Cocktails with… Edinburgh Raspberry Gin

Most of our readers will be familiar with sloe gin and as, in the past few and upcoming weeks we have been/will be looking at various homemade flavoured gins, it seemed like a good time to look at a new commercial flavoured gin, Raspberry Gin.

This is made by Spencerfield Spirit, the makers of Edinburgh Gin, using local Perthshire Raspberries. Whilst contemplating making a fruit liqueur for the winter, Edinburgh Gin also tried various recipes for damson and sloe gin, but finally decided on the Raspberry, because it tasted best. I think that it’s great to see some variation added to the products in the “Sloe Gin Niche” and, in my mind, some of the finest raspberries I have had are Scottish, so their choice of fruit makes perfect sense. It is bottled at 20%ABV.

Own
Nose: Intense, jammy raspberry with a hint of tartness and some creamy vanilla notes;as a result, this somewhat resembles raspberry ripple ice-cream.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth upfront. There are also the sweet, spicy elements of Edinburgh Gin, followed by the fruity and slightly tart raspberry. There is some sweetness, but this is well-balanced with the tartness of the raspberry.

Hipflask
After being kept in a breast pocket for a while, the Raspberry Gin has been gently warmed to great effect. To taste, there’s a lot of fruit with some hints of vanilla and spice. It is quite warming, but also soft and smooth, making it an especially good choice if you find straight spirits a bit much for a flask.

Frozen
The lower temperature brings out some of the fresher, crisper notes of the Gin, making for a more refreshing drink. Similarly, the liqueur also works well over ice.

With Bitter Lemon
The Long Peddlar is a classic sloe gin drink and it works well with the Raspberry Gin. Itis less sweet and tarter than the sloe gin version, which, to me, makes it crisper and more refreshing. This would be a good way to enjoy this Gin in the summer, should you happen to have any left.

With Tonic
With tonic, this Gin makes quite a tart drink. There’s a more subtle vanilla sweetness, but with more of the tart berries coming through, this is – overall – a very refreshing drink.

Toddy
Very pleasant, indeed. Initially, I thought it was quite tart and, although pleasant, was less comforting than a toddy usually is; however, this was quickly remedied by a little squeeze of honey. The result was a delicious toddy, with the raspberry still coming through. Very nice.

Vale of the Martinez
[50ml Raspberry Gin, 25ml Dry Vermouth, 10ml Maraschino, 2 Dashes Orange Bitters]
This was my favourite new drink of 2011. Like a number of the previous cocktails, this is usually made using sloe gin, but I substituted Edinburgh’s Raspberry Gin to great effect. This is a superb drink: hints of raspberry jamminess contrast nicely with a touch of cream on the finish, ensuring a great balance of sweet and dry; a perfectly formed cocktail.

In Conclusion
This is a really great product and easily equal to many of the great sloe gins. I always appreciate innovation and think that this is a really great example, which has clearly been thoughtfully created to be a great taste of Scotland.

Edinburgh Raspberry Gin is available from Master of Malt and Royal Mile Whiskies for  £15.95 for 50cl

A 20cl version is avaialble from Amazon.co.uk for £10

For a review of the Original Edinburgh Dry Gin please click here.

British Sloe Gin & Japanese Umeshu

At the 2011 London Boutique Bar Show, I came across a very intriguing product at the Eaux de Vie Saké stand, Shiraume Umeshu. What struck me was how similar in nose and taste it was to Sloe Gin and, when I heard a little about its culture, I knew an article was in the making.

Umeshu
Umeshu is a liqueur made by steeping Umes, commonly known as Chinese Plums or Japanese Apricots, in alcohol (Shochu) and adding sugar to sweeten it. Although using Shochu is the most common alcohol base for Umeshu, some are based on high-strength saké. It is popular in Japan and Korea (Maesil ju), and China and Taiwan (Meijiu). Its origins date from a few centuries ago and it is often made at home, using freshly picked fruit.

