Cocktails wtih… Kirsty’s Gin from Arbikie

Arbikie Gin aka Kirsty’s Gin is named after distiller Kirsty Black who created the recipe for the gin. Unusually Arbikie don’t just distill the botanicals but they actually make the base spirit used to make the gin which is the same spirit as their potato vodka.


This spirit is distilled in Inverkeilor, Angus, Scotland and is made from Maris Piper, King Edward and Cultra varieties of potatoes.

The botanicals used in the gin include kelp, carline thistle & bilberry

The gin is bottled at 43.0% ABV

Potato based is quite tricky to get right and often a perfumed fruitiness can overwhelm the botanical so I was very keen to try this one.

On its own
Nose: Citrus and juniper, as well as bright, aromatic coriander, followed by some soft, herbal notes.
Taste: A full texture with some rich, dry fruit notes upfront, followed by pepper spice, sparkling juniper, and zesty citrus. A full-bodied gin with excellent balance and intensity.

Gin & Tonic
Packed full of flavour, with vibrant, woody juniper notes as well as some sweet, herbal notes and a little fruitiness, all before a clean, bitter finish and a touch of cedar.

This is a drink with a certain brilliance, especially when served ice cold. The juniper bursts forth, before being followed by a smooth, plump texture, hints of spice, pepper, and citrus. It leaves you with a delightful glow.

Arbikie Gin makes a fruity and relatively sweet Negroni with a body of plump stone fruit, followed by dark chocolate and coffee notes, then an earthy bitterness on the finish.

In Conclusion
Arbikie is a shining example of a potato-based gin. In fact, it’s one of the best that I have ever tasted. It has an excellent balance between the character of its botanicals and that of the base spirit. My favourite drink was the Martini.


Cocktails with… Heston Blumenthal’s Lemon and Earl Grey Gin from Waitrose

It’s been a bit of a Chase Gin week here on SummerFruitCup and today, whilst mooching along to our local Waitrose, Mrs. B. informed me that the Heston Gin has now arrived.*

‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is a designed specifically for Waitrose by Heston Blumenthal and is manufactured by Chase Distillery. Like the new Great British Gin, this Waitrose-exclusive spirit is potato-based (and packaged in the same bottle) and is made using an array of 7 classic botanicals**. The gin is additionally infused with lemon and Earl Grey tea.*** It is bottled at 40%ABV and specifies its suitability for vegetarians on the label.

On its own:
Nose: Simply upon opening the bottle, the smell of the gin burst out: zesty, but sour lemon is followed by wet tea. Overall, it has the feeling of lemon tea, but could be better.
Taste: Smooth up front, very fragrant and very citrusy, with floral tea notes. There’s some coriander, too, but where this gin really stands out is with the lovely Earl Grey tea finish, which is long and delicious. With a drop of water, distinctly piney juniper and a sweet element of liquorice also pop up.

Gin & Tonic
This drink is really the litmus test for this gin, which is primarily designed for the off-trade market and, more specifically, the supermarket shoppers of Waitrose, the majority of whom consume their gin with a splash of tonic water.

A resounding pass with flying colours. Refreshing and zesty, it has some floral tea and orange elements, plus a hint of lemon verbena. I think that a nice, clean (not citrusy) tonic works best; Fevertree or Schweppes work well, although I’d be keen to try it with Fevertree Mediterranean or 1724 for a more herbal twist.

I initially tried it at 2:1 ratio, but also really like it at greater dilutions: 3:1 or 4:1. The drink still works for those who like a little more tonic, but, personally, I think I’ll stick to the 2:1.

Very lemony, with some orange blossom, as well as a crisp dryness from the tea. When I made the Martini (stirred), the gin seemed to have slightly louched, which gave it a misty appearance. I like the flavour of this cocktail: it’s quite complex, but I think that some will find it overly pungent.

This makes an odd Negroni, which is quite soft initially, with floral citrus notes. The nose is very vegetal and, for me, a bit off-putting. There’s some bitterness at the end, but the cocktail overall doesn’t really work for me.

