Speed Tasting – An Introduction to 11 Boutique Gins

The Boutique Bar Show London is only 2 weeks away (21-22 Sept) and, as usual, will feature a plethora of Boutique drinks brand exhibitors as well as a host of other features. This includes talks, competitions and new product launches.*

The recent boom in new gins coming to market has been led by a range of diverse boutique gins. In preparation for this year’s show, a tasting of Boutique Gins was held at the Graphic Gin Bar, Soho.

In addition to the six gins at the tasting, I have included notes for other gins who will be exhibiting over the two days. Further details can be found here.

To review five gins in the three true tests of a gin (neat, in a G&T and in a Martini) would lead to a mammoth article, so I have, instead, gone with a simple, three word review for each.

Adnams First Rate

From the famous Norfolk Brewers, Adnam’s is available in two varieties: one with 6 botanicals (40% ABV) and another with 13 botanicals (48% ABV); it is this latter “First Rate Gin” that is featured below.

Own: Juniper Spicy Flavourful
Gin & Tonic: Cardamon Cooling Dry
Martini: Classic Dry Floral

Hoxton Gin

It is safe to say that Hoxton Gin takes the traditional gin lover out of their comfort zone. Grapefruit and taragon are not unknown in the world of gin botanicals, but coconut is the real wildcard. Hoxton was developed by Gerry Calabrese as his vision of a gin for the new millennium.

Own: Flamboyant Tropical Confectionery
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Twisted Coconut
Martini: Creamy Coconut Citrus

Gin Mare

Another gin with unusual botanicals can be found in the Mediterranean Gin Mare from Spain. Each of the 10 botanicals is distilled separately and then blended to ensure a better balance. Signature botanicals include: thyme, rosemary, basil and, unusually, olive.

Own: Savory Herbal Intense
Gin & Tonic: Rich Dry Refreshing
Martini: Complex Contemporary “Can-I-Have-Another?”

Iceberg

With Iceberg Gin, it’s all about the purity of the water, which comes from North Atlantic icebergs. The brand considers this to be the least polluted water on earth. Iceberg is a 100% corn-based spirit and has 6 botanicals, including coriander, bark and pepper.

Own: Silky Smooth Earthy
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Clean Zesty
Martini: Pure Subtle Sophisticated

Edgerton Pink

Edgerton Pink is one of the more distinctive gins on the market, not least because it’s pink. Created by the same folks behind London Blue Gin, it is flavoured and coloured with pomegranate. It is produced at Thames Distillery using 14 botanicals including nutmeg, damiana and Grain of Paradise.

Own: Jammy Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Fruity Florid
Martini: Unusual Lasting Berries

Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh Gin is a Scottish, Art-Deco-styled spirit is made by Spencerfield, the folks behind Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose Whisky. Edinburgh Gin takes pride from its Caledonian heritage and uses Scottish grain alcohol as well as Scottish botanicals such as milk thistle and heather.

Own: Soft Spicy Festive
Gin & Tonic: Juicy Fresh Cinnamon
Martini: Crisp Creamy Nutmeg

Ish Gin

Modern meets traditional with Ish Gin, a Classic London Dry style with contemporary packaging and an extra boost of juniper for old-school gin lovers. Ish is bottled at 41% ABV, made at Thames Distillers and contains 12 botanicals.

Own: Bold Warm Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Dry Refreshing Flavoursome
Martini: Crisp Fresh Juniper

Sipsmith Gin

Made in the heart of Hammersmith, Sipsmith Gin is produced in one of only four operational gin distilleries in London. The gin contains ten classic botanicals and is bottled at 41.6% ABV.

Own: Classic Balanced Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Refreshing Clean Exemplary
Martini: Powerful Juniper Citrus

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Hayman’s London Dry Gin

Created by Christopher Hayman, the great grandson of Beefeater founder James Borough, Hayman’s London Dry Gin is designed to be a very Classic London Dry and, as such, contains rather classic botanicals.

Own: London Dry Gin
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Lemon Classic
Martini: Clean Clean Crisp

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Bloom Gin

Created by Joanne Moore, the Master Distiller at Greenall’s Distillery, after she had spent several years as the custodian of the Original 1761 Greenall’s. Bloom was largely inspired by her love of gardening and, as such, contains floral botanicals such as Honeysuckle, Pomelo and Chamomile.

Own: Sweet Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Bright, Blossoming, Beautiful
Martini: Delicate Silky Floral

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Sacred Gin

Vacuum distilled in Highgate, North London; Sacred Gin is helping to bring back gin distillation to the Capital. Botanical are distilled separately and then blended to create a balanced product. Be sure to try the Cardamon “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic, it’s something of a revelation.

Own: Silky Balanced Flavoursome
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Citrus Powerful
Martini: Unusual Cardamon Lovely

London No.1 Blue Gin
This is a commercially successful gin that is exceptionally popular in Spain. It contains 13 botanicals, including Gardenia, which gives it its blue colour. This is not a London Dry Gin, as the colour is added post-distillation, but this doesn’t effect the flavour.

Own: Warm, juniper, reasonable
Gin & Tonic: Sweet, neutral, easy-to-drink
Martini: Ice-blue, cinnamon, concise

GVINE Flouraison Gin
G’Vine Gin is produced in ___ France. Rather than using the usual grain-based alcohol for its base, G Vine uses grape spirit. It also uses grapevine flower as one of its __ botanicals. In addition to the Flouriason a Nouvaison gin is made, this is at a higher strength and contains a different balance of botanicals. It reminds me strongly of the now defunct Gordon’s Distillers Cut.