Sloe Gin
Sloe Gin is a liqueur that is made by steeping Sloes (the berry of the Blackthorn Bush) in gin and sweetening with sugar or honey. The exact origins of Sloe Gin are unknown, but it is thought to date back to at least the 18th Century. Some suggestions have been made that state that the Sloes and sugar were used to hide the poor taste of the gin of the day or, alternatively, as a possible preservative for the flavour of the sloes.

Sloe Gin making in the UK is full of lore and myths and these include that the best time to pick Sloes is after the first frost of the Autumn/Winter. In the West Country, it is said that any Sloes not picked after the end of September should be left for the fairies.*

Sloes are often pricked before steeping; this is traditionally done with the thorn of sloe bush, but, if a metal implement is used, it must be made of solid silver**.

Tasting Notes

Hayman’s Sloe Gin

This was first launched in April 2010 and use Hayman’s London Dry Gin and English Sloes. It is Victoria Moore’s Sloe Gin of choice in “How To Drink Christmas”. It is bottled at 26% ABV.

Nose: A strong, yet soft initial nose of berry and almond; this is then followed by some dryness.
Taste: A light texture, and very smooth. There are some floral notes as well as the jammy berry ones and a hint of almond. The finish is very dry.

Akashi-Tai’s Shiraume Umeshu

This is made by the Akashi Tai Brewery in Japabn who have been making fine Saké since 1918. Today they also distill Shochu and make a variety of liquers based on both Shochu and Saké. It is made in Akashi-city, Hyogo, Japan and is bottled at 14% ABV.

Nose: Fruity and jammy with hints of plum and peach. There is also a nutty almond note, which is bittersweet in nature. A very little bit of rice wine at the end. Mrs B also got crumbly marzipan on the nose.
Taste: This also had a very smooth texture, with a full mouth-feel. It was slightly sweet to start, and then along came some bitterness. Very jammy, with a berried fruitiness. Some musky graininess, which reminds me of sake.

The main differences I found  between the sloe gin and the sake are: colour (the sake is more yellow, whereas the sloe gin is red) and sweetness: the sake is sweeter and the sloe dryer, but, beyond that, they are quite similar. Both are rich.

Cocktails

#1) Long Pedlar
Originally, this mix of sloe gin and bitter lemon would have used Hawker’s Pedlar Sloe Gin, but, today, it is acceptable to use any variety.


1) Sloe Gin – Quite tart; interestingly, this now tastes quite like the Umeshu does on its own. The sloe gin seems to stand up quite well to the bitter lemon and the jammy, slightly floral notes come through.
2) Umeshu – This was actually quite bitter; the sweetness of the Umeshu seems to have all but disappeared. Not a particularly well-balanced, it just seemed to taste like syrupy lemonade. However, after finishing the glass, I did find the resultant tartness quite refreshing and Mrs. B was rather fond of it in general.

#2) Vale of the Martinez
This was taught to me by Sam Carter at a recent Bombay Sapphire Sloe Gin event, this was easily my favourite drink of the evening.

[50ml Sloe Gin, 25ml Dry vermouth, 10ml Marashino, 2 Dashes Orange Bitters]

1) Sloe Gin – The dry fruity notes of the sloe gin come through as do a hint of flowers quite dry by equally delicious.
2) Umeshu – Brilliant, a lovely clear amber colour, with the perfect balance of sweet and dry and hint of plum and cherry with a orange lift of a finish. This really is superb.

#3) Sloe Gin Sour
A standard sloe gin cocktail and, from my research, also a common way to drink Umeshu. This particular recipe comes from Victoria Moore’s “How to Drink Christmas”.

[50ml Sloe gin, 20ml Lemon Juice, 1tsp of Egg White, Shake & Strain]

1) Sloe Gin – Superb, very refreshing with a great balance between tartness and sweetness.
2) Umeshu – Another good, the jammy sloe gin qualities really come out of the Umeshu in this drink. If tasted blind I would have thought it was Sloe Gin.

