Cousin Vera’s Gin

During my review of Santamanìa gin, I mentioned a unique collaboration between the Madrid distillery and our own, Four Pillars Gin, and here it is; Cousin Vera’s Gin.

The Australian-Spanish gin project started life as a conversation on twitter between the two distilleries, with Santamanìa remarking on the similarities between Wilma, Four Pillars Carl still, and their own still, Vera. Fast forward a year and while planning a trip through Europe, Cameron Mackenzie, Master Distiller at Four Pillars, saw the opportunity to create a gin with Santamanìa. The Spanish distillers were very enthusiastic and the plan was set in motion.

Santamanía Distillery

Botanicals

Cousin Vera’s gin, like Santamanìa uses neutral grape-based spirit made with Tempranillo grapes. The Spanish botanicals are Cornicabra olive, almond, fresh rosemary, white pepper, and Seville orange peel. The Australian native botanicals are; lemon myrtle, anise myrtle, Tasmanian pepper leaf and coriander. All of the botanicals, not forgetting juniper, were added to Vera and left to macerate overnight, before 5 hours of distillation.

The result is amazing. On the nose there is lots of juniper and rosemary with a hint of coriander. On the palate it has a wonderful fresh to start, with bright citrus notes leading on to savoury flavours from the olive and rosemary. It has a warm peppery finish with an incredible creamy mouthfeel.

I used Cousin Vera’s gin to make a Spanish martini made with Fino Sherry, garnished with Mount Zero olives from Victoria and Jamòn Ibèrico. Perfection! I would certainly recommend this in a Dirty Martini too.

Spanish martini
Spanish martini made with Fino sherry and garnished with Jamòn Ibèrico and Mount Zero olives.

Naturally, Cousin Vera’s gin makes a great G&T, but I also made a Rosemary Collins which was lovely.

rosemary collins
Rosemary Collins

Cousin Vera’s gin is an incredible achievement, highlighting the skills of Cam from Four Pillars and Javier, Victor and Ramon at Santamanìa. The gin is available at both distilleries in their own unique packaging. This is an extremely limited edition and definitely worth seeking out.

Country of Origin: Spain and Australia

ABV: 42.8%

Price: Medium

Ironbark Distillery Dry Gins

Ironbark Distillery Gins

Ironbark Distillery Gins launched in 2015 after 2 years of painstaking research and plenty of paperwork according the Master Distiller, Reg Papps. Last week they were awarded Silver Medals at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Reg knows a thing or two about distilling, having done the job within the petrochemical industry for 27 years. When I asked him if he is the longest-serving distiller in Australia, he laughed and replied that Bill Lark (from Lark Distillery) might have a few months on him!

Ironbark Dry Gins are both distilled using the vapour infusion method on a 100 litre stainless steel still with copper internals, ensuring the purest spirit possible.

Ironbark Distillery Gin still
Ironbark Distillery Gin still

Ironbark Distillery Dry Gin

Reg wanted, in his words, “to keep it simple” and has chosen only 5 classic botanical ingredients: juniper, coriander, fresh lemon zest, cardamon and vanilla. On the nose dry gin there is bright citrus notes and piney juniper. Initially, It’s smooth and fresh on the palate following on with some warmth and a spicy lift from the coriander. A smooth mouthfeel and great balance of flavours makes this a perfect G&T gin.

Ironbark Distillery Dry Wattleseed Gin

After creating the Dry gin, Reg wanted to create a version using native botanicals. Reg says “Plenty of gins were using lemon myrtle and pepperberry but none were using the famous Aussie emblem – wattleseed, so I thought I’d give it a go.” Ironbark Distillery Dry Wattleseed gin is made using the existing 5 botanicals from the Dry gin, plus wattleseed.

wattleseed gin
Wattleseed. ( Photograph: Mark Lucas @theguardian)

Wattleseed comes from the Acacia tree and is a very versatile bush food used as a thickening agent. By roasting the seeds they impart a coffee-like aroma and can be used as a beverage or an additional ingredients in desserts or chocolate.

Ironbark Wattleseed gin Gibson Martini
Ironbark Wattleseed gin Gibson Martini

Naturally I expected a gin with a hint of coffee, but fortunately this wasn’t the case! Wattleseed gives the gin an earthier flavour that mellows out the citrus notes of Ironbark Dry Gin on the nose and the palate. The flavour is very well-balanced and lingers well.

The Ironbark Distillery Wattleseed Gn is better with soda and lime, rather than tonic water, in my opinion. In a Gibson martini it created the perfect balance of savoury notes and in a ‘Little Ripper’  Negroni (with Red Økar and Maidenii Sweet Vermouth) it was deliciously different.

