Master of Malt Update – New Origin Gins, Old Tom, Cask Gin and 7 Dials Gin

mOmtITLEDEC2012

Yesterday, we looked at Master of Malt’s Cream Gin, which easily deserved its own article, and I mentioned that it would be my penultimate post on the products of Master of Malt for the year. This here is the final one, which will be a bit of a round-robin.

We kick off with Origin Gin, an innovative project launched in July at the Juniper Society’s 2nd Birthday that has been touted by many gin pundits as one of the most exciting gin launches of the year.

Each of the following gins are made in small batches using juniper berries sourced from very specific geographic regions, thereby highlighting the difference that different sources of juniper can make to a gin. They are sold as single-botanical gins (or juniper distillates), but are delivered with a separate small bottle of distillate of other botanicals, which you are free to add (or not), as you choose. I tasted each both on their own and with the additional distillate.

A Map Showing the Sources of the Origin Junipers

A Map Showing the Sources of the Origin Junipers

Master of Malt Origin KosovoOrigin Istog, Kosovo

i) Juniper
Nose: A light nose of green juniper.
Taste: A real juiciness upfront, followed by pine, a little heat and then a dry finish with a hint of anise.

ii) Mixed with other Botanicals
Nose: Deeper notes of pine, plus coriander, too.
Taste: Juniper, then some salt and pepper, followed by coriander, citrus, anise and a hint of cardamom.

On this occasion, I think that the mixed version is more to my taste than the juniper distillate on its own.

Master of Malt Origin CroatiaOrigin Klanac, Croatia

i) Juniper
Nose: Rich, green leaves and pine needles, with a hint of citrus and vanilla.
Taste: Very smooth and clean. The juniper is there, but in a much lighter form, with a little warmth at the end, as well as some vanilla and spice. The finish is long and spicy.

ii) Mixed with other Botanicals
Nose: Vanilla and nutmeg.
Taste: Very warm and spicy; the additional botanicals make an amazing difference and it’s interesting how they bring out some of the more subtle spice and vanilla notes in the original distillate. A good illustration of the Origin project.
Master of Malt Origin MacedoniaOrigin Skopje, Macedonia

i) Juniper
Nose: Slightly sweet, with green leaves and a few, light floral notes.
Taste: Fruity, with green pine mixed in, too, and a very slight floral note. Very succulent, for a single-botanical gin.

ii) Mixed with other Botanicals
Nose: Pine mainly, along with some more savoury notes.
Taste: Quite succulent (juicy – almost in the way a steak is!), with a little saltiness and then juniper interwoven with the cardamon and other spice notes – good potential for use in a toddy.

Moving swiftly on, we take a look at:

Master of Malt SevenDialsGinSeven Dials Gin

This product made to the specification of the London Gin Club / The Star at Night, who we visited here.

Nose: Pine, with coriander and a slight floral hint.
Taste: Zesty to start, with a good dose of spicy cardamom then some coriander and juniper. This is quite an intense gin with a lot going on, but, at the same time, is easy to drink. Pleasantly, this brings something new to the table, which is becoming increasingly difficult.

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Finally, here are some Master of Malt gins that I have been remiss with the tardiness of my reviews:

Master of Malt OldTomGinMaster of Malt Old Tom Gin
Building upon their [Bathtub Gin], Master of Malt have gone down the sugar-sweetened route (a more than acceptable choice in my opinion).

Nose: Cinnamon, warming spice and some inviting sweetness and coriander.
Taste: Quite pungent botanically, with dry, piney juniper upfront. Then there’s notable notes of spicy, slightly soapy coriander, some warmth and some sweetness that are followed by the Christmas spices of cinnamon and nutmeg and then more sweetness. It’s very warming from the alcohol, but doesn’t burn. It has a medium-length finish of cilantro.

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Master of Malt CaskAgedGinMaster of Malt Cask Aged Gin
Carrying on the stirling work of the like of Haymans 1850 and Citadelle Reserve, Master of Malt also released a cask-aged gin, marrying the two aspects of gin and wood rather well. This method of flavouring gin also has growing popularity in the US. Of course, it is worth noting that Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin (the best selling gin in the US) is rested in wood before bottling.