#4) Umeshu Tea
This is a Umeshu Cocktail, rather than a Sloe Gin one.

1) Sloe Gin – Quite nice; the herbal, floral fruitiness complements the dryer smokiness of the tea. For some, this might actually be a bit too sweet, but the sloe flavour does come through well.
2) Umeshu – The slightly smoky tannins of the tea work well with herbal and slightly fruity, sweet notes of the Umushu. This is a nice alternative to a toddy. Lovely.

In Conclusion

Although the flavours of Sloe Gin and Umeshu do differ,*** there are a lot of characteristics that are common: the sweet fruity jamminess, the hint of nutty almond, the level of sweetness with a bit of bite, and the fact that, although there are commercial products available, it is a popular drink to make at home. The fact that these two drinks evolved on other-sides of the world to forfill similar cultural positions is somewhat amazing.

Postscript

There are other varities of Sloe Gin availaible in other European countries, such as:
ITALY – Bargnolino (bottled at 40-45%ABV, base alcohol varies)
GERMANY – Schlehenfeuer (Sloe Fire)
SPAIN – Pacharán  – This uses an anis-flavoured spirit rather than gin.

Mrs B. and I smell experience the intriguing Bombay Sapphire Sloe Gin cocktail

I also had the opportunity to go to the Blue room at Bombay Sapphire in London for a Sloe Gin event earlier this week. In addition to trying some top notch cocktails we were shown how to make Sloe Gin in 3 hours, using a vacuum sealed bag and a heated (to 56 0c) water bath. If that wasn’t enough we got to try some re-distilled sloe gin, that was clear, one of the best tipples I have had in a long time.

* This creates something of an issue this year, as the first frost didn’t come until well into November.
** There is acidity in the Sloe Berries and this may react with other metals, tainting the flavour of the sloe gin.
*** Some more than others, I thought that M&S/Boudier Sloe Gin was more similar to the Umeshu than the Hayman’s

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.
.
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..

Keep In touch
Summer Fruit Cup’s Facebook
Summer Fruit Cup Twitter

Long Peddler / Sloe Peddler – Mixing Sloe Gin

The Sloe Peddler

Some readers may have caught our Tasting of 17 Sloe Gins, but, in the in the interests of thoroughness, we did not just try these sloe gins on their own: we also tried them mixed in Long Peddlers, thanks to some bottles kindly sent to us by Fevertree.

A Long Peddler Made with Fevertree Lemon Tonic (Bitter Lemon) and Gordon's Sloe Gin in a 2:1 ratio.

Background and history on the Long Peddler is very thin on the ground. The recipe is simple: a measure of sloe gin topped up with bitter lemon; a bit like a gin and tonic. My best guess is that it was created as a cooler for the summer months so that sloe gin could be enjoyed all year round and it certainly achieves this purpose.

I imagine the “long” came about because it makes a long drink, but the “peddler”? Your guess is as good as mine; maybe it’s a nice refreshing drink once you’ve finished a long cycle?? Recent research points to the fact that the Long Pedlar was original made using Hawker’s Pedlar Sloe Gin, it was a long way to drink the sloe gin.

Either way, it seems to be an established drink among sloe gin drinkers and, when I was speaking to Fevertree, they also suggested making it with their Lemonade (Sloe Peddler) as an alternative to bitter lemon.

Fevertree Lemonade is carbonated, but it’s a distant cousin to the likes of 7UP and Sprite, which nonetheless do still have their place. With Fevertree’s Lemonade you can really taste the lemon juice and it doesn’t have any artificial sweetness that you may find with others; it is still quite fizzy, but it doesn’t leave you with that cloying feeling in your mouth.

Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic (their version of Bitter lemon) is refreshing, but a little bitter; however, when you consider that it has quinine in it, it’s not so surprising. Once again, this is a departure from the sharp, sweet, and turquoise drink presented as bitter lemon by others and I believe it was renamed to take a step away from this image.