Own: Dry, spicy, cardamon
Gin & Tonic: Bold, cardamon, invigorating
Martini: Sprightly, floral, cardamon

Portobello
This is a gin that was made especially for Portobello Star, a bar in Portobello Road and home of the Ginstitute Gin Museum, a small still and tasting room where visitors can make their own gin. Portobello was designed to be classic in its style with a modern twist, which comes from the inclusion of nutmeg in the botanical mix.

Own: Juniper, nutmeg, pepper
Gin & Tonic: Flavourful, fruity, spicy
Martini: Crisp, classic, contemporary

Bulldog Gin
Launched in 2007, Bulldog was originally promoted as being the perfect spirit for a Gin & Tonic and, more unusually, a Dirty Martini. It is produced at Greenalls and contains a variety of  botanicals including the rather unusual and exotic lotus leaves & dragon eye.

Own:
Gin & Tonic: Unusual, mild, juniper-light
Martini: Juniper, Coriander, Twangy

Broker’s Gin
Founded in 1998 and produced at Langley, Brokers contains 10 botanicals and, with its distinctive packaging and bowler hat bottle cap, is quintessentially English. The 47% is very popular in Export Markets and this variety won a plethora of awards.

Own: traditional, london, dry
Gin & Tonic: strong, flavourful, punchy
Martini: Textbook, clean, crisp

Knockeen Hills Heather Gin
Made at Thames Distillers and owned by the same folks behind the excellent Knockeen Hills Irish Poteen, this gin has heather as a prominent botanical, in addition to juniper t is bottled at 47.3%. Its sister gin, made using elderflower, is produced at a lower strength of 43%.

Own: smooth, creamy, floral
Gin & Tonic: Strong, flavourful, fresh
Martini: Creamy, smooth, mellow

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*At least one of the above brand are having their UK launch at Boutique London.

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Cocktails with… Gin Mare

If you’ve read our post on our Vodka Tonic Tasting, you’ll be familiar with Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic, a tonic water flavoured with Mediterranean botanicals; well, now there is a Mediterranean Gin: Gin Mare (pronounced “Mar-ray”).

Gin Mare is bottled at 42.7% ABV and contains 10 botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander
Cardamom
Lemon
Orange
Mandarin

Rosemary
Basil
Thyme
Arbequina Olive

The gin is made in the Costa Dorada, south of Barcelona. Each of the botanicals are distilled separately* and the distillates are then blended together. Before distillation, each botanical is steeped for 36 hours.

Gin Mare also make a Mediterranean Tonic Water called 1724, named after the fact that the real quinine for the mixer is collected at 1,724 meters above sea level. This is a similar concept to 6 O’clock, who also make both a gin and a tonic water, but differs in that, although the tonic water had to go well with Gin Mare, it was designed with wider market appeal, for use with other gins.

Own
Nose: There are savoury notes: pepper, rosemary and thyme, as well as a little saltiness and a hint of green tomatoes.
Taste: This is an intense and herbal gin, with hints of rosemary and thyme. Juniper is a secondary flavour, but is still there. It reminds me a little of mint and herbal crisps. Unusual, but tasty.

Gin & Tonic
As I mentioned, the people that make Gin Mare also make a Mediterranean Tonic Water called 1724, so for the tasting I decided to try two G&Ts: one with 1724 and one with Fevertree tonic water.

i) 1724
Thyme and rosemary really come through; this was a herbally intense drink. That said, it still has the juniper crispness and a touch of dryness, so it is like a classic Gin & Tonic, but with more flavour than usual; in particular, some anise on the finish.

ii) Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic
Herbal and light; sweeter and less bitter than the same drink made with 1724. A good drink, but notably less flavoursome and intense than the 1724 G&T.

In this tasting, I preferred the 1724 tonic water in a Gin Mare Gin & Tonic.

Martini

A good way to enjoy Gin Mare and fully appreciate its characteristics. It was very herbal and the predominant flavour was a combination of thyme, fennel and anise. Some savoury aspects and would be nice garnished with an olive.

Alexander
I wanted to try this drink, because I thought it would make an unusual version. It was very nice, with some herbal on the finish, but it was less intense than I had hoped for.

Gimlet
I suspected that lime cordial would match up well with the herbal notes of the Mare, and it did. It is less bitter and sharp than a usual Gimlet due to a more subdued juniper flavour, but it still has some crispness and is rather good.

Negroni
Three rather herbal ingredients (Gin Mare, Vermouth & Campari) come together in the Negroni, so this drink was a bit over the top and unbalanced. It is also very bitter; for me, too bitter.

Gin Buck
I found the sweet elements of the gin’s herbs, when combined with that of ginger ale, meant that this drink was rather sickly.

Fruit Cup
A good cocktail to use Gin Mare in; distinctively herbal. There are notes of thyme, rosemary and a touch of anise. This is a very good way to make a pleasant and intense, but refreshing Fruit Cup.

1724 and Sloe Gin
As I’m also looking at 1724 Tonic Water, it seemed like a good idea to try it in another drink, so I mixed with Sloe Gin. I used Marks & Spencer Sloe Gin (made by Boudier), one of the best-selling Sloe Gins in the UK. This drink was fresh, fruity and jammy with herbal notes; very tasty indeed.

In Conclusion
Gin Mare is not a usual or classic London-Dry-style Gin, but it is still evidently a gin. I enjoyed the Mediterranean style flavours and herbal notes as they added a unique characteristic to drinks, although it didn’t work with everything. Of all of the gins released in the last year, this is the one that I have heard people talk about the most (in a positive way, anyway), so they are certainly making an impact in London.

Cocktail highlights: Martini, Fruit Cup and Gin & Tonic

As for 1724 Tonic Water, this is one of the best tonic waters that I’ve tried (at last count this number over 40); I was a little surprised! It is certainly in my Top Five.

* This is a similar gin-production method to that of Sacred, Sloane’s & Moore’s.

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