Cocktails with… Joséphine Gin

I picked up my bottle of Joséphine Gin  from the fine selection of nearly 100 gins available at the Whisky Exchange. The cost? A reasonable £17, but this was only for 35cl, so the gin works out at £34 for 70cl, a handsome sum indeed.Josephine Gin is named after Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and first Empress of France. It is made by the cognac house, Camus, and it has been suggested it was designed with female drinkers in mind.In my experience, this gin is not spoken about often and is not well-known; in fact I have only ever seen one other bottle, in the extensive Gin Bar of the Feather’s Hotel in Woodstock. (Edit: It is now stocked at Graphic Bar in Soho)
1) Neat
Nose: Anis and floral – like a cross between Fruit Salad chews and Blackjacks (liquorice & aniseed). Quite sweet, with a hint of Dandelion & Burdock.
Taste:Very soft; the juniper was pretty subdued. Very floral, sweet, with anise at the end. Very unusual and certainly not a classic style.
2) Gin & Tonic
There’s a strong nose of Dandelion & Burdock and it was quite sweet, making for a very odd Gin & Tonic. There were strong notes of sarsaparilla, as well as some herbal notes. Bitter at the end, any dryness came from the gin. If I had tasted it blind, I’d never have guessed that it was a Gin & Tonic. Despite my outcry at how unorthodox this was, Mrs. B. quite liked it.

3) Martini
An interestingly floral Martini. Not so crisp as a classic example of the drink, but the juniper does come through. Better with a large lemon twist.

4) Gimlet
Pleasant, but not distinctive; the gin needs a bit more eumph! It was quite a nice drink, but doesn’t seem to have any discerning characteristics to it, making it rather forgettable.

5) Aviation
Horribly sharp, unbalanced and waste of all of the ingredients involved. Not recommended.

6) White Lady
Reminds me of Orange Chocolate Creams, but the juniper is quite sharp. A touch unbalanced, with the orange flavour in particular being quite strong. The finish is rather dry and there was an unpleasant aftertaste that stuck to my mouth.

7) Negroni
High anise, almost as if it had absinthe in it. A little sarsaparilla, surprisingly sweet and any real bitterness from the Campari is only at the end. Quite good.

8 Alexander
Truly superb; the floral and light herbal elements mix exceptionally well with cacao and cream. The dry juniper stops the drink from becoming too sweet. This was the perfect balance of sweet and dry, silkiness and flavour.

In Conclusion

Even though Josephine Gin made some exceptional drinks (the Alexander, for example), in general, it just wasn’t for me. It was too far removed from any gin base-line and, at times, it was too sweet, too sickly or too floral. It didn’t work in a Gin & Tonic and, for me, that is a major downfall.

It just goes to show that, despite recent outcry at the likes of Brockman’s & Hoxton calling themselves gin (everyone’s opinion has it own validity), non-conformist gin outliers have existed for a while. For the rebel gin-lover, this may be worth a punt.

Cocktails with… Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin

Not content with the success of their Irish Poteen and Heather Gin the folks at Knockeen Hills decided to release another product, an elderflower gin that uses elderflower as one of the botanicals, this is not a very common botanical to use and is a tricky ingredient to get right.
Bottled at 47.3%ABV Knockeen Hills uses a base Irish Spirit that is distilled five times and the botanicals it uses are steeped for 24 hours. It is described as “London Cut” which means in addition to being a London Dry Gin it is, distilled and cut in London.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is distilled at Thames Distillers and uses only four botanicals (a stark difference to the last Gin I reviewed) these are:

  • Organic Juniper Berries
  • Organic Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Elderflower
  • Liquorice powder

#1) Neat
Good nose, medium amount of juniper with some floral notes. Great warmth (not burn) on the tongue with juniper and elderflower. Not overpowering and subtle. The warmth of the texture intrigues me.

#2) Gin & Tonic
This makes quite a strong Gin & Tonic (the gin is 47.3%). The very heart of the gin seems to come through with a floral taste at the back of the mouth; the straight-forward juniper flavour is followed by the dryness from the elderflower. It’s interesting, because elderflower is often associated with something sweet (cordial, liqueurs, etc.), but this is definitely dry. Mrs. B was very fond of this drink, as it reminded her of cut green apples.

#3) Martini
I used some home-made vermouth for this martini, which complemented the Gin quite well and seemed to give the drink more flavour than usual. Knockeen Elderflower Gin does not make a classic Martini: it’s not so clean and crisp as others, but it is not overpowering and has a lot of character. I like this drink and it makes a nice change.

#4) Gimlet
An unusual Gimlet; less sweet than usual and, in the middle of the taste profile, the drink has a remarkably clean edge, almost Martini-like. There were subtle notes from the floral elements and the gin stands up well to the lime cordial.

#5) Aviation
There’s some great interaction of the elderflower and other floral elements with the violette and maraschino in this drink; it’s complex, but the flavours are all in equilibrium. Very tasty.

#6) Tom Collins
This Collins is, like many, a wonderful cooler. It is very refreshing, but sadly the gin is a little overpowered.

#7) Bramble
Very tasty; there’s equal intensity from each of the various ingredients, all combining to produce a fresh drink that reminds me of Spring. Crisp & delicious.

#8) White Lady:
Fresh and crisp, perfect for Spring or early Summer. There’s a good amount of juniper and distinct floral elements on the finish.

#9) Alexander
I increased the proportions of Gin for this one, so that some of the dry muskiness of gin comes through. The Knockeen Elderflower contributes more to the cocktail that most other gins that I’ve tried.

#10) Gin Bump (Buck)
The Gin Bump was a disappointment as the sweetness of the ginger ale clashed with the floral notes of the gin. Not recommended.

#11) Gin Sour
Pretty strong; you seem to feel the full whack of the 47.3% in this drink. It seemed to warm me up, rather than cool me down (which a gin sour typically would do), and, flavour-wise, it doesn’t do the Gin justice.

#12) Sweet Gin
This was an idea for a cocktail (if you can call it that) that just occurred to me: I simply added half a teaspoon of simple syrup to a measure of Gin. I was surprised at how well it worked and how it brought out a new dimension of flavours: it was almost like an elderflower liqueur, but tasted more complex.

#13) Clover Club
In a similar way to the White Lady, this was balanced, simple, tasty and enjoyable to drink.

#14) Gin Old-fashioned
Fast becoming a new favourite of mine, the Gin Old-Fashioned with Knockeen Hills Elderflower is delicious. Sugar sweetens up the floral elements (just like the Sweet Gin) which stops the Angostura from dominating the drink. This is a superb way to enjoy the gin.

In Conclusion
Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is crisp and flavourful. The floral elements lend themselves well to a variety of cooling drinks, making it perfect for Spring or Summer (although I am still enjoying it during Winter!). Sometimes I think that when gins highlight one, single, botanical it can be a bit gimmicky and the rest of the gin profile seems to suffer, but I don’t think that that is the case with this gin.

Cocktail highlights included: Gin & Tonic (especially James Bond style),  the Gimlet,  the Aviation & the Gin Old Fashioned.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is available from The Drink Shop here: for £26.44 for 70cl.