Cocktails with… Cremorne Gin

Colonel Fox’s London Dry Gin’,  launched in June 2012 it is part of CASK Liquid Marketing’s Cremorne 1859 spirits range. It is a collaboration between: CASK, Charles Maxwell, of Thames Distiller’s; and the artist Charlotte Cory, who is responsible for the artwork and label design.

Colonel Fox’s is a classic-style London Dry Gin made at Thames Distillery in London. It’s produced in batches of 100 bottles at a time and contains a mix of six botanicals:

Juniper Berries
Bitter Orange Peel

#1) On its own
Nose: Quite soft, with notes of juniper, coriander and orange.
Taste: Again, this is quite a soft and smooth spirit. It has some dry juniper and sweet liquorice towards the end and citrus in the middle.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Classic, fresh and refreshing, with juicy citrus and a dry quinine and juniper finish. An Evans-style lemon and lime garnish works well, I think.

#3) Dry Martini
Initially, this is a soft and clean Martini, but it has more of a kick at the end. It’s smooth, although the coriander and citrus come through well, followed by a dry finish that is is long-lasting. I would recommend lemon peel as a garnish.

#4) Negroni
A powerful Negroni with lots of flavour and plenty of bitterness, this is most certainly for the hard-core Negroni fan; the sort who wants the drink to grab them by the scruff of the neck. Call me a masochist, but I thought it was lovely and with a twist of orange it is sublime.

#5) Hot Toddy
This is a great gin to use in this drink, where it adds some bold gin characteristics as well as a little warmth and a tiny touch of spice without being overpowering. Very tasty, indeed. I would propose using a herbal liqueur, such as Bénédictine (or King’s Ginger), instead of sugar syrup.

#6) Sweet Martini
A warming and comforting cocktail; simple, but very smooth. The dry gin works well with the sweet herbal elements of the red vermouth and the deeper herbal notes of the gin come through well.

In Conclusion
This is a classic style of gin in a stylish (but not ostentatious) bottle and with a reasonable price tag. My favourite drink was undoubtedly the Negroni.

Colonel Fox Cremorne Gin is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Cocktails with… Bulldog Gin

I remember when Bulldog was first launched in the UK; Gerry’s in Old Compton Street had a display full of these unusual, smokey, purple-grey glass bottles. This was back in October 2006* and, since then, Bulldog has gone from strength to strength, even having a listing in Waitrose, where I gather it is rather popular. When Bulldog was first released, it was stated that it had been designed with making the ultimate Gin & Tonic and Dirty Gin Martini in mind.

Bulldog Gin is made at the Langley Distillery, is bottled at 40%ABV and contains a mix of 12 botanicals.

On its own
Nose: Juniper, coriander, and floral hints, including lavender.
Taste: Soft and sweet, initially, followed by some dry juniper and some sweeter floral notes, as well as the perfumed hint of dry petals. Both the flavour and alcohol build to a pleasant warmth at the end, making this rather accessible.

Gin & Tonic (with Fentimans Tonic Water)
I’ve tried a few tonics with Bulldog and I think that it works best with the zestiness of Fentimans. The result is a lively and refreshing drink, with the powerful flavours of the gin coming through afterwards. Most cooling.

Not bad. This has some classic elements – juniper and coriander – but also takes on a rather odd, bitter twang at the end. Overall, it’s not bad, but not that great, either.

There’s definitely some juniper, but it’s also quite sweet, too, with additional notes of coriander. Whilst this isn’t a classic style of drink, it still has some traditional elements and a peppery finish.

Quite smooth and soft, with a range of fruity notes. This is quite good, with the gin working well alongside the Campari and vermouth, curbing the drink’s bitterness. A surprise, but a good one.

Sweet Martini
Smooth and clean, with some of the finer gin flavours, such as juniper and coriander, on the finish. Very easy to drink and rather rousing to the appetite.

Gin Buck
This is rather a pleasant drink and a rival for the Gin & Tonic in terms of refreshment. The spicy and sweet floral elements of the gin come out especially well alongside the ginger ale, making this a thirst-quenching and flavoursome drink.

In Conclusion
Bulldog Gin is a rather accessible spirit; I certainly know of folks who don’t usually like juniper, but  enjoy this gin. My favourite drink with Bulldog was the Negroni, although I also found sipping it straight from the freezer rather pleasant.

