Cocktails with the new Barrel Reserve and Peat Barrel BIG Gins – from the USA!

As 2016 approaches, I thought that today I would share with readers two 2015 releases from one of my favourite distilleries; not only do they make delicious, award-winning products, but the owners are a hoot! I speak, of course, of Captive Spirits: Ben Capdeville, Holly Robinson, and the entire Big Gin family.

In 2014, Bourbon-Barreled Big Gin won Best Contemporary Gin at the IWSC and now the folks at Captive Spirits have released two new aged gins.

Barrel Reserve Big Gin is aged for Three Years in Ex-bourbon (Heaven Hill casks).

Peat Barreled Big Gin is rested for 3-4 months in Westland Distillery’s American Single Malt Peated Whiskey barrels (which previously held Wild Turkey) and is bottled at 47% ABV.

Barrel Reserve BIG Gin

BB-BarrelReserve

On its own
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Light fruit and vanilla. This is sweet and inviting, before a hint of pine blossom towards the end.
Taste: Delightfully smooth and sippable, this has a lovely balance of the complex, sweet wood spice and the dryer, piney gin notes. It also has a thick texture that fills the mouth and the menthol pepper of the Tasmanian Pepperberry on the finish.

Frozen
This gin chills down well, adding a lovely viscosity to the texture. Upfront, there are notes of toffee and spice, with some crisp pine and citrus, too. The finish is more floral, with sweet spice and wood; it’s creamy, before a peppery finish.

Gin Soda
Herbaceous and woody; this is quite resinous, but the lengthening of the soda gives the gin a lighter, refreshing character without compromising on intensity or quality.

Sweet Martini
Sweet, fruity, and jammy, with a touch of bitter herbal notes. Then comes some spice and vanilla, and a lovely, creamy finish.

Negroni
Wow! Simply fantastic – there is an excellent synergy between the gin, the wood, and the other ingredients. Smooth, mellow, and relaxed, the gin takes the drink to another level, with beautiful vanilla wood and maple notes in the middle. A must try!

Peat Barreled BIG Gin

BB-PeatBarreled
On its own
Colour: Pale straw
Nose: Light spice with a wisp of dry, smoked wood, then a little citrus and cedar. This is complex and evolving with a few subtleties kept back for the palate.
Taste: The wood creates a very dry, light smoke that lingers and builds as you sip. The dry wood notes work well with the fundamentally dry character of the gin. After the wood comes some juniper, angelica, and a little citrus. The finish is of spice and the slight menthol pepper of the Tasmanian Pepperberry.

From the Freezer
Dry, with flavours of apricot kernels, followed by flavours of fragrant cedar. Excellent, cooling, and sippable.

Gin Soda
The woody notes are dry, adding to the refreshing nature of the drink and complementing the other botanical notes, whilst the spice adds complexity. This is, without a doubt, an aged gin made for soda.

Sweet Martini
Superb – light and dry, almost as if it was made with dry vermouth. Despite that, there’s a lovely sweetness at the end, along with delicious, rich orange notes. This is truly excellent and sets itself apart from other Sweet Martinis.

Negroni
A wonderfully woody Negroni: the smoky wood works really well with the bitterness of the cocktail and here is a touch of very dark chocolate thrown in, too. All of this is balanced by the sweetness of the vermouth and the extra bitterness of the Campari. Another excellent drink.

In Conclusion

It’s great to see the folks at BIG Gin not rest on their laurels after their big win at IWSC with their first Bourbon Barreled Big Gin. These two new additions are no fly-by-nights and have obviously been well thought through before their release.

The Barrel Reserve adds smoothness and complexity to what was already a great gin and really starts to bring aged gin in line with some of the better whiskies that are great to sip and explore neat.

The Peat Barreled Gin achieves a fine balance between gin, wood, and smoke and, whilst the peat is certainly there, it does not overwhelm the gin’s character; in addition, the extra woody, smoky dryness that it adds is – I think – fantastic. I highly recommended trying both.

Cocktails with Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin

I recently reviewed the British Chilgrove Gin which was the first in the UK to be distilled using Grape Neutral Spirit so it was great to try a comparative product from California.