A Sloe Peddler made with Fevertree Lemonade

But the most important question is how did they mix with sloe gin? After various tests, we found that Gordon’s worked best with the Lemon Tonic and probably made the panel’s favourite Long Peddler of the evening.  SLOEMotion and Bramley & Gage Organic also mixed very well with the Lemon Tonic.

The Lemonade was rather more surprising, I had never tried it before and wondered how well it would work. It created a lovely drink when mixed with the Lyme Bay Sloe Gin (this drink was my personal favourite). In the pairing, once again Bramley & Gage worked very nicely in a Sloe Peddler.

In conclusion, I found that I enjoyed both the Lemonade and the Lemon Tonic, but I found that the Lemon Tonic went better with the bolder sloe gins and the Lemonade complemented the more subtle ones.

So if you ever want a refreshing drink and you have some sloe gin to hand, why not try a Long (or Sloe) Peddler?

Cocktails with… 6 O’Clock Gin

Here is a gin that was made to go with tonic; so much so, that it even has its own tonic specifically designed to match it. I know that some gin distillers have produced their own tonic for their premixes, but this is the first time that anyone has released their tonic water separately; new ground for the tonic world.

6 O’Clock Gin and its matching Tonic Water

6 O’Clock Gin and it’s accompanying Tonic are both made by Bramley & Gage in Bristol, who are famous for their fruit liqueurs and sloe gins. 6 O’Clock Gin is bottled at 43% and contains seven botanicals, including orange peel and elderflower. As for the Tonic, along with natural quinine, it also contains essence of lemon and lime. I think this gives the tonic that extra zestiness that I like and, when I make my own, I use lemongrass to the same effect, just like John.

Why Six O’Clock? This was the time when inventor & engineer Edward Kain would enjoy his gin, but not before; in essence, this was his “cocktail hour”. In honour of his Great Grandfather, Michael, the creator of the Gin named his new spirit after this.

The Taste

#1 Gin & Tonic:
There is no other way I could start this edition of “Cocktails with…” than with the drink of this Gin. When combined, 6 O’Clock Gin and 6 O’Clock Tonic create a soft, yet flavourful drink, which is probably one of the most relaxing gin & tonics I have ever had. That is not to say that it doesn’t have much flavour, as there is, without a doubt, a distinctive mix of juniper and quinine. It really is very good.

#2 Martini:
A classic Martini with a fine balance of juniper and citrus, full of flavour and more engaging than those made with many other gins.

#3 Gimlet:
Quite a good drink, but the gin is rather hidden by the lime cordial and so it doesn’t really complement it as best as it could. There is a little juniper at the end.

#4 White Lady:
A nice little zip to this, the citrus of the gin goes well with the citrus of the lemon. It’s quite tart but rather tasty.

#5 Aviation:
6 O’Clock produces a more gin-dominant Aviation than many, with the flavour of the gin really coming through. There is a little violet at the end, but, again, not the best use of the gin.

#6 Tom Collins:
A good Collins where each main ingredient plays an equal part: refreshing and easy to enjoy.

#7 Bramble:
I really like 6 O’Clock Gin in Bramble. Each individual flavour within the drink is apparent and it’s a very easy cocktail to drink. I think it would interesting to try this using Bramley & Gage’s Blackberry Liqueur instead of Creme de Mure.

#8 Sloe & Tonic:
As this post is also about 6 O’Clock Tonic, I thought I would try it with some Bramley & Gage Organic Gin from our sloe gin tasting. I’m not usually a fan of sloe gin and tonic water, but in this case I certainly make an exception. The tonic brings out the juiciness of the gin and it’s sweeter almond flavours.

In Conclusion:
There is no question what the best drink made with 6 O’Clock Gin was: it was the gin and tonic, as you would expect. Nonetheless, it would be hard to ignore the crisp and delicious Bramble that this gin makes, or how well the tonic went with sloe gin.

6 O’Clock Gin is available for £15.99 (35cl) and £23.65 (70cl). The tonic is £3.00 for a generous 730ml bottle. Both can be purchased from Bramley & Gage’s website.

