New Tonic Water – Fevertree Elderflower

From the articles of the last few weeks, it’s clear that the gin industry is a lively and growing industry, but what about gin’s perfect partner, tonic water? As you can imagine, some individuals have decided to focus their attention here, rather than with the juniper spirit itself, and I applaud that. So, today, let’s look at one of these new products: Fevertree Elderflower Tonic.

Fevertree ELderflower Tonic

This follows on from the boutique brand’s Original, Mediterranean and Lemon Tonics, and is made using oil essences from hand-picked elderflowers. Tonic connoisseurs may recall that we reviewed Thomas Henry’s Elderflower Tonic here, and it’s surprising to me that, given the fondness of the British population for this flower, that there hasn’t been a British elderflower tonic before now.

On its own
Large bubbles and a medium-level of fizz. Sweet elderflower to start, then citrus, followed by a clean, dry bitter notes of quinine on the finish. Good balance of flavour.

with Plymouth Gin
Works superbly – rich and juicy, succulent and refreshing. This works very well with Plymouth; it has a particularly lovely finish, making for a very moreish drink, indeed.

Fevertree Elderflower Gin and tonic

with Knockeen Hills Elderflower
Absolutely superb: rich and juicy, and very flavourful. The elderflower comes through strongly, but there’s an additional freshness to the drink from the citrus. Lovely and smooth, too.

In Conclusion
I think Fevertree Elderflower is a great addition to the Fevertree Mixer range and is also one of the nicest tonic waters to drink on its own as a soft drink.

About the Gin

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin (43%ABV) is part of Knockeen Hills a family run company established in 1997. In addition they make a Heather Gin and a range of Irish Poteens. All products are, unusually, made with Irish Whey Spirit.

They do not currently have US distribution but for more information please contact: info@irish-poteen.com

Cocktails with The new Pimm’s – Blackberry & Elderflower

Hot on the trails of two new releases from their established gin brands, with the resurrection of Tanqueray Malacca and innovation of Gordon’s Crisp Cucumber, Diageo have breathed new life into another one of their classic brands: Blackberry & Elderflower Pimm’s.

PimmsBlackberryandElderflowerBottle

This is based on Pimm’s No:6 Vodka Cup with additional flavours of blackberry and elderflower. These flavours make it somewhat reminiscent of the limited edition Chase Fruit Cup, released last year.

Pimm’s is well-known for having a history of a variety of products made with different bases (No.’s 1 to 6), but innovation with additional flavours is somewhat new. That said, although Winter Pimm’s, like Pimm’s No. 3, is brandy-based, it also has additional orange and spice.

Enough of the chat, let’s get on with the taste!

Pimm’s Special Blackberry & Elderflower Edition is bottled at 20% ABV (lower than the 25%ABV of the No:1 and No:6 cups) and its suggested serve is with lemonade and a garnish of blackberries. Although almost nobody drinks Pimm’s on its own, I thought it might be useful for reference to see what characteristics it has on its own, before trying it mixed. For all of the long mixed drinks, I used a three to one ratio.

The Taste

Own

Nose: A deep red-purple in colour, there’s a nose of blackberry, orange and other citrus, some spice and some sweet elderflower. Almost reminiscent of Refreshers sweets.

Taste: The blackberry continues on the taste. I feared it would be too sweet, but it’s not. Again, the citrus and spice are both there, there’s a slightly confectionery quality to it, too. And although it’s blackberry, it isn’t too tart.

PimmsElderflowerBlackberrywithLemonade

With Lemonade – the suggested serve

I am using Waitrose Essential Lemonade, which is one of my favourites. In addition to the suggested garnish of blackberry, I used some lemon peel, which adds some citrus notes and also adds to the contrast of colours in the glass. Ah, it’s lovely! Almost like an alcoholic blackcurrant and lemonade, plus a little elderflower. I find that mashing up the blackberries with a straw makes the drink a little tart, which I enjoy. I can see why this is the recommended serve, although I like my little addition of the lemon. In short, immensely quaffable.

