to these botanicals, coriander seed and fresh lemon peel are also used. The gin is bottled at 41% ABV.

Furillen Gin
On its own
Nose: Bright, vegetal notes, with hints of bright cucumber, coriander, and a hint of sea salt.
Taste: Juniper to start and then floral and citrus coriander; bright, with just a hint of oiliness. These are followed by some very fresh, crisp, leafy, herbal notes. Exciting and invigorating.

Gin & Tonic
Wonderfully fragrant; leafy and herbal, with some cucumber notes accompanied by herbal juniper and savoury notes. The finish is long and full of citrus, making this very refreshing, complex, and unusual.

Crisp, with unexpected chocolate notes upfront, followed by some bright, leafy, herbal flavours and a touch of florality, before piney juniper notes take centre stage. This gin works well at low temperatures, making this Martini an excellent pre-dinner cocktail, rousing to the appetite.

Packed full of strong flavours, this is bold and herbaceous, with bright floral notes and a little spiced citrus; the gin certainly holds up well against the vermouth and the Campari. There’s also a lovely touch of dark chocolate on the finish.

In Conclusion
It is always a pleasure to try something exclusive or rate, and this gin is no exception, but it is how the Furillion Gin embodies the terroir of where many of the botanicals are sourced that is really exciting. It is that slight hint of salinity that sets this gin apart: how it captures the character of the sea and coastline. Unique and outstanding.

Cocktails with… Cotswold Distillery’s Espresso Martini

Bottled cocktails are both something rather old and rather newsworthy; that is, after many, many years in the wilderness, they are starting to make a comeback. The attraction is simple: excellent, high-quality cocktails that are ready to drink with minimal preparation and a convenient, affordable price.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini - Botttle FINAL

We’ve written about the excellent range by Master of Malt, but, on a recent trip to the Cotswolds Distillery, I learnt how they had taken a slightly different approach when making an Espresso Martini.

The Espresso Martini was created in the 1990s by Dick Bradshaw and typically consists of a mix of vodka, coffee liqueur, sugar syrup and fresh espresso. At the Cotswolds Distillery, however, they make their bottled cocktail not through a compounding of the various ingredients, but by producing a range of distillates: coffee (Enorga and Malabar), coriander seed, fresh orange peel, and spice (mace, cassia, and cinnamon). These are then blended together and lightly sweetened. Let’s see what it tastes like.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini - Frozen FINALOn its own (from the freezer)
Nose: Dark, rich coffee beans and rich fruit.
Taste: More rich coffee, mingled with dark chocolate and cherry, followed by a delicate sweetness that gradually intensifies to a short, but lovely, genuine sugar note. Towards the finish, the notes of chocolate are combined with spiced orange.
Finish: Light, intriguing floral notes of coriander and rose or violet creams here and there, with the continuation of the same fruity, chocolate and coffee notes.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini - Soda FINALTall Espresso Martini (with soda)
This has lovely – and decidedly non-sickly – notes of chocolate orange; in particular, cocoa powder and a sweet fruitiness (both orange and richer, darker fruit like cherry). The fizz lightens the drink so that it has an almost cola-like element to it at the start, which gradually develops into notes of coffee and dry cocoa. A great way to make a spirited version of a coffee soda.

In Conclusion
Cotswolds Distillery’s Espresso Martini is full of flavour and unexpected complexities, making it an excellent example of how a bottled cocktail can be much more than something you could make at home. I also liked the innovative method of production, and am intrigued to know what other products might be available in the future.

The Espresso Martini would be perfectly placed at the end of a meal on its own (with its fruity, chocolatey, coffee notes), or at any time when mixed with soda. Now I’m just left with the conundrum of deciding how to drink the rest of our bottle!