Cocktails with Chase Single Botanical Gin or is Juniper Vodka?

ChaseSingleBotanicalGinTitle

Some folks of the Twitter-set may have seen Anonymous Artist’s recent ThirstyChat (Twitter’s leading drinks debate platform) on the subject of London Dry / Botanical Vodka*, so I was amused and delighted to receive a surprise package from the Chase Distillery containing a single botanical gin; or (as the accompanying letter suggests) is it a juniper vodka?

This product comes at a time when people are thinking about the flavours of individual types of juniper more than ever. Cascade Mountain (now Crater Lake Gin) kicked things off a few years ago** and this was followed last year by Master of Malt’s Origin series, which focused on using juniper from specific geographic locations.

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My bottle from Chase came with an accompanying letter informing me that this is one of only 1,000 bottles of this spirit and that the aim of the product was to highlight the importance of the base spirit in the production of gin and that Chase is somewhat different in that they make their own.

It is unusual for a British gin to make their base spirit from scratch; other than Chase, the English Spirit Distillery and Adnams are the two notable others. In the USA, however, it is far more common for distillers to make their own vodka from scratch to use as the base spirit for their gin.

By using their own base spirit, it is almost as if the distiller can adjust the flavour in a third dimension; the spirit adds a further variable and can act like a botanical in its own right.

ChaseJuniperVodka

Bottled at 40%ABV Chase Single Botanical Vodka uses Chase’s potato vodka spirit as a base. This is the same base as their excellent Chase Extra Dry Gin.

#1) On its own
Nose: Superb – big and full, with green pine, a hint of sap, a touch of citrus (almost like coriander) and vanilla. Rich and compelling.
Taste: Thick and full in flavour, with strong notes of pine needles, followed by hints of bitter wood.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Another great drink, crisp refreshing and vibrant the flavours seems to “pop” out of the glass. In addition to the piney juniper I do get some hints of anise and a touch of vanilla just showing the depth of flavour that a juniper spirit has.

#3) Martini
Very clean with a pleasant crispness and whilst keen focus on juniper there are some other spicy elements in there; hint of ginger and cinnamon making the drink a little more interesting than you might expect. I don’t think it needs a garnish but I would side with using a lemon twist over an olive.

#4) Negroni
This makes a simple, but flavourful Negroni. The juniper bounds through and holds up against the sweet vermouth and Campari with ease. Classic in style, and one for the big fans of this classic gin drink.

In Conclusion
I think that Chase Single Botanical Gin is an excellent product and highlights the importance of base spirit well. I look at this as a single botanical gin, even though it could, technically, be called a juniper botanical vodka.

I do think that the base spirit used makes a difference, but, at the same time, I don’t think that gins that use neutral grain spirit are inferior; in fact, some folks are firm advocates of the use of NGS for making gin.

I think that both types of gin have their merits (and I really enjoy and value both), but making your own spirit opens up a lot of room for experimentation and innovation. Food (or rather gin) for thought, indeed!

*If you missed it, check out the transcript here. This week’s debate (on Tuesday 26th March at 15:00 GMT) is on the subject of celebrity booze.
** They actually use Juniperus Occidentalis, which is larger than the more mainstream Juniperus Communis.

Chase Single Botanical Gin is available for around £37 for 700ml from The Whisky Exchange

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Cocktails with… Heston Blumenthal’s Lemon and Earl Grey Gin from Waitrose

It’s been a bit of a Chase Gin week here on SummerFruitCup and today, whilst mooching along to our local Waitrose, Mrs. B. informed me that the Heston Gin has now arrived.*

‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is a designed specifically for Waitrose by Heston Blumenthal and is manufactured by Chase Distillery. Like the new Great British Gin, this Waitrose-exclusive spirit is potato-based (and packaged in the same bottle) and is made using an array of 7 classic botanicals**. The gin is additionally infused with lemon and Earl Grey tea.*** It is bottled at 40%ABV and specifies its suitability for vegetarians on the label.

On its own:
Nose: Simply upon opening the bottle, the smell of the gin burst out: zesty, but sour lemon is followed by wet tea. Overall, it has the feeling of lemon tea, but could be better.
Taste: Smooth up front, very fragrant and very citrusy, with floral tea notes. There’s some coriander, too, but where this gin really stands out is with the lovely Earl Grey tea finish, which is long and delicious. With a drop of water, distinctly piney juniper and a sweet element of liquorice also pop up.