Bulldog Gin is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange
For a special treat why not try their Extra Bold?

* 2006 being the Chinese Year of the Dog.

Cocktails with… Polo Club Gin

I find pre-boom gins fascinating. By pre-boom, I mean those that predate the current period of gin popularity – that started around 1998 with the introduction of gins such as Martin Miller’s – and continues to the present day. The best source of information on these gins is Geraldine Coates’ “The Gin Book”, published in 1997.

Brands from this period include favourites such as Bombay Sapphire, Old Raj and now-forgotten gins such as Burberry (yes, made for the fashion house) and 1666 London’s Burning – a lightly-spiced gin.*

Also detailed in Coates’ tome is Polo Club Gin, the subject of today’s article. This is bottled at 43% ABV and was made using a Carterhead still for Hurlingham International, London. Hurlingham Club in Fulham invented the rules for polo in 1873 and the name has been synonymous with the gin ever since; whether or not the club actually has anything to do with the gin remains a mystery.

Polo Club Gin contains seven botanicals:

On its own
Nose: A minimal nose of predominantly juniper.
Taste: Textbook classic gin in style, with strong, piney juniper, citrus and some earthiness. A touch of black pepper spikes towards the end, followed by some fruitiness. Very good, indeed.

Gin & Tonic
Juniper on the nose. This is a very juicy Gin & Tonic, full of fruity, piney juniper; there’s also a touch of coriander and citrus. Very crisp and rather tasty, this is one for the traditionalists.

Again, this was very classic in style with lots of juniper and earthy botanicals. It tastes quite strong, but, overall, it’s clean, crisp and quite excellent.

A very crisp, almost razor-sharp Negroni. Full of flavour, it’s balanced and well-formed; a drink that doesn’t mess around. Really rather excellent and one to remember.

Sweet Martini
Despite being a Sweet Martini, this is actually quite dry and the juniper is quite prominent, as are the more earthy notes of the botanicals.

Fruit Cup
This is quite a clean and smooth Fruit Cup. Quite sweet, there is – again – notable juniper. It’s very refreshing and rather like Pimm’s or the Plymouth Fruit Cup. Lovely!

In Conclusion
Polo Club Gin hails from an era when tradition reigned and, as such, it is the absolute height of classic style and a very tasty one at that.

* Described by Geraldine as “a radical departure from tradition”, it appears to have been quickly discontinued; it is interesting that, fifteen years later, Geraldine herself helped to create another spiced gin for Darnley’s View.

Cocktails with… Richmond London Dry Gin

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about gins that I really like and one of the questions that I get asked most frequently is “what is your favourite gin?”, but another question is: which is your least favourite? The answer to the first question is Boodles and the second is Richmond Gin*. Interestingly, these are both made at the same distillery (Greenall’s) in Warrington.

Richmond is a London Dry Gin (all botanicals are distilled with no flavour or colour added after distillation) that is bottled at 37.5% ABV.

Nose: A minimal nose, mostly made up of grain alcohol with the faintest hint of juniper. Very underwhelming. After a while, there’s some soapy coriander, followed by a touch of Pritt Stick.
Taste: Relatively smooth, but the Pritt Stick (glue stick) impression is back, alongside the soapy coriander and a bit of juniper. This tastes artificial and far from fresh.
Although I still don’t like it, upon this second tasting, I concluded that it is not as bad as I had previously remembered.

Gin & Tonic
The flavour was easily lost beneath the tonic in a 2:1 ratio G&T, although a little bit of juniper appeared towards the finish. Other than that, I found it to be rather anonymous.

Quite sweet, rather like a Vodka Martini, apart from the appearance of a very small amount of coriander. It’s quite nice, but, if you like a good Gin Martini, you’ll probably be disappointed.

In Conclusion
Upon further review, I think this gin was slightly better than I had expected (or remembered), but it is still not something that I would recommend; there are better gins available for the same price. For me, Richmond has an overall artificial impression and its flavour is very easily overwhelmed by others. In short, it doesn’t really have the thing that I think makes gin such a great spirit.

*To give Richmond Gin its due, I tried it in a blind taste test with Ginebra San Miguel and it was much better.



