Cocktails with… Whittaker’s Gin

Today’s review has a special focus on one distillery: Harrogate Distillery and their award-winning gin brand, Whittaker’s. The distillery was started by Jane and Toby Whittaker in 2015 and is based in Nidderdale, Yorkshire. Whilst only two years old, the distillery has already released an exciting selection of gins.

Whittakers Gin FINAL

Whittaker’s Original (42.0% ABV)

A classic and smooth gin made with neutral grain spirit and a botanical mix that includes:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Lemon
Hawthorne Berries
Bilberries
Bog Myrtle
Garden Thyme

On its own
Nose: An intense, botanical nose that bursts forth from the glass. There is a vibrant mix of juniper and pine notes, from juicy berries and crisp pine needles to fragrant notes of blossom.
Taste: This gin has a lovely, dry flavour with just a touch of sweetness at the end. It has an excellent texture: very smooth with minimal heat – just enough to to add boldness to the flavour profile. Rich and complex juniper notes are complemented by citrus, warm spice, and then fruity berry notes that add both that slight sweetness and also a little tartness and zing. The finish is long and lingering. All-in-all, this is a classic gin that has its own distinguishing flair – delicious!

Gin & Tonic
Beautiful resinous juniper upfront, adding a bright “sparkle” to this drink from the start. A little citrus follows, then the fruity notes of dried berries. A balanced and exceptionally refreshing drink.

Martini
This Martini is wonderfully bright, with beautiful pine and juniper notes – crisp and fragrant – that make the cocktail really sing. Dryer flavours follow, working well alongside the powerful juniper, before a touch of more fruity notes on the finish.

Negroni
Exceptionally smooth. Again, beautifully rich juniper notes come through, bringing with them hints of citrus and coriander. These are followed by a fruity tartness from the berries, which makes this an unusual Negroni, but are also a fantastic addition. Finishing up, this cocktail keeps its classic, mellow bittersweetness.

Whittakers Navy Gin FINAL

Whittakers Navy Strength (57.0% ABV)

A higher ABV version of their original gin with the same botanical mix, but a slight adjustment of the botanical balance.

On its own
Nose: Earthy, with a light, sweet florality.
Taste: Very resinous: the juniper absolutely bursts through in this gin, which helps to give you a full appreciation of the berry: from its lighter, floral notes all the way through to deep, soapy cedar.

With Fever-Tree Tonic
A particularly herbal Gin & Tonic with bready notes before a biscuity spice and hints of coriander. Jammy berry notes then develop, before a dry finish that makes this a bold and yet thoroughly refreshing drink.

Martini
Bold and very zesty, with bright, deep, and resinous notes of cedar and juniper. The floral finish is long and lingering, neatly balancing and complementing that juniper. This is a powerful example of a classic Gin Martini; one that should be served very cold and, because of its great sippability, enjoyed sparingly.

Negroni
A citrus and coriander-forward Negroni with a great level of zestiness. This has a perfect intensity of flavour and would make a good aperitif.

Whittakers Clearly Sloe Gin FINAL

Whittaker’s Clearly Sloe

A modern take on the sloe gin. Sloe berries are infused or macerated in the Whittaker’s Original Gin for six months, before the liquid is redistilled with a little liquorice. The resultant gin retains much of the character of the sloes, but none of the colour. Unlike most sloe gins, it is unsweetened.

On its own
Nose: A fantastic nose full of the rich, slightly tart notes of the sloe berry coming through, along with more jammy berry notes and an aromatic nuttiness.
Taste: Sloe berry comes through again on the palate, along with deep, resinous juniper notes. A little sweetness from the fruit followed, accompanied by a touch of marzipan. This is an absolutely superb spirit and a great example of a distilled sloe gin.

With Fever-Tree Tonic
The sloe berry flavours shine through: sweet and jammy with just a little tartness, followed by light, floral almond flavours and a fresh, citrus finish.

Martini
This is a superb cocktail that tastes just like an extra dry sloe gin: bold and resinous juniper to start, which develops into the bright stone fruit flavours of the berries. Delicious!

Negroni
The sloe berries really shine through in this cocktail – there is a lovely combination of the dry fruitiness and sweet almond & marzipan, all with a restrained bitterness. This is a totally different take on the Negroni, but a fantastic one.

