Cocktails with Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin

I recently reviewed the British Chilgrove Gin which was the first in the UK to be distilled using Grape Neutral Spirit so it was great to try a comparative product from California.

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin is distilled at the Raff Distillerie on Treasure Island, San Francisco, California. they also make an Absinthe (also base of grape spirit), and are working on a Rum Agricole and a Bourbon.

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin –

The gin is named after two dogs that roamed the streets of San Francisco in the mid 19th century. The grape neutral spirit is sourced from 100% Californian grapes and this is then re-distilled with a selection of botanicals including:


The Taste

nose: very very fruity; the base spirit is quite evident on the nose with orange and some broader chocolate notes as well as fennel and a touch of dry juniper.
taste: a very smooth texture, as you may expect from a grape spirit base. There is a rich plump fruitiness with coriander, orange and grapefruit citrus. A touch of coconut and a hint of pine precede a long dry fruity finish with a pleasant warmth.

Gin & Tonic
A very fruity gin and tonic full of plump grapes as well as crisp green apple and pear notes and a little sweetness – the drink is reminiscent of apple jelly or jam. For a garnish I think the crispness of lime contrasts well with the more confectionery elements of the gin.

As a diamond-method Martini I think this really works, lots of the pear and apple fruity notes come through as well as some sweetness followed by plump, luscious grape flavours. There is bright juniper, coriander, citrus and spice. A very clean and silky Martini with both the flavour and texture of the base spirit coming through.

Very fruity with a smooth succulence courtesy of the grape spirit there are hints of pear and almond too, slightly reminiscent of a bakewell tart. After these flavours, the herbal elements of the vermouth become more pronounced followed by the herbal bitterness of the Campari. A full-bodied drink, with bitterness. Overall it is quite well-rounded.



Cocktails with… Twisted Nose – Watercress Gin from Winchester, UK

At February’s Gin Guild meeting at WSET, I met a distiller from the Winchester area who was creating a new gin using watercress as one of the botanicals. At yesterday’s Ginposium, he presented me with a finished bottle.

TwistedNoseGin FINAL

Twisted Nose Gin is bottled at 40% ABV and is distilled at the Winchester Distillery, where they use a vapour infusion chamber to extract the flavours from the botanicals. These include: juniper, angelica, coriander, grapefruit, orris, cassia bark, and fennel seed, plus two local botanicals from Hampshire: lavender and watercress.

The watercress – or, in Latin, Nasturtium, which means “twisted nose” – is a speciality of North Hampshire, where the mineral-rich spring water provides excellent growing conditions.

On its own

Nose: Intense and spicy, with leafy pepper and a mixture of sweet fennel and lavender.
Taste: This is very soft spirit, but with a good level of flavour intensity. There’s some sweet spiciness from the fennel, as well as aromatic floral notes from the lavender. These are followed by notes of juniper, angelica, and then a green, leafy lusciousness with a hint of pepper spice. There are notes of grapefruit on the finish, which is long and zesty.

Gin & Tonic
Very, very clean; exceptionally so. It makes the Schweppes seem more like soda water with a dash of cinchona bitters than a sweet mixer, so there’s lots of potential for use with sweet American tonic waters. Once again, there are notes of sweet fennel, a light touch of lavender, and a leafy crispness. Herbal and very refreshing.

Very herbal, with quite a lot of black-liquorice-like notes that seem to strike a chord between lavender and fennel. This cocktail is very aromatic and has a little sweetness to it, but is fresh, too, with a little spice at the end. All-in-all, a good example of a contemporary gin Martini.

A particularly herbal and smooth Negroni. I often think that lavender can work well with Campari and red vermouth, and Twisted Nose is no exception. The citrus of the gin is clear on the finish, which – along with the Campari’s bitterness – gives the drink a lively zestiness.

DTS and Paul Bowler

DTS with Winchester Distillery Founder & Distiller Paul Bowler at the Gin Guild Ginposium

In Conclusion
It is great to see UK Craft Distillers embracing all aspects of the gin character spectrum; Twisted Nose is flying the flag for British contemporary gins. This has a exceptionally well-integrated flavour profile with the signature botanicals shining through. My favourite drink was the superb Gin & Tonic.

