Cocktails with… Twisted Nose – Watercress Gin from Winchester, UK

At February’s Gin Guild meeting at WSET, I met a distiller from the Winchester area who was creating a new gin using watercress as one of the botanicals. At yesterday’s Ginposium, he presented me with a finished bottle.

TwistedNoseGin FINAL

Twisted Nose Gin is bottled at 40% ABV and is distilled at the Winchester Distillery, where they use a vapour infusion chamber to extract the flavours from the botanicals. These include: juniper, angelica, coriander, grapefruit, orris, cassia bark, and fennel seed, plus two local botanicals from Hampshire: lavender and watercress.

The watercress – or, in Latin, Nasturtium, which means “twisted nose” – is a speciality of North Hampshire, where the mineral-rich spring water provides excellent growing conditions.

On its own

Nose: Intense and spicy, with leafy pepper and a mixture of sweet fennel and lavender.
Taste: This is very soft spirit, but with a good level of flavour intensity. There’s some sweet spiciness from the fennel, as well as aromatic floral notes from the lavender. These are followed by notes of juniper, angelica, and then a green, leafy lusciousness with a hint of pepper spice. There are notes of grapefruit on the finish, which is long and zesty.

Gin & Tonic
Very, very clean; exceptionally so. It makes the Schweppes seem more like soda water with a dash of cinchona bitters than a sweet mixer, so there’s lots of potential for use with sweet American tonic waters. Once again, there are notes of sweet fennel, a light touch of lavender, and a leafy crispness. Herbal and very refreshing.

Martini
Very herbal, with quite a lot of black-liquorice-like notes that seem to strike a chord between lavender and fennel. This cocktail is very aromatic and has a little sweetness to it, but is fresh, too, with a little spice at the end. All-in-all, a good example of a contemporary gin Martini.

Negroni
A particularly herbal and smooth Negroni. I often think that lavender can work well with Campari and red vermouth, and Twisted Nose is no exception. The citrus of the gin is clear on the finish, which – along with the Campari’s bitterness – gives the drink a lively zestiness.

DTS and Paul Bowler

DTS with Winchester Distillery Founder & Distiller Paul Bowler at the Gin Guild Ginposium

In Conclusion
It is great to see UK Craft Distillers embracing all aspects of the gin character spectrum; Twisted Nose is flying the flag for British contemporary gins. This has a exceptionally well-integrated flavour profile with the signature botanicals shining through. My favourite drink was the superb Gin & Tonic.

Twisted Nose Gin is available for around £30 for 500ml from www.twistednose.co.uk.
Follow Twisted Nose on Twitter – @twistednosegin
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Cocktails with… Shortcross Gin – from Northern Ireland

Last October, I helped to organise London’s first Craft Distilling Expo in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. As part of this, I held spirits drop-in sessions with aspiring gin distillers to discuss their ideas and products one-on-one. One of my appointments was with a couple from Northern Ireland who were making Northern Ireland’s first craft gin. I was delighted to see the same couple, Fiona & David Boyd-Armstrong, when I held similar drop-in sessions at the recent ADI Conference in Seattle; this time, however, their gin was finished.

ShortCross Gin

Shortcross Gin is made at the Rademon Estate Distillery near Downpatrick, south of Belfast in, Northern Ireland. With an NGS wheat spirit base, bottled at 46.0% ABV, the gin uses water drawn from the estate’s own well and a botanical mix that includes:

Juniper
Coriander
Lemon
Orange
Cassia
Fresh apple
Elderberry
Wild clover

On its own
Nose: Rich and fruity, almost like a hedgerow in bloom with a mix of berries, leafy herbal and floral notes. This is followed by slight vanilla creaminess and citrus, reminding me of lemon shortbread.
Taste: Mouth-filling texture and pretty smooth for 46% ABV. Coriander and citrus upfront, followed by a little berry sweetness and then the more complex floral and herbal notes, part of which is from the clover; then juniper and angelica, mixed with spice, before a long, lingering, dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
Fragrant and herbal with lavender and heather, as well as bright citrus. A good, bold flavour that should stand up well to most tonics. There are also some complex flavours with a collection of floral and herbal notes, and juicy berry before a dry, crisp and refreshing finish.

Martini
A little inviting vanilla on the nose, leading you a lovely, clean Martini with a good level of botanical intensity. Some lovely, fresh, leafy, green herbal notes, as well as a touch of sweet spice and a dry citrus finish.