In Conclusion

Whittaker’s have crafted a superb selection of gins with significant range, whilst keeping an apparent house-style. The imaginations of Toby and Jane really come through in their products and, whilst I enjoy all of the spirits, I always find myself drawn back to their original London Dry Gin.

If you want to try the full range, including their contemporary Pink Particular Gin, I can heartily recommend the gift pack of four 20cl bottles available on their website:
https://www.whittakersgin.com/shop/product/36378/Whittaker039-s-Gin-4-x-20cl-Gift-Pack/

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Cocktails with… Darnley’s Spiced Gin Navy Strength Edition

Following on from the recent review of 6 O’Clock Brunel Edition comes another, high-strength and spicy gin – this time from Darnley’s of Scotland, who have released their spiced Navy-strength gin.

Bottled at 57.1% ABV, the gin is made using the same botanicals as the original Spiced Gin, but with an extra boost of juniper.

Darleys Spiced Navy Gin

On its own
Nose: Bold, plump juniper upfront, followed by notes of cumin and cardamom with a touch of ginger.
Taste: This is full of strong flavours, with a great oily texture that coats the tongue and has a light sweetness to it. A touch of liquorice is accompanied by warm spice: cinnamon, cassia, savoury cumin and aromatic cardamom.

Gin & Tonic
A plump and juicy Gin & Tonic that works particularly well with a wedge of orange as a garnish. The anise comes through, along with flavours of sweet cumin and hints of ginger and cardamom.

Martini
This makes a very strong Martini, as you might expect from the high ABV, but in a small, 1oz portion it is perfect as a small, but punchy pre-dinner cocktail. The spice is intense and works well with the flavours of the vermouth. Serve super-chilled; ideally, poured straight from the freezer.

Negroni
A pleasantly savoury Negroni with notes of cumin and caraway coming through, along with ginger. This gin gives the drink a light salinity, whilst also keeping the classic bitter-sweetness of the other ingredients in check.

With Cola
The exotic spice notes work especially well with the cola and the strong botanical flavours that come from the Navy-strength really stand up to the mixer. This is a great example of a Gin & Cola.

In Conclusion
I think Darnley’s Spiced Gin works particularly well at a higher ABV and the extra juniper gives the gin an added boost. My favourite drinks were the mini, yet potent Martini and – surprisingly – the gin mixed with cola.

Cocktails with Genius Navy Strength Gin

A few weeks back, I reviewed Genius Gin from Texas, courtesy of a sample provided by Aaron from TheGinIsIn.com (America’s Gin website). Today, I am reviewing Genius Gin Navy Strength after the folk at Genius Distillery were kind enough to send me a bottle.

Genius Gin Navy FINAL

On its own
Nose: Clean, with a little sweetness that comes from the can base spirit; it is almost reminiscent of a white rum. There is also a little creamy spice, followed by dry citrus.
Taste: A full flavour, with a rich mouthfeel. Initially, there’s a thick, creamy sweetness, which moves to some of the more traditional gin flavours: juniper, angelica and coriander. There is then a touch of spice, before a powerful, long and lingering, dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
A flavoursome Gin & Tonic, with coriander and some sweetness, as well as hints of nut, almond and fresh, crisp pear. A powerful and very refreshing drink – lime would be my choice of garnish. Lovely.

Martini
A smooth and silky Martini with a little sweetness but then also some dry fruit and nuttiness that provides a slight hint of bitterness. There are also some earthy herbal elements which I think means the gin could easily lend itself to an olive garnish, although both lemon peel or a Dickens serve (no olive or twist) work well, too. The botanical flavours are there, but this is certainly less intense than a Martini made with a very traditional gin like Tanqueray. Pretty good stuff.

Negroni
A powerful drink, with the extra ABV providing a bolder botanical flavour that has plenty of juniper and citrus, as well as some dark chocolate and intense, bitter, herbal elements towards the end. The finish is long, dry and lingering.

Gimlet

A clean drink with plenty of vanilla and lime – clean, crisp and a lovely example of a more contemporary twist in the Gimlet – smooth without being overly cloying.

In Conclusion
Genius Navy Gin is a great example of how the ABV can impact upon the flavour of a spirit and is a good illustration of the different characteristics that a Navy Gin can add to drinks when mixing. My favourite drink was the Negroini.