The 'Little Ripper' Negroni. Maidenii Sweet Vermouth, Ironbark Wattleseed Dry Gin and Applewood Distillery Red Økar
The ‘Little Ripper’ Negroni. Maidenii Sweet Vermouth, Ironbark Wattleseed Dry Gin and Applewood Distillery Red Økar

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: Both 40%

Price: Medium

Ironbark Distillery, North Richmond, New South Wales. Visits to the distillery are by appointment only.

You can follow Ironbark Distillery on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

favourite-australian-gins-2015

My favourite new Australian gins of 2015

The Australian distilling industry has been growing rapidly since I launched The Gin Queen two years ago, and this year we’ve seen a bumper crop of new gins and distilleries. Rumour has it there are around 50 more potential distillers (not all gin) currently applying for their licences, so there will be more!

It’s been a challenge to keep up with all the new brands, but I’ve done my best! What characteristics do my favourites share? A good balance of flavours, excellent mouth-feel and length (how long the flavour lasts) and they mix well in drinks. Everything a good gin should be!

So, in no particular order…

Here are my favourite new Australian Gins of 2015

Archie-Rose-Distillery-Signature-Dry-Gin

Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin, Sydney

Archie Rose Master distiller, Joe Dinsmoor is one to watch. At only 23 he’s turning heads in the spirit industry, not least with his first gin, Archie Rose Signature Dry. The blend of traditional and native ingredients, the triple distillation method and six-times filtered water results in a truly excellent gin. You can read more here.

 

Strawberry-Basil-Gin-Smash
Strawberry Basil Gin Smash

Poor Toms, Sydney

Poor Toms Gin is a lighter, floral style of Australian gin. Distillers Griff and Jesse, have used strawberry gum leaf, freshly pressed granny smith apples and chamomile to create a fresh, crisp gin with a subtle sweetness. Read more here.

 

Poltergeist-True-Spirit-Gin-and-Tonic

Poltergeist Gin, Tasmania

Taught by Bill Lark, Master Distiller, Damian Mackey has been distiller for a little under 10 years. He recently joined forces with Shene Estate (the site of a new distillery) and launched not one, but two gins, Poltergeist ‘Unfiltered’ and Poltergeist ‘True Spirit’. While I was sceptical about the need to launch two varieties (especially with the same ingredients and ABV), having spoken to Damian I can understand why. These two gins have distinct personalities and appeal to different gin-drinkers. Read more here.

 

Distillery-Botanica_gin

Distillery Botanica, New South Wales

Philip Moore, of Distillery Botanica is one of the most experienced distillers in Australia and is the man behind Mr Black’s Coffee Liqueur. Distillery Botanica gin is made using a technique that perfumers use “enfleurage” to fully capture the fragrances of its floral ingredients. The result is a delicate floral gin while retaining those delicious juniper notes we gin-lovers enjoy. Read more here.

 

78-degrees-gin-adelaide-hills

78 Degrees, South Australia

A 100% vapour infused gin (like Bombay Sapphire), 78 Degrees has taken some pretty intense botanicals (clove, star anise and peppercorn for example), but master distiller Sacha LaForgia, has skilfully created a gin with that carries the bold flavours well, without overpowering. Read more here.

loch-distillery-gin-and-tonic

Loch Gin, Victoria

You have to admire Craig’s dedication and patience grinding all the botanicals by hand in a pestle and mortar before distillation.The result is a superb quality gin in a London Dry style. On top of that the distillery is a cracker! You can read more here.

So, there we have it my favourite new Australian gins of 2015. What have been your stand out Australian gins for 2015? Agree, disagree? Let me know!

 

*note I have not been paid to feature these gins, I just love them!

 

 

Distillery-Botanica_gin

Distillery Botanica Gin

Australian gins are coming thick and fast as we head towards 2016, but a new gin from Distillery Botanica had to be investigated immediately. Distiller Philip Moore has been in the game way before Aussie gins were featured on the back bar. His eponymous Vintage gin won a silver medal at the
IWSC back in 2009, and he is also the brains behind coffee liqueur Mr Black, which is currently winning the hearts and minds of caffeine fiends in the UK.

After learning that he uses a thousand-year old technique called “enfleurage” making Distillery Botanica gin, I knew I had to speak to Philip to find out more.