Nose: Very pleasant: some spicy elements that remind me of cinnamon swirls are accompanied by both a little sweetness and some dry juniper and citrus.
Taste: Soft to start, with an initial sweetness that’s followed by an oaky vanilla note that reminds me a lot of whiskey. This is very, very flavourful, with some darker woody notes in the middle. The finish is very dry, with a hint of black liquorice, some warmth from the alcohol and a touch of spice.

So that wraps up a year of creations by Master of Malt – who knows what 2013 will bring?

Cocktails with… Master of Malt’s Cream Gin

CREAMGIN TITLE

This will be the penultimate article this year on the marvellous creations of Master of Malt; 2011 saw the launch of their excellent Handmade Cocktails and this year has seen them release:

Origin Single Estate Juniper Gins, Navy Strength Gin, Summer Fruit Cup, Leap Year Cocktail, Maple Whisky and many many others.

Today, I shall be looking at Cream Gin. Such gins were popular in the Gin Palaces of the Victorian Era and can be seen in pictures of bars of the time (see below); although the exact contents and process of making the gin is not 100% clear, it was probably gin mixed with cream and sugar and left in barrel to soften the spirit’s harshness (as discussed between creators Ryan and Ben here).

CreamGin GinPalace

From the Master of Malt site:

“The Cream Gin has been cold-distilled using fresh cream as a botanical (the equivalent of 100ml Cream per bottle), to capture the fresh flavour of the cream in a perfectly clear spirit. Because the cream is never heated during the distillation process, no ‘burnt’ or ‘off’ flavours end up in the finished product. Cream Gin has the same shelf-life as any other distilled spirit.”

CreamGin Bottle

THE TASTE

#1) On its own
Nose: Juniper upfront, along with a little coriander.
Taste: Juniper, black pepper and some coriander. A little cream towards the end, but it’s quite subtle; it is with time, as you continue to drink it, that the creaminess builds up and you can really appreciate the distinguishing features of this gin. It also really opens up with water.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Very fine, with some vanilla and a touch of cream; very refreshing, with citrus and coriander. Very good, indeed.

#3) Martini
A strong, crisp and cooling Martini with a creamy finish, in part due to the vermouth, in part due to the gin. Quite simple, but smooth and pleasant.

#4) Negroni
Very good – extremely smooth and silky, helped by a good amount of creaminess from the gin. There’s still a good bitter-sweet balance, as well as a slight hint of nuts. Different, but good.

#5) Sweet Martini
Another sweet, herbal, creamy drink that’s very good. Comforting and invigorating and very, very smooth.

#6) Ramos Gin Fizz
Due to some miscalculations regarding the quantities in my drink, I ended up with a pint of Ramos Gin Fizz, but that was fine with me, because it was rather delicious: a great mix of citrus and cream, much like a syllabub or tart au citron. The gin adds a little dry juniper, but also contributes to a more silky and buttery finish. Very good.

#7) Alexander
Really lovely: the combination of flavours go together exceptionally well, producing a rich and creamy, but not too sickly, cocktail. This drink is really a natural match for the gin.

#8) French ‘75
This starts off as a pretty standard French ‘75, but concludes with a creamy, almost buttery finish. Softer and less dry than many.

#9) Bottom Button*
[25ml Cream Gin, 25ml Creme de Cacao Brown, 25ml The King’s Ginger – SHAKE]
Quite sweet, but simply blissful, with the cream from the gin, the chocolate of the Cacao, and the herbal warmth of the ginger, all whilst the dryness of the juniper adds a bit of balance. Sumptuously superb!

#10) Cream Gin & Cola (from the Worship Street Whistling Shop)
[50ml Cream Gin, 150ml Coca Cola – Optional Vanilla-Salt Rim)
I didn’t have vanilla salt, so I dabbed some vanilla essence around the rim of the glass and used ordinary salt instead.