Twisted Nose Gin is available for around £30 for 500ml from
Follow Twisted Nose on Twitter – @twistednosegin
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Cocktails with.. Smooth Ambler’s Greenbrier Gin – from West Virginia USA!


Hailing from Maxwelton, West Virginia Greenbrier Gin (40.0%ABV) is just one of Smooth Ambler‘s variety of products, other include a vodka (Whitewater) a white whisky, two bourbons and a rather excellent aged gin.

Greenbrier Gin spirit base is Smooth ambler’s Whitewater Vodka (a blend of  corn, wheat & barley) and contains a mix of seven botanicals:


1) On its own
Nose: Juniper, supported by warm, savoury spice and a light, warm, sweet yeasty note.
Taste: Smooth, with a very dry, clean taste; almost a hint of soda water to start with. As the flavour progresses, the bitterness increases. There’s spice upfront, along with some juniper and that long, earthy bitter note of a good soda water on the finish.

2) Gin & Tonic
Not bad; some yeast/bread/grain notes, followed by a fruity jamminess. Other than this luscious boost of succulent sweetness, the drink is actually quite dry and a bit spicy at the end. Sadly, with Schweppes, the finish is slightly cloying.


3) Martini
This cocktail has lots of floral spiciness, which I really like. There’s also a touch of malt and a sweet breadiness. For a Martini, this has some pleasant fruity notes; this fruity aspect reminds me of gins made from potato-based spirit.

4) Negroni
Nutty, with hint of freshly ground coffee beans. There is also a touch of salted peanuts and a pinch of popcorn, which are followed by some deeper herbal notes. Well-balanced, with a juicy fruitiness on the finish. I like this a lot – it was a pleasure to drink.

In Conclusion
Smooth Ambler is a good example of how the base you use for your gin can be just important as your botanical mix. In fact it would be good fun to try the same botanical mix with different spirits bases.

The Negroni was outstanding I really liked the nutty-coffee aspect of the drink and it is something I could enjoy over and over again.

us gin tag
Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Lemon, Orange, Cardamom, Black Pepper

Cocktails with… No:209 Gin

There are lots of gins that are made in the USA, but – sadly – few of them make it over to the UK. One of the more readily available, and more popular, varieties is No:209 Gin from San Francisco.

No:209 Gin is bottled at 46% ABV and its botanical mix includes:

Angelica Root
Cassia Bark
Cardamom Pods
Bergamot Orange Peel
Lemon Peel

On its own
Nose: Juicy juniper, coriander, some sweetness and cardamom.
Taste: Initial flavours of coriander and spicy cardamom, moving to orange. Smooth to start, with a gradually-building strength and warmth, but no burn. Very tasty, with a lot of flavour. Rather classic in style, but with a self-confessed contemporary twist.

Excellent: very crisp and refreshing. There is a strong, spicy edge, especially on the finish. Cooling and very smooth, this is a really good drink.

Gin & Tonic
A rather classic, crisp and refreshing drink with an extra twist in flavour from the citrus boost and  green, spicy cardamom. Another classic drink with a contemporary slant and, frankly, a rather delightful one.

The flavours of the cardamom work well with the other bittersweet characteristics of the Negroni and No:209 has plenty of these. There is a running theme to cocktails with this gin: that of classic styles with a contemporary twist and this is no exception. Another superb drink.

In Conclusion
I think No:209 is a good example of a Classic London style of gin that has been given a contemporary Californian (or, more generally, American) twist. The spicy cardamom is superb and my favourite drink for No:209 is always a Gin & Tonic.

What Is Contemporary Gin?

American Gin Summit 2012 Review & Thoughts on Contemporary/New western Gin

To embrace the international aspect of the 4th annual World Gin Day, I decided to arrange an American gin tasting, accompanied by open discussion on the American/Contemporary style of gin.

The tasting was attended by over twenty of the great and good of the gin world, including: Sam Carter and Sean Ware of Bombay Sapphire, Ian and Hilary of Sacred, Martin So and Adam Smithson and Sarah Mitchell of the Juniper Society.

The spirits were tasted blind (even I didn’t know which was which) and contained within the eight identical bottles were seven gins, plus a wildcard: a botanical vodka that was made using many of the traditional botanicals of gin, but no juniper.