Philip explained that this technique is favoured by perfumers, as it captures the fragrance compounds at their best without using heat. This is achieved by putting solid coconut oil at the bottom of a jar and layering the floral botanicals on top. The jar is covered and the solid coconut oil soaks up the fragrant aromas. Afterwards, the flowers are discarded and the solid coconut is dissolved into alcohol before being cold-filtered to remove impurities. This floral essence is then blended with the other distilled botanicals

Botanicals

Philip uses juniper, Murraya, chamomile flowers, rose, sage ‘Berggarten’ ( a variety of sage that he says has less camphorous qualities than some other types) and orris root.

The juniper is used in two types of distillates – one created by macerating the berries and another by the 100% vapour infusion method (like Bombay Sapphire). The chamomile, sage and orris root are pot distilled, while the rose and murraya have their flavours extracted by “enfleurage”. The distillates are the all blended together to create Distillery Botanica gin.

Looking at the list of ingredients you’ll notice two things, the lack of citrus and the high volume of flowers. You’re probably expecting a highly-fragranced, floral gin and to a certain extent you are right. However, the juniper is still given prominence both in aroma and flavour. Philip explained “I like the juniper to have centre stage but it has to balance with the other flavours”.

Murraya-Paniculata
Murraya Paniculata

Murraya Paniculata (the variety in Distillery Botanica gin) is actually part of the citrus family. It has small, white scented flowers and some varieties bear small fruit a little like a kumquat. While this in itself does not create a traditional citrus flavour we are used to seeing in our gins, the “enfleurage” method extracts jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom characters that are delightful. The sage and orris root add balance by balancing the floral tones with savoury, herbaceous notes.

Distillery- Botanica-gin-and-tonic
Distillery Botanica gin and tonic garnished with cornflowers and lavender

So far I’ve only tried Distillery Botanica in a G&T, but will be experimenting as part of a post on Summer Gin Spritz. In the meantime, if you live near Dead Ringer (fab bar!) in Sydney, cocktail legend Tim D Philips has created a signature cocktail called The Garden Martini with it that sounds divine!

Origin: New South Wales, Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: Medium

You can follow Distillery Botanica on Facebook and Instagram

Poltergeist-Gin-Tasmania

Poltergeist Gin

There are so many different facets to the story around Poltergeist gin, it’s difficult to know where to start. There’s the fact that it’s made in Tasmania, its unusual name, and it’s home, Shene Estate, the country residence of early colonialist Gamaliel Butler.

The Kernke family acquired Shene in 2007 and have been tirelessly trying to preserve this historic site. Obviously, a project of this nature requires financing and following the discovery of centuries old gin bottles on the site, the family hit upon the idea of building a distillery.

shene-estate-tasmania

As a result they’ve joined forces with Damian Mackey and at the end of 2015 will merge Mackey’s distillery with their own to create Shene Distillery where they will produce gin and whisky.

Damian learned his craft from the godfather of Tasmanian whisky, Bill Lark, and has been producing his own Irish style whisky since 2007, but when I spoke to him this week told me that even before he started distilling whisky he was playing with botanicals.

The result is Poltergeist gin, of which there are two varieties, ‘unfiltered’ and ‘a true spirit’ but before we get to that, let’s talk botanicals!

A pleasing mix of traditional and native, Poltergeist is made with distilled with juniper, coriander seeds, cardamom, cassia bark, angelica, orris root, liquorice root, star anise and lemon peel. The native ingredients are Tasmanian mountain pepper berry, lemon myrtle and macadamia nut. These botanicals are macerated for around 20 hours before distillation.

So why are there two versions and what does unfiltered mean?

When distilling botanicals oils are released. These are perceptible but sometimes when water (or ice) is added, the liquid might ‘louche’, i.e. cloud. Many spirits do this and while there isn’t anything wrong with the spirit, Damian and the team decided to play around a little with a unique carbon filtered system (made from organic coconut shells) to see whether they could reduce the looting.

When I first heard about the filtering, I was concerned as I knew this process had the potential to remove all the flavour, thus returning the gin back to base alcohol. Damian explained that filtering is done swiftly, so the flavour is retained. The result? Two gins with different flavour profiles, each adored by the Shene team who decided to launch both!

Poltergeist Gin – A True Spirit

Currently, my favourite (but unfiltered is gaining ground) this is an excellent example of a London dry style gin. Classic and versatile with a nice balance of juniper and citrus flavours with a good length and a tiny hint of spice at the end. Fresh and bright, this is a perfect G&T gin.