Cocktails with… Limbrey’s London Dry Gin

On Saturday, Mrs. B and I had the luck to be invited to this year’s “Taste of Christmas Festival”. There were plenty of drinks-related stands there and we were fortunate enough to sit in on a De Luze Cognac and a Botran Rum tasting with Distillnation. Another stand of great interest was that of Limbrey’s London Dry Gin. Having chatted to him on the telephone, it was a treat to finally meet Sean Limbrey, the man behind the bottle.

Limbrey’s London Dry Gin is a very new product. Compared to the makers of the plethora of “Boutique Gins” that have been released in the last couple of years, the man behind Limbrey’s, Sean Limbrey, has taken a rather different approach to gin. Moving away from the use of unique or exotic botanicals and luxurious packaging, he’s produced a gin that sits in the sub-£20 price range. With striaght-forward, easily recyclable bottle, which sits inside a plastic sleeve.
Speaking to the gin’s cretaor there is a bit of counter-culture going on, there are two designs of sleeve for the bottle. My current favourite is the sleeve with a banker being squeezed of his money by the giant fist of the Gin genie.* Also currently available is the “Shouty Mouth” which is a reference of feeling against the nanny state and CCTV. When asked about the packaging Sean said:
“The designs are meant to have a point that resonates with the drinker in a humourous satirical way that also looks attractive and ties in with the Limbrey’s gin brand of being – created, distilled, and bottled in London.”
My understanding is that sleeves will change from time to time, similar in someways to the Absolut Limited Edition Packaging.
When I spoke to Sean, he told me about his enthusiasm and pride that Dry Gin is very much a British drink and that, in creating a gin, he wanted to stoke the fires of that pride by creating a product that could be drunk in a more simple or traditional way; basically, on it’s own or in very simple gin cocktails.He advocates keeping Limbrey’s Gin in the freezer and enjoying it neat as an accompaniment to food; this is quite similar to how some eaux de vies are drunk on the continent.

He also spoke about the fact that, for many consumers, mixing cocktails at home is not practical and that many mixers are either too sweet or too expensive. As a result, he is an advocate of simple cocktails with simple ingredients. Mrs. B and I enjoyed a Gin and Cranberry and a Gin and Pink Grapefruit (I didn’t even think I liked Grapefruit), which were both tasty and refreshing.

Limbrey’s Dry Gin is the first gin to be approved by the Vegetarian Society, it is bottled at 37.5% ABV, it’s made at Thames Distillers, in London, and contains four botanicals:




Winter Savory

1) Own
Mr Limbrey had told me that his gin was very smooth, but as I hear this a lot, I was genuinely surprised at how smooth the gin was. I’m sure that the 37.5%ABV helps with this, but, in fairness, some of the roughest gins that I have tasted have also been bottled at this strength.
nose: very classic-style iof nose with juniper and coriander a little earthiness something like angelica and a touch of pepper.
taste:The first thing you notice is how smooth he gin is, even holding it in your mouth for 30 second produces only a slight warmth. Initial flavours of fresh juniper, more green than piney, there is some sweetness toward the end which is accompanied by lemon and coriander.

2) Frozen
This has a good, strong, classic gin character, with juniper, coriander, and citrus. It has a nice texture: silky, with a bit of sweetness; it’s very smooth and easy to drink. As smooth as a good quality flavour, but with more flavour..

3) Over Ice
Very pleasant, not how I usually drink gin but I can see how this could work. In addition to the juniper some of the more floral notes of the gin come through a little more.

4) Gin & Juice
i) Orange
Fresh and crisp a slight citrus and juniper dry twang comes through as does a little sweet spice. A pleasant quencher.
ii) Cranberry
A really nice combination dryness of the gin is a great match for the dryness of the cranberry and the gin can still be appreciated. It’s surprising that more people don’t drink gin andd cranberry juice.
iii) Pear
A bit of an odd conversation this one, I think the pear is a bit too sweet for the gin and actually it’s difficult to taste that the gin is there. This may be great for some but I like to taste my juniper.

iv) Apple
Other than Bison-grass Vodka I’ve always struggled to find a good cocktail using apple juice. This is actually quite good, initially you get the sweet succulent apple juice and this si then followed up by the more intense dry juniper of the gin.

v) Pomegranate
Not bad and quite refreshing although some might find it a tad sickly, with a dash of lemon juice the drink becomes much more balanced.

vi) Pink Grapefruit
Pink Grapefruit and gin and usually quite good partners and this is no exception. the bitterness of the grapefruit works very well with the dryness of the gin. This giving you a refreshing and bracing drink.