What did they think?

Overall, the panel responded warmly to the products, praising their variety and quality. In addition, the botanical vodka was singled out for its distinctive lack of juniper. The panel agreed that, although the products generally tasted of gin, many of their flavour profiles were apart from the standards that have been well-established by the traditional English distilleries.

The three most popular varieties were: No:209, Junipero and Aviation. The first two are, by their own admission, a slight twist on London Dry Gin, whereas Aviation describes itself as belonging to a far more contemporary style of gin.

Our attention then turned to the concept of a modern, American style as a separate, descriptive category of gin. The panel agreed that such terminology could have useful meaning and that identifying different styles can help to “broaden the category’s appeal” and may help to re-introduce people to the spirit. Evidence from speaking to American distillers supports the latter point.

Explaining the Differences

On the subject of why the gins differed so much in style, three main reasons were proposed:

#1) Alcohol Base
In the UK, many gins are made under contract by distilleries such as Thames, Greenalls and Langley, using brought-in neutral grain spirit. As such, the botanicals are the main aspect of differentiation. In the USA, distilleries often also make their own base spirit using local crops, including, but not limited to the use of: potatoes, green apples or even honey. As as a result, American gins can differentiate on this basis as well as with botanicals.

#2) Owner-operation
American craft distilleries are often owner-operated, with the distiller having been involved in the founding, development and maintenance of the brand. With such a large investment of time, money and creativity, it is unsurprising that producers want to make something “a bit different” to the big, established British brands.

#3) US Tonic Water
This was an unexpected, but apt, point. Tonic in the US (especially Schweppes) is far sweeter and more sticky than British or European tonic, and, as such, drinks made with British gin often seem unbalanced. When formulating US gin flavour profiles, adjustments are subconsciously made to compensate for the additional sweetness; this was a major consideration when Bombay Sapphire East was created for the US market.

The story so far: “New Western Gin”

In 2008, Ryan Magarian, co-creator of Aviation Gin, first outlined his thoughts on the subject of this different style and introduced the term “New Western Gin”.

Whilst the concept is good, there have been two main criticisms of the terminology:

#1) “New Western Gin” has geographical connotations; many US distillers feel it refers only to gins from Pacific states. It is also felt to exclude non-US, self-labelled, contemporary gins, such as Nolet’s Silver.

#2) Some gin brands (e.g. Miller’s, Tanqueray No. Ten and Hendrick’s) felt that the term was thrust upon them and argue against the label.


Finally, the panel discussed how the idea could progress, making the following points:
Appropriate terminology would be useful to describe this style, creating greater clarity for consumers.
Any categorization should be descriptive and stylistic, with no regulatory implications.
Terminology/labelling would need to be self-adopted by gin brands; speaking to distillers this seems plausible and, in fact, some already do.

A pair of terms were suggested:

#1 Classic
Dry gins, of the sort that have typically been made in England for generations, with flavours that are led by green, piney juniper and accented by the notes of other botanicals.

Self-identifying Classic gins include: Beefeater, Sipsmith and Hayman’s London Dry.

#2 Contemporary
Gins that still have juniper as a main flavour, but where the flavours of other botanicals are more in the foreground than in gins of the Classic style. Generally, a more experimental approach to flavours may be used, which may include the use of local or unusual botanicals and more unusual, in-house, base spirits.

Contemporary Gin also can be used simply as a collective term for New School Gin/American Gin/Californian Gin/New Western Gin/New World Gin/Modern Gin/21st Century Gin/New American/American Dry

Self-identifying Contemporary gins include: Nolet’s Silver & Reserve, DH Krahn, Dry Fly, Twisted Nose and FEW

David T Smith – 27th June 2012 – All Rights Reserved

Cocktails with… Pinckney Bend Gin – From Missouri, USA

The general interest in American Gin has been gradually building, with at least a dozen new gins released in the USA in last 12 months and plenty more preparing to be released this year. Gin distillation is also spreading out from the traditional centres, such as California, Oregon and Colorado; today’s gin comes from the heartland of America, Missouri. In particular, New Haven, which is about 60 miles due west of the Gateway to the West (St. Louis).