Poltergeist-True-Spirit-Gin-and-Tonic

Poltergeist – Unfiltered

On the nose juniper is there along with some earthy notes, almost forest floor smells. The flavours of the spicier botanicals are elevated and there is much more heat and the flavour stays in your mouth for much longer. I’m already dreaming of this one in a warmed Negroni on a cold winter’s night.

And the name Poltergeist? Let’s just say that the Shene is estate is a little on the spooky side…

Origin: Tasmania

ABV: 46%

Price: Medium

You can follow Shene Estate on Facebook, twitter and instagram

Strawberry-Basil-Gin-Smash

Poor Toms Gin

Poor Toms Gin is made in the latest gin distillery to open in Sydney. Although they are both crazy about gin, Griff and Jesse (the two friends behind Poor Toms) conceded that without a science background, they weren’t in the best position to distil gin and called in gin expert Marcel Thompson to help them learn. A trained chemist, Marcel has worked in the industry for 28 years and has distilled Gordon’s and Tanqueray.

If you are wondering where the name Poor Toms comes from (aside from being a character in King Lear), both Jesse and Griff’s middle name is Tom and Griff reminded me that after they saved up for the copper still from Germany, they were both pretty poor afterwards!

The botanicals used in Poor Toms Gin are a cunning mix of traditional: juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, cinnamon, cardamom, and cubeb pepper and some envelope-pushing ingredients too: freshly pressed granny smith apples, lemon myrtle, chamomile and strawberry gum leaf.

According to the Poor Toms team, they used Granny Smith apples in place of citrus, but added lemon myrtle to boost it and chamomile to bring out the apple notes.

Strawberry-Gum-Leaf
Strawberry Gum Leaf (via wikipedia)

Strawberry Gum leaf (also known as Olida and Forestberry) is a highly aromatic native ingredient used in essential oil and perfumery (It’s also a botanical in Botanic Australis).

Poor-Toms-Gin-and-Tonic

Poor Toms Gin is a lighter, floral style of gin. On the nose the juniper is clearly present, but is not dominating. The flavour is crisp, with a subtle sweetness and minimal heat. It’s very smooth on the palate and makes a delicious G&T garnished with strawberry or raspberry. It also worked very well in the Strawberry & Basil Gin Smash

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 41.3%

Price: Medium

Archie-Rose-Distillery-Signature-Dry-Gin

Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin

Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin is made in Sydney by former Lark distiller Joe Dinsmoor, who began his distilling career aged 18 and has already built an impressive reputation. (You can read more about my visit to Archie Rose Distillery here).

Archie Rose use three different distillation methods to make their gin, making the most out of their custom-built still. Maceration (the botanicals are steeped in alcohol in the still), hot vapour infusion (botanicals are placed in a basket over the boiling alcohol), and cool vapour infusion (some botanicals are held in the still’s Lyne arm. These three methods ensure that the flavour of each botanical is preserved as much as possible through the process.

Archie-Rose-Still
The Archie Rose Gin Still

The botanicals used in Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin, are a perfect mix of traditional: juniper, coriander, ginger, orange, angelica root, liquorice root, orris root, cardamom, cassia bark and native Australian: dorrigo pepper (a rainforest shrub from the tablelands of Northern New South Wales, river mint (from South Australia), lemon myrtle (know as the queen of the lemon herbs) and blood lime (a CSIRO created citrus fruit combining finger limes and Rangpur limes).

As you would expect from a ‘Dry’ the aroma is all citrus and pine notes. The flavour is very well-balanced with a decent juniper hit and warm, spicy peppery notes finishing with a lingering sweetness and a wonderful mouth-feel.

The blend of traditional and native ingredients, the triple distillation method and six-times filtered water results in a truly excellent gin that was magnificent in my Gibson martini.

Gibson-martini
Gibson martini

Not content with making one of the best Australian dry gins (in my humble opinion), you can visit Archie Rose Distillery and make your own, or perhaps sample their extensive gin collection in the bar. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Country of origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: Medium

Archie Rose Distillery 85 Dunning Ave,Rosebery NSW 2018.

Follow them on Facebook, twitter and instagram.

mchenry-navy-strength

McHenry Navy Strength Gin

William McHenry & Sons Distillery makes some of the best gin in Tasmania. The McHenry Classic Dry and Sloe gins have long been favourites in my collection, so I was excited that William has expanded the range to include McHenry Navy Strength.

Traditionally, these gins must be over 57% ABV to be called Navy Strength, and as a result they are notoriously bold. The higher alcohol strength can be off-putting, particularly to the novice gin-drinker, but for my money there is nothing better than a Navy Strength G&T. I would err on the side of caution when drinking 57% ABV gin, as they can be deceptive, and the hangover would be monumental.