5) Peter Cushing
Why Peter Cushing? Well, first off, I’m a great fan of his films and secondly, he was a patron of the Vegetarian Society and Limbrey’s is the first gin that has been approved by the Vegetarian Society. My aim was to create a drink that was simple and accessible, with a touch of sophistication.

2 Parts Gin, 1 Part Ginger Wine

This is quite nice and works well being made using a number of different methods: with the gin being poured straight from the freezer, served on the rocks, or shaken with ice and then strained. The latter version makes a smoother drink that’s a little more dilute.

6) Gin & Tonic

OK so I’ve broken rule about tossing out the tonic but I still think a good way to measure a gin is by how it mixes with Quinine water. The makes a very smooth and easy to drink gin and tonic, refreshing and pretty quaffable. The only character that really comes through from the gin is the juniper and so whilst it is a good drink it’s perhaps not the best way to appreciate the gin.

7) Martini
Lovely, clean and crisp; the flavour was predominantly of juniper, with a tiny touch of cream. This is a great gin to use to make a Diamond or Naked Martini.

8) Negroni
Smooth, with a growing crescendo of flavour that peaks at the end with a crisp and intense bitterness. It was more bitter than many Negronis, with a more pronounced juniper note at the end. That said, despite it being more bitter, it was one of the few Negronis that Mrs. B has ever said she quite liked.

9) Pink Gin/Gin & Bitters
I’ve been a bit economical with the original Pink Gin recipe and so I’ve extended this note to cover a range of Gin & Bitters. All drinks used 25ml of Gin from the freezer and 3 drops of the respective bitters.

i) Angostura
This made a simple drink that was very clean and smooth, with the bitters adding some character and a sweet, spicy finish.

ii) Orange
The orange is quite prominent in this drink, but works well to bring out the citrus characteristics of the gin, especially the coriander seed. Some characteristics, such as texture of orange liqueur, but without any excessive sweetness.

iii) Peychauds
This made a very pink Gin & Bitters, with predominate flavours of anise and angelica. It was more herbal and complex then the others that I have tried and had a little more warmth at the end.

*Interestingly this is apparently quite popular with merchant/investment bankers.

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?”


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


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


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


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

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.

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… Darnley’s View

Darnley’s View is a Scottish Gin* made by the Wemyss Family (pronounced weems) who also own Scotch and Wine companies.

The name Darnley’s View originates from a stay of Mary Queen of Scots at Wemyss Castle (the family’s ancestral home) It was during this visit that she first saw (got a view) of her future husband Lord Darley through a courtyard window of the castle.

Darnley’s View is bottled at 40%ABV and contains the following six botanicals:

It’s worth noting that other Scottish Gins such as Hendrick’s and The Botanist also use Elder as a botanical and, along with heather, these botanicals seem to be quite popular with Caledonian gin-makers.

For this “Cocktail with” I had a special request from Darnley’s View Gin (I’m always open to consider requests) to try their Gin with a variety of tonic waters to find a good match.**
Here are the results:

#1) Schweppes Regular
Fruity with some freshness but the drink falls flat in terms of flavour.

#2) Fevertree Regular
A good combo with both the sweetness and the bitterness you expect from a Gin & Tonic. As the ice melts a little the drink certainly improves but, like the 1724, it would be much better with a fruit garnish to add a little extra zip.

#3) Waitrose Regular
Crisp and fizzy, a truly classic Gin & Tonic. It has a more simple flavour profile than some of the others but was very refreshing. It had a good flavour balance, the floral notes of gin are not overpowered and the drink is not too sweet, cloying or bitter. Excellent!

#4) 1724 Tonic
Quite smooth, light and fresh. Good for a really hot day. A little lacking in flavour but this could be rectified by adding a juicy wedge of lemon.

#5) Fentiman’s Tonic
A good fizz, and very flavourful;. The lemongrass in the tonic adds some extra citrus to the drink, which is quite welcome; no need to garnish with lemon here. Some folks may find the citrus and the sweetness overpowering but in general rather good.

In addition here are some extra tasting notes; for the gin (neat) and in a Martini, well how can you review a gin without trying it in a THE mixture of Gin & Vermouth?

Initial flavours of Juniper and Citrus with the faintest hint of milkiness. Despite what is generally a classic nose, the taste of the gin is quite contemporary. It is quite sweet with juniper and a spicy note at end which is almost peppery. Very smooth with minimal alcohol burn/bite. Some floral elements too. Mixed with a dash of water the flowery flavours really present themselves.