It is quite common for gin in Africa to be drunk with Coca Cola (something of a status symbol in itself) and this is a common way for Uganda Waragi to be drunk. Even without the vanilla salt, I think that the drink works well, but the garnish adds that extra flair. The vanilla works well with the gin and cola, reminding me of Coca Cola Vanilla, which was once available in the UK. Whilst this drink is, on the face of it, simply gin and coke, it actually has many layers and is worth trying.

In Conclusion

I always applaud any innovations in gin, especially those inspired by history, and Cream Gin is an excellent example of just such an innovation. Although it worked well in some of the classic cocktails, I think that the variations and creations tailored to this rather unusual spirit work best (see #9 and #10).

*Named in recognition of Edward VII (the King of King’s Ginger), who started the fashion of a gentleman keeping the bottom button of his waistcoat unfastened. Also, in reference to chocolate buttons.

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.

Navy Gin Tasting for Trafalgar Day

As part of my recent trip to New York, I arranged a Navy Strength Gin tasting, which was kindly hosted by New York Distilling. Upon our return to the UK, we decided to hold a second tasting in London, which also coincided with the UK launch of FEW Spirits by Ginuine Spirits.

The Navy Gin Tasting in New York (note Master of Malt had not yet released theirs at this time)

Navy Strength Gin dates back to the days of Empire and British naval superiority. At this time, gin for ships (the drink of naval officers) was bottled at 100 Proof (on a scale developed using the Bartholomew Sikes hydrometer), which is the modern equivalent of 57%ABV.* At this strength, if the gin was spilt on gunpowder (they were often stored together), the powder would still ignite.

In the 19th Century, Plymouth was home to Britain’s naval fleet and the distillery on the quayside (Blackfriars Distillery, the modern home of Plymouth Gin) was the supplier for much of the fleet. Subsequently, for many years, Plymouth Gin 100 Proof was made on and off, as required.

When Plymouth 100 Proof became a permanent feature of the distillery’s portfolio in 1993, the term “Navy Strength” was used over “100 Proof” as it was easier to understand and more clearly illustrated that the gin was stronger. It also seems a particularly fitting title, given the distillery’s historic naval connections.

The (Blind) Tasting at Graphic Bar in London

Fast forward to 2010 and the start of the current gin boom. The global availability of Plymouth Navy Strength was limited and US demand for stronger gin led to some distillers coming up with their own varieties of Navy Strength Gin.

So what’s the current definition of Navy Strength Gin?

Navy Strength Gin = Gin at 100 Proof (57-58%ABV)

Anything below this strength is “under-proof”, whilst anything above is “over-proof”. Thus, gins such as Old Raj Blue (55%ABV) and Finsbury 60 and Blackwoods 60 (both of which are bottled at 60%ABV) are not Navy Strength Gins.**

All of the gins that we tasted were 57%ABV and were tasted blind (even I didn’t know which was which). Here are our notes in the order in which the gins were tasted.

#1 – FEW Standard Issue (57%ABV)

Made by FEW Spirits at their distillery in Illinois, USA and recently arriving on British shores this gin has a different base and a different botanical mix to their American Gin.

Nose: Quite fragrant, with some vegetal notes, perhaps luscious tomato. There’s also some piney juniper, a fair bit of coriander, and some flowery notes, too.

Taste: With some maltiness and creaminess, everyone in the panel agreed that this had plenty of flavour. The grain elements came across as notes of toasted cornflakes. There was also plenty of coriander and other floral notes, such as honeysuckle, followed by a leafy herbalness and sweet pepper toward the end. The finish was pleasant and dry.

FEW Standard Issue is available for around £38 for 75cl from Master of Malt.

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#2 – Plymouth Navy Strength (57%ABV)

This is the original Navy Strength Gin and a long-time favourite of mine. It dates from the days of the Distillery’s origins in the naval town, although, for many years, it was not made on a regular basis. In 1993 (Plymouth Gin’s bicentenary), the Navy Strength became a regular in their product assortment. For Plymouth Gin, the term “Navy Strength” is simply an alternative to using 100 degrees proof; no more, no less. Plymouth Navy Strength is a higher strength version of their standard gin or, simply put, “The 42.4, but with less water”.