With Tonic

I always include this in fruit cup reviews as this is one watch-loving reader’s mixer of choice (he knows who he is). It works quite nicely; although, as the flavour of the Pimm’s is a bit more delicate than usual, Schweppes tonic overpowers it slightly. As such, I think the use of Fevertree or Q would improve it. You get a little build in flavour of tart blackberry towards the end, although the elderflower is nearly all lost.

With Ginger Ale

Blackberry & ginger seems to be one of those natural partnerships, so I have high hopes for this drink. And I was right! It works really nicely: juicy and jammy, with a sweet, floral elderflower lift, followed by the bite of the ginger. Easy to drink and very refreshing. For some extra tartness, I

suggest muddling the blackberry slightly in the bottom of the glass with a straw, which really sets the drink off nicely.

(Accidental) Negroni

This drink works particularly well with intense, herbal fruit cups; especially the excellent Sipsmith Summer Cup. As such, I’m not sure how well it will work with this more delicate variation. However, in the interests of science, I thought I’d give it a go! Plus, a blackberry-garnished Negroni seemed rather an attractive proposition. In my haste to write this article, I actually substituted the Campari in the drink with the Pimm’s, rather than the red vermouth, as I had intended. However, the result was serendipitously lovely, with the gin and red vermouth providing a neat background on which the lighter flavours of the fruit cup sit. An appetite-raising cocktail and perfect for an aperitif.

Negroni II

This is the drink as I had intended, with Campari and no red vermouth.

The drink is good, as suspected the Campari is very powerful, although the fruit cup adds some sweeter and floral notes to the drink, which – as I appear to be losing my sweet-tooth – appeals to me less than it might have done a couple of years ago. Having said that, I’m sure some people will really like it. Once again, this makes a nice aperitif, vastly improved with a squeeze of fresh citrus.

PimmsBlackberryElderflower

With Bitter Lemon

What I really like about this drink initially is the colour: it’s a louched pink-purple, which is neatly offset by the darkness of the blackberry garnish. Bitter lemon is often an under-utilised mixer, but I think that it works sublimely here: the citrus offsets any sweetness from the elderflower and the

blackberry adds a good, jammy note. Fans of the Long Peddlar (sloe gin & bitter lemon) are sure to be fans of this. My favourite drink so far.

With Ginger Beer

I used Old Jamaica Ginger Beer, which came out well in our 27 Ginger Beer Tasting. However, in this mix, for me, the combined sweetness of the ginger beer and the fruit cup just don’t work well together. The elderflower is lost completely, although there is a pleasant, jammy flavour that appears towards the end.

In Conclusion

It’s great to see the fruit cup category expanding with Blackberry & Elderflower. The elderflower certainly adds a spring or early summer-like feel to the drink, whilst the blackberry contributes a late-summer/autumnal aspect. For those looking for a pleasant afternoon summer’s drink for garden parties and wedding receptions, this will do wonderfully. If, however, you’re looking for a more intense, herbal kick, I suggest you stick to the original Pimm’s or add a dash of red vermouth – maybe even a splash of gin! – to this fruit cup. I really enjoyed the accidental Negroni, although, of the longer drinks, I would recommend either the bitter lemon or sparkling lemonade.

I like the idea of the blackberry garnish, but – alas! – as these are currently out of season in the UK, mine came from Guatemala; but, when my blackberry bush is full of fruit, some freshly-picked berries will be absolutely great in a drink like this.

Pimm’s Blackberry & Elderflower is available for around £16 for 70cl from Waitrose and Sainsburys.

I’m also intrigued as to how this will work in Whisky drinks – such as variation on the Canadian Blackberry Fix.

Elderflower Soda Tasting – Mixer Companion 14

One of the most British flavours around is Elderflower; I even had a journalist for a Brazilian newspaper contact me recently regarding its use in British soft drinks. For decades, this came in the form of Elderflower Wine, but, over time, Elderflower Cordial became more popular and, once it grew fashionable to mix this with still or sparkling water, companies started bringing out a ready-to-drink carbonated version. The two companies that started this were Bottlegreen and Belvoir, both in the late 1980s.