Pinckney Bend is the namesake of a bend in the Mississippi River that was a notorious navigational hazard to ships on the river; a settlement sprung up at that geographical point, but has since been abandoned. The finer details of the story can be found here.

The area has been associated with quality distilled spirits since 1806, when the explorers Lewis & Clark visited the area.

Nose: Strong, sweet juniper and a hint of dark chocolate.
Taste: Smooth initially, with a building, peppery warmth, notes of juniper and spicy coriander, as well as some citrus and a strong, spicy, black pepper element towards the end.

Gin & Tonic
This was quite a sweet Gin & Tonic and, as such, serving it ice cold was the key to making it a good drink. When cold, it was very clean, with piney juniper and then some more mellow, more rounded herbal and citrus notes. It also mellows with time.

Quite sweet for a Martini, but with a nice dose of juniper, some floral notes and a hint of crispness at the end. A slight hint of vanilla lifted the cocktail at the start and a tiny hint of bitterness – something like gentian or dark chocolate – came in at the end. Altogether, rather good.

This made a crisp Negroni; some of the gin came through, although you can’t fully appreciate its finer qualities. Very smooth, the balance of sweet versus bitter definitely sides with the sugar.

Gin Buck
Clean and very refreshing, with an excellent mix of light sweetness and zingy citrus. The gin is a little hidden by the ginger ale and lemon juice, but, other than that, it is a good drink overall.

Sweet Martini
Really superb; a great mix of juniper, floral and herbal notes, with just a touch of sweetness. Brilliant balance. A really good drink.

Clean, crisp and quite pleasant; the flavours of the gin’s botanicals seemed to work well with the sugar and citrus. Unassuming, but of sound quality.

Fruit Cup
The Pinckney Bend produced a Fruit Cup with strong juniper notes, a hint of salt and a good dose of citrus. Overall, it worked well and was very refreshing. Very good indeed.

In Conclusion
Pinckney Bend is another example of the excellent quality of craft spirits, in particular gin, coming out of the USA. There’s no doubt in my mind that my favourite drink was the interesting and refreshing Fruit Cup.

Special thanks to Mike and Ralph for their help with getting me the sample of this lovely gin.

An Update on American Gin with Small’s and St George’s Rye

Living, as I do, outside of the USA, makes it rather tricky to acquire gin made by the plethora of craft/artisan/small distilleries in the country; most of the samples that I have tried have been very kindly brought back by friends and relatives.
I think the lack of accessibility of this market is a shame, because there are some really exciting things going on in the US Gin World, including both innovative styles and even more innovative ingredients, whether that be unusual botanicals, such as lavender (River Rose), fennel (Death’s Door) and distilled* cucumber (Seneca Drums, Yahara Bay), or unusual alcohol bases. Examples of the latter include Comb9, which distills a fermented honey mead when making their spirit, and Nevada’s Seven Grain Vodka, whose base spirit is made from a blend of 7 different grains.
With so many exciting developments going on, I was very pleased the other day to meet up with Michael Vachon from Ginuine Spirits, a company which specialises in American gin in the UK.
Michael was kind enough to bring me two samples to try:
#1 Smalls Gin
Made by Ransom Spiritsbased in Sheridan, Oregon. They also make Ransom Old Tom Gin. Small’s Gin includes botanicals such as  juniper, orange, lemon, coriander, cardamom, angelica, caraway, star anise, and raspberryOwn
Nose: Herbal pine and a touch of jam to start. This nose was slightly salty with some musky notes. After a few seconds, I also picked up some soapy coriander and floral notes. As you can probably tell, this wasn’t classic at all.
Taste: Initially smooth, with pine and a fair bit of cardamon. It was also very floral: iris rose and lavender came through, making it seem perfume-like, with a slight peppery-ness at the end and a hint of sweetness in the middle. Mrs. B described it as,“Floral, perfumed and exotic”.Gin & Tonic
This had very strong cardamon notes, alongside fresh juniper and citrus. I thought it was fresh, crisp and generally superb; I think any other cardamon fans will feel the same, but those who don’t like the flavour might disagree.Martini
A fruity and slightly salty nose led to a martini that had considerable warmth and a touch fruit, but was also very floral. There were some sappy, pine-y juniper notes and some herbal floral ones. Lavender, too. Herbaceous.Negroni
The herbal and floral flavours of this gin worked quite well with those of the Campari and vermouth; the result being a drink that was intense both in its general flavour and its level of herbal notes. I thought this was an extraordinary Negroni and, whilst it’s certainly not classic, it was still rather good.