Gin & Tonic
This drink is really the litmus test for this gin, which is primarily designed for the off-trade market and, more specifically, the supermarket shoppers of Waitrose, the majority of whom consume their gin with a splash of tonic water.

A resounding pass with flying colours. Refreshing and zesty, it has some floral tea and orange elements, plus a hint of lemon verbena. I think that a nice, clean (not citrusy) tonic works best; Fevertree or Schweppes work well, although I’d be keen to try it with Fevertree Mediterranean or 1724 for a more herbal twist.

I initially tried it at 2:1 ratio, but also really like it at greater dilutions: 3:1 or 4:1. The drink still works for those who like a little more tonic, but, personally, I think I’ll stick to the 2:1.

Martini
Very lemony, with some orange blossom, as well as a crisp dryness from the tea. When I made the Martini (stirred), the gin seemed to have slightly louched, which gave it a misty appearance. I like the flavour of this cocktail: it’s quite complex, but I think that some will find it overly pungent.

Negroni
This makes an odd Negroni, which is quite soft initially, with floral citrus notes. The nose is very vegetal and, for me, a bit off-putting. There’s some bitterness at the end, but the cocktail overall doesn’t really work for me.

In Conclusion
Heston Gin had a lot to live up to, as I’d eagerly anticipated it for several weeks now. Noticeably, by adding flavours to a classic gin make-up and increasing the floral elements, they have produced a gin that is more like some of the contemporary varieties coming out of the USA or Australia.
Given these changes, I found that the gin doesn’t fit into all classic gin cocktails, but, with some tailoring, I think you could get some good results. It will probably lend itself well to some Spring cocktails, too.
As a cocktail ingredient, there is not a lot out there that can rival it (the Spectator Gin is less perfumed) in terms of application and, with some experimentation, some great drinks could be created.
In reality, any gin aimed at supermarket shoppers will be judged by how it works in a Gin & Tonic and Heston’s in works well, giving a slight twist to a familiar drink.

‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is available exclusively from Waitrose Stores for around £22 for 70cl.

*The Heston Gin as I have eagerly awaited its arrival.
** Including Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Citrus Peel, Orris Root, Liquorice and Almond.
*** Heston seems quite keen on using tea to flavour things – I am quite fond of the Lapsang Salmon.
*** Interestingly, last night, I was tasting some of the MasterofMalt Spectator Gin that also uses lemon (this time lemon balm) and Earl Grey tea as an infusion with the spirit.

Cocktails with… Williams CHASE Seville Orange Gin

Earlier this year, I wrote about orange gin, a long-lost cocktail ingredient made by Gordon’s (amongst others). I even had a go at [making my own recreation]. At one time, flavoured gins were all the rage, from common flavours such as orange and lemon, to the more outlandish and whacky likes of maple, celery and even asparagus!

The last orange gins were snuffed out in the 1990s, with Beefeater and Bloomsbury being among the last to go, although it is still possible to buy bottle of Bloomsbury for a pretty reasonable price.

As a result, I was pretty excited to see a bottle of the new Chase Orange Gin on a recent trip to Graphic Bar, whose gin selection is the biggest in London, if not the UK.

Although made differently, the Orange Gin follows on from Chase’s success with their Marmalade Vodka. The difference between the two is that the vodka is distilled with orange peel, whereas the gin is infused with orange peel after distillation; this maturation time is determined by taste (tested every half hour) and can vary from 8 to 24 hours.

The gin itself is in the same style as the Williams Crisp Gin in that it is made from cider apples, but the botanical mix is different; the 9 botanicals of Chase Seville Orange Gin are:

Juniper Berries
Coriander Seed
Angelica Root
Lemon Peel
Orange Peel
Orris Root
Liquorice Root
Angelica Seed
Elderflower flower

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Dry to start, then packed with sweet, fruity notes like a luscious hot cross bun. There’s a distinctive hint of sweet seville peel, too.
Taste: This is a smooth gin, with a tiny hint of sweetness and only a little warmth builds towards the end. The prominent taste is of sweet seville orange peel, rather like marmalade. There’s also a long, dry finish. Quite excellent and most sippable.