 

WOW2 – SLOEmotion Sloe Whisky

The other day, whilst DBS set about unpacking a box of very kindly donated sloe gin for our recent tasting – and whilst I sat trying to make sense of a knitting pattern – he lifted a handsome miniature out of the box and smiled at me, as if to say, “You’ll like that!”.
The box was from SLOEmotion, a family-run company who make sloe based liqueurs in the Howardian Hills, near York, and the miniature contained their Sloe Whisky.

A bottle of the lovely SLOEmotion whisky

I have to admit to being immediately drawn in with anticipation at what this liqueur was going to taste like. The small, slightly curved bottle reminded me of my hip flask and the bright, straight-forward label suggested a neat mixture of old and new, with its vintage layout and modern typefaces.

We quickly established that this was unlike any of the other whisky liqueurs that we have ever tried: its nose was rich and fruity, like Christmas cake, with hints of cherry and marzipan.

On its own, it started out like a good (in my opinion) sloe gin, with a full-bodied fruitiness that isn’t swamped by sweetness and edges close to tartness, before transforming into an oak-y warmth. Whilst it initially seemed sharp, the sharpness disappeared quickly and the whisky flavours at the end were considerably more subtle than the corresponding flavours you would find at the end of your average sloe gin.

One of recommended cocktails on SLOEmotion’s website containing the Sloe Whisky is the “Sloe Whisker”: Sloe Whisky, ginger beer and lime. We decided to give this a try and found it to be a very pleasant drink indeed. The ginger beer adds just enough sweetness to balance out any sharpness in the liqueur, effectively taming it; and, depending on which ginger beer you use, it also adds a wonderful, fiery finish. I did find that some of the more subtle whisky flavours were easily overpowered by the first ginger beer that we tried, but I found an alternative much more palatable and so would recommend experimentation!

Upon reflection, I think that this liqueur works well both when mixed and on its own, but I personally enjoyed it most in the latter form and at room temperature, as a fruity alternative to an evening glass of whisky.

– Mrs. B

SLOEmotion Sloe Whisky is available from their site £15.95 for 35cl.

For more Whisk(e)y Liqueuer Reviews please click here

Sloe Gin Tasting – A Comparison of 17 Sloe Gins

Sloe Gin Tasting

A few weeks ago, a friend and colleague of mine said, “I’d quite like to do a sloe gin tasting”. Needless to say, I agreed that it was a superb idea and we immediately set about procuring various samples for the evening. Originally I thought we’d get about 8, then 12 looked for likely but, in the end, we tried 17.

L-R: Will, Hartley, Fleur, CB, DBS, Robert, Mrs. B.

We initially tried the sloe gins on their own at room temperature and then tried them mixed with Fevertree Lemon Tonic/Bitter Lemon and Fevertree Lemonade in Long Pedlers. Here follows a summary of our panel’s notes on each.

#1 Moniack Sloe Gin Liqueur (17.6% ABV)

Produced by Highland Wineries, near Inverness, this has the lowest alcoholic strength of all those that we tasted. Moniack Castle also make a selection of other liqueurs, country wines and preserves.

Nose: Cider, Rosé wine or Rose Cider (something like Jacques Cider).

Taste: Sweet, somewhat reminiscent of a White Zinfandel, with hints of rose petals and strawberries. This was rather refreshing, smooth and quite unusual, as sloe gins go, but it was agreed that it was still quite a nice drink.

Moniack Castle Sloe gin Liqueur is available for around £13 for 75cl from DrinkOn.

#2 Bramley & Gage Sweet Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

This was the first of three sloe gins that we tried from Bramley & Gage, who are well-known for their range of liqueurs, as well as their new gin and its companion tonic: 6 o’Clock.

Both Bramley’s original and sweet sloe gins use a mixture of wild Dartmoor and imported sloes, steeped in gin that Bramley make themselves. This product contain a liberal amount of sugar and was designed for people that found the original too tart.