1) M&S Apple & Elderflower
This is a lovely golden colour and is packaged in a bottle with a champagne cork and cage. There are some apple notes, followed by floral elderflower. Not too sweet, it’s sufficiently tart and dry thanks to the apple, but very fizzy. A nice non-alcoholic alternative to provide when having champagne.
7, 6
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2) Tesco Sparkling Spring Water with a hint of Elderflower & Lemon
Very fizzy. Quite light and not too sweet, this has a slight chemical floral flavour to it, a bit like furniture polish, but not necessarily in a bad way. Moderately refreshing, with a floral finish.
6, 6

Bottlegreen
A bit musky, with a nice nose of elderflower to start, but this fades into more of a watery flavour; there’s still some elderflower there, but it’s a bit disappointing when it comes to the taste and needs more flavour. Also, we thought this was a bit on the gassy side, with a medium-to-high fizz. Bitter finish.
5, 4

Tesco Finest White Grape & Elderflower Spritz
This has a medium level of fizz. The grape notes make it a bit syrupy to start, but then some musky floral from the elderflower appears, accompanied by some tartness. The finish is dry and slightly sour. We thought this was quite fresh, but would be better with some ice to take the edge off of it.
6, 5

ss
The wild card, this variety is still. It’s quite sweet, but there’s a good balance between the apple and elderflower flavours. There is also a note of sweet liquorice towards the end. This is very easy to drink, if a touch sweet; best not to have too big a glass at breakfast.
6, 5

Belvoir
This has a sweet, jammy elderflower nose. To taste, it has a medium level of fizz and is musky, sweet and floral, with a citrus tang at the end. Quite good, we found this to be refreshing and neither too sweet nor too fizzy. Good balance.
8, 7

Marks & Spencer French Sparkling Elderflower Soda
Very highly fizzy and very floral, this isn’t too sweet; it’s more dry then anything. Also, the floral notes seem to be more like rose than elderflower, giving a distinct impression of Turkish Delight. The taste seems short-lived, but, after a short absence, the flavour of fizzy floral sweets (Refreshers, Parma Violets) pops back up again, before disappearing, leaving a clean finish.
7, 7

Waitrose Elderflower
Very pleasant, this was full of floral notes with both tartness and sweetness. It was fresh and very easy to drink. Frankly, this was superb and exceptionally refreshing.
8, 8

The Results

1st
Waitrose Elderflower

2nd
Belvoir

3rd
Marks & Spencer French Sparkling Elderflower Soda

Cocktails with… Beefeater Summer Gin – Blackcurrant, Elderflower and Hibiscus!

Okay, so I’m a little behind the times with this review and a little out of season, but as I’m quite a fan of Beefeater, a London Dry Gin that is actually distilled in London, I thought I’d take the time to write this review up. It’s still available so, if you like the sound of it, maybe you can be lucky enough to pick some up. I am speaking about Beefeater Summer, which takes the classic nine botanicals in Beefeater’s recipe and adds three bonus ones: Blackcurrant , Elderflower and Hibiscus Flower.

Released in May 2010, this has since been followed by Beefeater Winter (October 2010) and Beefeater London Market (June 2011). Whether there will be any more limited editions is anyone’s guess, but I sure hope so!

I remember being quite excited about Beefeater Summer, the start of a limited edition range that I have only ever seen reflected in the Berkshire Mountain Ethereal range of gin. Here are my tasting notes.

#1) Own
Nose: Juniper and some floral muskiness, mixed in with berry notes; I was reminded of elderberries, a hint of strawberry and an additional, dry berry note. Overall, it was quite fresh and light and, well, summery.
Taste: Initially very smooth, with some full, ripe berry flavours that gradually give way to lighter, sweeter floral elements, some vanilla and then the familiar coriander and juniper. There’s quite a sweet finish, almost like Old Tom Gin,with a similar floral intensity.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Lovely; really fresh, fruity and invigorating. The juniper and coriander are a bit lighter here; there are some floral notes, as well as a touch of berry. I thought this was really nice and perfect for a hot, hot day.

#3) Martini
Tasty; quite delicate, but complex, too. This was very, very fresh, zingy and peppy, and would make a really nice pick-me-up with a summer floral factor. I really like this.