Nose: Juniper up-front, followed by citrus, coriander, earthy notes and a touch of cardamom.

Taste: This had a strong and intense flavour; almost a little peppery. It was very classic in style, with piney juniper, fresh and zingy citrus, and a slight sweetness towards the end, which was slightly reminiscent of caramelized orange peel.

Gin & Tonic: A very classic style of Gin & Tonic, this was very crisp, with juniper, some sweetness and a bitter finish. Quite a lot of citrus, too.

Martini: Flavourful and powerful, with juniper, some sweet citrus and spicy coriander. This cocktail had a long finish with plenty of cardamom, which I love. It had a real “wow” factor; simply superb. A textbook drink, worthy of the name “Silver Bullet”.

Negroni: Superb; perfect bitter/sweet balance, sweet jammy citrus, and hints of dark chocolate. Bold, intense, and delicious. My favourite.

Plymouth Navy Strength Gin is available for around £28 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

#3 – Perry’s Tot by New York Distilling (57%ABV)
Made by NY Distilling based in Brooklyn, New York, this is a mix of 10 botanicals, including cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. It named after Matthew Calbraith Perry who served as Commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1841-43.

Nose: Complex, with overriding characteristics of pine and coriander and some other, deeper herbal notes.

Taste: This was a departure from the classic style of gin, with an immediate POW! of flavour that’s invigorating and exciting. Notes of citrus and coriander were quite powerful, with some sweet liquorice root, too.

Gin & Tonic: Refreshing, complex and herbal, with a big dose of coriander. Whilst this drink sets itself apart, it’s not one for traditionalists.

Martini: Sappy and piney juniper, this cocktail was quite spicy with coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Negroni: Slightly sweeter and spicier than a typical Negroni, with notes of juniper and milk and dark chocolate. Very tasty.

Perry’s Tot is available for around $33 for 75cl from Park Avenue Liquor of New York City (US only)

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#4 – Master of Malt’s Bathtub Gin Navy strength (57%ABV)

A stronger version of their revolutionary Bathtub Gin, which show that, mere “GIN” (by the EU definition) could be mighty tasty. The use of crushed botanicals (a difference to the Original Bathtub) means that the gin is not only BIG in terms of alcoholic strength but flavour intensity too.

Nose: Juniper, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Taste: Soft to start, followed by a huge burst of flavour: cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and cloves. All in all, this was very christmassy and had quite a lot of warmth from the alcohol (but not burn). I think it will work wonders in autumnal and wintery cocktails; it’ll really warm the cockles.

Gin & Tonic: A cloudy mix, with nutmeg and cinnamon and some ginger, too. Quite refreshing, with quite a distinct, savoury side to it, too. Another lovely drink that would be good for Autumn and Winter.

Martini: Flavourful and intense, with lots of coriander, as well as sweet Winter spice. Very powerful, in terms of both alcohol and flavour.

Negroni: This could very well be called a Christmas Negroni; there’s a sweetness upfront, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, as well some juniper and more sweetness towards the end.

Master of Malt Bathtub Navy Strength Gin is available for around £42 for 70cl from Master of Malt

#5 – Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin (57%ABV)

Rebranded and repackaged in 2012, initially for the American market, Royal Dock is now available to us in the UK and beyond. The recipe for the gin itself has been made since 1863 and has been supplied to the Admiralty as well as the wider trade. Made by the Hayman family, it is named after the Royal Dock at Deptford, a one time contemporary of the likes of Plymouth and Gosport. It uses Neutral Grain Spirit and a blend of 9 classic botanicals.

Nose: Classic and fresh, with juniper, citrus and liquorice.

