Cocktails with… Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

Last week, DTS & I were lucky enough to go on a long overdue trip back to The Cotswolds Distillery to celebrate the recent release of their Cotwolds Single Malt Whisky, which has been patiently maturing in a combination of reconditioned red wine casks and first-fill ex-Bourbon casks.

The distillery, set in the hypnotically peaceful countryside of the Cotswolds, was founded in 2014 and have produced an award-winning gin, along with a range of other products like their Spirited Sherry, 1616 Barrel Aged Gin, and a Summer Cup. All the while, though, they have been distilling new make spirit and filling barrels in preparation for a whisky, and their first release is finally here. Although the inaugural release has sold out, a limited number of bottles will be available for Christmas and we were able to purchase a bottle at the Distillery shop, which we eagerly took home and tried out in a few different serves.

Cotswolds Single Malt whisky

On its own

Nose: Beautifully fruity notes of banana with toffee and caramel (or porridge oats with honey and banana), and a richness reminiscent of whipped cream. After a while, notes of pineapple upside-down cake and a dash of marzipan develop, along with hints of red berries that quickly transform into notes of red grapes, especially the skins.

Taste: Given the fruity nose, I was initially surprised – not unpleasantly so – to find that the palate starts out with distinct notes of cereal and grain. This grows more complex as herbal and spice notes develop, accompanied by fruity wood flavours and hints of charred wood, too.

Finish: Delightful fruit notes return on the finish, with notes of banana bread and pineapple cream that gradually fade into clean oak with a dash of black pepper.

On our visit, we were also able to try some of the unaged new make spirit, which was fascinating. Not only was it a brilliant spirit on its own, but it was great to see where the whisky’s fundamental character started and how much of that comes from the local barley.

Cotswolds New Make

Sweet and fruity with lots of pineapple, banana, cream and light caramel notes – this is almost rum-like in character. The palate is ruled by the barley notes, which are smooth, but develop neatly onto the finish, taking on more of a chewy cereal flavour.

The fruitiness of the new make spirit is partially down to the yeast used in the fermentation process. Cotswolds use two types of yeast: Anchor, and a second variety, Fermentis, which results in more tropical fruit flavours and aromas.

On the Rocks

We quickly discovered that one of our favourite ways to drink this – and a perfect serve for a summer evening – was over ice. The richer caramel flavours are less prominent, but remain on the mouthfeel, making this a dryer drink. Notes of oak are accompanied by more herbal flavours at the start, before making way for notes from the barley.

Cotswolds Single MAlt whiksy - on the rocks

Whisky Ginger

Delicious, confectionery notes of caramelised banana, creamy vanilla and toffee that fade into sweet ginger. With additional sips, hints of red apple and grape become intermingled amongst smooth cereal flavours, reminiscent of a spiced caramel apple betty. This is an indulgent Whisky Ginger full of rich flavours, but is impressively balanced by a more woody and grain focused finish.

Whisky Soda

For those who prefer a dryer long drink, this would be a good choice. Dry, but creamy notes of chocolate come through to start, followed by salted caramel. More tropical fruit flavours then appear, ensuring that this doesn’t become astringent, before a light, but luxurious finish of banana and toffee (particularly, Toffo sweets).

Rob Roy

This works well, with the whisky’s richness and sweet fruit and caramel notes neatly highlighted by the red fruit and herbal notes of the vermouth. The whisky’s toffee and cereal notes also come through well, despite the strong flavours of this cocktail, before a very dry, woody and particularly herbal finish that lingers pleasantly on the palate. This would work well as either an aperitif or a digestif.

In Conclusion

As we toured the distillery, it struck me that the Cotswolds team had used a fascinating combination of traditional expertise – learning from people who have been in the industry for decades – and their own experimentation to produce their whisky, not being afraid to do things a little differently if they preferred the spirit that it produced.

They focused on producing a great new make spirit that captured the flavour of their local barley and the result is a lively, flavourful whisky that is fun and tastes great. Highly recommended.