In Conclusion
Heston Gin had a lot to live up to, as I’d eagerly anticipated it for several weeks now. Noticeably, by adding flavours to a classic gin make-up and increasing the floral elements, they have produced a gin that is more like some of the contemporary varieties coming out of the USA or Australia.
Given these changes, I found that the gin doesn’t fit into all classic gin cocktails, but, with some tailoring, I think you could get some good results. It will probably lend itself well to some Spring cocktails, too.
As a cocktail ingredient, there is not a lot out there that can rival it (the Spectator Gin is less perfumed) in terms of application and, with some experimentation, some great drinks could be created.
In reality, any gin aimed at supermarket shoppers will be judged by how it works in a Gin & Tonic and Heston’s in works well, giving a slight twist to a familiar drink.

‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is available exclusively from Waitrose Stores for around £22 for 70cl.

*The Heston Gin as I have eagerly awaited its arrival.
** Including Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Citrus Peel, Orris Root, Liquorice and Almond.
*** Heston seems quite keen on using tea to flavour things – I am quite fond of the Lapsang Salmon.
*** Interestingly, last night, I was tasting some of the MasterofMalt Spectator Gin that also uses lemon (this time lemon balm) and Earl Grey tea as an infusion with the spirit.

Cocktails with… Chase Great British – Extra Dry Gin

As someone who is enthusiastic about many styles of gin, I have an interest in innovative and unusual juniper products, including any variety that deviates from using bought-in Neutral Grain Spirit (NGS) as its spirit base.

Spirit bases made in-house can be produced from a range of new ingredients, from grapes to grain (of the terroir kind) and from apples to honey; some folk assert that gin is best when made with NGS, but I think that the gins that use new make do have their own value. Such is the case with the new gin from Chase, Chase Great British Extra Dry (40%ABV), which is based on potato spirit.

I have already reviewed three gins that use potatoes as their spirit base and Chase experimented with potato-based gin a few years back, but, when the result was not up to their specifications, they instead used it in their first batch of sloe gin. In 2012, Chase have perfected their potato spirit base for gin and, as a result, have released William Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin.

Made with the Spanish Market in mind (a leading world consumer of gin), the gin is bottled at 40%ABV and contains a mix of 9 botanicals:

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Dry juniper with zesty citrus (orange) and then some warm, spicy notes, making this complex and full.
Taste: Juniper to start and some dark, bitter chocolate and citrus zest. This is followed by warm, spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

2) Gin & Tonic
This is a tasty and spicy Gin & Tonic, full of flavours of nutmeg and ginger. It reminds me of the likes of Portobello or Knickerbocker Gin. In this drink, the fact that the gin is potato-based is also imperceivable, apart from a slight succulence, which you would normally attribute to a potato gin’s fruitiness. Tasty and refreshing.

3) Martini
Crisp juniper to start, followed by some warm, spicy notes, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as ginger, which give the impression of a dry Martini with a tasty, gingerbread finish. Unusual, but very moreish.

4) Negroni
Spicy notes on the nose, which are very inviting. Flavour-wise, some initial, juicy juniper is followed by sweeter spicy notes, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and then some citrus. This cocktail is smooth and has an excellent bitter-sweet balance; simply superb.

5) Sweet Martini
The deep sweet and herbal flavours of the red vermouth are a natural match for the sweet spiciness of this gin. The dry juniper gives the drink a clean backdrop and stops it from becoming sickly. This is very tasty and comforting, too, and, on a wet Sunday afternoon like this one, with winter knocking at the door, it is just what I need.

In Conclusion

Having tried other potato-spirit based gins, the purity of Chase’s Great British Extra Dry Gin is unparalleled and there is no feeling of inferior quality to the spirit. The balance of botanicals is of a good standard, although there is certainly more emphasis on spice than in many other gins. However, that does mean that the gin adds more character to drinks and is less easily drowned out by other ingredients. The Negroni and Sweet Martini were highlights and I think that this will shine in almost any cocktail containing red vermouth.

Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin is available from VodkaEmporium for around £26 for 70cl.

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.