Elegant, one of the best Martinis I have had for a long time. Classic but with a modern delicate and floral edge. The juniper and subtle flowery notes mix well with Dolin Vermouth.

In Conclusion
I enjoyed trying Darnley’s View gin with it’s overall characteristics being that it is a relatively simple flowery and slightly soft gin. Certainly has the potential to be more refreshing than some of the more botanical-heavy gins.
In terms of tonic, for me Waitrose was the winner, followed closely by Fevertree.

Darnley’s View Gin is available for around £24 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.

*Scottish as in made in Scotland, technically it is categorized as a London dry Gin – for details of how the categorizations work, click here.
** These tasting notes reflect my opinion when mixed with Darnley’s View they may not be the same as my overall view of the tonic waters.

Dry Vermouth Tasting – With SW4 Gin

I’ve got a little gin research project going on that is due the end of February. The survey is simple and takes 90 seconds please help us out by completing the survey.

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Anyone that has been following my series on Martini Gadgets will realise I have a passion for this mixture of gin and vermouth. As gin has become increasingly popular, a wide array of gin tastings have taken place, held in London, Manchester and Oxford, to name but a few. But what about the vermouth? When a cocktail only has two ingredients, even the lesser partner is a crucial component.

Vermouth is an automatized wine. The flavour is determined by “appropriate derived substances” (e.g. seeds, herbs, spices, roots) and there is no prescribed combination of these, with the one exception that a Vermouth must contain an Artemisia (such as wormwood). Vermouth can be sweetened, but only with caramelized sugar, sucrose or grape must.

Typically there are three main types of vermouth:
Red: A sweet style that is coloured with either caramel or herbs. Often drunk as an aperitif or in cocktails such as the Manhattan and Martinez (both potential ancestors of the Martini).
White: A sweet style based on white wine.
Dry: A dry style, also based on white wine and synonymous with the modern Martini.

Two more styles seem to be growing increasingly popular: Rose Vermouth and Orange/Ambre Vermouth.

All of the vermouths in our tasting were tried on their own and then we tried our top ten in a Dry Martini.

Dry Martini Details
SW4 Gin
5:1 Ratio
No Garnish

#1) Martini Extra Dry (Italy) (15%)

A very familiar product to most and synonymous with its namesake cocktail.

Own: On the nose, there is a little pistachio and wet slate. This is quite dry; probably one of the driest we tried. It was quite simple and rather tart.

Martini: Pretty good, a classic drink. It’s a popular brand, readily available and makes a decent drink. This is an excellent fall-back when it’s difficult to get hold of some of the more obscure varieties.

Martini Extra Dry is available from most supermarkets and off-licences for around £8 (75cl).

#2) Noilly Prat Dry (France) (18%)

Own: A very fruity nose with a hint of nail polish. Great scents of honey and blossom, and the slightest hint of salt. One panelist likened the nose to that of a good muscat. Noilly Prat has depth of flavours and is quite complex. There is some jamminess, akin to an apricot preserve, and there is a pleasant warmth at the end. Very popular with the panelists.

Martini: A truly classic Martini and exactly what I would expect when ordering a Dry Martini. Excellent balance between gin and vermouth, with just enough herbal flavours to complement the gin without overpowering it. Cool, clean and crisp.

Available from Waitrose around £10 for 75cl.

#3) Filipetti Extra Dry Vermouth (Italy) (14.8%)

Perlino also make a Blanco and a sweet vermouth, as well as Martelletti, a Classico Vermouth.

Own: Dry; exactly what you’d expect from dry vermouth. Some floral aspects like a good muscat. Well balanced with hints of honey and cinnamon. Very pleasant.

Martini: In the proportions of 5:1, this made the wettest Martini of those that we tried. The dry and slightly fruity flavours have a strong presence in the cocktail and, if you like only a whisp of Vermouth flavour in your Martini, this is worth a look.

#4) Dolin Chamberry Dry Vermouth (France) (17.5%)

Made in Chambery, near the French-Swiss border, this has a wine content of 75-80%, which is notably higher than some of its competitors. Dolin also make a Blanco and a Rosso vermouth.

