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


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.

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.

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

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.

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… Griffon Gin from Washington State, USA

Made at the Double V Distillery in Battle Ground Washington State, USA, Griffon Gin is grain-to-glass; that is, they distill the whole product themselves, including both the base spirit and the redistillation of botanicals.

The base is made using a mix of locally grown corn (80%) and barley, and their botanicals include juniper, coriander, and cardamom. It is bottled at 40.0% ABV.

Griffon Gin

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Creamy and sweet with a touch of stickiness to start, but then there are some dryer, floral (lavender) elements that are followed by stalky, vegetal notes. A tempting aroma that encourages you to take a sip.
Taste: Coriander and light citrus upfront, followed by spice (cardamom) and then some dryer notes. The spirit is relatively smooth, although there is some warmth, along with more citrus, on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
This is quite a sweet Gin & Tonic with a lots of spice; cardamom is the most dominant, but there is also ginger, cassia, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Citrus and a bit of dryness comes through at the end. Fresh and tasty.

Clean, with lovely pine notes and lots of spice. There are hints of cedar wood, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Very tasty and complex. Delicious.

Another spicy cocktail, this time with some crisp, fresh notes, too. This is a well-integrated drink with a bitter finish, but one that is curbed slightly by the hints of cassia. Delightful – near perfect.

In Conclusion
Whilst Griffon is certainly a very spicy gin, the spice does not dominate the entirety of its character and other elements, such as the citrus and pine/juniper, add balance.

All of the drinks that I tried were excellent, but the Negroni just takes it for me.

Cocktails with… BIG Gin from Washington


When I first tried BIG Gin, over two years ago, I was blown away – it ticked all the boxes and mixed well in so many drinks – such was my excitement about telling people about the gin it turns out that I never actually posted the review, despite having written it – sincere apologies to Ben, Holly and all the BIG family. The good thing about this is that I have had the chance to try the gin time after time again and my opinion hasn’t changed. I have re-read and re-tasted the gin – made the odd tweak here and there but largely my conclusions remain the same.


You have probably picked up that a few weeks back I embarked in the wholesome project of trying to taste as many gin, each distilled in a separate US state as possible with my US counterpart Aaron of TheGinIsIn (America’s Gin website).

He’s written a rather good round-up of the event here. But has kindly omitted my favourite, which I shall look at, in detail, today.

The gin in question is BIG Gin from Washington State.

Big Gin Final

Big Gin is made by Captive Spirits of Ballad (North-west of Central Seattle) and their master distiller is a third-generation distiller. BIG Gin is designed as an Old World (or Classic) style of gin; that said the text on the bottle and some of the racy cocktails subtlety hint at touch of intrigue behind the products design.

Rarely do I comment on packaging (we almost all about taste here at SummerFruitCup) but I do really like the bottle of BIG Gin. Whilst the actually glass is relatively standard (but comfortable to handle) the labelling (a mix of very light green and black) has elegance and grace and reminds of the Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling.

The BIG gin is made with corn neutral grain spirit and contains a mix of 9 botanicals:

On its own
Nose: Bright, fresh citrus notes upfront, mixed with coriander, a little vanilla, and then a little menthol and black pepper.
Taste: A good amount of spiciness – cinnamon and cardamom – that moves onto juniper and angelica. Then, like the nose, there is some bright citrus, before a dry finish with hints of pepper and menthol from the Grains of Paradise and Tasmanian Pepperberry.

Gin & Tonic
A spicy little number, with its fair share of zesty citrus. This is fresh and full of flavours that come together in rather a saucy way. After the ice has melted a tad, this reaches the spot that some drinks miss. It’s delightfully satisfying, with excellent balance, making you reach for another as soona s this one is gone!

Pure and crisp, as a Martini should be, but also full of flavour. There is a lovely harmony between the piney juniper and the menthol notes. A little citrus also pops up in the middle, followed by a long, dry finish with a touch of vanilla.

The first thing that I notice is a lovely dark chocolate flavour that is followed by some of the richer spice of the gin botanicals such as cardamom. There is then some bitter citrus and the more herbal bitterness of the Campari, which matches well with the pepper/menthol notes. As you drink, a dry, piney juniper note builds, along with a touch of the more floral angelica.

This is a drink that I can easily savour again and again, and that is ready to reveal new characteristics with slight modifications of garnish or vermouth.

In Conclusion
Big Gin is a superb spirit and quickly becoming a firm favourite across the US and far beyond. It adds it’s own charcater to each drink it’s mixed in whilst holding to true to gin routes. My favourite drink is the Negroni, fantastico.