All of William’s spirits are made with pure Tasmanian water from the distillery springs and this fresh spring water is certainly a factor in the clean, fresh flavours of his gins.

william-mchenry-natural-spring
William McHenry and the natural spring at his distillery.

McHenry Classic Dry Gin is as it suggests, a London Dry style gin with juniper and citrus notes balanced with coriander seeds, cardamom, and orris root. In addition, William has used star anise for a little extra spice.

Taking this as his canvas for the Navy Strength gin, William altered the recipe slightly and added limes, boosting the citrus notes and bringing out the warm, spicier notes provided by the coriander and star anise. McHenry Navy Strength has a good mouth feel and length (meaning the flavour of the drink stays in your mouth and develops).

Achieving a gin of this smoothness at this strength is no mean feat, and it’s no surprise that McHenry Navy Strength gin was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2015 Australian Distilled Spirits Awards.

I’ve served it as a G&T with lemongrass, lime and a chilli garnish to compliment the citrus notes, but you could serve with a wedge of lime or maybe some Thai basil?

McHenry-Navy-Strength-Gin-and-Tonic

If you want to up the ante of your favourite Martini and Negroni, McHenry Navy Strength is fantastic, when making your Martini, I would make it wetter (higher ratio of vermouth to gin).

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 57%

Price: High

Follow William McHenry Distillery on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

(Note: William kindly gifted me McHenry Navy Strength during my visit to Tasmania, this has not affected this review in any way)

Loch Brewery and Distillery Gin

Readers of the blog will know that I’ve been to Loch Brewery and Distillery a couple of times now, partly to drink a G&T with Mel and Craig, and partly to stock up on English beer for Mr GQ.

Aside from their excellent hospitality and fabulous location, Loch Brewery & Distillery are making very good gin.

Mel and Craig decided to go the traditional route for their Loch Brewery and Distillery Gin by shaping their recipe from poring over old distilling books and not using any native Australian botanicals.

The coriander, mace, cassia, angelica, liquorice, and other assorted botanicals (around 12-14 in total) are all ground by hand using a pestle and mortar. Craig says “We found this brought a fresh and balanced flavour profile to the gin.  We tried mechanically grinding once but we didn’t like the way the aroma profile worked so we went back doing it by hand.”

This ‘botanical powder’ is then added to the pot still with the juniper berries ready for distillation. The still is one of the smallest I’ve encountered and was made to their specifications in Portugal.

loch-distillery-gin-still

Mel and Craig set out to produce a gin that could be sipped neat and I think they’ve done well to achieve that.

On the nose there is pine and citrus with some fresh, floral notes, (possibly lavender?). Flavour-wise it has pine, citrus, and lightly floral notes with some spice and warmth, finishing with a little liquorice, and  is very well-balanced.

It makes a fabulous G&T but being well-balanced would suit most gin cocktails.

loch-distillery-gin-and-tonic

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 41%

Price: Medium

78 degrees gin

78 Degrees Gin

78 Degrees Gin is the latest Australian Gin to come to my attention. I was particularly interested to try it when I discovered the distiller, Sacha, built the still himself!

Made in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, 78 degrees gin is vapour-infused using a grape-based spirit. Using a grape-based spirit instead of grain results in a softer feel in the mouth (other grape spirit based gins include: Melbourne Gin Company, Bass & Flinders and G’vine).

Vapour-infusing is a gentler method of distilling the botanicals. Instead of sitting in the alcohol in the pot still, they sit in a basket above the liquid. As the alcohol boils, vapours pass through the botanicals. Hendrick’s Gin uses a mix of pot still and vapour-infused distillates, while Bombay Sapphire is 100% vapour-infused.

78-degrees-gin-adelaide-hills

78 Degrees (which gets its name from the boiling point of alcohol) is distilled with 12 botanicals: juniper, coriander, fresh citrus peel (orange, lemon and lime), star anise, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, black peppercorn, green peppercorn and orris root.

It has a juniper and fresh citrus aroma, with a tiny hint of cinnamon and coriander. On tasting it is a bright, citrussy gin. A bit grassy and fresh leading into some earthy, spicy flavours and finishing on lingering warm pepper notes.

When I first looked at the botanicals used, and noted clove, star anise and peppercorn,  I was expecting something much spicier and heavier, with an intense heat. However, the combination of grape spirit as the base and the vapour-infusion results in a gin with a good balance of flavours.

Country of Origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

Price: High

You can follow Adelaide Hills Distillery on Facebook and Instagram.