Cocktails with… Veresk Russian Gin

The World of Gin Map (Click to enlarge) Green = We've tried a gin from that country Pink + "we're working on it"

The World of Gin Map (Click to enlarge) Green = We've tried a gin from that country Pink + "we're working on it"

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to receive a very thoughtful gift from my good friend, Mr. Pasha of Moscow: a Russian gin. I was immensely interested to try a gin from a country so well-known for its vodka. This also marks the launch of our “World of Gin” project: a simple concept, where we try gins from a variety of different countries of the world to see how they approach gin. See below for a map showing which international gins I’ve tried and countries that produce gins that I know of, but have not yet had the chance to try.


So what about the Russian gin? It is called “Veresk Dry Gin, 1898”. “Veresk” translates as “heath”, and the bottle has a traditional fox hunting scene at the top. Although on the front it says, “Distilled in England”, the back of the bottle and website make it clear that it is actually made at the Veresk Kashinskiy Distillery (liqueur and vodka plant) in Kashina town, about 130 miles north of Moscow.

The Veresk drinks company was founded in 1901 and, today, makes a variety of products, including vodka, liqueurs, creme liqueurs, brandy and bianco vermouth.

Veresk gin is wheat-based, bottled at 40% ABV, and defined as a distilled gin. It is known to contain “juniper and spices”, but it has such a strong cardamon note, both in flavour and smell, I would highly expect it to contain this, too.

1) Own: There are strong notes of juniper & coriander on the nose. The taste is defined by notes of juniper, citrus, and coriander to start, with cardamon on the finish. It is quite heavy, botanical-wise, but rather well-balanced with a touch of tongue-bite at the end.

2) Gin & Tonic: This drink tasted very fresh, with hints of cardamon;  if you like this spice you’ll probably really enjoy this. I was also pleased to find that juniper is also distinctly present.

3) Martini: Rather smooth; the vermouth comes through strognly, but isn’t overpowering. Flavourful, but crisp; pretty good.

4) Pink Gin: A subtle blend, but one that does bring out the cardamon of the gin, which is a good match for the Angostura. A herbally intense drink that will certainly wake you up.

5) Gimlet: Good but it is lack that thin crisp edge that I think a great Gimlet should have. Not bad nonetheless.

6) Gin Bump: This drink was pretty good, as the herbal elements went quite well with the ginger ale. Whilst this was a good Gin Bump, it is not the best example and I enjoyed many of the other drinks on this list more.

7) Milano: Delicious: the sweet vanilla and herbal notes work well with the botanicals of the gin, in particular the cardamon and coriander. The lemon juice gives it a slight tartness. Rather pleasant.

 8) Negroni: Quite bitter, this is good but the Campari has a tendency to slightly overpower this particular Gin, which is a shame.

9) GT Turbo:
Excellent, bitterness from the tonic syrup, matches with the citrus and any tart edge is taken off by the gin and it’s strong herbal elements. Really, very good.

10) Old Fashioned:
Another great Gin Old Fashioned, it seem that Veresk works particularly well with any cocktail containing Angostura bitters, a synergy between the herbal spiciness of the gin and the bitters I think. Lovely stuff.

In Conclusion

I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever get to try Russian Gin (I hear it’s very hard to find domestic gin in Russia) so it was really surprise when I received some yesterday. For a country that is famed for it’s vodka production Veresk Gin is a pretty decent product that mixes well and has that unusual cardamon note as a trade-mark. The Gin & Tonic was excellent as was the Milano and the GT Turbo.

Cocktails with.. The Botanist Gin – Islay Gin Review

The Botanist Gin (aka The Islay Gin), is produced by the popular Islay whisky distillery Bruichladdich and is currently the only gin produced on the island. As if this wasn’t interesting enough, it also contains 22 native botanicals in addition to 9 classic gin botanicals, giving a grand total of 31. This is more than I have ever had in a gin before, with second place now going to Citadelle, which has 19. Four of the classic botanicals are Juniper (a wild variety from Islay is used), Cassia Bark, Orris Root and Coriander Seeds. The 22 native botanicals can be found in the table below.

#1) Neat
Quite a complex nose, it takes some time to work out all the different smells there.  The taste is spiced and floral with coriander and juniper identifiable. The juniper is present but it is difficult to pick out one defining taste from the Gin. Quite busy with some leafy herbs on the finish, which is quite long.

#2) Gin & Tonic
An unusual sweetness at the middle and end, with a silkiness over the tongue. With very little citrus and no sharpness, sadly this is not too refreshing; I think a slice of lemon would liven it up a bit, though. This is not a very gin-dominant gin & tonic and I don’t think that it does the gin justice.

#3) Gimlet
The Botanist mixes well in a Gimlet, which is nicely balanced and refreshing; any edge from the cordial is taken off, producing a well-rounded and tasty drink.

The Botanist Gin from Islay containing 30 botanicals!

The Botanist Gin from Islay containing 30 botanicals!

#4) John Collins
There are few gins that don’t work well in a Collins and The Botanist is no exception; in fact, it makes a better Collins than many other gins: a great thirst quencher.

#5) Gin Bump (Buck)
Rather cooling, like ginger lemonade, and rather tasty and refreshing; I thoroughly enjoyed this drink. The gin adds a little kick, but is not over-powering. Recommended.

#6) Gin Sour
Lots of gins also work well in a Gin Sour, but sadly The Botanist isn’t one of them. All the flavours clash rather violently and it wasn’t very enjoyable to drink.

#7) Alexander
Works very well, with chocolate and cream at the start, followed by the complexity of the gin; a surprising result. The drink has a double layer of finish, with chocolate at the sides of the mouth and the gin on the front and centre of the tongue.

#9) Martini
Quite nice and surprisingly light. I used a 6:1 Gin:Vermouth ratio, but you can still taste the vermouth, making this one of the best drinks I’ve had. It’s not a classic Martini, but definitely still worth trying.

#10) Bramble
A very tasty Bramble and one of the few drinks that I tried where the complexity of the gin can really be appreciated and the tastes don’t clash. I’ve always thought of the Bramble as rather a Scottish drink (not least due to its exceptional namesake bar in Edinburgh), so I find it very fitting that this Islay gin makes a good one.

#11) Negroni
I’m not a fan of Campari at the best of times and, using The Botanist, the Negroni seems rather more bitter with a more dominant Campari flavour, so I like it less. However, I can imagine fans of Campari may appreciate this.

#12) Gin Old Fashioned
Similar to the whisky version, but using gin instead. This was superb; a drink The Botanist works really well in. The sugar brings out the herb, spice and floral elements of the gin, making a delicious cocktail that really does the gin credit. Definitely worth trying.

In Conclusion:
The overriding message I have taken from this tasting is that The Botanist is a complex gin (what else would you expect from 31 botanicals?) and so it can clash with some of the other flavours in cocktails. Simplicity seems to be the order of the day, and th best cocktail mixed the gin with relatively straight-forward flavours.Cocktail highlights included the Martini, Gin Old Fashioned and, of course, The Bramble.

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.

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