Own: A musky, tropical nose with notes of passionfruit and guava. Soft flavours, well-rounded, simple and neat. This would make an excellent aperitif and has a lovely aftertaste. A couple of panelists likened it to a dry sherry. Another popular vermouth amongst our panel.

Martini: Exceptionally clean, with a slightly warm texture. Strong, but not overpowering flavours of Juniper and Angelica, a balanced bitterness and a touch of cinnamon. The vermouth compliments SW4 well.

Available from Waitrose around £8 for 75cl.

#5) Stock (Italy) (16%)

Made by the Stock Spirit Company, whose biggest markets are in Italy and Slovenia, Stock is made with Italian Table Wine and Italian Brandy and is infused with more than 50 herbs & spices. They also make a Blanco and a Rosso vermouth, in addition to a very tasty Maraschino.

This has a superb, fresh leafy green flavour and was a favourite of one of the panel. It made a very flavourful Martini whilst still maintaining the underlying characteristics of a Dry Martini.

#6) Cinzano (Italy) (15%)

Founded in 1757 in Turin, Cinzano is owned by Gruppo Campari. Cinzano has a Classic range, comprising of a Dry, Red, White and Rosé varieties, and a Mediterranean range: Limetto and Orancio, which are vermouths with twists of orange and lemon (somewhat akin to the old Martini Limon).

Own: A fruity nose, akin to a house white wine, with some peach notes. It tastes like sweet grape juice and is not very dry, as vermouths go. The taste is much better than the smell, but the panel was left unimpressed.

Martini: Quite a basic Martini; pretty good, but lacks the depth and crispness of some of the others.

Available from Waitrose around £5 for 75cl.

#7) Vya (USA) (17%)

Made in Madera, California, Vya was made in response to an increasing number of premium gins making their way into the market; the idea being that, if you’re spending $30 on a gin, does it make sense to then mix it with a $6 vermouth? They also make a sweet variety of their premium vermouth.

Own: Vya had a nose reminiscent of fresh vegetation: cabbage or pea pods. The panel disagreed on their opinion of the taste: some enjoyed its definitive flavours, which were fresh and bright with hints of cloves and liquorice, whereas others found it exceptionally bitter and overpowering.

Martini: Cool and flavoursome with hint of cinnamon and spice, followed by a lightly bitter edge at the end. Complex and slips down the throat very easily, moving toward the intense flavours of the home-made vermouth.

Available from The Whisky Exchange for around £16 for 75cl.

#8) Top Shelf (UK)

This is based on a flavouring syrup produced by home-brew specialist Still Spirits. They suggest mixing it with either vodka or wine, so we decided to try both versions.

i) Wine-based (14.7%) – This had a nose of moth balls; slightly sherberty. Very sour, very dry, a bit like cordial. Watching the physical recoil of people as they tasted it was very interesting. As a result, this is not recommended, although it should be noted that mixing the syrup with a better quality wine would probably improve the results.

ii) Vodka-based (Sipsmith) (16%) – With a nose of moth balls and lavender perfume, this reminded one of the panel of their great aunt. The taste is much better than the wine version, being sweet with hints of creamy vanilla, although some of this obviously came from the vodka. Not so dry and closer to a Sweet Bianco than a Dry vermouth, this was nonetheless quite palatable and had an interesting a hint of Christmas spice.

Top Shelf Dry Vermouth Flavourings is available here for £2.29 for 50ml (One 50ml bottle makes up to 1.125 litres of Dry Vermouth.)

#10) Berlino (UK) (13%)

Berlino is produced and bottled by Continental Wine and Food (CWF), who are based in Huddersfield. Although it looks a lot like vermouth, it is in fact billed as “Extra Dry Aperitif”, made from the “finest quality concentrated grape juice, herbs and spices.”

Own: There were various cries of disgust at the smell of this; “wet dog” and “drains” were among two of the more polite comments. It had very little flavour and was rather watery, but did have a sharp, bitter finish. This was the least popular of the varieties we tried. At £3.20 a bottle it may look like a cheap alternative, but it would be a false economy.

Belrino is available from Tesco for around £3.20 for 70cl.

Mr Hartley waits, in anticipation, for the tasting to start.

#11) Home-made (UK)

Based on a recipe from the Plymouth Martini Book, which can be found here, this vermouth was designed specifically for Plymouth Gin, but we were intrigued as to how it would fare with SW4.

