Cocktails with… Darnley’s View

Darnley’s View is a Scottish Gin* made by the Wemyss Family (pronounced weems) who also own Scotch and Wine companies.

The name Darnley’s View originates from a stay of Mary Queen of Scots at Wemyss Castle (the family’s ancestral home) It was during this visit that she first saw (got a view) of her future husband Lord Darley through a courtyard window of the castle.

Darnley’s View is bottled at 40%ABV and contains the following six botanicals:

It’s worth noting that other Scottish Gins such as Hendrick’s and The Botanist also use Elder as a botanical and, along with heather, these botanicals seem to be quite popular with Caledonian gin-makers.

For this “Cocktail with” I had a special request from Darnley’s View Gin (I’m always open to consider requests) to try their Gin with a variety of tonic waters to find a good match.**
Here are the results:

#1) Schweppes Regular
Fruity with some freshness but the drink falls flat in terms of flavour.

#2) Fevertree Regular
A good combo with both the sweetness and the bitterness you expect from a Gin & Tonic. As the ice melts a little the drink certainly improves but, like the 1724, it would be much better with a fruit garnish to add a little extra zip.

#3) Waitrose Regular
Crisp and fizzy, a truly classic Gin & Tonic. It has a more simple flavour profile than some of the others but was very refreshing. It had a good flavour balance, the floral notes of gin are not overpowered and the drink is not too sweet, cloying or bitter. Excellent!

#4) 1724 Tonic
Quite smooth, light and fresh. Good for a really hot day. A little lacking in flavour but this could be rectified by adding a juicy wedge of lemon.

#5) Fentiman’s Tonic
A good fizz, and very flavourful;. The lemongrass in the tonic adds some extra citrus to the drink, which is quite welcome; no need to garnish with lemon here. Some folks may find the citrus and the sweetness overpowering but in general rather good.

In addition here are some extra tasting notes; for the gin (neat) and in a Martini, well how can you review a gin without trying it in a THE mixture of Gin & Vermouth?

Own
Initial flavours of Juniper and Citrus with the faintest hint of milkiness. Despite what is generally a classic nose, the taste of the gin is quite contemporary. It is quite sweet with juniper and a spicy note at end which is almost peppery. Very smooth with minimal alcohol burn/bite. Some floral elements too. Mixed with a dash of water the flowery flavours really present themselves.

Martini
Elegant, one of the best Martinis I have had for a long time. Classic but with a modern delicate and floral edge. The juniper and subtle flowery notes mix well with Dolin Vermouth.

In Conclusion
I enjoyed trying Darnley’s View gin with it’s overall characteristics being that it is a relatively simple flowery and slightly soft gin. Certainly has the potential to be more refreshing than some of the more botanical-heavy gins.
In terms of tonic, for me Waitrose was the winner, followed closely by Fevertree.

Darnley’s View Gin is available for around £24 for 70cl from Royal Mile Whiskies

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.

*Scottish as in made in Scotland, technically it is categorized as a London dry Gin – for details of how the categorizations work, click here.
** These tasting notes reflect my opinion when mixed with Darnley’s View they may not be the same as my overall view of the tonic waters.

Just the tonic!

Just the tonic!

John’s Premium Tonic Water

Whilst looking for potential tonic waters to try at a tasting I was helping to arrange at Graphic Bar, I came across a gentleman making tonic water syrup in Arizona, USA. John, of John’s Premium Tonic Water, was kind enough to send us over some samples and it was met with great excitement by those attending the tasting. Having experimented with making my own tonic water before, I was one of them.

John runs The Tuck Shop restaurant in Arizona and seems to be an almost life-long fan of the Gin & Tonic. He explains that, whilst people may spend a lot of money on top-shelf gin or vodka, they then choose to mix with it the closest tonic to hand and not one that necessarily brings out the best in their chosen spirit.

John's Premium Tonic Syrup Bottle

A bottle of John’s Premium Tonic Syrup

John’s tonic is packaged as a syrup; this both reduces the cost of shipping and stops the water from going flat during transit (John ships internationally). Interestingly, I think that it was in this concentrated form that Tonic Water was originally shipped around the British Empire, as well as in crystalline or powder form (thanks to Louis for this tidbit of information!).

