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.

Cocktails with… Iceberg Gin (from Canada!)


I first tried Iceberg Gin three years ago at the Distill Drinks Show in London. I also tried the vodka and the rum made by the same company, but it was the gin that interested me: it was so smooth. Sadly, I didn’t hear much about this intriguing gin for a long time, until now. Iceberg Gin has been available at a limited number of specialist off-licences for a few months, but in September it will be launched in the UK at the London Boutique Bar Show.

I recently had a trans-Atlantic conversation with David Hood of Iceberg and he filled me in on some details on their gin. It’s safe to say that Iceberg Gin is all about the water, or the purity of the water. The water source for the gin comes from icebergs in the North Atlantic, off of Newfoundland. David told me that the water in the ice was up to 15,000 times purer than usual spirit water sources, with fewer pollutants and contaminates, leading to a better blend of flavours and a smoother taste.

The new look Iceberg Gin Bottle

Before you start thinking that someone is smashing up icebergs for ice, I’d like to reassure you that the ice actually comes from small pieces that have broken off from the main bergs. These pieces soon melt into the sea and are in what are called “death throws”.

The gin spirit base is 100% corn (meaning it is gluten-free) and I am told that a single 25ml serving of the gin contains only 67 calories.

What about the botanicals?

Juniper Berry (Canada)
Coriander (Eurasia)*
Angelica Root (Northern Europe)
Orris Root from Central USA
Sweet Orange

During my conversation with David Hood, I asked him how he likes his Gin & Tonics and, given the emphasis of the water supply for the gin, what ice cubes did he use? He then told me about a recipe that his wife uses, where she keeps the gin and the glass in the freezer and the tonic and lemon well chilled, thus negating the need for ice.* This inspired me to try a range of drinks, all well-chilled without ice.

Own
Light and dry on the nose, with notes of juniper, citrus and a little earthiness. Very soft and smooth, with juniper, a touch of floral, earthy flavours and hints of angelica and orris.
From the freezer, the neat gin is even smoother than at room temperature and became slightly viscous. There were some hints of the botanicals and a little residual warmth; in this form, it starts to bridge the gap between gin and vodka.

Frozen G&T
Delicious and ice-cold (even with no ice). Pure, clean & fresh. Some juniper and citrus, and a touch of bitterness. This is one of the best Gin & Tonics that I’ve had and is easily the best since I tried Xoriguer with tonic. The flavours of the gin came through well, with some floral and herbal notes. It was very easy to drink.
Quickly finished, this was rather brilliant, and it’s not often that I get a surprise from a G&T.

Frozen Martini
For this Martini, I used a rinse of Dolin Dry Vermouth. The resultant cocktail was very smooth, clean, crisp and clear. There was a little juniper, but not too much. It was enjoyable and quite a lot like the vodka-based version; it sits neatly between vodka and gin martinis.

Frozen Negroni
Delicious, penetratingly cold, with a well-mixed flavour. There was a light, creamy sweetness followed by bitter herbal flavours. This was an absolutely top notch Negroni and very easy to drink.

The following drinks were served with ice.

Gimlet
Quite soft & fresh, but the gin is a little overpowered by the lime cordial. This isn’t a bad drink, but isn’t a good example of a Gimlet and definitely not the best way to enjoy the gin.

Fruit Cup
Lots of flavour but not too sweet. A very refreshing drink but the gin is a little hidden beneath the other flavours. Still, a tasty drink.

Postmaster (gin & ginger ale)
Really nice citrus and juniper from the gin and sweet ginger from the ginger ale. Very refreshing and surprisingly lemony.

In Conclusion

I think Iceberg is a very fine, smooth gin and whilst it may not be as botanically intense as some of it’s contemporaries it is still and excellent gin. For me it really came into it’s own for the super-chilled or “frozen” drinks I tried.
Without a shadow of a doubt the best drink was the Gin & Tonic. If there was a second place it would be awarded to the Negroni.

Iceberg Gin will be launched in the UK at September’s Boutique Bar Show.
However, it is currently available at the Whisky Exchange for around £24 for 70cl.

Special thanks to David, Goran & Darren of Iceberg for their help

* My guess (and that’s all this is) is that the coriander comes from Russia. Plymouth source their coriander from here; it is smaller than the seeds typically used in cooking and has a more citrus, rather than spicy, taste.
** David did tell me that he once used chips from the iceberg he harvests for his water supply in a Gin & Tonic; he thought this produced a superb drink. As the ice melts, carbon dioxide and oxygen are released, which help to keep the drink cool and softens the gin even further.