Celery Gin

Celery Gin

I first tasted Celery Gin at Tales of the Cocktail last year. The latest gin from Rutte Distillery was on the shortlist for ‘Best New Spirit of 2016’ and Master Distiller Myriam Hendrickx was kind enough to grant me an interview which you can read here.

As with most new gins, it can take a while to hit the Australian market and I did a fair bit of pestering to find out when it would get here!  I was fortunate enough to attend a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session last week with the Bacardi/DeKuyper team and enjoyed cocktails made with Celery Gin and Old Simon Genever created by Australian Bartender of the Year 2015, Lee Potter Cavanagh. That genever was a taste revelation and quite unlike other genevers that I’ve tasted and largely disliked.

Celery Gin
Celery Gin and Tonic garnished with celery leaf and a piece of apple.

Celery Gin came after DeKuyper acquired Rutte Distillery. They were looking for interesting flavours for their liqueur portfolio and Myriam pointed straight to the extensive Rutte archives where celery has been used as a botanical in Rutte genevers since the 1800s, and suggested using it to make a gin. The rest is history and the result has been a huge hit and put the smallest distillery in the Netherlands on the map.

Botanicals

Celery Gin

In fact, it’s the incredibly fragrant leaves of the celery plant that are used alongside juniper, coriander, angelica root, sweet orange peel and cardamom, rather than celery seeds or the celery stalks we all crunch in our salads.

Tasting Celery Gin

Sometimes when a gin hits the market and it has a dominant botanical, the balanced “gin” flavour is lost. Fortunately, this is far from the case with Celery gin.

On the nose you get the familiar gin aromas; juniper, coriander and angelica.

If you are expecting this gin to taste of celery stalks, you’re in for a surprise as while celery notes are present, it’s not in your face. There is lots of piney juniper and citrus with fresh notes of celery leaves. The flavour then builds with more herbaceous celery, some orange giving a subtle sweetness and ending with bold white pepper notes. The finish is mouth-watering and lengthy.

Drinking Celery Gin

Celery Gimlet
Celery Gin Gimlet
KT Collins
KT Collins

The herbaceous freshness of celery works well with gin, especially in savoury cocktails. Of course, a really excellent gin is super versatile. While Celery gin is a natural choice well in the celery forward cocktails I’ve shown above, it’s also excellent in a martini, It’s also creates an outstanding Red Snapper.

Red Snapper
Red Snapper

Country of Origin: Holland

ABV: 43%

Price: Medium

 

Green Ant Gin

Green Ant Gin

At the last count (with Seb from Bad Frankie) there were 105 Australian gins on the market. I know for a fact there are more to come this year, and beyond. Such exciting times to be a gin lover in Australia!

I’m particularly intrigued by the increasing research into, and use of, native ingredients in some of these gins. This month, two gins launched that broadened the scope of native ingredients from plants to insects. Sacha LaForgia, from Adelaide Hills in South Australia, released his Green Ant gin followed swiftly by a gin of the same name from Applewood Distillery, also in South Australia.

Using ants as a gin botanical is not a new idea. Celebrated chef René Redzepi, owner of NOMA, launched Anty Gin in 2013. Formica rufa, the red wood ant, use chemical compounds to communicate with each other and defend themselves from predators. Redzepi’s discovered that these compounds are delicious when mixed with alcohol. Similarly, Bass & Flinders in Mornington launched their Angry Ant gin in 2016.

Why green ants?

Green Ant Gin
Green Ants.
(Copyright David Paul, University of Melbourne.)

I chatted to Sacha about his collaboration with Something Wild (who also supplied NOMA) and how he came to launch Green Ant gin. One of the first things that became evident was the concern that native ingredients are often foraged from land owned by Indigenous communities without permission. Sacha explained “Richard (Gunner) from Something Wild was keen to work together in helping grow the business of the Motlop family of the Larrakia people, establish new opportunities, as well as help raise awareness of how native Australian ingredients are sourced.”

Early in 2016 Richard, who is best mates with Sacha’s business partner Toby, gave him some green ants to pass on to Sacha. Sacha admitted that with the expansion at Adelaide Hills, distilling ants wasn’t high on his list of priorities. When he finally got around to tasting a green ant he said he was blown away by the flavours “limey, coriander with herbaceous notes, I knew it was a perfect gin botanical”.