Cocktails with… Dry Fly Gin, Vodka and Whiskey

A little while ago I came across the Dry Fly Distillery, based in Washington State, USA. After a pleasant phone call with one of the founders, Kent, I found myself in possession of a lovely care package of their products. Dry Fly Distillery was founded just over four years ago by fishing buddies Don Poffenroth and Kent Fleischmann; hence the name “Dry Fly”, after the fishing technique. Given the focus of our site, it was their gin that captured the majority of my attention. For further background why not check out this video.


Bottled at 40% ABV, the gin uses the same spirit as the vodka and has 6 botanicals:
The inclusion of the likes of apple and mint were an endeavour to use natural resources found close to the distillery. This is something that is becoming increasing popular in the American Gin market; another good example is Death’s Door.
Nose: Creamy and floral with a hint of spice. There was also a certain jammy quality and a hint of juniper.
Taste: Incredibly, absolutely smooth, with no burn at all. The only way that I could tell that it was alcoholic was by a slight tingle on my lips at the end. This was quite floral (violet and lavender), with some sweet creamy citrus (maybe mandarin or lime). The juniper is there, but it definitely takes a back seat. Overall, I thought it was rather sippable. Upon a second inspection, I also noticed a slight saké-like quality to the gin, which was quite pleasant.

From Freezer:
A viscous texture, alongside a nose of ginger, flowers and juniper. Very tasty, this was full of flavour, being slightly brandy-like with additional hints of juniper and vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
This drink had strong notes of mandarin and citrus on the nose. Alongside the citrus and floral notes, there was a herbal note akin to dry vermouth. The drink is also quite dry and has a crisp quality, which made it both thirst-quenching and refreshing. I would suggest having no garnish and using Schweppes or Fevertree; I think that Fentiman’s citrus profile would overpower the drink.

This was very clean, with quite light flavours and some juniper. It had different characteristics to most Martinis, but was very good nonetheless: it was silky and slightly floral, with a long finish.

Pink Gin:
This Pink Gin was quite floral and herbal, but there seemed to be a slight clash between the gin and bitters. Of those that I tried, this wasn’t the best way to enjoy the gin.

Like the Pink Gin, the Negroni was floral and herbal, with some additional hints of citrus. There was a good balance between bitterness and sweetness. As a whole, the cocktail was complex, rich and quite tasty. Top notch.

Fruit Cup: Quite dry, but with an additional buttery richness, this was relatively light whilst still having some strong juniper notes. With as some citrus fruit, we thought this was delightfully refreshing.


nose: grain, vanilla cream and a hint of almond
taste: initially smooth then some warmth. Flavours of vanilla icecream followed by hints of coffee and dark chocolate.Frozen:grainy, vanilla icecream nose. Thicker than at room temperature but not that viscous. The light grain and vanilla note persist and there is also a hint of coffee followed by a very clean finish.Vodka Martini: rather lovely. Very clean, more flavour than a normal Martini but the flavour is a soft and subtle creamy vanilla. Despite this slightly confectionery taste it is not at all sickly. Overall very nice and rather unusual.


This section is written by in-house whisk(e)y enthusiast Mrs. B.

Dry Fly make two types of whiskey: Bourbon (aged for 3 and a half years) and a Wheat Whisky (aged for 2 years); both are aged in New American Oak Casks.


This had a very sweet nose, reminding me of caramel, with a touch of vanilla and slight hints of a rawer alcohol at the end. To taste, it had a strong start that continued the caramel notes from the nose, whilst also being dry and woody in texture. DBS found it to be incredibly dry and was reminded of bread – wheat and oats. The finish was of honeycomb, with a distinct sweetness at the back of the throat.

After the addition of a touch of water, the nose opened up to reveal an oat-y, cake-y scent underneath the caramel. The taste was warmer and clearer, but followed the same profile as noted above. DBS also detected some fruity, jammy notes after water had been added; red berries in particular.

Wheat whiskey

The wheat whiskey had a very straightforward, dry nose of wheat and wood; there was no real sweetness or fruitiness to it. To taste, though, it was surprisingly complex. Again, it was very dry, although I found it to be slightly viscous on the tongue. This unusual combination is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. The main flavours were of wheat and other savoury cereals, freshly varnished wood, and maybe a hint of pine. The finish was spicy, with a heated, peppery sensation.

We found that this whiskey didn’t improve with water: it simply diluted it, making the flavours more disjointed. I felt it could be used very well in cocktails, however.