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin is distilled at the Raff Distillerie on Treasure Island, San Francisco, California. they also make an Absinthe (also base of grape spirit), and are working on a Rum Agricole and a Bourbon.

http://www.raffdistillerie.com/gin.html

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin – http://www.raffdistillerie.com/gin.html

The gin is named after two dogs that roamed the streets of San Francisco in the mid 19th century. The grape neutral spirit is sourced from 100% Californian grapes and this is then re-distilled with a selection of botanicals including:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Lemon
Orange
Orris
Cinnamon
Liquorice

The Taste

Own
nose: very very fruity; the base spirit is quite evident on the nose with orange and some broader chocolate notes as well as fennel and a touch of dry juniper.
taste: a very smooth texture, as you may expect from a grape spirit base. There is a rich plump fruitiness with coriander, orange and grapefruit citrus. A touch of coconut and a hint of pine precede a long dry fruity finish with a pleasant warmth.

Gin & Tonic
A very fruity gin and tonic full of plump grapes as well as crisp green apple and pear notes and a little sweetness – the drink is reminiscent of apple jelly or jam. For a garnish I think the crispness of lime contrasts well with the more confectionery elements of the gin.

Martini
As a diamond-method Martini I think this really works, lots of the pear and apple fruity notes come through as well as some sweetness followed by plump, luscious grape flavours. There is bright juniper, coriander, citrus and spice. A very clean and silky Martini with both the flavour and texture of the base spirit coming through.

Negroni
Very fruity with a smooth succulence courtesy of the grape spirit there are hints of pear and almond too, slightly reminiscent of a bakewell tart. After these flavours, the herbal elements of the vermouth become more pronounced followed by the herbal bitterness of the Campari. A full-bodied drink, with bitterness. Overall it is quite well-rounded.

 

Cocktails with Sun Liquor Gins – from Seattle, USA

Hedgetrimmer GIn Title

Seattle is a hotbed of distilling at the moment, with gin-making distilleries scattered throughout. One that was a mere stone’s throw from our hotel was Sun Liquor (another being Copperworks). Sun Liquor has a bar attached to their distillery, where they currently make two gins, a vodka, and two rums.

Today’s focus is on the unusually named Hedgetrimer Gin. Why Hedgetrimer? My understanding is that the flavours of the gin somewhat evoke the scents and flavours of a hedgerow, with its mix of leafy green herbal and rich fruit notes.

The gin is bottled at 42.0% ABV and is made using a mix of 9 botanicals. The base spirit is in-house using unmalted (non-GMO) organic wheat. The spirit is twice distilled in Scottish copper pot stills and, after the initial distillation, the botanicals are rested for 24 hours.

The nine botanicals include:
Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Fresh lemon peel
Fresh orange peel
Grains of Paradise
Sarsaparilla root
Cannonball watermelons rind

On its own
Nose: Soft pine juniper, a little saltiness and other savoury, herbal notes such as black pepper. Then coriander and fresh citrus.
Taste: Plenty of coriander followed by angelica, pine and citrus. This has a smooth, creamy texture, with warmth towards the end. A pretty classic gin with good balance.

Gin & Tonic
The Hedgetrimer Gin & Tonic is, as you might imagine from the name, piney and zesty. It’s quite a classic style, with a good amount of dryness, but refreshing, too, and the gin stands up well to the tonic. Lemon would be my garnish of choice.

Martini
A smooth Martini, with lots of juniper. This is a really good example of a dry Martini with lots of flavour; after the dry juniper and pine, there is a little citrus and spice.

Negroni
A simple and straightforward Negroni, but one that ticks all of the boxes. Smooth, with a bitter-sweet finish.

GunClub Gin Title

The gin is bottled at 50.0% ABV and is made using a mix of 13 botanicals. The base spirit is made in-house using unmalted (non-GMO) organic wheat. The spirit is twice distilled in Scottish copper pot stills and, after the initial distillation, the botanicals are rested for 48 hours.

Botanicals include:

Juniper Berries
Coriander Seed
Angelica Root
Fresh Orange Peel
Orris Root
Cassia Bark
Birch Leaves
Fresh organic Cranberries

Gun Club Gin Bottle

 

On its own
Nose: A crisp nose of juniper and lime.
Taste: Bold in flavour and with little burn, this has notes of angelica and juniper, followed by sweet spice, such as cassia, and then some floral notes: violet and hibiscus. The dry finish is of coriander and bright and zesty citrus.

Gin & Tonic
Bold flavours, with plenty of spice, especially cassia and cardamom. This is followed by dry, citrus and juniper, plus softer angelica notes. Definitely a punchy, quaffable, and delicious drink!

Martini
Superb – everything I look for in a Martini: powerful and chilling, and a cocktail that that really wakes you up. There’s a symphony of botanical flavours with a good juniper solo, a citrus and herbal chorus, and a finish that lasts, just like a great tune that’s stuck in your head. Excellent.

Negroni
A very solid Negroni, although maybe a little sweeter, spicier, and creamier than many others. There’s a good bitterness on the finish, making this a first-class Negroni with flair.