  • Mrs. B

Our 70cl bottle from the Distillery shop cost £44.95. If you’d like to keep an eye on the availability of Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky, you can do so on their website or at Master of Malt.

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Cocktails with… 6 O’Clock – Brunel Edition

As a longtime resident of Portsmouth I’ve always had an affinity with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, perhaps Britain’s greatest engineer. Brunel is also of great importance to the city of Bristol, where the SS Great Britain and the Brunel Museum are both located.

Today, I’m looking at a gin inspired by Brunel: 6 O’Clock Brunel Edition. Additionally, for every bottle sold, £1 will be donated to the SS Great Britain Trust’s new museum ‘Being Brunel’ which opens in 2018.

6 o clock Brunel Gin

The gin, bottled at 50.0% ABV, is made using the original 6 O’Clock Gin as a base and adds more juniper and six new botanicals:
Lemon
Cardamom
Nutmeg
Cumin
Cassia bark
Cubeb

On its own
Nose: Exotic spice, anise, caraway and cumin with a touch of ginger.
Taste: Surprisingly smooth for 50% ABV, with a light, sweet spiciness upfront that gradually makes way for notes of vanilla and lemon. Smooth and clean, there’s also a touch of juniper jelly and coriander before a final burst of black menthol pepper with a little lingering, green pine.

Gin Tonic
This makes a rather spicy Gin Tonic with plenty of cinnamon and ginger notes, making it somewhat reminiscent of a spiced sponge. Juicy fruit notes follow, with a little citrus peel before some cumin and a hint of dark chocolate. Overall, this is a dry, refreshing drink with wonderful notes of intercontinental spice.

Martini
The rich spiciness comes through well in this cocktail: there’s a little dry cinnamon followed by more savoury notes of cumin and ginger with just a touch of turmeric. Sweet citrus and cardamom notes then develop, before a slightly earthy finish.

Martini-on-the-Rocks
Given the slightly higher ABV of this gin, some drinkers may prefer the slightly more dilute Martini-on-the-Rocks. Fill a tumbler to the top with ice, add 35ml of gin and 10ml dry vermouth and garnish with an olive or lemon peel.

The herbal and spiced notes of this gin work really well with the slightly wetter drink and, in comparison to the Martini, more of the vermouth comes through, too.

Negroni
A bold and “crunchy” Negroni with bright notes of fresh celery stalks accompanied by the spices found in the other drinks. The finish is earthy and slightly resinous and really lingers on the tongue.

With Cola
The gin adds a savoury spiciness to this serve, with notes of paprika, turmeric and ginger. Mixed with the cola, the gin also provides a hint of chocolate, but – overall – the drink is not overly sweet and has a pleasant, fiery, dry spice to it.

In Conclusion
6 O’Clock Gin: Brunel Edition is a bold gin that is great for mixing; the additional botanicals make this a great twist on what was already a lovely gin. My favourite drink was the Gin Tonic.

6 O’Clock Brunel edition is available from their website for £43 for 70cl.

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.

Cocktails with… Campfire Gin – from Puddingstone Distillery

This week, it was with great excitement that I got to try the final version of Campfire Gin. Made at the Puddingstone Distillery in the Chiltern Hills, it is a spirit and distillery whose progress I have followed closely, with the added bonus that they are based quite close to the in-laws.

The gin is described as bridging traditional and progressive styles – what some people refer to as a Transatlantic or Cary Grant Gin; a gin grounded in the British distilling tradition, but with a little modern flair. It is probably my favourite style.

campfire-gin-final

Campfire Gin has traditional botanicals such as juniper and orange, as well as the more contemporary choices of hazelnut and coffee berry.

On its own
Nose: Citrus, with a chocolatey berry note and a hint of dark chocolate/coffee, then a little juniper toward the end.

Taste: This is a smooth and elegant spirit that evolves in the mouth: to start, notes of juniper and the round, plump flavours of sweet orange – zesty with a little spice. Then comes a little berry jamminess, before a mix of nutty dark chocolate and earthy florality. There’s a little more spice on a long and lingering finish.