Nose: Liquorice, almonds, cherry and marzipan.

Taste: This was very sweet; too sweet, for some (it’s worth noting that these differences are why Bramley introduced the product in the first place). It has a little acidity at end and some herbal notes.

We found that this mixed really well and was well liked by the panel.

Bramley & Gage’s Sweet Sloe Gin is available form their website for around £14 (35cl).

#3 Plymouth Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

Made using the famous Plymouth Gin and Polish sloes, this contains noticeably less sugar than its counterparts in the tasting.

I really like this; it had a great jamminess in the mouth, which the panel enjoyed, but still had a tart finish. It was found to taste less artificial than some of the others and, with the fruitiness and a little spice, there were a lot of people who thought this “smelt like Christmas”. In addition to this festive fragrance, it smells like sloe and it tastes like sloe. It was agreed that this was a first-class example of sloe gin and something of a benchmark for the others.

Along with Juniper Green this was the Most Sippable Sloe Gin.

Plymouth Sloe Gin is available for around £18 (70cl) from The Whisky Exchange and from their excellent distillery shop in Plymouth. (One of the few places in the country where you can still buy their splendid Fruit Cup).

#4 Sipsmith Sloe Gin (2009) (29% ABV)

This is the most recent release (it’s been around for about a month) from Sipsmith Distillery, who were recently voted “Best Newcomer” at the recent Observer Food Monthly Awards. It uses Sipsmith Gin as its base.

Nose: Juniper nose mixed with sloes, memories of home-made sloe gin.

Taste: This was found to be the closest to the “home-made” varieties people had tried; “just like mamma used to make”. This had a jamminess, similar to Plymouth, and the underlying Gin element was more dominant the the others. The one downside was a little sharpness at the end. Nonetheless, it was considered a great winter warmer and probably had the most potential to work well in cocktails.

The handsomely packaged Sipsmith sloe Gin is vaialable for around £17 (50cl) from The Whisky Exchange.

With our selection of Sloe Gin in the foreground Mrs. B & I enjoy a Gin & Tonic, “Evans” style.

#5 Bramley & Gage Original Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

This is a version of #2; similar, with a lower sugar content. Bramley also make a drink called Slider, which is usually made by removing the sloes from the sloe gin after maceration and combining them with cider. I used the same technique with some mincemeat vodka I made recently, making a mincemeat cider which was very tasty.

Nose: This had a similar nose to the sweet, as you may well expect.

Taste: Fruit & almond flavours, reminiscent of cherry bakewells. This was certainly tarter than the sweet variety and I found it more to my palette. It felt very warming and was, all in all, quite popular.

Bramley & Gage’s Original Sloe Gin is available form their website for around £14 (35cl).

#6 Lyme Bay Reserve Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

Part of the Reserve Liqueur range of Lyme Bay Winery (other varieties include Elderflower & Lemon and Blueberry) Lyme Bay also make a range of other country wines and liqueurs. Lyme Bay typically use English Sloes they also make a sloe wine and a Sloe wine-based fortified liqueur. I have been to their on-site shop which has good range of tasty products on offer, well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Each bottle is numbered and our was RL22676.

Nose: Smells like gin; very strong smell of juniper – a nice change.

Taste: This was sweet and smooth, and unusually light for a sloe gin. It was rather lovely and sufficiently quaff-able. All in all, it was popular with the panel, although one member remarked that it as rather Calpol (children’s medicine), but I think was actually a good thing!

Lyme Bay Sloe Gin (£11.99 for 35cl) and other products are avaialble from their website and the gift section of John Lewis.

#7 Gordon’s Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

The best-selling sloe gin in the UK with the widest distribution, too. If you’ve had commercial sloe gin, it would probably have been this. The modern version uses wild sloes, whereas its predecessor used dry sloes.

Nose: Floral and perfumed, with juniper and a bit of spice.

Taste: This was one of the few sloe gins in our tasting that people had any preconceptions of, but everyone was pleasantly surprised: everyone quite enjoyed its simple, balanced fruitiness and its intriguing notes of earl grey tea.

