Kew Organic gin

Kew Organic Gin

Kew Organic gin was created by the London Distillery Company, the makers of Dodd’s, in partnership with The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

Master Distiller Darren Rook, and business partner Nick approached the gardens about the collaboration after they had successfully created a gin for prestigious London store, Fortnum and Mason.

kew organic gin
The artwork on the box is inspired by the rich illustrations in the Kew gardens archives.

I caught up with Darren when he came to Junipalooza Melbourne in October last year, where he was launching Kew Organic gin to the Australian gin-lovers. He told me when it came to collecting plants from around Kew, they were like kids in a candy store. Tony, the head gardener, “let us go loose”.

kew organic gin
Darren at Junipalooza Melbourne

This probably explains how the gin came to have a whopping 44 botanicals. Darren told me he had brought it back from 48, saying “I was trying to get to 4”!

The team decided that creating a gin for Kew without using the incredible range of botanicals on offer would be a wasted opportunity.  Of the 44 botanicals, 27 are from Kew. Six of those are different types of lavender, each with different flavor profiles, including cotton lavender which brings a saline character to the gin.

Darren explained the challenge of using so many botanicals to build flavour without having any one dominant note. They began by splitting the ingredients into different distillations. The final version was created by accident, using four different gins and blending them together to make Kew Organic Gin.

The botanicals

There are two types of organic Juniper (Bulgarian and Tuscan) used to make Kew Organic gin, alongside five different varieties of citrus: lemon, lime, pink grapefruit peel, orange peel and bergamot peel. The specially foraged botanicals from Kew Gardens include santolina, rosemary, lavender flower, galangal and passion-flower.


83gms of juniper per litre go into each of the gins produced by Dodd’s. For those of you who don’t like a punchy juniper style gin, don’t worry,  Kew Organic gin is a masterclass in how balanced a gin should be. On the nose the pine and citrus notes are apparent. On the palate, juniper, citrus and coriander are at the fore with white pepper, spice and a hint of lavender coming through towards the end. It has an incredibly smooth and lengthy finish.

Kew Organic gin
Kew Organic gin and tonic

As usual, I tried Kew Organic Gin in a gin and tonic, a martini and a negroni. I could not fault it in any of the three drinks. The louching (cloudiness) of the gin and tonic is due to the high level of botanical oils in the gin. It makes a perfect martini.  It’s ABV (it’s 46%) is able to stand up well to the vermouth and Campari to make a stellar negroni.

Kew Organic Gin

Darren’s team will have access to wider selection of botanicals in the future, and there are plans to establish a dedicated gin garden at Kew. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next. Kew Organic is a very special gin indeed.

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 46%

Price: Medium

East London Liquor Company Dry Gin

East London Liquor Company was one of several distilleries I managed to pack in to my week in London last year. I was really impressed by their set up in East London, which is the first vodka, gin and whisky distillery to open there in 100 years.

Tom Hills, ELLC Distiller
Tom Hills, East London Liquor Company Gin Distiller in front of one of the custom-designed, custom-built Arnold Holstein copper stills.

Founded by Alex Wolpert and housed in a former glue factory, East London Liquor company combines a working distillery with a fantastic bar setting, and is a little reminiscent of Archie Rose in Sydney, which does the same.

The overarching aim of the distillery is produce spirits that are “accessible in flavour and price” and East London Liquor Company Dry Gin certainly achieves that.

The botanicals: Juniper, coriander, fresh lemon and grapefruit peel, angelica root, cubeb berries, and cardamom.

On the nose there is plenty of cardamom and citrus, but taste wise it’s incredibly well-balanced with a good juniper flavour and a little spice and warmth from the cubeb at the end. It is beautifully smooth with a long finish.

The great thing about a well-balanced classic style gin is it’s versatility. As expected it makes a great gin and tonic, but you could use this gin in pretty much every cocktail, which was the aim in its creation. Many bars use this as their ‘house pour’ and it would serve you well in your home bar. I went with a White Lady (sans egg) as my other trial cocktail and wasn’t disappointed.