Gin Tonic
Soft, subtle, and spicy, with berry notes, followed by some milk chocolate and orange. All of this makes for a mellow and sippable drink.

campfire-gin-martini

Martini
Dead smooth, with the orange peel adding a lovely, aromatic air. It is crisp, but has some cosy middle notes of berry fruit, as well as deeper earthy notes.

Negroni
The jammy notes of the coffee berry work well with the herbal vermouth and the bitter-sweet Campari, giving the drink both a succulent quality and a pleasant mellowness. A very good Negroni that is really rather moreish.

In Conclusion
Campfire Gin delivers exactly what it promises and is a fine balance between traditional and modern gins. The gin is layered and the dark chocolate and berry notes work really well with the juniper, angelica, and other botanical flavours.

My favourite drink was the Negroni, although Campfire Gin is great to drink on its own.

Cocktails with… Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin

Lemon Gin was a regular fixture of the early 19th Century, with Gordon’s and Plymouth both making varieties. These gins were often made via infusion, but fast-forward to the 21st Century and Sipsmith have resurrected the idea with their distilled Lemon Drizzle Gin.

Originally released as a part of their pilot Quarterly Sipping Service (recently more formally launched as the Sipping Society), such was the popularity of the gin, especially with employees of Marks & Spencer, that production was increased and M&S given the product as an exclusive. Here are my thoughts!

sipsmith-lemon-drizzle-gin

On its own

Nose: Zesty citrus oil and a creamy, citrus blossom, plus a little coriander and leafiness.

Taste: A thick texture and slight sweetness, followed by a fine array of citrus notes; a combination of the fruit, leaf, and flower of citrus that combines to give a lemony flavour in 6:1 surround. Like many signature botanical gins, the juniper is paired back, but that, along with angelica and coriander, is evident towards the finish.

Gin Tonic

Bright, clean, crisp citrus notes sing through, making a very refreshing, really delicious drink – a textbook Gin & Tonic.

Martini

Delightful citrus notes, creamy, and delicate; reminiscent of a lemon syllabub, or – indeed – a lemon drizzle cake, with a crisp, dry finish.

Negroni

A cocktail with a strong and balanced flavour with an extra liveliness from the lemon, which is well-integrated and wonderfully smooth.

In Conclusion

Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle is a fun, modern interpretation of the lemon gins of old. The fact that the flavour is 100% distilled is a great improvement in quality compared with those of the 1930s-1940s. If you are near a Marks & Spencer, it is well worth seeking this out. My favourite cocktail was the Gin Tonic.

Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin is available for around £24 for 500ml Exclusively from Marks and Spencer.

Cocktails with.. Loch Ness Gin

Loch Ness Gin launched in September 2016 so, as today is the last day in that month, it seems a fitting time to post my review. It’s always so nice to see a gin on its journey from conception, through development, to the finished product; and this has been one such product for me.

The gin is made in Athbhinn Dores, Inverness, which is on the shores of Loch Ness. The family of the husband and wife team behind the gin have lived and worked in that part of the Highlands for over 500 years.

lochnessgin

Unusually for a European Gin, Loch Ness use their own, local juniper, which they harvest especially for that purpose. Here are my tasting notes.

On its own
The nose is soft and creamy, with pleasant hints of citrus and spice. The softness follows through onto the palate, making the gin very accessible and easy to drink. There are light, fresh, leafy cucumber notes, as well as a touch of plump, juicy berries. The more traditional gin notes of juniper and angelica come through towards the finish, intermingled with creamy spice notes.
The gin starts off soft and gentle, but has a botanical character that gradually builds, the more you drink.

Gin and Tonic
Crisp and refreshing, with a luscious, leafy note and a hit of salinity, before some creamy citrus. Easy to drink and super-smooth.

Martini
So subtle and elegant, this Martini has a mysterious mix of spice with flirtatious, herbal, leafy notes. The result is an eminently sippable Martini with a sweet lift at the end.

Negroni
A full and plump Negroni with a long, lingering finish; lovely, bitter intensity; and a background chord of herbaceous spice. Superb! Complex, will well-integrated flavours.