John’s tonic syrup contains Agave Syrup to sweeten, dried Cinchona Bark, and a variety of other fruits and spices, such as lemongrass (also used by Fentiman’s and myself).

John suggests a 6:1 ratio of soda water to syrup and he prefers dispensing the former using a soda syphon. I imagine, however, that the syrup could be added directly to the syphon along with the water and carbonated along with it, producing tonic water straight from the syphon.

The Taste

I decided to taste the tonic syrup with soda, in a Gin & Tonic and in a GT Turbo (a compacted Gin & Tonic served at Purl in Marylebone).

John's Premium Tonic Syrup Cocktails

Tonic Water

On its own, the tonic water was tart and sharp, with some great herbal notes. It tastes unlike anything available in both the budget and premium commercial tonic markets.

Gin & Tonic

John’s tonic syrup makes a lovely Gin & Tonic; it really brings out the best from the tonic, so even if you’re not a fan of water on its own, do still try it with gin as it is quite a different drink. I found it to be very enjoyable, and, once you have got over the unusual colour, I doubt you will ever look at the tonic water premixes the same way again. This is a must-try for all G&T lovers.

GT Turbo (created by Purl)

Gin, Tonic Syrup, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters – shake with ice.

Mrs. B really liked this. It was a lot silkier than I had expected. The flavours started with lime, before moving to spicy and herbal notes and finishing with the trademark bitterness of quinine. Mrs. B described the increase in bitterness as a “graceful crescendo” that finished just before the drink became too bitter.

I’m really pleased that I and the other folks at the tasting got the chance to try John’s Premium Tonic Syrup and it has made me think about making my own syrup again, as well as about other ways in which the concentrated syrup can be used.

I would definitely recommend it to friends and fellow enthusiasts, as it is likely to open your eyes to, not only a new flavour of tonic, but also more potential uses of it in your drinks.

John ships internationally and you can order from his website at: http://johnstonic.weebly.com/.

For a tonic tasting please visit: www.summerfruitcup.com/tonic

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

Tonic Tasting Thanks

I’d just like to thank all those who cam to the Tonic Tasting @ Graphic yesterday and for Sarah, Adam and The Graphic Team for making it all happen.

For those who are interested here is the article I wrote in the summer on tasting Tonic:

www.summerfruitcup.com/tonic

I would also like to thank John of John’s Premium Tonic Syrup for kindly sending us some of his product from Arizona, USA and 6 O’Clock Gin whose tonic water went down very well. I shall be posting further notes on both before the end of the year.

Finally thank you for the unexpected response I got from all those that tried me Tea Liqueurs, a post on these should be appearing in the next few days.

Tonic Tasting

Tonic Tasting

A Bitter Sweet Truth

The Gin & Tonic is one of, if not the most popular way to consume this juniper spirit. Much has been written by prolific authors (at least in the drinks world) of the relative merits of various Gins within this context, and in fact some Gins have been specifically designed to make a great Gin and tonic. But what about the other key ingredient? No, I’m not talking about ice, as crucial as it is, nor will I dare to breach the world of garnish and lemon vs. lime; today, I’m talking about tonic water.I found critique of tonic to be sparse and, with an increasing market of premium mixers, I thought it was time to discover whether I was fond of Fevertree, barmy over Britvic, smitten with Schwepps or fanatical about Fentimans.

This was a blind taste test, as all the best tests are. For each drink, I used two blocks of our “regulation” ice and a mix of, just over, two parts tonic to one part Gin. The gin we used was Plymouth.

6 O’Clock
This is made by Bramley & Gage, a fruit liqueur company from South Devon. This was developed to compliment their new 6 O’clock gin. I know that other companies make their own tonics to combine with their gin in canned premixes, but this is first time that I have seen such a tonic sold separately.

Anyway, back to something more important: the taste. 6 O’Clock was very pleasant on its own; lighter than most tonics and with more citrus flavours. The quinine character is still there, but in a more balanced way than some of the others.