Taste: Again, very classic in flavour, being smooth, clean and crisp. It was well-liked by most of the panel. There was a good amount of juniper, but it wasn’t overly sappy, being freshened up with citrus peel, coriander and spicy herbal notes. Quite excellent. Strong, yet smooth; just what you want from a Navy Gin.

Gin & Tonic: This ticks all the boxes: zesty, refreshing and clean; very classic and solid, with no outlandish characteristics. A real pleasure to drink. My favourite.

Martini: More flavourful than Plymouth, with greater flavours of spice, black pepper and coriander. Delicious and rather dry, in the classic Martini style. A really good, crisp and intense Martini.

Negroni: A clean, crisp and classic cocktail; no Negroni fan would be disappointed with this.

Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange

#6 – Leopold’s Navy Strength (57%ABV)
Launched in the Autumn/Fall of 2011, this is made using a different botanical mix to their excellent Original Gin and was designed to be more botanically intense, using Bergamot rather than hand-zested pomelos. Like the Original, each botanical is distilled separately and then they are all blended together.

Nose: Plenty of juniper, which dominates the nose.

Taste: Sweet and very, very piney, this had plenty of herbal notes. It was very warming, with a  warmth that gradually builds over time.

Gin & Tonic: A very herbal drink, with plenty of pine and some juicy citrus, which also made this particularly refreshing. It had intense flavours, with the greater concentrations of botanicals being evident.

Martini: Thick and viscous, with intense green and piney juniper, spicy coriander and crisp citrus notes. This was easily the most intense Martini, flavour-wise, of all that we tried and was certainly memorable. Very tasty and great for a change.

Negroni: Wow! A very flavourful, lively, herbal and piney Negroni. Whilst not to everyone’s taste, many will love it.

* It is worth noting that the strength of the rum of Naval Tots was calculated differently.
**Sun Liquor of Seattle make a Gun Club “Navy Strength” Gin, but, as this is bottled at a mere 50%ABV, for the purposes of this tasting it is not classed as a Navy Strength Gin.

Special thanks to all our panel of tasters: Michael of Ginuine Spirits, Paul of FEW, Zack and the folks at Graphic Bar, Mr Justin of North Virginia, Aaron of TheGinIsIn (America’s Gin Reviewer), Sean of Plymouth, Emma Stokes of London Cocktail Society, Chris of GinJourney, Dave Hollander of The New Sheridan Club, Clayton Hartley of The Candlelight Club, Dickie the GinSage, Mrs. B., Clint of Imbibe, Kirsty Chant of Chant Communications, Paul of G-Vine, Wilkes of @wilkes888 (The London based food and drink-o-phile), Olivier of TheGinBlog, NY Distilling, MasterofMalt (including photography), Hayman’s, Leopold’s, FEW and TheWhiskyExchange.

Master of Malt Single Estate Origin Gins – Part II

Holmes was stumped so Watson looked it up on MasterofMalt.com and found the bottle contained a delicious array of botanicals!

In Part One, I tasted the Origin Range of Single Estate Gins from Master of Malt on their own, in their pure juniper form, but what about the little vial that accompanied each bottle?

This contains a mixture made using a number of other popular gin botanicals, such as coriander and cardamom, which can be added to the juniper spirit to make a multi-botanical gin. I mixed each of the four varieties of gin with their vials (all of which are the same strength and made using the same botanicals; I also mixed them to the same quantities).

So what did they taste like?


1) BULGARIA – VELIKI PRESLAV


i) On its own
Nose: Juniper, coriander, and a touch of cardamom.
Taste: This seemed quite viscous and strong (alcohol-wise); there is also a touch of saltiness, which is followed by some sweetness. The predominant flavour of fresh juniper is followed by big and spicy notes of green cardamom. All wrapped up nicely with a long, delicious finish.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Quite sweet for a Gin & Tonic – almost sherbety – this also had notes of lemon, cardamom and vanilla. Some will probably prefer a drier drink, although I found that the sweetness levels improved with a little ice-melt, making it more refreshing and bring out more of the nutty cardamom.

iii) Martini
Clean and crisp, although it seems quite strong in terms of ABV. Lots of green cardamom notes. This chills well and is nice and spicy.

iv) Negroni
An impressive Negroni: oodles of flavour with a strong juniper and citrus presence. Textbook.