With Soda
Very crisp with a salty, leafy note reminiscent of samphire or seaweed, this is an exceptionally fresh drink with plenty of resinous, woody pine notes.

Pink Gin
A gentle, soft, and graceful drink with a light spice and gentle florality, plus a fresh leafiness on the finish.

French ‘75
Loch Ness makes a complex French ‘75 with a great, leafy florality and a hint of fruity berries. Elegant and luscious, with a touch of rose jam on the finish – superb.

In Conclusion
Loch Ness Gin is a great addition to a rapidly expanding selection of Scottish-distilled gin with a smooth and refined character.

Loch Ness Gin is available for around £45 for 70cl.

Bank Holiday Gin Tonics

With the Bank Holiday upon us (the last one in the UK until December) and the possibility that at least a few days in the long weekend will actually be dry and hot, I thought I’d share a few simple ideas for some gin tonic serves to impress your guests this weekend.

Glassware

In this sort of heat (currently it is 28.8c here) I want a very cooling drink with plenty of ice, so a glass like the large copita/fish-bowl glass popular in Spain for the Gin Tonica is the best bet. It does take at least 8 cubes to fill one of these, however, so unless you have an ice maker, I suggest getting a bag or two of ice.

If you don’t have a copita glass, than a large wine glass or stemmed beer glass (think the Stella Artois Chalice) will also work well. The stem helps to keep your drink cool, keeping your warm hand further away from the drink.

 

Recipes

Typically, I use between 25ml-50ml of gin and 150ml of tonic. These are slightly weaker than many might usually enjoy their gin tonic, but these drinks are meant to be long and cooling, and too much alcohol in great heat is not a great idea.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Plymouth and Millers

The Classic

Plymouth Gin with Lemon and Lime Wedges (aka the Evans Style)

Plymouth Gin has a light sweet spice to it, which is balanced out nicely by the slightly sharp lime, whilst and the lemon complements the citrus in the gin.

The 21st Century Gin

Martin Miller’s gin with Strawberries and Cracked Black Pepper.

An unusual garnish choice on paper, but ever since one of the Miller’s brand ambassadors showed me this, I’ve been hooked. Fresh, succulent fruit works well with the refreshing nature of the gin, and the black pepper adds balance and bite. For an extra chill factor, use frozen strawberries.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Apostoles and Shortcross

The Leafy Gin

Principe de Los Apostoles Gin with Rosemary and Baby Spinach

The gin itself is quite “green” – herbaceous and leafy – and the rosemary gives the drink distinctive, aromatic herbal notes as well as adding to the visual spectacle. The spinach adds more to the look than the aroma or flavour, although the leaves can also be a pleasant snack to munch on as you drink.

The All-Rounder

Shortcross Gin with Orange and Coffee Beans

I’m a big fan of Shortcross Gin from Northern Ireland and it has great mixability, including in a gin tonic. I’ve been experimenting with non-typical, but readily available garnishes and my good friend Julia Nourney suggested coffee beans to me. The beans add a deep, dark element to the nose, whilst still allowing the juniper to slip through. When you sip the drink, it is almost all about the gin, with just a little lusciousness from the orange. Almost a two-phase gin tonic.

The Maverick

Bombay Sapphire & Cola with Orange and Chocolate Bitters

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Bombay Sapphire & Coke

Putting gin with cola is seen by many, in the UK, as heresy, despite the fact that this is how gin is enjoyed in many countries in Africa and further afield. The only point that matters is – does it taste good?

In my opinion, it does. Bombay Sapphire, with its complex botanical flavour and light pepper notes works really well with cola, creating a flavour that is reminiscent of an old-school botanical cola; there are even some dry, piney notes in the background. The orange adds a little zest, whilst the chocolate bitters contribute to the drink’s finish.

In Conclusion

Summer drinking is meant to be friendly and fun; it’s a time to relax with friends and family. As such, the drinks should be fun, too. Hopefully this article has provided a little inspiration for you to up your summer drinks game.