Cocktails with… Knockeen Hills Heather Gin

Today is the first day of Spring and, to celebrate, I thought that today’s Gin Review (of Knockeen Hills Heather Gin) should feature some suitably seasonal drinks.

Knockeen Hills Heather Gin is from the same folks that make Knockeen Hills Poteen; I’m sure a fair amount of that was enjoyed last Saturday (St. Patrick’s Day). They also make an Elderflower Gin.

The Heather Gin was first released in 2009 and is bottled at 47.3% ABV. The Elderflower Gin (and the one I reviewed) was originally bottled at the same strength, but this has recently been reduced to 43% in order to bring out more of the elderflower flavour and result in a tastier product overall.

Knockeen Hills Heather Gin is made at Thames Distillery and contains four botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Savoury
Heather

From the botanical mix, you can see that the gin is not simply flavoured with heather, but rather that heather is a prominent botanical (after juniper, of course).


Traditional
Although this initially has a strong juniper flavour, this gin is actually much smoother and more mellow than many, certainly in a G&T. Some fruitiness then develops towards the end, accompanied by a hint of floral notes. Although it is quite light, it is also rather dry.

Gin Tonica

This a Spanish style of G&T; a nod to Knockeen Hills’ popularity in Spain. The Gin & Tonic was served in a large balloon glass filled with cracked ice and garnished with some crushed juniper berries; one berry had also been run around the rim.

After a little while, the outside of the glass becomes heavily frosted, which I quite like.
As for the drink, it is delicious: the garnish brings out the juniper of the gin, producing something of a super-charged G&T. Despite this, it had the same light dryness as the normal G&T.

007 Gin & Tonic
(From Dr. No)
[Juice of one lime + shells, 50ml Gin, will with ice, top up with tonic]
A nice combination, complex and full of flavour. This a crisp and cooling drink, the lime comes through more an also the very faintest hint of vanilla. This drink is a great way to relax and cool down.


Knockeen’s Pink Lemonade
[50ml Knockeen Hills Heather Gin, 150ml Pink Lemonade*]
Add ingredients to a tall glass with plenty of ice and garnish with citrus fruit slices.
The tart lemonade goes well with the strong juniper and slightly floral aspect of the gin, creating a drink that is clean, crisp and oh-so refreshing. Definitely a taste of the summer drinks to come.

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Grapefruit Fizz
[25ml Knockeen Hills Heather Gin, 25ml Grapefruit Juice, 25ml Sugar Syrup, 100ml Soda Water]
Very refreshing; less zing and tart than a normal Gin Collins, but still full of citrus, with a hint of bitterness from the grapefruit. Grapefruit and gin are usually good partners and this drink is no exception.

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Kiwi Kooler
[30ml Knockeen Hills Heather Gin, Half a Kiwi, 1/2tsp Sugar]
Muddle half a peeled kiwi in the bottom of a shaker, add gin and sugar, shake and fine-strain.
Initially, you get the gin, which is followed by the sweet, succulent kiwi. The dry juniper reappears on the finish. Some floral elements pop up throughout, but I thought this was quite a tart drink, overall.


Martini
Pretty classic to start: juniper, coriander, and citrus, all followed by herbal heather notes.

Negroni
Rather tasty; a little smoother, sweeter and more floral than most Negronis, but rather tasty nonetheless.

50ml Sugar
100ml Lemon Juice
500ml Water
A Handful of Red Berries

Combine ingredients in a jug and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Make sure that you muddle or crush the strawberries/raspberries/cranberries whilst straining.
Refrigerate overnight.
Before drinking/bottling, strain out the berries.

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Martini Gadgets #6 – Mr. Woodpecker Martini Measure

After a little break from Martini Gadgets, we’re back with another obscure item: The Mr. Woodpecker Martini Measurer. The box notes that this is No: 515 of their “Barkeep Line”, although I’ve not been able to find any record of their other products. So whether there were 514 products before this remains a mystery…
.

A Martini made with Heather Gin and Dolin Dry Vermouth according to proportion prescribed by the Martini Measure.

The item itself consists of two china cones attached together by a piece of wood that is painted black. The large china cone is labelled “Gin” and the smaller, “Vermouth”; they hold 90ml and 30ml respectively. Thus, filling each to the brim would make a relatively wet 3:1 Martini.

Each of the cones, or measures, are decorated with various little pictures. The gin measure has a picture of a bottle with a cocktail glass on it (I’m guessing that this is gin), in addition to a goblet and some juniper berries. The vermouth measure displays a fish on a plate and another goblet. Both measures also seem to be decorated with pictures of cheese. The drawings have an almost child-like quality, which makes me think that they were hand-painted.

The box comes with no instructions, but I assume you simply use each of the cones to measure out the gin and vermouth and then add them to your mixing glass.

For my trial of this gadget, I used Knockeen Hills Heather Gin; at 47.3%, it makes a Martini with a lot of character. I accompanied this with Dolin Dry Vermouth.