This was found to be The Best Mixing Sloe Gin

Gordon’s Sloe Gin is available for around £14 (70cl) from Waitrose, Tesco and other leading supermarkets.

#8 Hawker’s Sloe Gin (28% ABV)

This sloe gin has a Royal warrant (the warrant itself is held on behalf of Hawker’s by none other than Desmond Payne, Master Distiller of Beefeater) and is made with Dartmoor sloes. It is bottled at 28%; a little stronger than the usual 26%.

Nose: Geranium & mincemeat.

Taste: This was unlike anything else that we tasted that night, and it was really popular. It was quite sweet, but the panel still thought that its flavours worked. There were hints of mince pies and some strong herbal, almost menthol, notes. This is more complex than your classic sloe gin and is slightly set apart in terms of style. Although it wasn’t unanimous, this was one of the panel’s favourites.

Along with Jack Cain’s this was The Most Unusual Sloe Gin i.e. the least like the others we had tried.

Hawker’s Sloe Gin is available for around £18 (70cl) from The Drinkshop.

Speed-tasting with Mr. Hartley using the SCH method.
#9 Juniper Green Organic Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

We were sent some samples from October 2010 (ever so fresh then). The sloes for this sloe gin come from Romania, as it is difficult to get certified organic sloes from the UK (ensuring they have been affected by wind-drift from the crop-sprayer or fertiliser run-off from fields is tricky). The sloes are steeped in Juniper Green Gin (40%) and the sloes are left to macerate until the alcohol level of the liquid drops to 26% (as the sloes absorb the alcohol).

Nose: Clean nose, with fruit and a little cinnamon-like spice, followed by juniper berries.

Taste: A nicely balanced, home-made taste. Warming, with a light sweetness and flavours of apples, pears and cinnamon. The panel really enjoyed this and it was amongst their favourites.

Along with Plymouth this was the Most Sippable Sloe Gin.

Juniper Green Organic Sloe Gin is available for around £22 (70cl) from

#10) Hayman’s Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

This is made by family firm Hayman’s Gin this uses wild English Sloes and their own Gin as it’s base.  Hayman’s also make a London Dry Gin, an Old Tom Gin and a Gin Liqueur.

Nose: lovely heavy sloe nose.

Taste: Quite light and refreshing, simple yet satisfying with a little cinnamon and a little citrus on the finish. Sweetness and tartness well balanced.

Hayman’s Sloe Gin is available for around £18 from the Whisky Exchange.

#11) Bramley & Gage Organic Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

This variety of Bramley & Gage’s sloe gin has a different spirit base and all of the sloes are imported (once again, the problem of getting certified organic sloes in the UK arises).

Nose: Strong smell of almond and marzipan, but with a more subtle scent then the other two. I believe that the almond comes from the stones of the Sloes.

Taste: This was a soft, light sloe gin, with an excellent balance of tartness and sweetness. It’s quite fruity, with some folks tasting raisins, and there was a very light saltiness at the tip of the finish. This is a great sloe gin and our clear favourite of the three Bramley & Gage’s.

Bramley & Gage’s Organic Sloe Gin is available form their website for around £17 (35cl).

#12) SLOEMotion Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

Founded in 2002 SLOEMotion now make a variety of Sloe based products: Sloe Vodka, Sloe Whisky, Sloe Brandy and of course Sloe Gin. Their sloes come from local hedgerows and they use the sloes from the liqueur making process in a range of truffles and chutneys.

Nose: Smells like bitter cherries and a little maraschino.

Taste: Juicy and tart, with a nice sweetness, a bit of caramel and a vanilla finish.

SLOEMotion Sloe Gin is available from £15.95 (35cl) from their website. I can also strongly recommend their Sloe Whisky.

Robert seems reluctant to try Mr. Harltey’s concoction a mix of 17 different sloe gins, a tasting in glass!