2) Gin & Tonic
Lovely – the dryness of the gin and the bitterness of the tonic are laced with the deep, jammy and slightly sweet flavour of seville orange peel (or marmalade, if you prefer). No garnish is needed for this tasty drink, which would be such a treat for summer. Outstanding.

3) Martini
Excellent – lots of zesty orange a touch of fragrance and a hint of spice. This is very crisp and very, very tasty and, unlike many other orange gins, Chase Seville Orange is not too sweet, which makes it a good fit in a Dry Martini.

4) Negroni
This is a really nice Negroni. The gin shines through with, obviously, plenty of orange, but the marmalade aspects of the gin are somewhat subdued. Balanced and not too bitter, this has a rather charming, chocolatey finish. This produces a Negroni that’s a little bit different and performs that difficult feat of both converting some anti-Negroni folks (Mrs. B liked it) and pleasing traditionalists.

5) Sweet Martini
This drink is full of flavour, with the orange marmalade notes shining through. There are also great herbal notes, with a dry, juniper finish. Raising to the appetite, this could be the perfect drink to impress arriving guests with before dinner.

I also decided to try it out in a couple of classic Orange Gin recipes.

6) Classic #1: Comet
[30ml Orange Gin, 30ml Lillet Blanc, 2 drops Maraschino – STIR]
Dryer than a usual Comet, but just as tasty, this is clean, crisp and another excellent pre-dinner drink. The orange notes of the Lillet complement the orange in the gin well.

7) Classic #2: Moulin Rouge
[30ml Orange Gin, 10ml AB, 3 drops of Gran – STIR]
This is probably THE Orange Gin cocktail (if there is such a thing); a simple and short drink. With Chase Seville, the drinks is crisp yet with some berry sweetness and a spicy note a nice sipper as an after dinner tipple.

Finally I wanted to try out the gin’s seasonable effectiveness so tried it out in a drink for each season:

8) Autumn Buck
[30ml Chase Seville Orange Gin, top-up with ginger ale – STIR]
Ginger upfront, followed by zesty, jammy notes of orange. There’s a dash of ginger wine or ginger liqueur, which makes it more warming without taking away the citric refreshment. Rather good, with a good amount of juniper, too.

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9) Winter Toddy
[30ml Chase Seville Orange Gin, 15ml Lemon Juice, 15ml Honey, 80ml Hot Water]
This is a warming and comforting drink. It is important to not overdo the lemon juice, as there is a obviously a fair amount of orange from the gin. You can also get creative with the garnish: I used star anise, but a sprinkle of cinnamon powder, some cloves or orange would do just as well.

10) Spring Collins
[40ml Chase Seville Orange Gin, 20ml Elderflower Cordial, 20ml lemon juice – Top Up with Soda Water]
Crisp and zesty, with tangy orange and sweet elderflower notes, all signing off with a pleasantly tart finish. There’s a little bit of floral, too, making this quite light and refreshing, just like Spring.

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11) Summer Sour
[30ml Chase Seville Orange Gin, 30ml Lemon Juice, 30ml Sugar Syrup – Build over Ice and Stir ]
This is lovely; very, very crisp and clean. The flavour is of the gin initially, followed by the rich, sweet orange notes. This is a short drink, but bursting with freshness. It would make a lovely, late afternoon drink to enjoy outside.

In Conclusion
I think I’ve demonstrated the excellent versatility of the Chase Seville Orange Gin, using it in drinks from crisp coolers to winter warmers. Having a little experience with the orange gins of old, I think that this product brings the idea bang up-to-date and – importantly – gives people the choice to add extra sugar or not. The lack of sugar is also a sign of the quality of distillation and a note of distinction between spirits in the 21st Century, compared to those of the early 20th Century.

Cocktails with… Chase Great British – Extra Dry Gin

As someone who is enthusiastic about many styles of gin, I have an interest in innovative and unusual juniper products, including any variety that deviates from using bought-in Neutral Grain Spirit (NGS) as its spirit base.

