Darkness! Aged Bathtub Gin – – Macallan, Clynelish and Abelour

When I spoke to Ben Ellefsen (a close associate of Professor Cornelius Ampleforth) at a tasting last summer and he hinted that there were more innovative aged gins in the pipeline, I was excited. Master of Malt have already created some superb gins under their “Batshit Mental Range”, including Old Fashioned Cask aged and Anglo-Scottish-American gin.

After a six month wait, the new year kicked off in splendid form with the announcement that a series of four aged gins were to be released, all based on their Bathtub Gin and bottled at 43.3% ABV; the only variation between them is the cask that they are stored in.

The gins are aged in casks which were previously used to finish their Darkness! Single Malt Whisky range (these are Scotch whiskies that are finished in ex-sherry casks).

Darkness-Aged-Bathtub-Gin-AberlourAbelour (43.3% ABV) Darkness Aged Bathtub Gin
(Bathtub Gin aged in an ex-Pedro Ximenez barrel previously used to finish an Abelour whisky)
Colour: Warm amber
Nose: Dry elements towards the end, with a touch of nutmeg and vanilla.
Taste: A good, dry flavour and a woody bitterness towards the finish. There is also a slightly sour, briney quality and a slight astringent note. Quite intense, but different from the wood and winter spice of many other aged gins. The dryness of the base spirit really comes through. There’s a good, long finish that is quite excellent, unlike much as the marked, minimal sweetness.

 

Darkness-Aged-Bathtub-Gin-ClynelishClynelish (43.4% ABV) Darkness Aged Bathtub Gin
(Bathtub Gin aged in an ex-Oloroso barrel previously used to finish a Clynelish whisky)
Colour: Dark amber/gold
Nose: Sweet orange, marmalade, and warm spice, with hints of dark fruit and jam; almost a touch of vermouth.
Taste: A full texture, rich and fruity, with plenty of citrus that reminds me of Dundee marmalade. There’s a warmth on the finish and a little heat; this is brighter, bolder, and spicier than the Abelour version, as well as being more like a mainstream aged gin. More wood notes come through, too.

 

Darkness-Aged-Bathtub-Gin-MacallanMacallan (43.3% ABV) Darkness Aged Bathtub Gin
(Bathtub Gin aged in an ex-Pedro Ximenez barrel previously used to finish a Macallan whisky)
Colour: Straw yellow
Nose: Woody with some crisp juniper; dry and piney, with some light, floral notes from coriander and then some warm spice and woody notes: vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Taste: Some sweet bourbon-esque character, before a more balanced flavour with dry gin and juniper notes that move towards a nutty finish with a hint of marzipan. Well-integrated and a lovely introduction to the category of aged gin.

In Conclusion
The use of unusual casks to age gin are an identified trend for the spirit in 2015 and these examples certainly qualify. I was genuinely surprised at how different the spirits were and all were rather tasty, the folks at Master of Malt and Maverick Drinks have done it again!

Darkness! Bathtub Aged Gin Abelour, Ardbeg, Clynelish, Macallan are available for around £30 for 500ml.

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Cocktails with… Bathtub Cask Aged Gin (Navy Strength)

This week will feature a variety of article focused on yellow gin/aged gin, in 2011, I made a prediction that 2012 would be the year of aged/yellow/matured gin but although there were a few new products 2013 has really been the year of yellow gin and my predictions seem to have been 12 months early.

This article will feature Bathtub Navy Gin, which by my reckoning is the first aged gin commercial available.* This is an aged version of the navy strength Bathtub gin we tasted at out navy strength tasting.

BathtubCask-agedGinNavystrengthbottle

On its own
Colour: Dark, rich gold.
Nose: Dry Christmas spice: cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg and cloves, but a little woody vanilla, too. Softer than the nose for the regular Bathtub Navy.
Taste: Superb – has a texture that just expands in your mouth; something that’s really rather different. It’s also rather smooth for 57% ABV. There’s lots of spice upfront, with a slight confectionery quality, too, reminding me of Easter cake or a Tiffin Slice (essentially, light Christmas pudding). Finally, there’s an unusual finish of sarsaparilla, cherry and almond, with just a hint of pine sap.