East London Liquor Company Dry Gin and Tonic
East London Liquor Company Dry Gin and Tonic


East London Liquor Company White Lady
East London Liquor Company White Lady

In addition to their Dry gin, East London Liquor Company also produces two premium gins with a higher ABV. Batch No. 1 features Darjeeling tea and Batch No. 2 which is more savory,  has bay, fennel and sage as key botanicals. In 2016 they also launched an experimental barrel-aged gin program.

East London Liquor Company Premium Gin
East London Liquor Company Premium Gin

None of other variations these are available in Australia yet, but I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed. In the mean time I’ve going to enjoy this East London Liquor Company Dry gin. As the saying goes…a gin in my hand….

Country of origin: UK

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

You can follow East London Liquor Company on Facebook, twitter  and instagram.

Note: I received this bottle for the purposes of review. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Dodd's Gin and Soda garnished with grapefruit and lavender

Dodd’s Gin

Dodd’s gin is named after Ralph Dodd, a London civil engineer, famous for his failure to attempt to build the first tunnel under the Thames. He tried to set up a The London Distillery Company in 1807, but got into trouble with the law for business irregularities, so the distillery never went ahead.  When Darren Rook launched The London Distillery Company in 2013 through an ambitious crowd-funding campaign, he decided to name the gin after Ralph.

There is so much to love about the way the LDC produces its gin. All of the botanicals are certified as organic, as well as the base spirit, the honey they use is collected from local producer The London Honey Company, they reclaim heat energy from the stills, AND their labels are printed on carbon neutral paper made by wind power. I happen to think their label is one of the prettiest by the way!

Dodd’s gin is made using fractional distillation – a process adopted by many distilleries, including Hendrick’s – that uses two distinct distillation processes to achieve the finished spirit.  The majority of the botanicals are distilled in the traditional way using a Carl still called ‘Christina’. The more delicate ingredients, such as the raspberry leaf are distilled using a cold vacuum system. The two distillates are blended for several weeks before bottling.

Dodd's Gin Still 'Christina'
Dodd’s Gin Still ‘Christina’

Dodd’s gin botanicals

The botanicals are a mix of traditional and unusual ~ Juniper, raspberry leaf, angelica, bay laurel leaf, lime peel, black cardamom and green cardamom, and London honey.

On the nose and palate there is lots of juniper. The two types of cardamom bring pleasing spicy notes and there is some herbaceousness from the bay laurel leaf. As the spirit lingers, bright citrus notes from the lime develop. It’s a mighty tasty gin with a beautiful mouthfeel from the angelica and honey. It’s a surprising 49.9% ABV, the smoothness of the spirit hiding the high proof well.

I didn’t think that Dodd’s gin would be a good match for tonic water so opted for soda water instead, garnishing with grapefruit zest and lavender. I was correct, the soda allowed the gin to shine and was wonderfully refreshing.

Dodd's Gin Blue Moon
Dodd’s Gin Blue Moon

I tried Dodd’s Gin in a Blue Moon and it balanced well. I think it would also make an excellent Bee’s Knees. In a martini I would serve it dry with a twist.

Dodd’s is a little on the pricey side, but a worthy addition to the gin fiend’s bar.

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 49.9%

Price: High

You can follow Dodd’s Gin on Facebook  and instagram.

Cotswold Distillery Gin

Cotswolds Distillery Gin

Cotswolds Distillery founder and native New Yorker, Dan Szor fell in love with the region while escaping the London rat race at the weekends. Noticing the vast amount of barley growing in the area, he saw an opportunity to create the first Cotswolds whisky. After studying to be a distiller at Heriot Watt University, and with a little encouragement from friends Dan turned his hand to gin, and Cotswolds Distillery gin was released in 2014.

The botanicals

London Dry in style, Cotswolds Distillery gin is made with juniper, coriander, angelica root, Cotswolds lavender, bay leaf, grapefruit and lime (fresh peel), black pepper and cardamom seed.

The juniper, coriander and angelica root, are macerated together for 12 hours before being distilled with Cotswolds lavender and bay leaf, grapefruit, lime, black pepper and cardamom in a 500 litre Holstein still.