It made a refreshing gin & tonic, with a hint of citrus and wasn’t too sweet. It was quite moreish and was easy to finish.

Britivic Regular
This makes a refreshing, sweet and juicy concoction. It is very easy to finish and leaves you wanting more, but still has the bitterness that you would expect from tonic water. On its own, this is quite nice to drink; it’s not too bitter, but still has the quinine character. This came out high in our final rankings and we were very surprised; if you would have told me beforehand, I wouldn’t have believed you. Oh, the perils of drink-snobbery!

Britvic Diet
This had a nice bitterness and wasn’t absolutely awful, but it did have a nasty tendency to cling to the mouth more than most of the other tonics and produced a drink that was rather flat. Not a patch on its yellow brother.

On its own, this was actually quite drinkable – it tasted a bit like a flat lemonade – and although nice, didn’t taste like tonic.

Fentimans Regular*
This gin & tonic was full of citrus flavour from the start, but it still had the bitter character of quinine. This is a gin & tonic that really improves with time, making a lovely drink with a little bit of ice-melt. The higher citrus flavour comes from the addition of lemongrass, which is a common component of home-made tonic and, I believe, from reading The Chap, that Fentimans is closer to the type of tonic drunk in the late colonial-era. The citrus quality almost makes a garnish unnecessary… almost.

Drinking this on its own is almost like supping lemonade, what with its strong citrus flavour, but the slight bitterness means that the quinine isn’t lost.

* Fentimans Diet is not yet (July 2010) available, but it is anticipated for the future.

Schweppes Regular
The old familiar, this produces a cool and refreshing compliment to the tonic with a delightful twang on the finish, although it was not as refreshing as some of its counterparts. We both enjoyed this tonic and it did very well in the rankings, finishing in at a close number four.

On its own, this tasted like a pleasant and good standard of tonic water but was not really refreshing.

Schweppes Diet
In a Gin & tonic, this had a flat flavour and was too bitter, which provided little in the way of a compliment to the drink; a mere shadow of its regular partner. When tasted on its own, it was very dry and very fizzy: it was somewhat reminiscent of Alka Seltzer or highly effervescent soda water.

Fevertree Regular
With Gin, this makes a cooling drink and is initially pleasant and refreshing. However, although flavourful, it has a sharp, bitter, and somewhat unpleasant, aftertaste. On its own, this was not too fizzy, nor did it cling to your mouth; it had a good strong flavour, with a bitter kick at the end.

Fevertree Diet
This was overly bitter and really masked the flavour of the Gin, so its definitely not one for a moderately delicate spirit. This did not refresh, and at the end I was left searching my gin & tonic for any flavour beyond the bitterness. On its own, this was very anonymous and very clingy.

Carters
This is okay, but not great. Nonetheless, it does represent reasonable value. This was fizzier than the others, a little clingy, and quite bitter, but after a couple of minutes it started to improve.

The extreme fizziness and the way it clings to the mouth does not make this a great option for drinking on its own.

Q Tonic
Produced in New York, USA, Q Tonic contains; Triple Distilled Water, Organic Agave, Handpicked Quinine, Lemon Juice Extract, Natural Bitters and it gets its fizz from champagne carbonation. The concept behind this tonic was that the creators went back to the drawing board to create a tonic from scratch that would “taste like tonic water should”.

So to the taste: Q Tonic certainly was different to everything else and so, in that respect, Q have achieved their goal. But in a Gin & tonic it doesn’t have much flavour beyond soda water; a little juniper does get through, but this drink is unrecognizable as a gin & tonic. The drink is unsubstantial and underwhelming, with a very short finish.

On its own, the tonic tastes predominantly like soda water, with a real lack of flavour.

As I said, it is different and maybe some people will love it, but it simply isn’t for me. With all the hype surrounding Q and its high price point, I was left bitterly disappointed.



And finally, this is only a matter of personal preference, but, by request, here is our top five ranking:

#1 – Britivic Regular

#2 – Fentimans Regular

#3 – 6 O’Clock Tonic

#4 – Schweppes Regular

#5 – Fevertree Regular