2) NETHERLANDS – MEPPEL


i) On its own
Nose: Spicy juniper and coriander, salt and pepper.
Taste: The juniper is strong and prominent amongst the other botanicals, although there is  a notable liquorice sweetness, citrus, vanilla and a touch of cardamom. A complex, balanced gin with a long finish.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Fresh and crisp with juniper, citrus and cardamom, along with a touch of coriander. Refreshing, this provides everything you could want from a Gin & Tonic.

iii) Martini
Very clean and raising to the appetite, with equal measures of juniper, citrus and spice. This was certainly complex, but not overwhelmingly so; it will compete with the best of its contemporaries.

iv) Negroni
A clean and soft Negroni; bittersweet and easy to drink with all of the characteristics that aficionados look for, plus a good deal more. A pleasure to drink.


3) ALBANIA – VALBONE


i) On its own
Nose: Clean and not aggressive, with citrus (lemon & lemon verbena) and some juniper.
Taste: Quite savoury, with some saltiness and a hint of tomato, I think this would work well in a Red Snapper. A good finish of dry juniper.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Creamy, with a little sweetness that’s followed by a bitter, earthy juniper flavour that works well with the quinine. Cooling and quite light, making it the height of refreshment.

iii) Martini
Smooth, easy to drink and spicy with coriander, cardamom and liquorice. Again, a dry finish.

iv) Negroni
A very straightforward Negroni that will please, but not wow. It has a good balance, but the gin presence could be stronger.


4) ITALY – AREZZO


i) On its own
Nose: Quite gentle, with a mix of citrus, biscuits, nuts and juniper, finishing with spicy cardamom.
Taste: A good, solid gin with a generally good balance, although it leans a little towards cardamom (not that I’ll complain about that!). This gin is one for fans of Plymouth/Sacred/Boodles, plus many other folks, too. Very good, indeed.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Easy to drink, although the gin is a little lost behind the tonic. That said, the drink is delightful and refreshing; it would just be nice if you could taste more of the gin (maybe just add an extra splash?).

iii) Martini
Exceptionally smooth, with hints of anise and coriander. There’s some citrus, but it’s by no means overpowering. I think it would work well with an olive garnish.

iv) Negroni
Full of flavour, this is a rather spicy Negroni that will please fanciers of cardamom as this flavour takes centre stage. Despites having such prominent flavour in its midst, the balance of the cocktail is good and it is refreshing. It has so much flavour that I think I’d drink it ungarnished.

In Conclusion
It is amazing what a difference the source of juniper makes to the overall flavour of gin and I hope that Master of Malt do many more events like this so that others can get a chance to taste them first hand (although, of course, you can buy them from the site too!).

My favourite of the four was easily the one made using juniper from the Netherlands, which, for me, outperformed the others in almost every cocktail. It was so complex that I preferred it without the extra botanicals and so will be drinking the rest of bottle as is.

Many thanks to everyone that has made this article possible and I look forward to Macedonia (I have heard intriguing things!) and Kosovo.

Also, watch out for our review of the Master of Malt Summer Fruit Cup (good name, eh?).

But wait! There’s more….

Ben and his Cask

As a final touch to our tasting at the Juniper Society, Ben presented us with a 50 litre barrel and asked us what our favourite of the four gins was. The majority chose the Netherlands Gin (a choice with which I agreed). We were then told that it was to be mixed in an Negroni (for aging in that very barrel) and proceeded to be asked whether we wanted to use just the juniper spirit on its own or the multi-botanical mix. A huge majority voted for the unadulterated Netherland Juniper on its own.

Mrs B and I add to the cask

Mrs B and I add to the cask

We all got a chance to pour in some of the ingredients and sign the cask and were then given a little stub (we have 00006 and 00007), which entitles us to a glass of the 1 Year Old Negroni at the Juniper Society’s third birthday in 2013. The barrel is now proudly displayed on the bar at Graphic.