Cotswolds Distillery Holstein Still
Cotswolds Distillery Holstein Still

On the nose Cotswolds Distillery gin is herbaceous, with very noticeable fennel/celery and citrus notes. On the palate the juniper is less pine than most gins and more camphor/savoury with some grapefruit. It has a zesty finish with hints of black pepper. A bright and contemporary gin.

Like Melbourne Gin Company gin, Cotswolds Distillery gin is non-chill filtered. This means that when liquid is added there is a little louching, or cloudiness in the drink. Both distillers feel that by not chill-filtering their gin they retain all the flavour in the oils from the botanicals.

Cotswold Distillery Gin and Tonic
Cotswolds Distillery Gin and Tonic

It looks and tastes gorgeous in a gin and tonic as you can see! This one I garnished with fennel and black pepper. Like every good dry gin, the beauty is in its versatility, so Cotswolds Distillery gin should stand you in good stead whatever cocktail you are making. However, I think it would work particularly well in a Lawn mower, as the elderflower liqueur complements the lavender notes in the gin!

The Lawn Mower Cocktail

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 46%

Price: Medium


Hayman’s Family Reserve Gin

During my trip to the UK last June, I visited Hayman’s Distillery and met their master distiller Lizzy Bailey. Lizzy was an excellent host and It was during a guided tasting that I had my first taste of Hayman’s Family Reserve Gin.

Hayman’s gin range

Lizzy painstakingly researches the Hayman family archive to find authentic gin recipes. The technique used to make Hayman’s Family Reserve Gin harks back to the days when bottling your gin was not yet the norm. Before the Bottling Act of 1861, gin was transported and served from old whisky barrels, as seen here.

Gin served from whisky barrels

To be clear though, the gin is not aged, merely “rested” in 3rd filled Scotch whisky barrels for a minimum of 3 weeks. The short time frame means the gin doesn’t take on the colour from the barrels. In addition the juniper notes that are often rounded out during a lengthier barrel-ageing process remain intact.

On the nose Hayman’s Family reserve is juniper and coriander and less citrus that other gins in their range. On tasting pine from the juniper are present with spicy coriander notes and some lovely hints of oak. It’s smooth and rounded on the palate which I attribute to the resting process.

I must admit when I knew this gin was rested in whisky barrels I was concerned that not only would it confuse the flavours, but would impact on the ways I could drink it.

Fortunately, Hayman’s Family Reserve is versatile, exactly as a good gin should be. It works well in a G&T, cutting through the sweetness of the tonic and is fantastic in a Gibson martini, the peppery notes boosting the savoury nature of the drink.


Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 41.3%

Price: Medium

Tarquin’s Dry Gin

Tarquin’s Dry Gin from Southwestern Distillery in Wadebridge is the first Cornish gin for over a century and won Gold at the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Awards (IWSC) in 2014, the year it launched.

Distiller Tarquin Leadbetter gave up life behind a desk to pursue a career in distilling, the result is Tarquin’s Dry Gin and intriguingly, a Cornish Pastis (no, not pasties). As the name suggests it’s in the London Dry style, but Tarquin told me “I tried to create something familiar but at the same time slightly different, a nod to the classic London Dry gins that I love (and perhaps my subconscious was utterly unable to ignore) – but the aim was to create something a little bit more modern, and unique.”

Not only unique, but on a very small scale. South Western Distillery’s pot still Tamara (named after the Cornish river Tamar) is tiny by industry standards, and only 300 bottles are created per batch. Unusually, she is fired by flame, which Tarquin believes adds a level of complexity to his gin.

South-Western-Distillery's copper-pot-still- 'Tamara'
South Western Distillery’s Still ‘Tamara’

The traditional gin botanicals are all present; juniper, coriander, citrus (the fresh zest of sweet orange, lemon and grapefruit), angelica, orris root and liquorice. However, Tarquin has chosen cinnamon in place of the typical cassia bark giving a slightly sweeter spice note. The surprising botanical is the leaves from Devon violets, a touch of nostalgia for Tarquin’s childhood in the West Country.


On the nose, Tarquin’s is a balance of citrus and juniper and that is mirrored in the flavour with piney juniper notes leading into bright citrus flavours, with a hint of orange blossom. The finish is dry and savoury with a hint of peppery warmth.

