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.

http://www.raffdistillerie.com/gin.html

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin – http://www.raffdistillerie.com/gin.html

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:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Lemon
Orange
Orris
Cinnamon
Liquorice

The Taste

Own
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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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 www.twistednose.co.uk.
Follow Twisted Nose on Twitter – @twistednosegin
Like Twisted Nose on Facebook

 

 

 

Cocktails with.. Smooth Ambler’s Greenbrier Gin – from West Virginia USA!

SmoothAmblerTitle

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:

SmoothAmblerBots

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.

SmoothAmblerBottle

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:

Juniper
Angelica Root
Coriander
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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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.

Recommendations

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.

Own
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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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.

Collins
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.
Own
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.
Martini
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.