Cocktails with… Sipsmith VJOP 57.7% ABV

Sometimes in the world of gin you get some really nice surprises. One such surprise was when I went to pick up a bottle of Sipsmith VJOP #2 for my talk on “The Craft of Gin” at the Boutique Bar Show a few weeks back. For those that are interested, I reviewed that gin here.

Given my fondness for high-strength gins, imagine my excitement when I was speaking to James from Sipsmith and he told me that, instead of the 52.0% ABV version that I was expecting, I would be getting one at 57.7% ABV.

This new variety is made with extra juniper (like the other two VJOPs), but will be exclusively for the UK on-trade; a little thank you for all of the support that bartenders have shown Sipsmith.

SipSmith_VJOP_HI

On its own
Nose: Strong juniper, floral citrus, and coriander. Big and bold.
Taste: For 57.7% ABV, this is remarkably smooth and sippable. The warmth only really comes through right at the end. A lovely spirit: powerful and moreish.

Gin & Tonic
Delicious, big, bold juniper, plus some citrus. This gin will stand up to almost any tonic to create a tasty, refreshing and moreish drink.

Martini
A truly classic Martini: strong, rich, punchy, and packed with juniper. Absolutely perfect before dinner, especially if made using the Diamond Pour method (just have one!), when – without the dilution of the ice, you get a lovely, viscous cocktail. My recommendation for a garnish would be a citrus twist of your choice.

Negroni
This gin makes a juicy Negroni with citrus upfront, followed by bold, slightly sappy juniper and pine. Clean, bold, and delicious.

In Conclusion
I’ve tried the 52.0% ABV version of Sipsmith before and was impressed, but this version at 57.7% ABV (a navy strength gin) really hits the spot for me. I love how bold it is, that it has such a complexity of flavour, and that it mixes really well. One of my new favourites.

 

Cocktails with… Bathtub Cask Aged Gin (Navy Strength)

This week will feature a variety of article focused on yellow gin/aged gin, in 2011, I made a prediction that 2012 would be the year of aged/yellow/matured gin but although there were a few new products 2013 has really been the year of yellow gin and my predictions seem to have been 12 months early.

This article will feature Bathtub Navy Gin, which by my reckoning is the first aged gin commercial available.* This is an aged version of the navy strength Bathtub gin we tasted at out navy strength tasting.

BathtubCask-agedGinNavystrengthbottle

On its own
Colour: Dark, rich gold.
Nose: Dry Christmas spice: cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg and cloves, but a little woody vanilla, too. Softer than the nose for the regular Bathtub Navy.
Taste: Superb – has a texture that just expands in your mouth; something that’s really rather different. It’s also rather smooth for 57% ABV. There’s lots of spice upfront, with a slight confectionery quality, too, reminding me of Easter cake or a Tiffin Slice (essentially, light Christmas pudding). Finally, there’s an unusual finish of sarsaparilla, cherry and almond, with just a hint of pine sap.

Gin Tonic
Looks like fizzy pastis, but has a rather nice flavour. I’m reminded again of pastis, as the spice flavour comes through: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and a little anise. There are notes of vanilla, too, as well as a dry finish. In terms of flavour and appearance, this is a very unusual and herbal Gin & Tonic, but it definitely has something going for it and I’ll certainly have another. Mrs. B found it delightful, too.

Martini
A beautiful Martini, golden in colour and very intense and fragrant. There’s dry juniper, then some sweet vanilla and cardamom, followed by oak vanilla notes and some winter spice, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is green, herbal and slightly leafy. Very, very flavourful and really rather lovely – invigorating, even.

Negroni
To start, there’s an intriguing rosemary nose, but then when to taste it, boy! does this make a super Negroni. You get the woody vanilla notes upfront, followed by the nutmeg and cassia spice. Then there are some more herbal notes, the dry juniper and – finally – the deep, dark, more intensely bitter herbal notes that are normally associated with the Negroni. This drink certainly has impact and is one for the Negroni fan.

Cask-Aged Gin Navy-Strength is available from Master of Malt for around £35 for 50cl.

*NY DIstilling Barrel-aged their Perry’s Tot but do not sell it by the bottle.

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.