Tarquin’s Dry Gin makes a brilliant gin and tonic (I garnished mine with fresh lime peel and edible violets) and a magnificent Aviation cocktail where the citrus notes worked well against the maraschino liqueur. A lovely gin that you should definitely try!

County of Origin: UK

ABV: 42%

Price: Medium


Star of Bombay

I first tasted Star of Bombay, the new expression from Bombay Sapphire while visiting Laverstoke Mill, during my trip back to the UK in June. I was with Nik Fordham, the Master Distiller at the time who was sampling the latest batch that had come off the still some 30 minutes earlier. How lucky am I?

The instant I tasted it I knew Nik had created a winner. Maybe it was the pronounced juniper or the elevated ABV (47.5%), or perhaps my dazzling surroundings at the time (distillery geek right here!).

When I chatted with Nik, he impressed upon me that this was a new gin entirely, not just a beefed up Bombay Sapphire. Nik said:

“We knew we wanted to something different over and above just adding a new botanical, so we used 2 different types of juniper, regular juniper communis and juvenile (younger berries) greener juniper, which give more pine notes.”


Juniper, coriander, grains of paradise, lemon peel, cubeb berries, orris root, almonds, cassia bark, liquorice, angelica, (the key botanicals of Bombay Sapphire) are joined by bergamot and ambrette seeds to produce a spicier, earthier gin.

Like the other gins in the Bombay Sapphire stable, Star of Bombay is 100% vapour-infused (the botanicals sit above the boiling alcohol, not in it) however, Nik and the team are running the stills at a different rate, (first at 40% then up to 60% before dropping back down to 40%) which assists in developing a more intense flavour.

It’s definitely has more pronounced juniper flavour, lots of pine and some citrus, but with a spicier, warmer finish than it’s counterpart, Bombay Sapphire.

How to drink it


The Bombay peeps recommend a 50/50 Star of Bombay to tonic ratio, served with a twist of orange peel. I adore this, as I like my G&Ts on the bolder (stronger!) side.


For a longer drink try it with a splash of Saint Germain Elderflower liqueur and top up with soda water.

Origin: UK

ABV: 47.5%

Price: Medium


Portobello Road No. 171 Gin

Yes, yes, I know Portobello Road Gin has been around for a while, but as it’s new to these Aussie shores, I just had to share its delights with you.

The story behind Portobello Road gin is an interesting one, beginning with the opening of the Portobello Star in 2008 by Ged Feltham and Jake Burger. Keen to make use of the two upper floors of the venue (and after a trip to the Beefeater Distillery) Jake suggested they create a gin museum. The ‘Ginstitute’ was born. Jake and Ged have collected lots of vintage gins (and other booze) and cocktails books and decorated the room in the style of a Victorian drinking den

At this point neither partner had thought of creating their own gin, but as the plans for the Ginstitute came together Ged saw the idea of creating a space where people could create their owns gins had real appeal and they installed a 30 litre copper still called ‘Copernicus’ on the floor above the museum together with a blending room.

Copernicus (image via Barmagazine)
Copernicus (image via Barmagazine)

Playing with various botanicals and unusual ingredients Ged and Jake came up with the recipe for Portobello Road No. 171 Gin, but it wasn’t until they took the idea to master distiller Charles Maxwell (Thames Distillers) that they saw the possibility of their own gin become a reality and it launched in 2011.

Ged and Jake haven’t used any unusual botanicals in their gin (although they did mess about with plenty of crazy distillates at the beginning) and opted for the traditional set of juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, lemon peel, orange peel, liquorice root, cassia bark and nutmeg.

Obviously with that botanical profile one would expect a London dry style gin and I wasn’t disappointed. I noted a nice hit of juniper on the nose with some citrus but also detected a subtle floral aroma too. The flavour is clean, bright with some spicy notes that don’t burn but add warmth and length to the spirit.

It was tremendous in a G&T and a martini as one would expect, but I also loved it in this Garden Buck from Ryan Chetiyawardana’s new book (will definitely be sharing the recipe later!).

Portobello Road Gin Buck

Have you tried Portobello Road? What did you think?