Gin Tonic
Looks like fizzy pastis, but has a rather nice flavour. I’m reminded again of pastis, as the spice flavour comes through: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and a little anise. There are notes of vanilla, too, as well as a dry finish. In terms of flavour and appearance, this is a very unusual and herbal Gin & Tonic, but it definitely has something going for it and I’ll certainly have another. Mrs. B found it delightful, too.

Martini
A beautiful Martini, golden in colour and very intense and fragrant. There’s dry juniper, then some sweet vanilla and cardamom, followed by oak vanilla notes and some winter spice, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is green, herbal and slightly leafy. Very, very flavourful and really rather lovely – invigorating, even.

Negroni
To start, there’s an intriguing rosemary nose, but then when to taste it, boy! does this make a super Negroni. You get the woody vanilla notes upfront, followed by the nutmeg and cassia spice. Then there are some more herbal notes, the dry juniper and – finally – the deep, dark, more intensely bitter herbal notes that are normally associated with the Negroni. This drink certainly has impact and is one for the Negroni fan.

Cask-Aged Gin Navy-Strength is available from Master of Malt for around £35 for 50cl.

*NY DIstilling Barrel-aged their Perry’s Tot but do not sell it by the bottle.

Cocktails with… Butler’s Gin

ButlersTitle

With what is perhaps the beginning of a renaissance in artisanal gin distilling in the UK, it is exciting to speak to someone who is not only doing their own distilling, but also coming to the industry from a wholly different angle.

Such was the case when I first spoke to Ross Butler of Butler’s Gin. Ross started out by wanting to create a product that reflected his character and, as a part of this, he wanted to start off debt-free, purchasing raw materials only when an order came in. When I spoke to him, Ross spoke of the trade-off between time and money and how he had decided to invest time in his product rather than borrowing money. It seems to have paid dividends, as Butler’s Gin is now due to launch in the USA and the EU next month. Given that he only sold his first bottle of gin on 22nd February 2013, this is remarkable.

Butler’s Gin is made in Hackney and takes a London Dry Gin, which is made to Ross’  specification and recipe, which he then infuses with various botanicals kept in muslin bags, a bit like over-sized tea bags. The infused botanicals include lemongrass and cardamom.

ButlersGinBottle

On its own

Nose: A dry, berry juniper with liquorice root, allspice, ginger/cardamom and lemongrass.

Taste: A measured, classic start of juniper and coriander, followed by some sweeter, spiced notes such as ginger, cassia and cardamon. This is all rounded off with a long finish of lemongrass.

Gin & Tonic

A clean gin and tonic with juniper, plenty of spice from the cardamom and citrus from the lemongrass. My tonic recommendation would be Fevertree and maybe Schweppes; however I would steer clear of eFentimand or Waitrose own-brand as they are too citrusy.

Martini

All of the crisp juniper and citrus that you would expect from a Martini, but with the added character of cardamom, spice and then the dry grape character of the vermouth. Full of flavour and pretty classic, if you are talking about the Martinis of the ‘30s and ‘40s rather than the ultra dry drinks of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but that’s just how I like it.

Negroni

The bold flavours of this gin work well in a Negroni; it’s exceptionally flavourful, with some dark chocolate spice coming through, along with a finish of cardamom and citrus.

Cocktails with… Bathtub Gin ( A Review)