Cocktails with… Spirits Works Gin

Spirit Works Gin Title

I’ve often written about the renaissance of craft distilling in the US, but the availability of these products has always been rather limited. However, last week, a new gin brand arrived in the UK, being imported from America by GX Spirits.

That brand is Spirit Works, out of Sebastopol, north of San Francisco, California.

Spirit Works was founded by husband and wife team, Timo & Ashby Marshall. Timo originally hails from England, whilst Ashby is a native of the Pacific West Coast.

Their current range includes a gin, a vodka, and the only US sloe gin made in the traditional, English style.

SpiritWorksGin

Batch 004 from November 15, 2013 – you can check out when your batch comes from on the Spirit Works website.

The gin is made using an organic, Californian wheat base, which is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled on-site at the distillery. It is bottled at 43.0% ABV and contains a proprietary botanical blend of traditional and Californian botanicals, including:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Citrus
Cardamom

On its own
Nose: Juniper with hint of lemon and vanilla.
Taste: Juniper and spice up-front, which moves onto a stronger pine flavour intermingled with a sweet breadiness with a touch of fennel or caraway. There’s also bright citrus and a little pepper towards the end. A good, solid dry gin with a little transatlantic flair. Very nice to sip neat, on the rocks, or from the freezer.

Gin & Tonic
Fruity, with notes of vanilla and a dry, refreshing finish with a lot of flavour. Classic, with a creamy twist. I am reminded of jelly and ice-cream, but by no means in a bad way; the drink is not overly sweet and has a dry finish. My advice: try one.

Martini
This cocktail has a lovely interplay of flavours between dryness and crispness. The juniper is certainly there, as well as dry floral and citrus notes that work well with the vermouth, but be careful not to put too much in. Just before the finish there is a burst of plumy fruit, which stops the drink from becoming too arid. The finish is long, lingering and dry and, as it fades, you are more than inclined to take another sip.

Negroni
Lovely nose – some hints of vanilla and cinnamon, like homemade custard. The taste is even better, just superb – a lovely interplay of flavours between the spicy botanicals, dry botanicals, and its sweeter elements. Complex, intense and a delight to drink.

Spirit Works, Website, Twitter, Facebook, UK Distributor.

Cocktails with… Bellewood Gin

With the rise of craft and micro-distillers comes an increased desire to innovate and experiment in search of a gin that breaks boundaries and sets itself apart from the crowd. An increasingly popular way of doing this is to use a non-typical base spirit (i.e. not Neutral Grain Spirit). Often, the base spirit used is inspired by what grows around the distillery and one such example is apples. There are apple base spirits in use throughout the US and the William Case Gin of the UK also uses an apple base.

Bellewood Gin

Today’s focus is on another gin with an apple base spirit, named Bellewood Gin from Lynden, in the North of the state of Washington. Bellewood Gin’s apple spirit base is made from a blend of 21 varieties of apples, primarily Jonagold and Jonamac, but generally a mix, depending on the harvest. Its seven botanicals are vapour infused using a gin basket in a Vendome still and include:

Juniper
Coriander
Cinnamon
Angelica root
Cardamon
Orange peel
Lemon peel

On its own
Nose: Spiced apple with juniper, angelica, and some lovely, warm spiced notes: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cassia, as well as fruity raisin. Warm and inviting.
Taste: A lovely, smooth spirit with the apple working well with the dry botanicals (juniper, angelica); this is then balanced out by some of the sweet, baking spice notes, which are somewhat reminiscent of an apple crumble or baked apple.

Gin & Tonic
The base comes through strongly, giving a dry apple flavour that’s followed by a flair of gingerbread spice, although this is slightly more subtle than the flavours of the gin on its own. The finish is dry, with some bitterness from the quinine and juniper that stops the drink from becoming too sweet.

Martini
A spicy Martini with citrus (orange and lemon) and spice, including cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia, and even a hint of vanilla. It’s a little like some kind of cinnamon bread, but one that is, thankfully, not too sweet. All-in-all, this is a smooth and viscous Martini that I’d happily have again.

Negroni
Another delightful Bellewood drink. This is full of fresh, crisp apple notes, as well as piney juniper and cinnamon spice, which work well with the cocktail’s other ingredients to create a tasty drink that’s full of flavour.

In Conclusion
Bellewood is an exemplary example of an apple-based gin. Depending upon how it’s mixed, different aspects of the spirit came through – a sign of good gin. My favourite cocktail was the Martini.