#2 St. Georges Dry Rye Gin
This is made by the team at St. George’s Distillery, Alamada, California, who are the folks behind Hangar One vodka. They also make two other gins: Botanivore and Terroir. The Dry Rye Gin is based on rye spirit and contains twice as much juniper as the other two.
Nose: This was a dry and slightly floral nose, like Soochu, with some sweet brandy notes, too.
Taste: Smooth, with a slightly oily texture and some building warmth. It had a big mouth feel and a complex flavour with juniper, citrus, jammy berry notes and a menthol/euclyptus finish. As is typical with menthol, the finish was very cooling when you breathe in after drinking. There was also a little raspberry mixed in with the mint on the aftertaste, which hung around for 10+ minutes.
Gin & Tonic
This had a jammy nose with hints of floral. Altogether, it made a very floral Gin & Tonic that was a bit musky at the end. There was a nice freshness from the piney berry flavours and a strong tannin dryness at the end, alongside a hint of vanilla.
Dry, floral and souchu, again, with a hint of dry, dry berry. A bit like perfume and a bit like hairspray. Yeasty, too. Frankly, this was too fragrant for me, with neither enough juniper nor enough crispness.

*Hendrick’s Gin (and Martin Miller’s) also use cucumber, but, in their gins, it is not distilled.

Cocktails with… Bluecoat American Dry Gin

Based in Philadelphia USA, Bluecoat Gin was one of the first of a new wave of artisan gin distilleries, with the first bottle being released in May 2006.
1) Own
Nose: Coriander, followed by citrus, including orange and grapefruit peel, before slight, creamy notes and pine.
Taste: This is quite an intense gin, with fresh, piney juniper and rich citrus. The citrus has been dialled up to 11 – very intense. The more I drink it, the more the coriander comes through. All-in-all, I think it’s bit much to drink on its own.
2) Frozen
Smooth and viscous, with the full range of citrus elements noted above all tasting more concentrated. This strong citrus was joined by equally strong herbal notes, reminding me of a well-stocked culinery spice rack. Quite unlike any other gin.

3) Gin & Tonic
Very fresh and crisp. Again, strong coriander and other citrus came through, reminding me a little of breakfast juice (a blend of orange and grapefruit). Additionally, there was some piney juniper on the finish. I found that the gin was at its best when mixed with Schweppes or Fevertree; the added citrus from Fentiman’s being a bit too much. Also, you probably don’t need any citrus garnish.

4) Martini
This makes a slightly unusual drink, but I really liked it. There were distinctive notes of lemongrass, coriander, lemon verbena and a more general taste of citrus peel. There was also some piney juniper, but it was a little more rounded than in some of the other drinks. This is a modern Martini, packed with flavour and certainly worth a try.

5) Negroni
Quite an intensely bitter drink, with hints of chocolate and some citrus. For hardcore fans of the Negroni, this will really appeal. Despite the extreme bitterness, there was a little sweet syrupyness in there and, overall, it was quite smooth.

6) Collins
Like the G&T, this was very fresh and crisp, but – surprisingly – the gin, which usually has a strong character, was almost lost in the rest of the mix. As a result, I would consider this a nice enough drink, but not a great way to appreciate the gin.

7) Buck
Very tasty. The gin really came through well, with the citrus, coriander and some other herbal complexities remaining prominent. Refreshing, but still flavourful. Superb.

8) Gimlet
I thought that this made a good Gimlet, even at a 2:1 (gin : Rose’s lime cordial) ratio. The gin really stood up well in this drink. As it’s all about citrus, Bluecoat naturally works quite well, also contributing a hint of herbal notes, too.

9) Pink Gin
An interesting Pink Gin. The characteristics of the Angostura match this gin quite well, so that they seem like an extension of the gin, rather than a part of a mixed drink. This is the only Pink Gin that I’ve had that’s like this, nonetheless, I thought it was rather good.