Spirit bases made in-house can be produced from a range of new ingredients, from grapes to grain (of the terroir kind) and from apples to honey; some folk assert that gin is best when made with NGS, but I think that the gins that use new make do have their own value. Such is the case with the new gin from Chase, Chase Great British Extra Dry (40%ABV), which is based on potato spirit.

I have already reviewed three gins that use potatoes as their spirit base and Chase experimented with potato-based gin a few years back, but, when the result was not up to their specifications, they instead used it in their first batch of sloe gin. In 2012, Chase have perfected their potato spirit base for gin and, as a result, have released William Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin.

Made with the Spanish Market in mind (a leading world consumer of gin), the gin is bottled at 40%ABV and contains a mix of 9 botanicals:

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Dry juniper with zesty citrus (orange) and then some warm, spicy notes, making this complex and full.
Taste: Juniper to start and some dark, bitter chocolate and citrus zest. This is followed by warm, spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

2) Gin & Tonic
This is a tasty and spicy Gin & Tonic, full of flavours of nutmeg and ginger. It reminds me of the likes of Portobello or Knickerbocker Gin. In this drink, the fact that the gin is potato-based is also imperceivable, apart from a slight succulence, which you would normally attribute to a potato gin’s fruitiness. Tasty and refreshing.

3) Martini
Crisp juniper to start, followed by some warm, spicy notes, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as ginger, which give the impression of a dry Martini with a tasty, gingerbread finish. Unusual, but very moreish.

4) Negroni
Spicy notes on the nose, which are very inviting. Flavour-wise, some initial, juicy juniper is followed by sweeter spicy notes, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and then some citrus. This cocktail is smooth and has an excellent bitter-sweet balance; simply superb.

5) Sweet Martini
The deep sweet and herbal flavours of the red vermouth are a natural match for the sweet spiciness of this gin. The dry juniper gives the drink a clean backdrop and stops it from becoming sickly. This is very tasty and comforting, too, and, on a wet Sunday afternoon like this one, with winter knocking at the door, it is just what I need.

In Conclusion

Having tried other potato-spirit based gins, the purity of Chase’s Great British Extra Dry Gin is unparalleled and there is no feeling of inferior quality to the spirit. The balance of botanicals is of a good standard, although there is certainly more emphasis on spice than in many other gins. However, that does mean that the gin adds more character to drinks and is less easily drowned out by other ingredients. The Negroni and Sweet Martini were highlights and I think that this will shine in almost any cocktail containing red vermouth.

Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin is available from VodkaEmporium for around £26 for 70cl.

The NEW Chase Summer Fruit Cup (Vodka-based)

Last year, I sought out the Chase Summer Fruit Punch (Fruit Cup), which was made exclusively for Bistro du Van in Soho. I thought that the product had a lot of potential, so I was intrigued to see what this year would bring from Chase.

The answer? Chase Summer Fruit Cup. Master of Malt’s recent offering also uses the term “Summer Fruit Cup”, whilst Plymouth and Sipsmith use “Summer Cup” and Stone’s, “Fruit Cup”.

Unlike their 2011 variety, Chase Summer Fruit Cup is bottled at 20%ABV (rather than 40%ABV), but it continues to be based on vodka. Vodka-based Fruit Cups are not unheard of: Pimm’s have made a vodka-based No:6 cup since the 1960s and some other brands have also created vodka fruit cups at one time or another. That said, it is still a more unusual choice of spirit.

The Taste

All drinks were mixed one part Chase Summer Fruit Cup, three parts mixer.

with Lemonade
This has a very clean taste of lemon to start, with fewer deep, herbal notes and less bitterness than most gin-based fruit cups. Notably, it has more flavour than the lighter Pimm’s No:6, with tart blackcurrant and lighter, leafy green, herbal notes. This makes this drink perfect for late summer, being both light and comforting (reminding me somewhat of the “children’s cocktails” I used to have as a child, which were generally some variation on blackcurrant cordial and lemonade, although this is obviously more complex than that!).

with Ginger Ale
This makes for a more subtle drink, with the blackcurrant being balanced out well by the ginger ale. I used Canada Dry and a surprising amount of the ginger comes through (if you want even more fire, then I would suggest using Fevertree, Q or Fentiman’s latest offering). Once again, this lends itself to the months of August and September, what with the slightly warmer and more comforting notes.