Cocktails with Genius Navy Strength Gin

A few weeks back, I reviewed Genius Gin from Texas, courtesy of a sample provided by Aaron from TheGinIsIn.com (America’s Gin website). Today, I am reviewing Genius Gin Navy Strength after the folk at Genius Distillery were kind enough to send me a bottle.

Genius Gin Navy FINAL

On its own
Nose: Clean, with a little sweetness that comes from the can base spirit; it is almost reminiscent of a white rum. There is also a little creamy spice, followed by dry citrus.
Taste: A full flavour, with a rich mouthfeel. Initially, there’s a thick, creamy sweetness, which moves to some of the more traditional gin flavours: juniper, angelica and coriander. There is then a touch of spice, before a powerful, long and lingering, dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
A flavoursome Gin & Tonic, with coriander and some sweetness, as well as hints of nut, almond and fresh, crisp pear. A powerful and very refreshing drink – lime would be my choice of garnish. Lovely.

Martini
A smooth and silky Martini with a little sweetness but then also some dry fruit and nuttiness that provides a slight hint of bitterness. There are also some earthy herbal elements which I think means the gin could easily lend itself to an olive garnish, although both lemon peel or a Dickens serve (no olive or twist) work well, too. The botanical flavours are there, but this is certainly less intense than a Martini made with a very traditional gin like Tanqueray. Pretty good stuff.

Negroni
A powerful drink, with the extra ABV providing a bolder botanical flavour that has plenty of juniper and citrus, as well as some dark chocolate and intense, bitter, herbal elements towards the end. The finish is long, dry and lingering.

Gimlet

A clean drink with plenty of vanilla and lime – clean, crisp and a lovely example of a more contemporary twist in the Gimlet – smooth without being overly cloying.

In Conclusion
Genius Navy Gin is a great example of how the ABV can impact upon the flavour of a spirit and is a good illustration of the different characteristics that a Navy Gin can add to drinks when mixing. My favourite drink was the Negroini.

Cocktails with… Copperworks Gin

After a recent trip to Washington state, USA I now have a plethora of tasting notes and tasting samples of gin from around Seattle, as well as the wider state-wide area and the US in general.

Today, we feature Copperworks Gin, which is made at the Copperworks Distillery in Seattle.
In Washington state there are certain local legal rules/guidelines that encourage distillers to distill their own alcohol and source spirit locally; as a result, there are an unusually high number of grain-to-glass distillers, with Copperworks being one such example.

COPPERWORKS GIN FINAL

Copperworks make a vodka which is distilled from malted barley (malted barley is used a lot in the making of Scotch whisky), which they ferment and distill themselves. Their four stills (three pot stills and one column still) are from Forsyth’s in Scotland and their set-up includes a dedicated gin still. This vodka effectively forms the base for their gin, which is bottled at 47% ABV and contains a mix of 8 organic botanicals:

Juniper (Albanian)
Coriander Seed (Egyptian)
Angelica
Lemon Peel
Orange Peel
Cassia
Cubeb Berries
Grains of Paradise

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Fennel, celery and hints of vanilla, with the base spirit coming through on the nose and black pepper appearing at the end. Really rather pleasant.
Taste: Top marks for mouthfeel, which is full and viscous. There’s coriander upfront and then toasted grain, a spot of hops in the middle, and lemon citrus and tea towards the end. This is a well-executed gin with a distinctive character, that nonetheless stays true to gin’s roots.

Gin & Tonic
A good, classic flavour with hints of coriander. However, I think that the character of this particular gin may be better suited to a Spanish Gin Tonica style of serve (see below).

Martini
Superb – cool and crisp, and packed full of juniper, but with a luscious, creamy middle: notes of vanilla and just a hint of salted caramel. Citrus and a little pepper and spice arrive towards the end, followed by a long, lingering, dry finish. Excellent.

Negroni
The texture of this gin works really well in a Negroni: the drink is thick and intense, with lots of spice and dry juniper, then a bitter intensity at the end.

Gin Tonica
I used 50ml of Copperworks Gin and 150ml of Fevertree Original, combined with a garnish of lemon peel and cracked cardamon. This drink is quite excellent: the lemon and cardamom really enhance the flavours of the gin, both from the botanicals (especially the spice and pepper from cassia, cubeb and grains of paradise) and base spirit. A refreshing, crisp Gin Tonica that really stands out.

In Conclusion
Copperworks Gin is a really good example of how a well-integrated in-house base spirit can really add to the character, texture and flair of a drink. There are no really loud botanicals in this and it is very nicely balanced. Without a doubt, my favourite drink was the Gin Tonica, but the Negroni was very good, too.