ShortCross Negroni

Negroni
This is an earthy and bitter Negroni, with plenty of gentian and dark chocolate flavours on the finish. Despite the strong Campari flavours, the gin’s character is still discernable, thanks in part to the strength (46% ABV), providing dry flavours of juniper and angelica with floral, spice and herbal notes, too.

In Conclusion
Shortcross Gin is one of those spirits that is simply a pleasure to review; each drink was delicious and revealed different aspects of the gin’s character. I like that the signature botanicals are discernible, but not overpowering, and that they work well with the more classic ingredients. I liked all of the drinks that I tried, but, on balance, I have to say that the Gin & Tonic was my favourite.

Ireland have started off their 21st century gin distilling in fine style.

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Cocktails with… Sipsmith VJOP #2

Today’s gin review is something a bit special not currently available in the UK but from a brand familiar and well-loved by most of our readers. The brand is Sipsmith the gin is Sipsmith VJOP (Very Juniper Over Proof). Designed for the Japanese market this second batch is bottled at 52.0% ABV (the first was at 47.7%ABV) and the balance of the ten botanicals have been tweaked Juniper an Angleica have been dialled up to make a bolder, dryer gin; such was the demand from the Japanese market.
Own
nose: Bold, green, vibrant juniper
taste: juniper, angelica and coriander up front and rather smooth initially with a building warmth and a little lemon on the finish. A very classic style that has a lot of mixing potential.

SipsmithVJOP

Gin & Tonic
A big bold gin and tonic with plenty of juniper, followed by citrus and the some sweeter elements like cinnamon nutmeg almost cardamom-like (not that there is any cardamom in there). For fans of navy strength type gins and tonic (I am firmly in that camp) this will be bliss.
Martini
Very classic, with juniper and a little spice. Works very well with a twist of lemon as a garnish although it is a rather potent cocktail but, serve ice cold a good aperitif.
Negroni

Excellent, broad and big flavours that stand up well to the red vermouth and Campari – this is pretty close to a Negroni lovers dream. Superb balance of bitter, sweet and juniper dry. This strong drink would be just right before a meal.
In Conclusion
I’m on record as liking high-strength gins and Sipsmith VJOP is no exception, it’s good on it;s own but excels in mixed drink especially the gin and tonic and Negroni

Cocktails with… C.O.L.D. (City of London Distillery) Gin with a Bonus Irish Gin review

COLD Gin Title

Continuing our series on UK Craft Gins, today’s focus is on a new distillery in the City of London. For those not familiar with the make-up of Europe largest metropolitan area, London is not just one city, but the combination of two cities and boroughs. One of the cities is the City of Westminster, where Parliament sits; the other is the City of London, also known as the square-mile, which is the financial heart of the Capital and includes St. Paul’s Cathedral. Just a stone’s throw from this architectural masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren lies C.O.L.D. (City of London Distillery).

C.O.L.D. Gin is made by Master Distiller Jamie Baxter (who used to work at Chase), who also consults independently for aspiring distillers. The gin is bottled at 40% ABV and contains the following seven botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander Seed
Angelica Root
Liquorice Root
Lemon
Orange
Pink Grapefruit

COLD Gin FINAL

#1 On its own
Nose: Plenty of creamy citrus, a bit like lemon curd, as well as juniper and coriander.
Taste: Smooth and well-rounded, with juniper, coriander, citrus and a hint of raisin at the end. Very well-balanced, with plenty of citrus with a slightly sweet “lift” on the finish.

#2 Gin & Tonic
Bold flavours with lots of dry juniper, lemon and a hint of vanilla and citrus from the pink grapefruit. Quite citrusy, zesty, bold and refreshing.

#3 Martini
Very classic: quite crisp, with lots of citrus and dry juniper. As you drink more, the lemon comes through more strongly, so there’s no need for a twist, but an olive may work well.

#4 Negroni
Quite sweet, actually, with a snug smoothness. It seems quite soft, although there’s still a substantial shard of bitterness, thanks to the Campari at the end. A soft start, with a wild finish.

In Conclusion
This is a rather classic gin that is obviously well made and work particularly well in long drinks like the Gin Collins (my favourite) and the gin and tonic. There are plans to release a “Square Mile Gin” bottled at a higher ABV and I look forward to trying that.

But wait, there’s more!

