Star-of-Bombay-gin

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.”

Botanicals

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

Star-of-Bombay-Gin-and-Tonic

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.

Star-of-Bombay-Gin-Saint-Germain-and-Soda-water

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-Gin-and-Tonic

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
Portobello Road Gin Buck

Have you tried Portobello Road? What did you think?

bloom-gin-bottle

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!

Bloom-Gin-and-Tonic

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-martini

Bloom Gin

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

chase-extra-dry-gin

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
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.

 

 

jensens-gin-martini

Jensen’s Gin

Jensen’s gin epitomises the passion that goes into making gin and how it came to be is a fascinating story in itself!

The founder, Christian Jensen, stumbled across this gin during his time working in Japan. His favourite bar made him martinis with a gin the bartender said was a special London gin. Before he left Japan the bar-owner gifted him bottle explaining that it was a brand that wasn’t made anymore.

Returning to London, Jensen set about finding more bottles of the discontinued brand before discovering details of the old distillery where it was made in a public records office. Within those records he found the recipe for his favourite gin. As a banker, Jensen was lacking the skills to revive the gin himself and turned to one of the best distillers in the world, Charles Maxwell at Thames Distillers (Thames makes over 60 gin brands, including Juniper Green, Ish and Gilpin’s) to help him.

The result is Jensen’s Gin. This gin’s success grew slowly by word of mouth (or by taste of mouth?) and in 2013 Jensen’s took the distilling in-house. They commissioned John Dore & Co to build their still (they made the Beefeater stills) and opened a small distillery under a railway arch in Bermondsey. Their distiller is Dr. Anne Brock, one of the very few female gin distillers!

Jensen's-Gin-Still
Jensen’s Gin Still

I visited Jensen’s during my visit to London and it’s quite possibly the smallest distillery I’ve ever been to! Brand Ambassador Hannah Lanfear was on hand to guide me through a quick tasting and I grabbed a bottle to bring home. I’m so glad I did!

Jensen's-Old-Tom-and-London-Dry-Gin
Jensen’s Old Tom and London Dry Gin

The precise botanicals are not shared by Jensen’s but as it’s a traditional London Dry, I’m guessing that juniper, coriander, angelica, citrus, orris and licorice have been included.

The aroma is fresh pine from the juniper with citrus and lavender notes present. Flavour-wise, this gin isn’t dominated by juniper as with some London Dry gins. The fresh pine is balanced with plenty of spice from the coriander and a slightly sweet finish. I found it very smooth and it made a delicious dirty martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives!

Jensen's-Gin-Dirty-Martini
Jensen’s Gin Dirty Martini

Jensen’s Gin

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 43%

Price:

opihr-spiced-gin

Opihr Gin

Opihr gin is Spiced London Dry gin created by master distiller Joanne Moore who I recently met in London.  Joanne is the custodian of Greenall’s gin recipe as well as the creator of Bloom Gin and Berkeley Square.

After finishing the interview I did with her (I’ll be sharing that at a later date!), she kindly did a private tasting of all her gins. It’s a pretty unique experience to taste gins with the person who creates them. Joanne describes herself as a ‘geeky scientist with a creative flair’ and that is very apparent.

Joanne told me that the idea for a spiced gin had been on her mind for a while. The brief was for her to create a gin inspired by “discovery and travel”. Joanne looked to the spice market for idea and explored lots of different botanicals before settling on the final 10.

Botanicals

Aside from juniper, coriander and angelica (Joanne uses these in all her gins), Opihr gin is distilled with cardamom, grapefruit, cumin, ginger, tellicherry black pepper, orange and cubeb.

When I asked about the botanicals she used in Opihr gin, Joanne explained that each one had a role to play, saying “There are none in there, that shouldn’t be!”. After tasting each of the botanical in separate distillates, I was intrigued to try the finished gin. With ginger and two types of pepper (plus cumin) I was anticipating a gin with a great deal of heat.

On tasting Ophir gin, juniper is obvious on the nose and the palate. The pine notes give way to fresh, bright citrus, before ending with a long warm spiced , that is subtle and delicious. It’s certainly not too spicy or overpowering.

I really liked this gin, so rushed off to buy a bottle on my return so I could write about it! Later I discovered that Opihr gin was the fastest growing super-premium gin 2013-2014 (Spirits Business 22 June 2015), which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Drinking Ophir Gin

Fabulous in a G&T using Fever-tree tonic water and garnished with a slice of ginger or orange.

opihr-gin-and-fevertree-tonic

Ophir Gin Negroni is a must! The spice notes work brilliantly with vermouth and Campari.

opihr-spiced-gin-negroni

Country of Origin : UK

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

Adnams-First-rate-gin

Adnams First Rate Gin

This week Mr GQ was gifted a bottle of Adnams First Rate Gin as a thank you for introducing a colleague visiting from overseas to The Lui Bar. (What a polite person!)

Adnams are better known as brewers, publicans and hoteliers, having operated in East Anglia for a couple of hundred years. Inspired by the micro-distilling boom in the United States they decided to take the plunge into distilling in 2010 when they built the distillery.

Adnams produce all the base alcohol for their spirits themselves, using locally sourced cereals. This is done by the creating a ‘distillery wash’ (an unhopped beer at 7% ABV) that is then stripped and rectified. If you really want the technical detail, Adnams has it in spades here.

The resulting vodka forms the base of their two gins, Distilled Gin (40% ABV) and First Rate Gin (48% ABV). We were lucky recipients of the latter!