Master of Malt Origin Gins are available at £34.95 a bottle (71cl) from  their website.

Special thanks to Ben, Cat and Rhyan of Master of Malt, Adam & Sarah of The Juniper society and zack and his team at Graphic Bar.

Master of Malt Single Estate Origin Gins – Part I

A lot has changed since Mrs. B & I first made our way up to London for the first ever Juniper Society (the launch of SW4 Gin) in July 2010; since then, we have written a plethora of articles, contributed to trade magazines and I’m now writer-in-residence for Graphic Bar, the very location of that first meeting.

An artist’s impressionof the Professor – sketched on the back of an envelope.

As such, it was with considerable anticipation that I travelled up to London for the 2nd birthday party to celebrate this special group of people. Of course, if you are looking for special and unique products, then look no further than Master of Malt, the drinks and spirits shop that are now pioneering a new wave of drink innovation with their in-house products. The revolution is spearheaded by Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, whose crazy concoctions we have written about on a number of occasions.

Today’s focus is on Master of Malt’s new range of Single Estate Gins, which are the brainchild of Ben Ellefsen, their Sales Director (I like to think of him more as Head of Innovation). Whilst he was making his Bathtub Gin, he uncovered inconsistencies in the batches of juniper that he was using, even though his supplier insisted they were from the same country. Sadly, they could not be more precise regarding the exact origin of the berries and, thus, a project was born.

Even Holmes struggles with this mystery bottle.

Even Holmes struggles with this mystery bottle.

Ben set out to source quality juniper berries that could be traced back to a much narrower area. A bounty was placed on such juniper and advertised on the Master of Malt website. After a lot of leg work from Ben and his team, the first four Single Estate Gins are finally ready.

Each bottle contains 700ml of Juniper Spirit (or single botanical gin, if you will); the juniper of which all comes from a single geographical source. The actual species of the berries (Juniperus Communis) is constant throughout. Each bottle is also accompanied by a small 10ml vial, but I’ll write more on that in part 2 of this article. For now, here are my tasting notes for the four Single Estate Gins.


1) BULGARIA – VELIKI PRESLAV


i) On its own
Nose: Full and leafy, with fresh, ripe juniper and some citrus. This is bursting with character and very inviting.
Taste: There’s an initial smoothness with a touch of citrus, followed by sweetness in the middle. This then moves towards an earthy bitterness, including dark chocolate on the finish, as well as a slight pepperiness.

ii) Gin & Tonic
Crisp, fresh and leafy green. There’s a distinctive taste of fresh juniper berries, along with a dash of citrus and a touch of lavender. This could probably do with a garnish, just to perfect it.

iii) Martini
Creamy, but with the juniper family’s recognisable leafy-green flavours. It’s definitely dry, but manages to retain its creaminess; very distinctive.

iv) Negroni
A relatively sweet drink; a touch syrupy, with a pronounced bitter finish. Good level of dryness. Classic in style, but perhaps a little lacking in depth. There’s a coffee or chocolate-like bitterness towards the end.


2) NETHERLANDS – MEPPEL


i) On its own
Nose: Deep piney and resinous juniper notes, with a slight nuttiness. A mix of savoury, citrus and floral notes gives this a full and very complex flavour, especially given that it is only one botanical.
Taste: Silky to begin; a little creamy, quite thick and rich. There is a lot going on, but the balance of the various notes is good. Coriander pops up halfway through. This is easily as complex as many other gins, which, given that it’s all from the juniper, is incredible, really.

ii) Gin &Tonic
Quite a citrusy Gin & Tonic with a touch of hazelnut. Very fresh and deliciously crisp. This is a drink that easily competes with the best of them – rather superb!

iii) Martini
A well-rounded Martini: clean and crisp, with notable some herbal notes in addition to those of the juniper. A hint of dry bitterness on the finish. This is a very Classic Martini, with a long fresh finish. Very good.

iv) Negroni
Smooth and fruity with a good bittersweet balance, I think this is quite accessible. Fans of Negronis will be content and it may even convert some very reluctant drinkers of Campari.
It’s smoothness makes it very easy to drink, but it’s still packed full of flavour.