Bloom Gin

Bloom Gin, is one of Joanne Moore‘s gins and it’s recently become more widely available in Australia.

Joanne is one of only a handful of female gin distillers in the world and one of the most creative, having come up with not one gin recipe, but three – Bloom (2007), Berkeley Square (2007) and Opihr (2012), as well as being the custodian for Greenall’s gin.

When I met Joanne she told me the background to Bloom Gin’s creation, which was her first open brief. Back then, there was a gap in the gin flavour wheel for a herbaceous and floral gin. Joanne took this as a starting point and looked towards the English garden for inspiration, selecting chamomile and honeysuckle as botanicals together with pomelo (a chinese grapefruit).

These were added to the more traditional botanicals like juniper, coriander and angelica. Joanne told me that working with chamomile and honeysuckle was tricky, due to their delicate nature. During one experimentation she ended up with green gin due to reflux, so decided that the honeysuckle and chamomile would be best preserved by putting them in a muslin cloth and hanging that inside the still. Like a gin bouquet garni!

Bloom Gin is certain to appeal to the novice gin-drinker who doesn’t like to be overwhelmed by juniper. It is delicately floral on the nose and palate, with the citrus from the pomelo and coriander cutting through to create a nice dry finish. It has a smooth feel in the mouth and good length.

It makes a delightful G&T and you can go wild with floral garnishes like rose petal or lavender, or in my case, both!


However, because it is such an approachable gin, it’s a good one to try out with some of the more boozy cocktails that beginner gin-drinkers might shy away from, like a martini.

In this version I used a 2:1 ratio of gin to Lillet Blanc vermouth. It was a little sweeter than my usual martini, but still as delicious!


Bloom Gin

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium


Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin

The week before Top Shelf 2015, I met up with James Chase from Chase Distillery, one of the few field to bottle gin distilleries in the world, to talk about their spirits, in particular about their latest gin, Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin.

James talked me through the history of the family business, which now comprises of his father, William, himself and his brother Harry, who is in charge of the farm.

“Dad started out by buying the farm from his granddad. It had a large debt and it was very tough time. British farming is a hard business to be in with pressure from the large supermarket groups and by 1996 we went under. At that point Dad wanted to move to Australia! However, farming potatoes isn’t very profitable and we began to worry again about how to survive”.

By 2002 William had diversified into artisan crisps (chips) as a means of increasing his profit, but how did they get from snacks to spirits?

James went on “By in 2006 the business was doing well and we went off to New York to research deep-fat frying – where else do you go to research that except America! It was a great trip. We ate a lot of crisps. At that time the restrictions on distilling had been pulled down in the US, so we came across these guys who’d set up distilleries. We were intrigued and extended our trip by 2 weeks and did some research on 5 or 6 distilleries. We’d found our passion”

The Chase family saw opening a distillery as an opportunity to use up their surplus potatoes with the aim of making the best vodka they could. it took them 2 years to get the license and when they did they were the first distillery in the UK to open for 200 years.

If you’ve reading this blog for a while, you’ll have read about Chase’s other gin, William Chase Elegant Crisp Gin. As I said at the time, this is an interesting gin, not least because the base spirit is distilled from cider, made from apples from the Chase family farm. James explained that they chose the base spirit for that gin from cider as it took them a while to find the best way of balancing the flavour of their potato vodka with gin botanicals.

Chase Extra Dry Gin and Tonic


The Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin is the result of lots of experimentation and improved distilling methods. At the request of their Spanish distributor they wanted to make gin that was very juniper-forward, but at 40% ABV (most of the punchier juniper-led gins tend to be higher in proof).

Chase have achieved this well, by using not only the juniper berries, but also the buds, in combination with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon.

The result is a deliciously dry juniper with zesty citrus notes and finishes with some warmth and spiciness. There is also a subtle hint of sweetness from this very smooth gin.

If you like bold, ‘junipery’ gins, but want to keep to a low ABV, this is the gin for you. It makes a fantastic gin and tonic, but is versatile in lots of different cocktails.

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

And if you want to see exactly how a field to bottle distillery looks like, watch this (short) video.

Chase Distillery – Potato Harvest 2014 from Chase Distillery on Vimeo.