On a recent trip to Shebeen, The Poitin Bar in Kentish Town, with Dave Mulligan, Louis Lebaillif and Michael Vachon of Master of Malt, I got the chance to try an Irish Craft Gin, probably the first I have tried: Dingle Gin.

Dingle Irish Craft Gin

Dingle Gin is made at the Dingle Whiskey Distillery in County Kerry, Ireland. It is made with a variety of botanicals, including: Juniper, Angelica, Coriander, Rowan, Fuschia, Bog Myrtle, Heather and Hawthorn.

#1) On its own:
Nose: Juniper, coriander and lime.
Taste: Quite smooth, with lots of coriander, followed by a dry, slightly spicy finish. This gin has both some sweetness and some culinary appeal to it, and should make some interesting cocktails.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Very clean, with lots of coriander and citrus, making this a fresh and crisp drink. Another dimension is then added to the drink with notes of lavender, spice and a long, dry finish.

Cocktails with… Butler’s Gin

ButlersTitle

With what is perhaps the beginning of a renaissance in artisanal gin distilling in the UK, it is exciting to speak to someone who is not only doing their own distilling, but also coming to the industry from a wholly different angle.

Such was the case when I first spoke to Ross Butler of Butler’s Gin. Ross started out by wanting to create a product that reflected his character and, as a part of this, he wanted to start off debt-free, purchasing raw materials only when an order came in. When I spoke to him, Ross spoke of the trade-off between time and money and how he had decided to invest time in his product rather than borrowing money. It seems to have paid dividends, as Butler’s Gin is now due to launch in the USA and the EU next month. Given that he only sold his first bottle of gin on 22nd February 2013, this is remarkable.

Butler’s Gin is made in Hackney and takes a London Dry Gin, which is made to Ross’  specification and recipe, which he then infuses with various botanicals kept in muslin bags, a bit like over-sized tea bags. The infused botanicals include lemongrass and cardamom.

ButlersGinBottle

On its own

Nose: A dry, berry juniper with liquorice root, allspice, ginger/cardamom and lemongrass.

Taste: A measured, classic start of juniper and coriander, followed by some sweeter, spiced notes such as ginger, cassia and cardamon. This is all rounded off with a long finish of lemongrass.

Gin & Tonic

A clean gin and tonic with juniper, plenty of spice from the cardamom and citrus from the lemongrass. My tonic recommendation would be Fevertree and maybe Schweppes; however I would steer clear of eFentimand or Waitrose own-brand as they are too citrusy.

Martini

All of the crisp juniper and citrus that you would expect from a Martini, but with the added character of cardamom, spice and then the dry grape character of the vermouth. Full of flavour and pretty classic, if you are talking about the Martinis of the ‘30s and ‘40s rather than the ultra dry drinks of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but that’s just how I like it.

Negroni

The bold flavours of this gin work well in a Negroni; it’s exceptionally flavourful, with some dark chocolate spice coming through, along with a finish of cardamom and citrus.

Announcing The Craft Distillers’ Alliance Gin Awards

The Craft Distillers’ Alliance is proud to announce the UK’s first ever Craft Gin awards, in collaboration with David T. Smith of the website www.summerfruitcup.com. David has spent a fair amount of time working with Craft Gin in the USA alongside the American Distilling Institute and will shortly be releasing a book on the subject, The Craft of Gin written with America’s Gin Reviewer Aaron J. Knoll.

The UK currently boasts over 20 craft distilleries that produce gin, with another 6 scheduled to be operational by the end of 2013. The Craft Distilling Alliance Gin Competition is a chance to celebrate this new wave of independent distillers and to promote the production of Craft Gin. As such, there is no fee for producers to enter this inaugural event.

A judging panel of industry professionals with a penchant for gin is being assembled and the competition will take place in central London on Monday 24th June.


The competition is currently only open to Craft Gins produced in the UK. For more information, please contact David T. Smith at david@summerfruitcup.com.

Cocktails with.. Dà Mhìle

DaMhile

Craft Gin is booming; since my return from Colorado, I have discovered three new craft distilleries! Today’s is one such distiller. Dà Mhìle (pronounced da-vee-lay) is based in Ceredigion in West Wales. Fans of Scotch whisky may recognise the name as that of an organic blended Scotch whisky, which the company has been selling for some time, but, now, they have their own distillery in which to make their products: both a whisky and an organic gin, which is what I’m looking at today.

Dà Mhìle Farmhouse Botanical Gin is bottled at 42% ABV and uses 100% organic ingredients. It is made using a mix of 20 botanicals, from familiar favourites juniper and coriander to five botanicals grown on their farm: elderflower, red and white clover, gorse and chamomile.

