Cocktails with… Butler’s Gin

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With what is perhaps the beginning of a renaissance in artisanal gin distilling in the UK, it is exciting to speak to someone who is not only doing their own distilling, but also coming to the industry from a wholly different angle.

Such was the case when I first spoke to Ross Butler of Butler’s Gin. Ross started out by wanting to create a product that reflected his character and, as a part of this, he wanted to start off debt-free, purchasing raw materials only when an order came in. When I spoke to him, Ross spoke of the trade-off between time and money and how he had decided to invest time in his product rather than borrowing money. It seems to have paid dividends, as Butler’s Gin is now due to launch in the USA and the EU next month. Given that he only sold his first bottle of gin on 22nd February 2013, this is remarkable.

Butler’s Gin is made in Hackney and takes a London Dry Gin, which is made to Ross’  specification and recipe, which he then infuses with various botanicals kept in muslin bags, a bit like over-sized tea bags. The infused botanicals include lemongrass and cardamom.

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On its own

Nose: A dry, berry juniper with liquorice root, allspice, ginger/cardamom and lemongrass.

Taste: A measured, classic start of juniper and coriander, followed by some sweeter, spiced notes such as ginger, cassia and cardamon. This is all rounded off with a long finish of lemongrass.

Gin & Tonic

A clean gin and tonic with juniper, plenty of spice from the cardamom and citrus from the lemongrass. My tonic recommendation would be Fevertree and maybe Schweppes; however I would steer clear of eFentimand or Waitrose own-brand as they are too citrusy.

Martini

All of the crisp juniper and citrus that you would expect from a Martini, but with the added character of cardamom, spice and then the dry grape character of the vermouth. Full of flavour and pretty classic, if you are talking about the Martinis of the ‘30s and ‘40s rather than the ultra dry drinks of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but that’s just how I like it.

Negroni

The bold flavours of this gin work well in a Negroni; it’s exceptionally flavourful, with some dark chocolate spice coming through, along with a finish of cardamom and citrus.

Cocktails with… Bathtub Gin ( A Review)

A few months back, I wrote a brief overview of the different types of gin: Gin, Distilled Gin and London Dry Gin. I included the specifications of each, as laid out by the EU. At the time of writing, the only compound gin that I had available was a cheap own-brand spirit by Carrefour. The summary table below, whilst not exhaustive,  covers the main differences.
Generally, a compounded spirit made with essences is seen by both consumers and industry as being at the bottom of the Gin hierarchy and inferior to Distilled Gin or London Gin.
This is a large assumption, akin to the idea that Blended Whisky is always being inferior to Single Malt. I think a lot of this is based on the fact that some of the cheapest Gins available are compounded, because this method is typically cheaper, but also they are likely to use cheap alcohol and cheap ingredients which can affect a Gin’s quality.*
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So I was delighted to hear that Masters of Malt (yes, the same folks that have proven that ready-to-serve cocktails can stand up to freshly made ones) have released their Bathtub Gin. Given the sometime (unjust) snobbish behaviour toward compound gin I asked Ben Ellefsen what inspired him to make one. In his own words:
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“To be honest it’s just something I fancied a crack at – I absolutely love Gin, and wanted to make one that bucked the trend. Every week it seems like someone’s bringing out a gin whose sole claim to fame is that it’s more floral and citrusy than the last – I wanted to make one that was a bit more manly. We do a lot of experimenting here when the fancy takes us, some come out awesome (like this’n’), and some come out fit only for unclogging drains – we usually only sell the ones that come out awesome.”
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According to their website, the gin is made by “the enigmatic Professor Cornelius Ampleforth”. Who is this mysterious academic? Let’s just say he’s the Tipsy McStagger of Tumbridge Wells.**

Bathtub Gin is made using the traditional method of Cold Compounding (or in layman’s terms – infusing). This is a historical method used in gin creation and was mentioned by Jerry Thomas. The spirit in which the botanicals are infused is of a high quality and is made in a copper pot still.

The gin is made in very small batches of 30-60 bottles at a time and the compounding/infusion process is dictated by periodic sampling; exactly how we like to make our home-made liqueurs/spirits/syrups.

Six Ingredients/Botanicals are used in the infusion:

Juniper
Coriander
Orange Peel
Cinnamon
Cloves
Cardamom
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The Taste

1) On its Own
A very pale golden colour, with juniper and citrus (in particular lemon) on the nose; there’s a slight cedar and sandlewood element, too. On a second nosing, I get cardamon too.The taste is smooth initially, with some dry juniper and pine, as well as some spicy cardamon. It develops in the mouth quite a lot, with citrus coming through alongside the juniper and sweet spice on the finish. It has an interesting texture, moving from smooth to warming. Overall, it’s complex and interesting.
Mrs. B described it as “floral and spicy” and thought that it would make a good sipping gin.
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2) Gin & Tonic
The nose was dominated by juniper, citrus and the tonic. Interestingly, it also appeared to be louching slightly.On the tongue, the fresh gin comes through strongly. With Schweppes tonic it is a bit cloying, but with the cleaner and less dominant Fevertree the gin opens up a bit more. It is quite bitter on the end, in a clean way.
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3) Martini
Crisp and smooth, a nice balance at 5:1 between the gin and the vermouth. Quite a classic style but with a bit more character.

4) Negroni
Lovely herbally rich and complex. Definitely for fans of the Negroni, this is delightfully bitter, but still has some freshness. It’s very smooth, too.

5) Pink Gin
Quite soft for a Pink Gin and very smooth indeed. The spice of the bitters brings out the spice of the gin, but the juniper remains strong, clean and crisp. Slightly savoury and rousing to the appetite.

6) Gimlet
Smooth and crisp, with some more complex, dry spiciness. The gin stands up very well to the lime cordial to create quite a bracing, but tasty drink, with some bitterness at the end. Very refreshing.

In Conclusion

I think that it’s safe to say that any assumption that all compound gins are poor quality is completely wrong; Bathtub Gin easily stands up to some of its high-end London Dry counterparts, giving smooth and complex drinks with a distinctive bitter twist.Our favourite cocktails were Pink Gin, Negroni and sipping it on it’s own. Once again Master of Malt have bucked the trend, thanks.

Bathtub Gin is avaialble from Master of Malt for around £32 for 70cl.

Special thanks to Norma, Natalie and Ben and the team at MAaster Of Malt for all their help.

*Interestingly, to my mind, the worst Gin I have tried is an official London Dry Gin.

** Think Flamin’ Homer

By Request

Bathtub Gin Gin & Tonic (notice the slight louche)

Bathtub Gin Gin & Tonic (notice the slight louche)

Undiluted Bathtub Gin