Cocktails with… The Spectator gin (Lemon Balm and Early Grey) – from MasterofMalt

I have spoken many times on the innovations of Master of Malt, not just in the Gin field, but in many others, too. One idea that I found out about earlier this year and particularly liked is the concept of an individual or organization commissioning a Gin.

In some ways, this is not new (Diner’s Club had this going on in the 1980s), but these days the personalization goes beyond the label or bottle, and now extends to the actual recipe. This is a service that Master of Malt offers and was recently taken up by The Spectator Magazine (a political newspaper) on behalf of their readers.

Spectator Gin starts off as a gin made with juniper and pepper spice, which is then infused with Earl Grey tea and lemon balm. It is bottled at 42.4%ABV.

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Lemon citrus and herbal notes. This is very full to start, being zesty with some pine in the background.
Taste: A slightly nutty flavour is accompanied by orange and tannin (the Earl Grey making itself known) upfront, followed by dry juniper. There’s then some sweetness and salty black pepper notes towards the end, before more dry juniper appears on the finish.

2) Gin & Tonic
This drink is jammy and citrusy, a little like lemon curd with some dry juniper. It’s rather lively and refreshing, too. I found that it was best to use a clean tonic (e.g. Fevertree or Q) rather than a citrus-heavy one (e.g. Britvic or Fentimans) and plenty of ice, but no garnish.

3) Martini
Crisp and citrusy at the start, as many good Martinis are, with a follow-up of slightly nutty tea and a hint of spicy nutmeg. This Gin works rather well in this drink.

4) Negroni
This makes quite a sweet Negroni, in which the tannins from Earl Grey come through a lot more. The bitter flavour takes a long time to build, but certainly becomes quite powerful if you give it some time. Interestingly, the citrus is very subdued in this drink. Spectator Gin makes an intriguing Negroni that takes a bit of time to appreciate, but, on balance, I quite like it.

In Conclusion
I like the Spectator Gin and it is very different to the very similar concept of the Heston Blumenthal gin (Master of Malt, to their credit, thought of it first!) with the lemon being more dominant but at the same time you don’t get the soggy teabag smell (of Heston’s) either.

It won’t be for everyone but I liked the Negroni best.

The Spectator Gin is available from Master of Malt for around £25 for 70cl.

Advertisement

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.*
.
.
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:
.
“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.”
..

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
.

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.
.
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.
.
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