DaMhile Gin FINAL

The Taste

On its own

Nose: Green juniper, followed by a burst of herbal spice notes, including cardamom and sage. Then some coriander and, finally, fennel.

Taste: Plenty of coriander up front, along with some other citrus. This then moves onto some sweet spices, such as fennel and star anise, and finishes up with the dry juniper. After the citrus-heavy start, this is a herbal and piney gin with forest-like qualities.

Gin & Tonic

Very spicy and leafy, with some menthol elements, too. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom stand out, as well as a hint of cedar. Some fruitiness accompanies the spice, making this exceptionally easy to drink. Very good, indeed.

Martini

Notes of coriander and ginger make this cocktail warming, intense and spicy, with a long finish. This really highlights the potential of the gin in savoury cocktails; something different and rather delicious. The finish lingers for a good while, which leaves you wanting another as soon as your glass is empty.

Negroni

Simply lovely; lots of spice: ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom, with a gingerbread sweetness, followed by a good bitterness. Complex and tasty.

Gin Collins

This drink really brings out some different notes of the gin with the citrus/coriander dialled back a bit and the all-spice/pimento notes coming to the fore. some of these herbal notes remind me of The Botanist; which shares quite a few botanicals with Dà Mhìle. It is important for a Collins to be refreshing and this certainly is.

Sweet Martini

The citrus and herbal notes of the gin work well with the red vermouth making this a flavoursome drink which is very raising to the appetite.

In Conclusion

I’m quite fond of Dà Mhìle and it’s bold flavours and that is aside from the fact that the whole gin is distilled in Wales and it is Organic (to the EU standard,which is more stringent than the USA standard). Before Dà Mhìle the only UK 100% organic gin was Juniper Green Gin which is nice enough but, unlike Dà Mhìle, lacks a certain wow factor.

Martini and Gin Collins were my cocktail highlights.

Cocktails with… Dodd’s Gin – Distilled in London

Dodd'sGinTitle

A little while back I review the London Distillery Company’s Testbed Gin selection and I also mentioned my visit there for the WSET’s Gin Ramble. SO it was with anticipation that I tried their first flagship products, Dodd’s Gin.

But who was Dodd?

Ralph Dodd is described as a serial entrepreneur, but, more importantly, he was the founder of the Intended London Distillery Company in 1807, whose aim was to “manufacture Genuine British Spirits and Compounds”. Although many preparations were made for the business, no distillation took place and, by 1812, the company had been disbanded. That was, until 2011, when Darren Rook resurrected the company at its new home in Battersea.

Dodd'sGin

At least three of the botanicals being used are unique, to my knowledge at the time of writing* (I have a record of the botanical make-up of about 200 gins), which is very exciting. That said, they don’t stand out as gimmicks; they all make perfect sense.

I quizzed distiller, Andrew MacLeod Smith, about his use of cardamom and he said that he simply likes the taste of green cardamom (I, too, am particularly fond of the flavour) and that the black cardamom seeds add a menthol note. I can also confirm this, having tried a black cardamom distillate from Sacred’s Ian Hart on the Gin Ramble back in February. The London honey comes from bees kept in the city and is added to the pot pre-distillation to primarily enhance the mouthfeel of the spirit.

dODDS gIN bOTANICALS

The Taste

Own

Nose: Some interesting salty notes meet my nose to start, as well as some smoky elements, making this particularly unusual. There are some green cardamom notes, too.

Taste: This is a good, smooth spirit with plenty of spice, with the green cardamom in the middle and the menthol of the black cardamom towards the end, which is mixed with dry, piney juniper and a spiciness reminiscent of freshly cracked black pepper. This is a spicy and savoury gin and is, truly, something very different; no-one is doing anything like this in London or even the UK.

On a second sip, more of the classic gin notes emerge, with coriander and citrus upfront. I also note that the spirit is 49.9% ABV and, although the flavours are strong and bold (carried by the higher proof), the texture is smooth until the spicy finish. This is potentially due to the impact of the London honey.

I can see how this gin builds upon the work of the Testbed range and it truly is a Anglo-American or Trans-atlantic/Cary Grant Gin**, starting off classic in flavour and becoming contemporary.