Own: Fresh, with a slightly meaty nose, one panelist likened it to hotdogs (in a most positive way). Another comment stated that it was reminiscent of a German Christmas market, with mulled wine, stollen and bratwurst. The taste was rather savoury and quite heavy on cloves, with some hints of anise and angelica too. Without a doubt, it had very intense flavours, but was also very good. If you’ve never tried making your own vermouth, I highly recommend it.

Martini: Very popular with the panel, this was jam-packed with flavour. This vermouth may not produce your typical, very clean, very crisp Martini, but it is an excellent drink nonetheless and, if you like a wetter, more flavourful Martini, then this is definitely worth trying. Cloves and Christmas spice come through, but complement the gin well.

#12) Lillet Blanc (17%)

Own: A very light and subtle nose of white grape, grass and dried flowers. Sweeter than expected, this was less complex and thinner than the Jean de Lillet, but, served cold, it is an excellent aperitif and an all-round good product.

Martini: A soft Martini that was less herbal than normal. Simple flavours, less bite and some subtle citrus. Smooth and delicate, and rounds off the gin nicely.

Available from The Whisky Exchange for around £15 for 75cl.

#13) Jean de Lillet

Own: Strong, savoury nose; fresh and very appetising. The taste is quite sweet, with overtones of honey, blossom, apple, pear and peach. It’s a little buttery and reminiscent of a quality Sauternes. This was really very, very good and there would be little danger of it oxidising before the bottle was finished. It had a finish of apricot stones, apple and almond.

Martini: A rich and flavourful Martini, this does make a truly excellent drink, but for my money I’d rather drink it neat. We also tried it in a Vesper as a substitute for Kina Lillet and the drink certainly had a more bitter edge and was pleasant golden yellow, although perhaps not quite sweet enough.

A selection of the Vermouths we tasted

#14) Gancia Bianco (14.8%)

Own: The nose of Gancia Bianco had hints of sloe gin and lemonade. Floral and herbal. The taste is very pleasant and was a very nice surprise: it was a little syrupy, like mead. It also had a finish of lemon pith, which counteracts the sweetness well.

Martini: A very flavourful Martini and not too sweet. I’d never really thought of using Bianco vermouth in many cocktails, but in a Martini it worked well; nice for a change.

Available from The Whisky Exchange for around £12 for 75cl.

#15) Martini Gold (Italy) (18%)

Own: Very floral on the nose, with hints of tea, lavender and Bergamot. The taste is quite smooth and sweet, but has an underlying bitterness akin to Campari or Suze. Quite a long finish, with the saffron coming through. Very much a departure from their traditional range, but a product with potential.

Martini: On the face of it, this is a pretty standard martini – cool and crisp – but there is definitely a more bitter finish than usual, with herbs and spice and the hint of saffron, which works well with the bitter elements. It’s like you’ve made a martini half with vermouth, half with a bitter apertif.

Available from The Whisky Exchange for around £21 for 75cl.

In Conclusion
From our tasting, it is clear that the vermouth you choose for your Martinis can have a big impact on the drink and so it’s a decision worth some consideration. It’s also clear that vermouth is something that is more versatile than I had previously thought: its merits extend beyond its use in Martinis and that, by over-looking Bianco/White vermouth, I’ve been missing out; definitely something to look into.


Best Aperitif: Dolin
Best Martini: Noilly Prat, Home-made
Best All-rounder: Fillipetti

Special Recommendation: Jean de Lillet

A special thanks to Pernod Ricard, Bacardi-Martini, Lillet, Marblehead, Speciality Brands, Vya, Perlino, Stock Spirits Interntional, Imbue and Graphic Bar for their support in this tasting.

Thanks also to SW4 Gin for providing the Gin for our Martinis.

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Cocktails with… Hayman’s Gin

Hayman’s London Dry Gin was created by Christopher Hayman, the great grandson of James Burrough, founder of The Hayman’s Distillers and creator of Beefeater Gin. Hayman’s London Dry Gin was designed as a classic London Dry Gin and was created by Christopher Hayman as an expression of his ultimate London Dry Gin. Its botanicals include: Juniper, Angelica, Coriander, Liquorice, Orris Root and Orange & Lemon Peel; seasoned Gin drinkers may note that these are all the hallmarks of a classic London Dry Gin.

A bottle of Hayman's London Dry Gin

#1 Neat:

With a short juniper nose, this a very simple, classic gin. It is not overburdened with any showiness, with flavours of juniper and citrus and a warming finish.