The 3:1 gin:vermouth ratio determined by the size of the cones produced a Martini that was a bit too wet by my standards, but the drink worked quite well; however, I think that if you used a vermouth that is less subtle than Dolin, it might not work so well. I found that this was the main problem: the fixed ratio; there are no graduations in the cones, so there is no way for you to adjust it to your own tastes. This leaves you with 120ml of Martini at 39.85%, or the equivalent of two double whiskies. The drink is smooth and pleasant enough to finish, but with such a large drink I’m not sure what else you could do afterwards…

Cocktails with… Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin


Not content with the success of their Irish Poteen and Heather Gin the folks at Knockeen Hills decided to release another product, an elderflower gin that uses elderflower as one of the botanicals, this is not a very common botanical to use and is a tricky ingredient to get right.
Bottled at 47.3%ABV Knockeen Hills uses a base Irish Spirit that is distilled five times and the botanicals it uses are steeped for 24 hours. It is described as “London Cut” which means in addition to being a London Dry Gin it is, distilled and cut in London.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is distilled at Thames Distillers and uses only four botanicals (a stark difference to the last Gin I reviewed) these are:

  • Organic Juniper Berries
  • Organic Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Elderflower
  • Liquorice powder

#1) Neat
Good nose, medium amount of juniper with some floral notes. Great warmth (not burn) on the tongue with juniper and elderflower. Not overpowering and subtle. The warmth of the texture intrigues me.

#2) Gin & Tonic
This makes quite a strong Gin & Tonic (the gin is 47.3%). The very heart of the gin seems to come through with a floral taste at the back of the mouth; the straight-forward juniper flavour is followed by the dryness from the elderflower. It’s interesting, because elderflower is often associated with something sweet (cordial, liqueurs, etc.), but this is definitely dry. Mrs. B was very fond of this drink, as it reminded her of cut green apples.

#3) Martini
I used some home-made vermouth for this martini, which complemented the Gin quite well and seemed to give the drink more flavour than usual. Knockeen Elderflower Gin does not make a classic Martini: it’s not so clean and crisp as others, but it is not overpowering and has a lot of character. I like this drink and it makes a nice change.

#4) Gimlet
An unusual Gimlet; less sweet than usual and, in the middle of the taste profile, the drink has a remarkably clean edge, almost Martini-like. There were subtle notes from the floral elements and the gin stands up well to the lime cordial.

#5) Aviation
There’s some great interaction of the elderflower and other floral elements with the violette and maraschino in this drink; it’s complex, but the flavours are all in equilibrium. Very tasty.

#6) Tom Collins
This Collins is, like many, a wonderful cooler. It is very refreshing, but sadly the gin is a little overpowered.

#7) Bramble
Very tasty; there’s equal intensity from each of the various ingredients, all combining to produce a fresh drink that reminds me of Spring. Crisp & delicious.

#8) White Lady:
Fresh and crisp, perfect for Spring or early Summer. There’s a good amount of juniper and distinct floral elements on the finish.

#9) Alexander
I increased the proportions of Gin for this one, so that some of the dry muskiness of gin comes through. The Knockeen Elderflower contributes more to the cocktail that most other gins that I’ve tried.

#10) Gin Bump (Buck)
The Gin Bump was a disappointment as the sweetness of the ginger ale clashed with the floral notes of the gin. Not recommended.

#11) Gin Sour
Pretty strong; you seem to feel the full whack of the 47.3% in this drink. It seemed to warm me up, rather than cool me down (which a gin sour typically would do), and, flavour-wise, it doesn’t do the Gin justice.

#12) Sweet Gin
This was an idea for a cocktail (if you can call it that) that just occurred to me: I simply added half a teaspoon of simple syrup to a measure of Gin. I was surprised at how well it worked and how it brought out a new dimension of flavours: it was almost like an elderflower liqueur, but tasted more complex.

#13) Clover Club
In a similar way to the White Lady, this was balanced, simple, tasty and enjoyable to drink.

#14) Gin Old-fashioned
Fast becoming a new favourite of mine, the Gin Old-Fashioned with Knockeen Hills Elderflower is delicious. Sugar sweetens up the floral elements (just like the Sweet Gin) which stops the Angostura from dominating the drink. This is a superb way to enjoy the gin.

In Conclusion
Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is crisp and flavourful. The floral elements lend themselves well to a variety of cooling drinks, making it perfect for Spring or Summer (although I am still enjoying it during Winter!). Sometimes I think that when gins highlight one, single, botanical it can be a bit gimmicky and the rest of the gin profile seems to suffer, but I don’t think that that is the case with this gin.

Cocktail highlights included: Gin & Tonic (especially James Bond style),  the Gimlet,  the Aviation & the Gin Old Fashioned.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is available from The Drink Shop here: for £26.44 for 70cl.