Cocktails with… Sipsmith House of Commons Gin

The Visitors Centre in the House of Commons has a plethora of gifts available for purchase, from tea towels to jigsaws, postcards to teddy bears. They also sell booze: a variety of spirits, wine, and beer. Recently, Sipsmith were awarded the contract to provide the “House of Commons” Gin. Excitingly, this is bottled at 40.7% ABV, which is lower than their standard 41.6% ABV. This lower ABV results in a different flavour.

House of Commons Sipsmith Gin FINAL

On its own
Nose: Citrus and vanilla, with a great selection of rich, plummy fruit notes and pine jelly.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth palate, with notes of spicy coriander upfront, as well as some earthy floral notes, before creamy citrus and a long, dry finish with just a hint of black pepper. Overall, this is a complex, smooth, and very accessible spirit.

Gin & Tonic
A sparkly nose with a little spice and pepper, with citrus and angelica. This is a luscious Gin & Tonic: delicate, fresh, smooth, succulent, and oh so refreshing, with a fine lemon flavour running throughout. Light and everything you could want from a Gin & Tonic.

Martini
A smooth and full-textured drink with a hint of sweetness and citrus, before a clean, crisp, and dry finish. Easy to drink, but with a powerful character.

Negroni
A well-integrated, mellow, and soft Negroni. Accessible, even to those who are not usually Negroni fans. There is a very crisp, gently sharp note of juniper, before light spice and the signature herbal bitterness of the cocktail come into play.

In Conclusion
Th gin worked well in all drinks providing a more mellow gin flavour to the other higher ABV Sipsmiths. An excellent gin for lunchtime or the afternoon. My favourite drink was the gin tonic.

Sipsmith House of Commons Gin (Available exclusively from the Jubilee Gift Shop (the one inside Parliament) £28 for 70cl, 40.7% ABV)

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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.

 

Speed Tasting – An Introduction to 11 Boutique Gins

The Boutique Bar Show London is only 2 weeks away (21-22 Sept) and, as usual, will feature a plethora of Boutique drinks brand exhibitors as well as a host of other features. This includes talks, competitions and new product launches.*

The recent boom in new gins coming to market has been led by a range of diverse boutique gins. In preparation for this year’s show, a tasting of Boutique Gins was held at the Graphic Gin Bar, Soho.

In addition to the six gins at the tasting, I have included notes for other gins who will be exhibiting over the two days. Further details can be found here.

To review five gins in the three true tests of a gin (neat, in a G&T and in a Martini) would lead to a mammoth article, so I have, instead, gone with a simple, three word review for each.

Adnams First Rate

From the famous Norfolk Brewers, Adnam’s is available in two varieties: one with 6 botanicals (40% ABV) and another with 13 botanicals (48% ABV); it is this latter “First Rate Gin” that is featured below.

Own: Juniper Spicy Flavourful
Gin & Tonic: Cardamon Cooling Dry
Martini: Classic Dry Floral

Hoxton Gin

It is safe to say that Hoxton Gin takes the traditional gin lover out of their comfort zone. Grapefruit and taragon are not unknown in the world of gin botanicals, but coconut is the real wildcard. Hoxton was developed by Gerry Calabrese as his vision of a gin for the new millennium.

Own: Flamboyant Tropical Confectionery
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Twisted Coconut
Martini: Creamy Coconut Citrus

Gin Mare

Another gin with unusual botanicals can be found in the Mediterranean Gin Mare from Spain. Each of the 10 botanicals is distilled separately and then blended to ensure a better balance. Signature botanicals include: thyme, rosemary, basil and, unusually, olive.

Own: Savory Herbal Intense
Gin & Tonic: Rich Dry Refreshing
Martini: Complex Contemporary “Can-I-Have-Another?”

Iceberg

With Iceberg Gin, it’s all about the purity of the water, which comes from North Atlantic icebergs. The brand considers this to be the least polluted water on earth. Iceberg is a 100% corn-based spirit and has 6 botanicals, including coriander, bark and pepper.