with Bitter Lemon
Excellent; the fruity, slightly tart berry flavours work well with the crisp bitter lemon (I used Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic) to make an exceptionally refreshing drink, that would work especially well on a baking hot summer’s day. Delicious! Those who find many fruit cups too sweet should definitely try this!

with Tonic Water
I know at least one reader (he knows who he is) who prefers his fruit cup with tonic, and it’s not a bad drink in general. With Chase Summer Fruit Cup, it makes for
quite a dry drink with a fruity flick at the beginning, followed by tart berries and leafy green herbs on the finish. Clean, crisp and cooling. I used standard Schweppes and I thought that it worked well; with something like Fevertree, or Thomas Henry, I think the result would be even better.

In terms of seasonality, I think using Sparkling Elderflower or Rhubarb Lemonade would give the drink a more springtime feel and it could easily lend itself well to that. The ginger ale gives it an autumnal feel and the combinations with bitter lemon and tonic make superb summer sippers.

Negroni
I’m also keen to try fruit cups in some different contexts and so I decided to use it in the place of vermouth in a Negroni.
This make a lighter Negroni; one that was less herbal and cleaner. The Campari plays a strong role, maybe being even more dominant than usual, but it should appeal to
those who are fans of this bitter Italian drink, especially as a pre-dinner cocktail for the summer.

In Conclusion

Having tried last season’s fruit cup, I think that this is most certainly an improvement: the flavour is more balanced and complex, and bottling it at 20%ABV rather than 40%ABV makes it more accessible and has resulted in a far more suppable vodka-based cup.

Chase Summer Fruit Cup is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Champagne Company.

Bruce Cost’s REAL Ginger Ale

Bruce Cost’s Ginger Ale


For me, the real ace in the pack was Bruce Cost’s Fresh Ginger Ale. Mr Cost wrote a very comprehensive book on ginger, “Ginger East meets West”, where he documents the origins of ginger soft drinks and how he finally decided to make his own ginger ale.
But this is no Canada Dry, however. Bruce has taken his inspiration from the more hearty Belfast-style of ginger ale; it is something of a hybrid between modern ginger beer and ginger ale, but, in reality, was the ancestor of both. Belfast Ginger Ale is more fiery than ginger ale, but not as sweet as ginger beer, and it’s delicious.
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Tasting Notes:
There’s a fruity nose with a hint of spice. In terms of taste, the fruitiness appears again, maybe passion fruit, as well as some malt and a bit of yeast. It has a medium fizz and tasted like a fresh, home-made variety; rustic, but absolutely superb. To my mind, this is a good example of Belfast-style ginger ale. I wish more ginger beers were like this; Bruce Cost’s Ginger Ale has to be one of my favourites.I also tried Mr Cost’s Ginger Ale in a variety of ginger ale cocktails, the recipes for which can be found here.
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Postmaster [50ml Gin, 100ml  Fresh Ginger Ale, Build over Ice]
Pleasant and refreshing, but probably a bit sweet for me; half a measure of citrus juice would turn this into a buck and that would solve the problem.
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Sloe Bump [50ml Sloe Gin, 100ml  Fresh Ginger Ale, Build over Ice]
Rather pleasant, as it freshens up the sloe gin. It may, perhaps, be too sweet for some, but if you were to use a variety such as Sloeth or Foxdenton, this wouldn’t be a problem.
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Horses Neck [50ml Brandy, 100ml  Fresh Ginger Ale; Add Ice and a Citrus twist]
Sweet & smooth and the twist of citrus sets off the flavours nicely. Not too fizzy and very tasty.
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Typically, you would use a ginger beer for the two drinks below, but I was intrigued to try them, as Bruce Cost’s Ginger Ale is rather ginger-beer-like.
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Moscow Mule
Great, not so heavy of the ginger and a little bit of lemongrass comes through. Fresh an very quenching of one’s thirst.
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Dark  & Stormy
Pretty good rink, maybe a bit watery but the way the ginger ale and the rum interacts it certainly looks stormy. Visually spectacular.
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I’m really impressed with this product and I’m keen to try the Passion-fruit and Jasmine Ginger Ales that they also make. It tasted just as good mixed as it did on its own and I hope that it’s available in the UK sometime soon.