Cocktails with… Cold River Gin

Cold River Gin was launched in August 2010 and is distilled at Maine Distilleries’ facility in Freeport, Maine. One very distinctive thing about it, apart from the attractive bottle, is that it uses potato as its spirit base. These potatoes are grown on the owners’ farm, Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg, Maine. I have only ever reviewed two other dry gins that were potato-based and one sloe gin.

Cold River Gin is made using seven botanicals:

The gin is cut down to 47% ABV by adding water drawn from the Cold River Aquifer at the Green Thumb Farms.

On its own
Nose: Sweet, creamy vanilla, salted caramel, butterscotch and a floral flair.
Taste: Intense spirit-wise, this is perfumed and floral. There’s juniper in the middle, with notes of violet and a touch of salt and butterscotch. There’s a tingle at the end, along with a fruitiness reminiscent of other [potato based gins].

Gin & Tonic
Sweet and floral, reminiscent of bergamot orange and earl grey tea. The unusual alcohol base makes it more fruity and juicy than other Gin & Tonics, and reminds me of those made with Larry’s Gin. Rather left field.

This makes a floral Martini with a good amount of fruitiness followed by some more bitter, earthy notes, like dark chocolate. There’s also a little black pepper spiciness, too.

A very reasonable Negroni, but one that is also quite floral, sweet and fruity. There’s a touch of anise, but it’s not as smooth as it might be. It’s less bitter and more sweet than the usual Negroni, with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweet spice.

In Conclusion
Cold River is a rather different gin, fruity and very contemporary in style. If you want to know what a potato-based gin tastes like this is one to try. It works well in some cocktails but I think some of classics need some tweaking to compensate for this gins unusual characteristics.

Cocktails with… Larry’s Gin

For today’s World of Gin, not only do we have a Finnish Gin (a country well-known for its vodka and Suomi), but also a potato-based gin. I know of only one other: Cold River from Maine, USA;
most gins are grain-based, using either:

Wheat (e.g. Broker’s)

Corn (e.g. Iceberg)

Rye (e.g. Aviation)

or a mix of grain (e.g Gordon’s).

There are exceptions, of course, that use other non-grain bases:

G-Vine – Grapes

Cap Rock – Apples

Waitrose Essential – Molasses.

I even know of one gin this is based on whey.

But today we are looking at Larry’s Gin. Larry’s Gin is made by Shaman Spirits Ltd. in Finland, using water from Lapland. It is distilled four times. Two varieties are made:

Premium (Pink Label) – 38% ABV – 60% of its alcohol comes from potatoes.
Vintage (Yellow& Black Label) – 40% ABV – 80% of its alcohol comes from potatoes.

Now, how does it taste? We shall be focusing primarily on the Vintage Gin, but as Larry (himself) was kind enough to send me some Premium, too, there will be a little featurette on that at the end.

At the recent Imbibe show, I took my bottle of Vintage along to give some gin fans a try (all were fascinated to try a potato-based gin), including some industry experts. It was a polarising spirit, with people either really liking it, or not, but the majority found it fascinating, clean and fruity.

Larry’s Gin & Schweppes Tonic

Gin & Tonic
I like the attention to detail that has been given to the Gin & Tonic garnishes for Larry’s; each tonic has its own signature garnish:

Schweppes – Lime & Strawberry
1724 – Orange Twist
Fevertree – Maldon Salt, Strawberry & Lime
I tried the Schweppes with Strawberry & Lime
The fruit garnish goes rather well with the fruitiness of the spirit. Visually, the drink is stunning and if you were to serve this to someone in a bar, they would almost certainly be impressed. Most importantly, it tasted great and was exceptionally refreshing.
Larry’s Strawberry Smash
Inspired by the Schweppes Gin & Tonic, I lightly muddled the strawberries in the cocktail shaker with the gin and lime juice. I then shook it vigorously with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. The resultI also found that adding an equal amount of tonic to the finished cocktail led to a more refreshing long drink, with a little more zing & pep.

Larry’s Strawberry Smash

I tried this in a 4:1 ratio with Dolin Dry Vermouth. A good drink that was subtle on the juniper. The character is mid-way between a gin and a vodka Martini. Very cold, with a little sweetness.

Pink Gin
Soft and sweet with a hint of juniper and herbs and a finish of almond, rose and vanilla. Unusual, but good.

Sweeter than usual to start, this drink then has a bitter come-down courtesy of the Campari. Quite good; quite smooth, but the flavour of gin is lost.

Gin Bump
Rather lovely: thirst-quenching, with fruity and faint vanilla notes, which reminds me of poteen. Creamy and even better with a slice of lime.

Taste: Soft & fruity, with juniper and pine. There’s also a sherbet-like sweet lemon note and a hint of chocolate towards the end.

Gin & Tonic
Rather fruity, with a touch of vanilla. The combination of flavours of juniper and jam make this drink quite tasty.

Cool and floral, with some hints of herbs such as rosemary. A clean martini.

Pink Gin
Initially, soft and well-rounded, a little sweet and a bit fruity. The gin works well with the bitters to create a tasty drink with a pleasant touch of alcohol warmth at the end.

In Conclusion
I think that Larry’s Gin is a step away from the flavour profile of Classic London Dry Gin, but it is not so far removed that you don’t realise what you are drinking.

I found the potato base-alcohol very interesting and, when tasting it with another potato-based gins, there were certainly some similarities, however I think a wider tasting is needed to confirm this.

I thought both gins worked very well in Gin & Tonics and, with their unusual characteristics, it would be good to experiment using them in more contemporary gin cocktails; a Lavender Martini has been suggested.*

If you are not such a fan of the classic-style of gin, then this may be worth checking out. The juniper is still there, but it is rather less intense and softly complemented by the fruitiness of the spirit.

*Thanks to Tim of The Office for this.