Own: Silky Smooth Earthy
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Clean Zesty
Martini: Pure Subtle Sophisticated

Edgerton Pink

Edgerton Pink is one of the more distinctive gins on the market, not least because it’s pink. Created by the same folks behind London Blue Gin, it is flavoured and coloured with pomegranate. It is produced at Thames Distillery using 14 botanicals including nutmeg, damiana and Grain of Paradise.

Own: Jammy Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Fruity Florid
Martini: Unusual Lasting Berries

Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh Gin is a Scottish, Art-Deco-styled spirit is made by Spencerfield, the folks behind Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose Whisky. Edinburgh Gin takes pride from its Caledonian heritage and uses Scottish grain alcohol as well as Scottish botanicals such as milk thistle and heather.

Own: Soft Spicy Festive
Gin & Tonic: Juicy Fresh Cinnamon
Martini: Crisp Creamy Nutmeg

Ish Gin

Modern meets traditional with Ish Gin, a Classic London Dry style with contemporary packaging and an extra boost of juniper for old-school gin lovers. Ish is bottled at 41% ABV, made at Thames Distillers and contains 12 botanicals.

Own: Bold Warm Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Dry Refreshing Flavoursome
Martini: Crisp Fresh Juniper

Sipsmith Gin

Made in the heart of Hammersmith, Sipsmith Gin is produced in one of only four operational gin distilleries in London. The gin contains ten classic botanicals and is bottled at 41.6% ABV.

Own: Classic Balanced Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Refreshing Clean Exemplary
Martini: Powerful Juniper Citrus

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Hayman’s London Dry Gin

Created by Christopher Hayman, the great grandson of Beefeater founder James Borough, Hayman’s London Dry Gin is designed to be a very Classic London Dry and, as such, contains rather classic botanicals.

Own: London Dry Gin
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Lemon Classic
Martini: Clean Clean Crisp

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Bloom Gin

Created by Joanne Moore, the Master Distiller at Greenall’s Distillery, after she had spent several years as the custodian of the Original 1761 Greenall’s. Bloom was largely inspired by her love of gardening and, as such, contains floral botanicals such as Honeysuckle, Pomelo and Chamomile.

Own: Sweet Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Bright, Blossoming, Beautiful
Martini: Delicate Silky Floral

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Sacred Gin

Vacuum distilled in Highgate, North London; Sacred Gin is helping to bring back gin distillation to the Capital. Botanical are distilled separately and then blended to create a balanced product. Be sure to try the Cardamon “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic, it’s something of a revelation.

Own: Silky Balanced Flavoursome
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Citrus Powerful
Martini: Unusual Cardamon Lovely

London No.1 Blue Gin
This is a commercially successful gin that is exceptionally popular in Spain. It contains 13 botanicals, including Gardenia, which gives it its blue colour. This is not a London Dry Gin, as the colour is added post-distillation, but this doesn’t effect the flavour.

Own: Warm, juniper, reasonable
Gin & Tonic: Sweet, neutral, easy-to-drink
Martini: Ice-blue, cinnamon, concise

GVINE Flouraison Gin
G’Vine Gin is produced in ___ France. Rather than using the usual grain-based alcohol for its base, G Vine uses grape spirit. It also uses grapevine flower as one of its __ botanicals. In addition to the Flouriason a Nouvaison gin is made, this is at a higher strength and contains a different balance of botanicals. It reminds me strongly of the now defunct Gordon’s Distillers Cut.

Own: Dry, spicy, cardamon
Gin & Tonic: Bold, cardamon, invigorating
Martini: Sprightly, floral, cardamon

Portobello
This is a gin that was made especially for Portobello Star, a bar in Portobello Road and home of the Ginstitute Gin Museum, a small still and tasting room where visitors can make their own gin. Portobello was designed to be classic in its style with a modern twist, which comes from the inclusion of nutmeg in the botanical mix.

Own: Juniper, nutmeg, pepper
Gin & Tonic: Flavourful, fruity, spicy
Martini: Crisp, classic, contemporary

Bulldog Gin
Launched in 2007, Bulldog was originally promoted as being the perfect spirit for a Gin & Tonic and, more unusually, a Dirty Martini. It is produced at Greenalls and contains a variety of  botanicals including the rather unusual and exotic lotus leaves & dragon eye.