Gin & Tonic

Just superb; very fruity, with some jammy berry notes. It’s exceptionally smooth, with a little creamy sweetness in the middle that then gives way to some spice from the cardamom, as well as a leafy note. Some coriander is in there, too, all concluded with a dry, juniper finish. All in all, this is a complex and engrossing drink and a spin on the classic flavour profile of a Gin & Tonic, whilst remaining wonderfully accessible.

Martini

Sweet and spicy with a real pow of flavour thanks to the high ABV. Very smooth nevertheless with an exceptionally balance, I’d suggest no garnish for this so that you can really enjoy the full impact of the flavours.

Negroni

A good Negroni, with lots of bitterness and deep spice notes, as well as some hints of cocoa and coffee. As such, describing it as dark and intense seems fitting. A long juniper finish is paired with an earthy bitterness. Drinking this, you sit up and take notice; but, at the same time, there is a nonchalance to the drink, which makes it a bit of an enigma!

In Conclusion

Dodd’s really is something different and I’m sure it will appeal to the palate of both traditionalist and revolutionaries of the gin world; if you like cardamom, you will love this. We’ve had a bit of a wait to finally get to try Dodd’s, but, boy, was it worth it.

* A few gin distillers add honey after distillation, but not before like Dodd’s.

** A mix between Classic (UK) and contemporary (US) styles of gin – named after the British-American hybrid accent of actors of the golden era of Hollywood such as Cary Grant.

Cocktails with… GILT – Single Malt Scottish Gin

GILT TITLE

One of the best things about writing about gin is that surprises lurk around every corner. Last month, I spoke about a serendipitous tweet that introduced me to the excellent Warner Edwards Gin and something similar happened this month; this time, with a craft distillery in Scotland who make a gin called GILT.

GILT Single Malt Scottish Gin is made by the same folks who are behind VALT Single Malt Vodka, which I tried at the first Boutique Bar Show in 2007 at Brick Lane (coincidentally, on the same day as a Tube strike) and, I must say, tasting the vodka left an impression on me; it’s very good.

The VALT distillery is in the Vale of Leven near Loch Lomond. Like their vodka, GILT gin uses 100% malted barley in its base spirit. The malted barley mash bill is the same that could be used to make Scotch whisky. Bottled at 40%ABV it contains a mix of nine botanicals:

GILT BOTS

#1 On its own
Nose: Juniper, hints of vanilla and grain. Ever-so-slightly acidic.
Taste: Dry juniper upfront, followed by coriander and then some notes of malt and hops. In the middle, there are some toffee-vanilla notes, followed by citrus, spice and a light, liquorice sweetness. The finish is fresh, with lots of citrus and orange in particular.

#2 Gin & Tonic
This is something different for a Gin & Tonic: there are some great earthy and bitter, bark-like notes. It’s good and fresh, with some sweeter citrus notes and subtle hints of cardamom coming through, too. The finish is particularly dry. This is reminiscent of the excellent FEW Gin from Illinois, which has a similar grain-heavy, slight creamy underlying character.

GILTGINBottle

#3 Martini
The barley and creamy notes of the gin’s base work well with some of the vanilla and herbal notes of the vermouth. I used my standard 4:1 Medium-Dry ratio for this cocktail, but this tastes much wetter than that so, if you like your drink dry, then you might need to tinker a bit. Hints of anise, cardamom and chocolate also appear at the end, concluding a well-rounded and pleasant drink.

#4 Negroni
Quite a smooth and creamy Negroni, with a fair dose of vanilla coming through. That said, it’s not sickly. There are some orange notes, too, before the bitter-sweet finish of the drink, which is long and bitter, with just a hint of spicy, almost gingery, warmth.

#5) Old Fashioned
A natural match for this gin. The whisky character that hides in the background of the juniper spirit lends itself well to the mix of sugar and bitters, providing the warmth that you would usually associate with this drink, along with slight malt, vanilla and barley notes. The botanical mix, especially the spice notes, work well with the bitters.

In Conclusion
I really enjoyed experimenting with GILT gin and I shall, no doubt, mix some other cocktails with it, too. I have enjoyed gins with a white whiskey base, like FEW, before and it is good to see what is effectively a gin with a “new-make Scotch” base as a counterpart (this is rather sloppy and inaccurate terminology wholly on my part; but I think that it “paints a picture” of the gin’s style). The Old Fashioned is superb, as is the Negroni.

GILT Single Malt Scottish Gin is available for around £30 for 70cl from drinkon.com.

Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Lemon, Orange, Orris, Liquorice, Cardamom, Cassia