10) Gin Old Fashioned
This worked really well. The intense citrus of the gin is slightly curbed, but without the spirit losing any character. It isn’t too sweet and the bitters add a pleasant level of complexity. I thought this was an excellent way to sip Bluecoat Gin.

Cocktails with… Yahara Bay Extra Dry Gin – From Wisconsin!!!

Those of you who have read my review on Death’s Door will know of my fondness for its US State of origin, Wisconsin. So, as you may imagine, I was delighted to find out that there is another gin that comes from Madison, Wisconsin, made by the same distiller that makes Death’s Door.

The gin in question is Yahara Bay, which is made by master distiller Nick Quint at the Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison, Wisconsin. The bottle, to anyone familiar with Madison, is striking: tall and bright, with the Capitol Building of the State of Wisconsin in the background.*

Yahara Bay Distillers also make a range of Vodka, Whiskies, Brandy and Liqueurs, as well as selling the fascinating “Age Your Own Whiskey Kit”.

But for now, let’s get back to the gin. Yahara Bay is made using a Carter-Head-style still, is based on a wheat/corn spirit mix and contains 5 botanicals:
Orange Zest
And, finally, Cucumber; but, unlike Hendrick’s, this is part of the botanical mix rather than an essence added at the end. As such, the cucumber flavour works with the rest of the gin in a different way to those where it is added afterwards.

Nose: Juniper and angelica; it’s also slightly salty, with a hint of cucumber and gherkin accompanied by a touch of brine.
Taste: Smooth. An initial sweetness is followed by dry juniper and a slight savoury sweetness from the cucumber on the finish. Very pleasant and a different, more savoury, sort of cucumber flavour than you get from Hendrick’s or Miller’s.Frozen
This was more viscous and floral than having the Gin at room temperature. Juniper and coriander came through, as do some of the savoury notes, including the cucumber; very good indeed.
Gin & Tonic
Coriander and orange initially, before fresh herbal notes from the cucumber. This a really fresh drink, which is slightly fruity. Packed with flavour, there were dry juniper, citrus and leafy characteristics, as well as a little vanilla towards the end and a superb, lasting finish. Top notch!
Superb. Whilst obviously being a Gin Martini, this is one with a twist. The primary flavours are of juniper and coriander, with some savoury notes of fennel and fresh, slightly salty, cucumber. Lovely stuff.
Very tasty; soft, silky and savoury. There is a touch of sweetness just before the typical Negroni bitter finish, but not that much. This makes for quite a complex and rich cocktail, with the herbal notes of the Gin working well with the even deeper herbs of the Campari and Vermouth.

Given how savoury this Gin is, I was surprised how well it worked in an Alexander; the resultant drink was pretty clean and not too sickly, with a hint of fennel and hot spice at the end. It works quite well.

Interesting combination, savoury and quite spicy. This finishes off with some tart lime. reminds me of Thai fishcakes.

Pink Gin
Quite a savoury and slightly bitter concoction, this was also rather bracing, but quite clean. A lot less sweet than many Pink Gins and, actually, the best I have had in a little while.

In Conclusion
Yahara Bay is another great example of the contemporary style*** of gins being made in the USA at the moment. I’m a big fan of Death’s Door and so it’s really good to see another excellent spirit come from the same distillery in Madison Wisconsin.

It was also nice to try a gin with distilled cucumber and see what that brings to the spirit in a different, but not necessarily better, way to the use of an essence in Hendrick’s or Martin Miller’s. And, of course, to finally try a gin that began with a “Y” has been a long time coming.

My favourite cocktails with Yahara Bay were the Martini, Gin & Tonic and Gimlet. If you get a chance to try this, I’d really recommend it.

* I toured this building during my time in Madison; rather spectacular!
** Those of you who are familiar with Death’s Door may realise that Death’s Door also contains the first three of these botanicals. Unlike Death’s Door, however, the fennel in Yahara Bay is much less dominant.
*** By “contemporary style”, I mean not in the Classic London Gin style, i.e. not dry and not heavy on the traditional botanicals of, not just juniper, but coriander/angelica/orris and citrus. Whilst those in the contemporary style are obviously still gins, with the juniper being present, they are also notably different.