3) ALBANIA – VALBONE


i) On its own
Nose: More subtle than the previous two; the juniper is lighter, but still clearly there and accompanied by floral notes, such as violet. The whole spirit seems rather confectionary, with a biscuity spiciness (maybe cayenne pepper) and hints of sweet liquorice and coconut.
Taste: Soft and smooth. There’s some juniper, but the spirit seems sweeter than the previous two, although obviously not sugary. The sweetness is a botanical one and actually reminded some of the Jolly Gin Fellows of varieties of Old Tom Gin; perhaps this gin would make a good base for one? Sweet citrus and liquorice root on the finish.

ii) Gin &Tonic
A real departure from the previous two, showing how much of a difference the berries make. This drink is lighter and cleaner, although, as such, it doesn’t stand up so well to the tonic water. Overall, this is still a pleasant drink with a dry, juniper finish.

iii) Martini
A silky Martini, although the juniper seems a lot less prominent – it’s almost as if this is 50/50 mix of a gin and vodka Martini. Subtle and a touch on the sweet side (that liquorice again!), but by no means a bad drink.

iv) Negroni
This starts with a gentle, earthy bitterness. It’s not very sweet, but there’s a good dose of herbal flavours, along with some deep, spicy notes. On reflection, this is quite a gentle Negroni that is much improved with a slice of orange.


4) ITALY – AREZZO


i) On its own
Nose: A clean nose of dry, zesty juniper, like pine needles; reminds me of a forest after its been raining.
Taste: The green pine continues to remind me of a forest. There is also a hint of vanilla, a creamy smoothness and a touch of lemon peel.

ii) Gin &Tonic
This was a rather a powerful Gin & Tonic, so if you like your drinks to be made with a powerful gin, then this is for you! Definitely a no-nonsense drink: juniper, quinine, and bubbles, making for great refreshment.

iii) Martini
A very clean and ultra-smooth Martini that adds a little warmth to the stomach once you have swallowed it. This is a drink that really makes an impact and, in my opinion, explains why Martinis are sometimes said to remind people of the purity of diamonds.

iv) Negroni
Quite a sweet Negroni, but with some bitterness at the end. Quite good, but maybe a touch too syrupy. A zesty garnish should perks things up, though.

There are also plans to add a fifth and sixth locational variety (Macedonia and Kosovo), but, for the moment, this ends Part One; Part Two can be found here.

Master of Malt Origin Gins are available at £34.95 a bottle (71cl) from  their website.

Master of Malt’s – SECRET LEAP YEAR COCKTAIL!

Recently, I got a surprise packet in the post from the folks at Master of Malt. The contents: a new product from The Handmade Cocktail Company’s Experimental Series. The title:

“Secret Leap Year Cocktail”

The accompanying letter told me that this is a special bottled cocktail available for sale for one day only (29th February; a day we only get once every four years). The cocktail contains five mystery ingredients and anyone who purchases a bottle gets a chance to guess what they are. The author of the suggestion that is closest to the truth will get the honour of naming the cocktail when it is released for general sale later in the year.

In addition to being able to name a cocktail, the winner will also receive 20cl bottles of the seven bottled vintage cocktails currently sold by the Handmade Cocktail Company:

Martinez
Old Fashioned
Manhattan
Negroni
World’s Best Cocktail (Sazerac)
Gin Martini

Rob Roy

[Click on the names to see our reviews]

Mrs. B and I tried the cocktail and we thought it was rather tasty. Naturally, we’re not going to give our tasting notes, as that is all part of the competition, but I will give you a clue in that it reminded us both of some products that my wife often “muses over.”

The cocktail will be released for sale tomorrow (Wednesday 29th February) for one day only and is available on the Master of Malt website.