#2 Gin & Tonic:

Hayman’s makes a classic gin and tonic: there are crisp juniper notes with a little citrus and a touch of bitterness. Quite refreshing.

#3 Martini:

This was a clean Martini and has some warmth behind it. Strong juniper notes come through, along with a little oiliness. This as not as crisp as Martinis made with some other gins, but it still has the classic characteristics.

#4 Gimlet:

A smoother Gimlet than most, this drink is better with a touch less Rose’s Cordial than usual. The drink is tangy and crisp, with enjoyable sour notes at the end.

#5 John Collins:

Hayman’s makes one of the best John Collins I have ever had; it was tangy and zesty; full of life and flavour. It was exceptionally refreshing (Mrs. B said it was revitalising, but I’m not sure you could put that on the bottle!). This drink, with faint hints of lemon sherbet, was really very good and quickly finished.

#6 White Lady:

A lovely White Lady; mellow and well-rounded with the bright citrus of a good lemon sorbet.

#7 Aviation:

A crisp drink, with each ingredient clearly defined. There are sharp juniper flavours in the drink: it’s a beverage that makes you pay attention, which makes it more than just another Aviation.

#8 Bramble:

The juniper balances out the sugar in this Bramble, making it less sweet and more tart than others. Readers who usually find the Bramble too sweet, this is for you.

#9 Gin Sour:

Tart, with an unexpected creamy finish (no, I hadn’t just left some milk in the shaker) and a strong juniper finish. Different to most Gin Sours that I’ve tried, but certainly worth a try.

#10 Clover Club:

Great. This drink allows the flavour of my home-made Grenadine to come through. It is reminiscent of ice-cream, with its silky texture and smooth blend of flavours.

#11 Dubonet:

In my experience, these can sometimes destroy a Gin’s flavours, but Hayman’s stands up better than most, with the juniper balancing out the fortified wine’s bitterness. There’s a nice hint of citrus, too.

#12 Milano:

Amongst all of the cocktails that I tried, this was one of the few disappointments: the Gin seemed to be lost amongst the Galliano (this is not always the case) and so it didn’t showcase the it very well.

#13 Pendennis:

Hayman’s produced a very different Pendennis cocktail to those that we have had with other Gins. A jammy apricot flavour, similar to that of an apricot jam tart (my favourite flavour) appears about halfway through the drink. The full flavour of the Gin comes through and Mrs. B said it tasted strongly of “Pink” (whatever that means?).

#14 Alexander:

This cocktail had an intriguingly fruity smell; it started with hints of cream and chocolate, moving to warmth and a fuller appreciation of the Gin. The flavours blend together well, so that the battle for dominance between gin and cacao, which is characteristic of the Alexander, is notably absent.

#15 Singapore Sling:

I always enjoy a Singapore Sling, and this was certainly no exception. This cocktail takes a little more effort to make, but it’s worth it. Hayman’s Gin seemed to go well with pineapple juice, with its slight bitter edge balancing out the sweetness of the fruit.

#16 Income Tax Cocktail:

This was a smooth cocktail, with only a little juniper coming through. It rather masks the gin, however, and so is not the best cocktail to enjoy Hayman’s Gin in.

#17 Hot Gin Cocktail: HOT

Mrs B. has a newfound fondness for Toddy drinks; so much so, that I only got a sip to check that it was OK before handing it over. These thoughts are hers: yummy! This is the epitome of a hot toddy: the warmth of the drink starts it off and this effortlessly flows into the warmth of the alcohol at the end. It is incredibly comforting, and definitely my favourite of the cocktails we tried.

#18 Bakewell: HOT

This smells like a Bakewell tart, with an almondy milk taste and a little juniper on the finish. The Gin doesn’t interfere, but complements the other flavours. The cherry completes the drink.

All-in-all Hayman’s really is a classic London Dry Gin and if that’s what you look for in your Gin then Hayman’s is certainly for you. It worked very well in a Gin & Tonic and in cocktails that were sweet and contained citrus, such as the excellent John Collins. For an alternative to these fruity cocktails, try a lovely Alexander or one of the cracking hot gin drinks.

Hayman’s London Dry Gin is bottled at 40%ABV and is available for around £16.

Hayman’s also make an Old Tom Gin, a Sloe Gin and a Gin liqueur.

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