Own:
Gin & Tonic: Unusual, mild, juniper-light
Martini: Juniper, Coriander, Twangy

Broker’s Gin
Founded in 1998 and produced at Langley, Brokers contains 10 botanicals and, with its distinctive packaging and bowler hat bottle cap, is quintessentially English. The 47% is very popular in Export Markets and this variety won a plethora of awards.

Own: traditional, london, dry
Gin & Tonic: strong, flavourful, punchy
Martini: Textbook, clean, crisp

Knockeen Hills Heather Gin
Made at Thames Distillers and owned by the same folks behind the excellent Knockeen Hills Irish Poteen, this gin has heather as a prominent botanical, in addition to juniper t is bottled at 47.3%. Its sister gin, made using elderflower, is produced at a lower strength of 43%.

Own: smooth, creamy, floral
Gin & Tonic: Strong, flavourful, fresh
Martini: Creamy, smooth, mellow

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*At least one of the above brand are having their UK launch at Boutique London.

Sipsmith Summer Cup – Updated for 2012

So it’s time for summer again and sadly the original bottles of Sipsmith Fruit Cup have long since ben consumed amongst the smiling face of refreshed drinkers.
But fear not!
Sipsmith’s Summer Cup offering for 2012 has arrived with some bright new packaging, wider availability and great quantities, if you missed out last time now is your chance.

The new Sipsmith Summer Cup packaging for 2012 – notice the rather attractive branded cap.

Despite the new packaging the contents is just as suppable, flavourful and refreshing as the first one with almost no discernible difference to the original bottling. If anything the 2012 balance is better and the drink even more refreshing.
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I met with Sam, last year, just after the release of Sipsmith Summer Cup, a cooling Fruit Cup from the Sipsmith Distillery.* A I mentioned in a previous post I have a great fondness for all sorts of fruit cups and so I was very excited to go to the Sipsmith Distillery and try the new product.

Sam and I with the original packaging for Sipsmith Summer cup. (notice Prudence, Sipsmith’s still in the background.)

I was met by Sam and we spoke a little about the origins of Sipsmith Summer Cup; Sam said that they have wanted to create a Fruit Cup for a while, because there was something about a Fruit Cup that was different to most other drinks. I agree; to me, Fruit Cups are a different animal; they lend themselves very well to social functions, they have less of an impact than many other spirits based-drinks, and are easy to drink without being a fast-track to drunkenness.

“We wanted to make something dry, fruity, complex and balanced,” said Sam; “The key word being balanced.”

Sipsmith Summer Cup is based on Sipsmith Gin** and is bottled at 29%ABV, which brings it in-line with the “Old Pimm’s bottlings” and the rare Plymouth Fruit Cup. To the gin, they add a variety of other fruits, herb and spices, including Earl Grey tea, fresh Lemon Verbena and macerated cucumber.

The Summer Cup bottle is taller and thinner than that of their gin and vodka, and Sam explained that this was to create a lighter, leaner image for the product, reflecting the spirit that was inside. The label is familiar, if slightly stylised, and the bottle still has the distinctive thick base of the other Sipsmith products.

Sipsmith & Lemonade

The Taste

Own
Slightly opaque, with a nose of citrus, cucumber rind and herbs (maybe rosemary).
It tastes of citrus and leafy herbs, and is dry, with a hint of bitterness. There’s definitely a lot of flavour and a long finish. There is some sweetness, which is of a similar style to that of red vermouth.

Sipsmith have designed their Summer Cup to be dryer than most and this is reflected in their choice of suggested mixer: Fevertree Lemonade; this is dryer and made with cane sugar, and so is less sweet than its contemporaries. Although Sipsmith suggest simply adding “Seasonal Summer Fruits” I added Lemon, Lime, Orange and Mint. A cucumber slice works well too.