#13) Gabriel Boudier Sloe Gin (25% ABV)

This hot-footed to us all the way from France and is part of a range of products developed by Gabriel Boudier specifically for bartenders as opposed to a product sold in it’s own right.

Nose: Slightly reminiscent of cherry brandy and bitter almonds with a little citrus.

Taste: A good sloe gin, being both smooth and balanced with a silky texture. It was very drinkable and described as a “polite” sloe gin: delicate, but tasty and reminding one panel member of a “lovely big pillow”.

Gabriel Boudier Sloe Gin is available for around £17 (70cl) from The Drinkshop.

#14) Marks & Spencer’s Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

Marks & Spencers have a good range of own brand wine & spirits in addition to the sloe gin they make a Pink Gin and a Gin Fizz. Their sloe gin in made in France and contains: juniper, coriander, lemon & orange peel, angelica, orris root and fennel seeds. The bottle recommends serving it on-the-rocks or with tonic.

Nose: Sweet, with hints of almond and marzipan, a little cherry brandy.

Taste: A very short flavour, but easy to drink, with a pleasant smoothness. Although this sloe gin had no really remarkable qualities, we all agreed that this had wide appeal. This was surprisingly similar to number 13.

Marks and Spencer Sloe Gin is available for £10.99  (50cl) from larger M&S stores.

#15) Foxdenton Sloe Gin (29% ABV)

This is made by Foxdenton Estate, who also produce an excellent 48% gin (review here) as well as a range of other liqueurs. This was paler than most sloe gins, and was bottled at slightly stronger 29%.

Nose: Strong gin spirit, followed by a little sweetness and then the fruitiness of the sloe.

Taste: This was the least thick & sticky of our sloe gins. Initially, you can really taste the underlying gin, foillowed by the sweetness and the sloes. This is neither sweet, nor excessively sharp; it is both different and tasty and, for that reason alone, is really worth trying.

Foxdenton Sloe Gin is available for £18.80 (70cl) from their website along with their other liqueurs. Smaller sizes of the Sloe Gin are available.

#16) Cowen Sloe Gin (26% ABV)

From Malcolm Cowen (Drinks) Ltd., this sloe gin is bottled at 26%. The gin is distilled at Thames Distiller and they use organic sloes. Cowen also make and distribute a variety of other hard-to-find liqueurs.

Nose: Sweet cherries, followed by the underlying gin spirit and a hint of dry almonds.

Taste: This sloe gin fills the mouth with the flavour of sweet ripe berries and a little lavender. This fades to some dryness and a warming finish. A nice example of sloe gin.

Cowen is available for around £16 (50cl) from The Drinkshop.

#17) Jack Cain’s Sloe Gin (30% ABV)

At 30% ABV, Jack Cain’s Sloe Gin was the strongest of the bunch and opinion was split on it, but those who liked it, loved it. One such fan noted:

Nose: “The nose was really sweet and richly floral with notes of violets.”

Taste: I was expecting sickly sweet, but I was very much mistaken; instead it was sharp and dry with a little chocolate and citrus. This is really very different with the dryness of an aged rum, a very nice experience.”

Along with Hawkers this was The Most Unusual Sloe Gin

Jack Cain’s Sloe Gin is available from a variety of locations.


It is always difficult to come up with ranking system to do the tasting justice when you have so many varieties and quite a large panel; but we did come up with a panel top 5 so in no particular order:

Plymouth Sloe Gin

Bramley Organic Sloe Gin

Foxdenton Sloe Gin

Hawker’s Sloe Gin

Juniper Green Organic Sloe Gin

It is worth noting that to be considered “sloe gin” a spirit must be of a minimum strength of 25%ABV. I imagine that this along with being a sweet spot for taste is why most Sloe Gins are bottled at around this strength. (Thanks to Michael for this update).

For details on which sloe gins worked well when mixed, please see: The Sloe Peddler.

I would like to thank the folks at Graphic Bar for hosting the event, the producers who have been very generous at sending us samples of their Sloe Gins, Fevertree for providing the mixers and of course the panel.

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