A few months back, I wrote a brief overview of the different types of gin: Gin, Distilled Gin and London Dry Gin. I included the specifications of each, as laid out by the EU. At the time of writing, the only compound gin that I had available was a cheap own-brand spirit by Carrefour. The summary table below, whilst not exhaustive,  covers the main differences.
Generally, a compounded spirit made with essences is seen by both consumers and industry as being at the bottom of the Gin hierarchy and inferior to Distilled Gin or London Gin.
This is a large assumption, akin to the idea that Blended Whisky is always being inferior to Single Malt. I think a lot of this is based on the fact that some of the cheapest Gins available are compounded, because this method is typically cheaper, but also they are likely to use cheap alcohol and cheap ingredients which can affect a Gin’s quality.*
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So I was delighted to hear that Masters of Malt (yes, the same folks that have proven that ready-to-serve cocktails can stand up to freshly made ones) have released their Bathtub Gin. Given the sometime (unjust) snobbish behaviour toward compound gin I asked Ben Ellefsen what inspired him to make one. In his own words:
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“To be honest it’s just something I fancied a crack at – I absolutely love Gin, and wanted to make one that bucked the trend. Every week it seems like someone’s bringing out a gin whose sole claim to fame is that it’s more floral and citrusy than the last – I wanted to make one that was a bit more manly. We do a lot of experimenting here when the fancy takes us, some come out awesome (like this’n’), and some come out fit only for unclogging drains – we usually only sell the ones that come out awesome.”
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According to their website, the gin is made by “the enigmatic Professor Cornelius Ampleforth”. Who is this mysterious academic? Let’s just say he’s the Tipsy McStagger of Tumbridge Wells.**

Bathtub Gin is made using the traditional method of Cold Compounding (or in layman’s terms – infusing). This is a historical method used in gin creation and was mentioned by Jerry Thomas. The spirit in which the botanicals are infused is of a high quality and is made in a copper pot still.

The gin is made in very small batches of 30-60 bottles at a time and the compounding/infusion process is dictated by periodic sampling; exactly how we like to make our home-made liqueurs/spirits/syrups.

Six Ingredients/Botanicals are used in the infusion:

Juniper
Coriander
Orange Peel
Cinnamon
Cloves
Cardamom
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The Taste

1) On its Own
A very pale golden colour, with juniper and citrus (in particular lemon) on the nose; there’s a slight cedar and sandlewood element, too. On a second nosing, I get cardamon too.The taste is smooth initially, with some dry juniper and pine, as well as some spicy cardamon. It develops in the mouth quite a lot, with citrus coming through alongside the juniper and sweet spice on the finish. It has an interesting texture, moving from smooth to warming. Overall, it’s complex and interesting.
Mrs. B described it as “floral and spicy” and thought that it would make a good sipping gin.
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2) Gin & Tonic
The nose was dominated by juniper, citrus and the tonic. Interestingly, it also appeared to be louching slightly.On the tongue, the fresh gin comes through strongly. With Schweppes tonic it is a bit cloying, but with the cleaner and less dominant Fevertree the gin opens up a bit more. It is quite bitter on the end, in a clean way.
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3) Martini
Crisp and smooth, a nice balance at 5:1 between the gin and the vermouth. Quite a classic style but with a bit more character.

4) Negroni
Lovely herbally rich and complex. Definitely for fans of the Negroni, this is delightfully bitter, but still has some freshness. It’s very smooth, too.

5) Pink Gin
Quite soft for a Pink Gin and very smooth indeed. The spice of the bitters brings out the spice of the gin, but the juniper remains strong, clean and crisp. Slightly savoury and rousing to the appetite.

6) Gimlet
Smooth and crisp, with some more complex, dry spiciness. The gin stands up very well to the lime cordial to create quite a bracing, but tasty drink, with some bitterness at the end. Very refreshing.

In Conclusion

I think that it’s safe to say that any assumption that all compound gins are poor quality is completely wrong; Bathtub Gin easily stands up to some of its high-end London Dry counterparts, giving smooth and complex drinks with a distinctive bitter twist.Our favourite cocktails were Pink Gin, Negroni and sipping it on it’s own. Once again Master of Malt have bucked the trend, thanks.

Bathtub Gin is avaialble from Master of Malt for around £32 for 70cl.

Special thanks to Norma, Natalie and Ben and the team at MAaster Of Malt for all their help.

*Interestingly, to my mind, the worst Gin I have tried is an official London Dry Gin.

** Think Flamin’ Homer

By Request

Bathtub Gin Gin & Tonic (notice the slight louche)

Bathtub Gin Gin & Tonic (notice the slight louche)

Undiluted Bathtub Gin