#4) Frozen (from the Freezer)
Very smooth, with a silky texture. The juniper comes through, as does some fruity berry notes and citrus; additionally, there was elderberry/flower on the finish. This is quite a light and floral gin, but the more perfumed elements are neatly counteracted by the fruity berry character.

#5) Negroni
A rather fruity Negroni with a little extra energy, courtesy of the lively floral and berry notes. The classic notes of juniper and citrus are still there, which makes you know you’re still drinking a gin Negroni. Overall, the gin works well, with the other ingredients creating a smoother than normal Negroni, whilst keeping the usual bittersweet finish.

#6) Collins
This is summer in a glass! The Collins is naturally a great, sunny season cocktail and so the addition of some floral notes is superb. The blackcurrant works well with tartness of the lemon juice, creating one of the best gin Collins out there.

#7) White Lady
Pretty tasty. The blackcurrant comes through strongly, making this quite a tart White Lady. Nonetheless, it’s still very enjoyable, being crisp and fresh with a touch of zing.

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Cocktails with… Darnley’s View

Darnley’s View is a Scottish Gin* made by the Wemyss Family (pronounced weems) who also own Scotch and Wine companies.

The name Darnley’s View originates from a stay of Mary Queen of Scots at Wemyss Castle (the family’s ancestral home) It was during this visit that she first saw (got a view) of her future husband Lord Darley through a courtyard window of the castle.

Darnley’s View is bottled at 40%ABV and contains the following six botanicals:

It’s worth noting that other Scottish Gins such as Hendrick’s and The Botanist also use Elder as a botanical and, along with heather, these botanicals seem to be quite popular with Caledonian gin-makers.

For this “Cocktail with” I had a special request from Darnley’s View Gin (I’m always open to consider requests) to try their Gin with a variety of tonic waters to find a good match.**
Here are the results:

#1) Schweppes Regular
Fruity with some freshness but the drink falls flat in terms of flavour.

#2) Fevertree Regular
A good combo with both the sweetness and the bitterness you expect from a Gin & Tonic. As the ice melts a little the drink certainly improves but, like the 1724, it would be much better with a fruit garnish to add a little extra zip.

#3) Waitrose Regular
Crisp and fizzy, a truly classic Gin & Tonic. It has a more simple flavour profile than some of the others but was very refreshing. It had a good flavour balance, the floral notes of gin are not overpowered and the drink is not too sweet, cloying or bitter. Excellent!

#4) 1724 Tonic
Quite smooth, light and fresh. Good for a really hot day. A little lacking in flavour but this could be rectified by adding a juicy wedge of lemon.

#5) Fentiman’s Tonic
A good fizz, and very flavourful;. The lemongrass in the tonic adds some extra citrus to the drink, which is quite welcome; no need to garnish with lemon here. Some folks may find the citrus and the sweetness overpowering but in general rather good.

In addition here are some extra tasting notes; for the gin (neat) and in a Martini, well how can you review a gin without trying it in a THE mixture of Gin & Vermouth?

Own
Initial flavours of Juniper and Citrus with the faintest hint of milkiness. Despite what is generally a classic nose, the taste of the gin is quite contemporary. It is quite sweet with juniper and a spicy note at end which is almost peppery. Very smooth with minimal alcohol burn/bite. Some floral elements too. Mixed with a dash of water the flowery flavours really present themselves.

Martini
Elegant, one of the best Martinis I have had for a long time. Classic but with a modern delicate and floral edge. The juniper and subtle flowery notes mix well with Dolin Vermouth.

In Conclusion
I enjoyed trying Darnley’s View gin with it’s overall characteristics being that it is a relatively simple flowery and slightly soft gin. Certainly has the potential to be more refreshing than some of the more botanical-heavy gins.
In terms of tonic, for me Waitrose was the winner, followed closely by Fevertree.

Darnley’s View Gin is available for around £24 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

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

*Scottish as in made in Scotland, technically it is categorized as a London dry Gin – for details of how the categorizations work, click here.
** These tasting notes reflect my opinion when mixed with Darnley’s View they may not be the same as my overall view of the tonic waters.

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.
.
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.
.
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.