With Lemonade
Dry, herbal & complex, with flavours of citrus and cucumber rind coming through. It works well with the fruit and, in particular, the mint. It’s less sweet and more dry than most Fruit Cups and is very refreshing.
Mrs. B described it as savoury and leafy, with a hint of basil. There are some subtle tannins from the tea (especially on the finish) and a hint of bergamot; this helps to keep the drink quite dry. She also thought that it was not sickly or cloying, making it easy to drink. We both really like it.

With Ginger Ale
This was a completely different animal to the lemonade version; this mixer brings out a completely different side to the drink. It is more herbal and intense, with bitter leafy notes at the end, as well as something like cucumber rind or borage leaves.
Mrs. B thought that the flavour had a longer finish than the lemonade and was more complex, too.
Ginger ale is a great way to enjoy a different side to the Sipsmith Cup and is one of the few fruit cups I have tried where it makes a really discernible difference.

With Ice Tea
Initially, I thought this would be a really good idea, with the two tea elements working well together. The result was interesting and pretty much tastes like it has no alcohol in it. It’s not as refreshing as I thought it might be. There is clash between the iced tea (we used Lipton Lemon) and the Sipsmith Summer Cup. It’s OK, but not great; although, on further reflection, it may be right up some people’s street, especially if they like very dry drinks. For us, we’d like it a bit sweeter.

Sipsmith Summer Royale25ml Sipsmith Summer cup, Top up with Champagne.
This was recommended to me by the Sipsmith Master Distiller. If you like ti a little sweeter add a small sugar cube.
I enjoyed this drink, it was dry an herbal and far more crisp and refreshing then many champagne cocktails, the lemon verbena comes through well give the drink a  floral citrus note a similar flavour comes from the Earl Grey too.

When tasting the product on it’s own, I did notice some similarities to a home-made red vermouth that I created for our Red Vermouth tasting, and this made me start to think about using the Fruit Cup as a substitute for vermouth. Sam seemed to be inspired by this idea when I mentioned it to him, and started searching for pen and paper so as not to forget it. Here are some of my experiments, once I got home:

Negroni Equal parts Sipsmith Summer Cup, Sipsmith Gin and Campari
The nose was herbaceous, intense, and slightly bitter. It tasted soft, smooth and bitter-sweet; more floral and even more intense than a normal Negroni. There was also a little touch of cucumber and it was quite dry, with a good level of fresh bitterness. Mrs. B is not a Negroni fan, but she quite liked this and thought that it would make a “nice aperitif”.

Manhattan 2 Parts Rye Whisky, 1 Part Sipsmith Summer Cup, Dash of Angostura – STIR
Rather soft and subtle, and quite tasty. Less herbal than the same cocktail made with standard vermouth. It was both sweet and bitter at the end.

The jury is out on whether this is our preference to using red vermouth – I think more experimentation is needed.

Martinez – 2 Parts Sipsmith Gin, 1 Part Sipsmith Summer Cup, Dash of Angostura – STIR
Very smooth and quite soft, but still with a lot flavour. I think it works well and there are long, rich herbal notes on the finish. There’s a pleasant citrus crispness, making it a very clean drink. Pretty good.

The Current Sipsmith Range: Summer cup, Damson Vodka, Sloe Gin, Vodka and Gin.

In Conclusion

I think that Sipsmith Summer Cup is an excellent addition to the Fruit Cup world and, without a doubt, brings something new to the market. It’s over-riding strength (although it has others) is the fact that it is dryer and not too sweet. Hopefully this will open up the category to folks who don’t have a sweet tooth. I also think this Summer Cup has potential versatility as a cocktail ingredient; something that is not often seen in a Fruit Cup. I highly recommend it.

Sipsmith Summer Cup is available from The Whisky Exchange at £18.95 for 50cl.

A Bottle of the New Sipsmith summer Cup

*Sipsmith call their product, “Summer Cup”; Hayman’s called theirs, “Summer Mixer”; and I usually refer to them all as Fruit Cups – they are all interchangeable terms.

**A vodka version was tried, but the complex gin flavours won over the creamy barley notes of the vodka.
*** There are a few other companies that have made damson vodka for a little while, so it’s obviously a combination that works.
**** Sloe Gin is released a year after production: if it’s made from the 2010 harvest, then it will be released in 2011, etc..

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