Addams-First-Rate-Gin-Bottle

Adnams First Rate Gin has some traditional botanicals: juniper, coriander, cardamom, cassia bark, angelica root, sweet orange peel, lemon peel and liquorice root, together with some less obvious choices, such as vanilla pods, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and thyme.

On the nose the juniper leads, with some herbal and citrus notes. It’s smooth and well-balanced with a good, bold flavour and a long warm finish. I’m looking forward to this in a dry martini, it really is First Rate!

As you would expect from a higher ABV Adnams First Rate Gin is at the top end of the price scale. While they do not have a distributor in Australia, Nicks do import it.

You can follow Adnams on Facebook, Twitter  and Instagram.

No.3 London Dry Gin

The first review for 2015 and I’ve chosen to kick off with No.3 London Dry Gin.

No.3bottle

Before you ask “What happened to 1 and 2”, the No. 3 refers to the address of Berry Bros. & Rudd, London’s oldest wine and spirit merchant. Simon Berry, the 8th generation to work in the family business, launched No.3 in 2012, to a Berry Bros. recipe. His aim was to create a gin that would create the perfect Dry Martini.

Simon has an incredible pedigree in the wine world (he is Clerk of the Royal Cellars and wine merchant to the Prince of Wales) but brought in gin expert Dr. David Clutton to develop No.3 London Dry Gin from the original recipe. The gin is distilled in Holland by De Kuyper Royal Distillers (yes, the liqueur producers) using traditional pot stills.

The list of botanicals is short and sweet; juniper, orange and grapefruit peel, angelica, coriander and cardamom. Other botanicals and ingredients are considered a “distraction”.

On the nose it’s fresh and citrussy with pine notes of the juniper also detectable. On tasting neat, the freshness of the citrus comes through immediately. The flavour of piney juniper is followed by a warm spicy, peppery notes from the coriander and cardamom.

But what you really want to know is, “Is this the perfect gin for a Dry Martini?.

It would have to be close to perfection, there is no doubt. Clean and fresh, the zesty notes of the citrus in the No. 3 London Dry Gin worked extremely well in my martini. (I made a 3:1 martini with Noilly Prat and a twist). For lovers of dry martinis this gin would have to rate high on the “must-try” list.

no.3martini

fords_gin

Fords Gin

Created by industry legend Simon Ford at The 86 Co. and master distiller Charles Maxwell, Fords Gin had been described to me by Mike Enright as exceptional, so my expectations were high.

Ford set out to create “A gin to be used as a workhorse for the cocktailian bartender.” By collaborating with Charles Maxwell he guaranteed that Fords would be more than just another gin.

Maxwell is a legend in the gin world. As Master Distiller at Thames Distillers (who make a huge range of gins: Portobello Road Gin, Ish and Oxley to name a few) there is little Maxwell doesn’t know about gin including which botanicals work and which don’t.

Fords Gin has 9 botanicals: juniper, coriander seeds, lemon, orange and grapefruit peel, jasmine, orris, angelica and cassia.

The flavours balance well and in spite of the jasmine which I anticipated to be overpowering, the juniper leads. Fords Gin will work well with citrus based cocktails, while the oiliness means it makes a great martini. I used it in a Gibson Martini and it was excellent. Given the 45% ABV I was expecting it to have a bit of a kick but the mouthfeel is more reminiscent of a lower proof gin.

gibson_martini

The bottle, specially designed with the bartender in mind, features a groove in the middle to prevent slippage and measures engraved on the side so it can be reused. I also like that Ford hasn’t taken everything too seriously and there are a couple of funny things on the label that are a tongue in cheek stab at some of the guff written on other gin labels.

Country of Origin : Distilled in UK, Bottled in US

ABV: 45%

Price: High

 

haymans_old_tom_gin

Haymans Old Tom Gin

The gin renaissance has given birth to many new gins, but it has also become an opportunity to look back at old gin styles and Haymans Old Tom Gin is one such gin.

The Hayman family have an amazing pedigree as distillers. The company was started in the 1860s by James Burroughs who created Beefeater gin. It was sold to Whitbread in the 1980s, but became a family business once again in 1988, largely producing gins for other companies. However in 2004 the family launched their 1820 gin liqueur and have now expanded the range by recreating old family recipes and using traditional botanicals.

What is Old Tom?

Early distillation processes were a little rough around the edges and the gin was often sweetened liquorice to make it more palatable. London Dry gin, which we drink is so popular today, was unheard of. If you look at old cocktail recipe books, like Jerry Thomas’s Bartenders Guide ‘How to Mix Drinks’, the only gin referred to, is Old Tom.

Why is it called Old Tom?

So many well-contested views on this one, from the legend of a black cat falling into a still, to being named after an early gin distiller called Thomas Chamberlain. You can research that one at your leisure!

How sweet is it?

Not being a fan of sweet drinks, I was bracing myself with this one. However, I was delighted with the flavour. All the aspects I adore in gin; juniper, citrus and peppery spice are all still there, but with a subtle sweetness, that makes it softer on the palate. Hayman’s uses the same 10 botanicals (juniper, coriander seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange peel, angelica root, orris root, cassia bark, liquorice and lemon peel) in all of its gins, but the Old Tom style has twice as much juniper as its London Dry which is music to my ears!

How to drink Haymans Old Tom Gin
the_martinez_cocktail
Martinez

Classic drinks like The Martinez, The Gin Rickey, or the Tom Collins, were all originally made with Old Tom Gin. As its softer and sweeter it also makes a delicious Old-Fashioned. I’ll be experimenting further with Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, and using it as a wonderful introduction to gin for people who are not usually gin fans.

Country of Origin: UK

ABV: 40%

Price: Low