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.

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.

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… Uganda Waragi: An African Gin


A bottle of Ugandan Waragi and the 100ml Pouch

I heard of this Gin some years back and it has eluded for some while, that was until the day I was encouraged to increase the search and, many phone-calls later, I finally tracked it down to a shop in East London. After making sure that they had the gin in stock a field trip was in order to pick up the bottles of this mystery drink.                                                .
Ugandan Waragi comes from Uganda and is made by East African Distilleries (whose HeadQuarters  are actually in Nairobi, Kenya), according to their website Uganda Waragi is Uganda’s leading branded spirit with a market share of 40%.                                .                                                                                                                                                                                                          .
The gin made using millet, tripled distilled and is defined as “Gin”; this suggests that rather than distilling the botanicals the flavours of the gin are just compounded*. Despite this definition the word “Gin” only appears on the label once.

Ugandan Waragi’s  Brand Statement:

“Uganda Waragi is the invigoratingly pure drink that enhances the moments that you share with your friends.”

Ugandan Waragi has been produced since 1965 and until about 1995 it’s quality varied as the base spirit came from a variety of local producers whose crude Enguli was redistilled into Ugandan Waragi. The name “Ugandan Waragi” is a derivation of “War Gin”

The East African Disitilers’ website details it’s Uganda Waragi’s main markets as:  Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Southern Sudan and the UK. An suggests mixing Uganda Waragi with Coke, Lime, Juice or Tonic.

The taste:

#1) Own
Juniper and angelica on the nose. There’s an initial softness with some juniper, a bit of spice and some rooty earthiness. I was surprised by some of the sweet notes in the gin and there is a slight tongue tingle. There is a slight cloying bitterness on the finish, a bit like tonic water. When I added a bit of water the juniper cam through a lot more.

#2) Gin & Tonic
I used Fentiman’s tonic, which created a drink that was fresh and light with citrus and spice (there was also some subtle juniper). This was very refreshing and is a good standard of Gin & Tonic, on the downside if you like a really punch of juniper flavour in your G&T , this might not be for you.

#3) Martini
This didn’t stand up to the vermouth very well (only a 5:1 ratio) so to get a dry Martini you need to use even less vermouth than usual. This wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either.

#4) Aviation
Quite a fresh drink and the Maraschino & Violette can easily be tasted. I like the drink but the Gin is rather underwhelming when mixed in this cocktail.

#5) Gin Sour
An interesting reaction between the sugar syrup and the spice of the gin. Juniper was really only present on the finish.  Refreshing  with the lime juice and the spirit reacting nicely. It’s a very tasty drink and I fancy another.

#6) Gin Bump (Buck)
You can still taste the gin in this drink but the Waragi flavours are not overpowering. The spice from the gins botanicals are extenuated by the ginger ale and the lemon juice tries the drink together. The sugar from the mixer stops the Buck from being too tart. A very neat drink, simple & tasty.

#7) Alexander
This was pretty flavourful, more complex than most Alexanders. Unusual but tasty with the chocolate coming through and the drink have a fine balance of flavours.

#8) Gimlet
Superb, just the right cloudiness and a great balance between the Rose’s and the Gin, neither over powers the other. Has the chilled crispness every good Gimlet should have. Superb.

#9) Tom Collins
I found this drink rather dull; even with upped proportions of the gin the Waragi was lost.

#10) Gin & Coke
OK so maybe this actually does work, as in this combination makes a palatable, refreshing drink. I can imagine if you had lots of this Gin knocking about this could be quite a nice drink, defiantly my choice over a vodka coke/orange/tonic. You can still taste the gin but it is rather subdued (2:1 ratio). Thinking about the market the product is designed for, this make sense as a recommended serve because it’s simple and the ingredients (Coca cola) are easy to come by.

In Conclusion
Ugandan Waragi is a drink I’ve wanted to try for a very long time and, I think, it was well worth the wait. It’s market and back story are like no other Gin (I have tried) and I’m always amused at the reaction folks have to the little packets the small portions of gin come in.
Cocktail highlights include the Gin Sour, Gin & Tonic and Gin Bump. This Gin works well in simple cocktails and when there is a bit of citrus present too.

*For details of Gin definitions and categorization please this article.

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