Cocktails with Chase Single Botanical Gin or is Juniper Vodka?

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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.

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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 Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi

Gone are the days when flavoured vodkas, for western markets, were relegated to citrus, vanilla and pepper. Sure, for years there has been the old student experiment of dissolving Skittles into vodka to “taste the rainbow” (and then get a sugar-high), but I’m talking about some really unusual flavours.
Pinnacle Drinks have kind of led the field on this one, with flavours such as: Cookie Dough, Cotton Candy, Cake, Gummy (Sweets), Marshmallow and a plethora of flavours involving whipped cream. The idea of using such unconventional flavours as these must be paying off, as Smirnoff have recently released two new vodkas in the US flavoured with Whipped Cream and Marshmallow, respectively.*

After all of this innovation, it was with curiosity that I gingerly approached Stolichnaya Choc Razberi.

This was originally released in the US, but, following their success there, it is now available in the UK. It is a mix of natural flavourings, consisting of “sweet, tangy raspberries and silken chocolate”.

The Taste

Own (Room Temperature)
nose: creamy raspberry and then a crisp, slightly bitter chocolate. Dessert is nature.
taste: smooth with a little warmth, quite sweet and creamy too. This is meant to taste like a chocolate covered raspberry, add a little cream and this exactly what you’ve got. The vodka based is very clean with little burn. Overall this quite confectionery in nature but I think it would be very popular at a  party.

From the Freezer
Thick and silky, initially sweet then some vanilla-raspberry notes which are reminiscent of raspberry-ripple icecream. You then get a dash of dark powdered cocoa. The drink is quite sweet but not overly so, I think it’s pretty tasty.

Martini
Clean and very smooth, perhaps a little sweet for the Martini “aficionado” with a touch of raspberry icecream sauce. Not a classic Martini but quite a pleasant and accessible drink.

On the Rocks
Over ce it is almost as if you are drinking a liqueur, the cream notes come out more. This would be perfect after dinner with coffee.

Vodka Tonic
I really didn’t think this would work but I was surprised. The dark bitter chocolate seems to complement the dry bitter quinine  and the fresh fruitiness of the raspberry reminds me of the liveliness a wedge of citrus adds to the drink.

White Russian
[25ml Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi, 25ml Coffee Liqueur, 50ml Semi-Skimmed Milk]
Lovely. The choc-raspberry flavour works really well with the coffee liqueur and milk. I would suggest using milk rather than cream as I think the latter would be too rich. The raspberry adds fruitiness to a drink that is easier to make and even easier to drink.

In Conclusion
Despite being very keen to try it, I must admit I was slightly skeptical about Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi; however these doubts were clearly unfounded. I think the quality of the vodka is high and the flavours are clean are genuine. The vodka really lend itself to cocktails and my favourite was easily the White Russian.

Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi is avaialble from for around £ for 70cl.

*There is another brand of vodka called “Cupcake Vodka”, but, sadly, it is only a brand name and doesn’t taste anything like cupcakes. They also make a “frosting vodka”, but this is just plain old vanilla. I think this is pretty disappointing and rather misleading.