How do you distill ants?

Sacha is a fractional distiller meaning that each gin botanical is distilled individually before being blended together (Andrew Marks at Melbourne Gin Company also does this). Sacha’s gins are 100% vapour infused as he feels this best protects the delicate botanicals. When it came to distilling the green ants (which come frozen!), Sacha says he ran the still much more slowly to preserve the flavours.

Green Ant gin botanicals

Sacha created an entirely new gin recipe for this project. Alongside the green ants you’ll find native finger limes, pepper berry, lemon myrtle, strawberry gum, boobialla (native juniper), and juniper.

Flavour

In aid of research I fished one of the ants out of the bottle and ate it. Yes, I ate an ant, so you don’t have to! Lime flavours (a mix between citrus and kaffir lime) burst out of the ant followed by some herbaceous notes which come through when you are chewing. Surprisingly, eating an ant was not that bad. I’m not sure I’d do it on a regular basis, mind you.

Green Ant gin is a fresh, citrus forward gin with lots of green lime notes on the nose and palate. The botanical flavours and ‘zing’ from the ants definitely comes through and there is a hint of pepper to cut through the citrus. As with all of Sacha’s spirits, it’s of great quality, smooth with an excellent finish.

Green Ant gin
Green Ant Gin & Tonic, garnished with lemon and thyme.

The best part of the project is that a share of the profits on sales of Green Ant gin go back to the Larrakia people, so you can enjoy a tipple while supporting a great social enterprise! For more information on green ants, watch this video from ABC Landline.

Country of origin: Australia

ABV: 42%

To purchase Green Ant gin click here.

Napue and Koskue Gin

Napue and Koskue Gin

Napue (pronounced Na-pu-eh) and Koskue (Kos-ku-eh) gin hail from Finland and like all good Nordic stories, the idea for making rye whisky came to the founders while they were taking a sauna. The five friends, Kalle (master distiller), Miko, Mikko, Mikka and Jouni set out to create the best Rye Distillery in the world, their motto being “In Rye We Trust”.

Napue and Koskue Gin
The Kyrö Distillery team doing a nudie run. (image via Kyrö Distillery)

Rye whisky is traditionally American, but when you understand the deep cultural significance of rye to the Finnish, it’s entirely appropriate that the team from Kyrö Distillery should choose to create spirits from it. Rye has been growing in Finland for over 2000 years. It’s well suited to the climate as it ripens quickly during the short Northern summer and is adaptable in difficult soil conditions.

Napue and Koskue Gins
Kyrö Distillery (image via Kyrö Distillery)

A former dairy factory in Isokyrö is home to the Kyrö Distillery. Isokyrö itself is a mysterious place. Archeologists have found ancient human remains in the local Leväluhta well which turns red every spring. Weird.

Like many distillers before them, the challenges of cash-flow while whisky matures gave rise to the creation of gin. Experience has taught me that using spirit bases most generally associated with whisky production (like malt) when making gin, does not always create a positive outcome, with most tasting more like genever than anything else.  After trying to create the base for the gin themselves without success, the Kyrö team sourced a 100% un-malted neutral rye spirit from elsewhere.

The botanicals

London dry botanicals including juniper from Slovenia, angelica, and lemon and lime peel form the base of Napue. These ingredients are macerated overnight before distillation.

Napue and Koskue Gins
Sea Buckthorn

In addition, foraged local botanicals: sea buckthorn, wild cranberry, meadowsweet and birch are individually distilled and then blended with the other distillate. Using this method, the seasonal variations encountered using foraged ingredients are countered slightly.

How does it taste?

A nice whiff of juniper and fruit on the nose. On the palate, fruit, pine from the juniper and birch followed by citrus notes and a little jam before a punchy peppery finish. Mouthwateringly good. Napue won the inaugural Best G&T gin at the IWSC in 2015 and it’s easy to see why. Great mouth feel, great flavour and finish plus a 46% ABV means it stands up well mixed, but is also delicious over ice.

I went full gintonica (Spanish style gin and tonic) for my G&T using my favourite garnish of rosemary with a wedge of fresh grapefruit.

Napue and Koskue Gin
Napue and Tonic garnished with fresh rosemary and grapefruit.

Koskue Gin

After winning the IWSC accolade, the team decided to created a barrel-aged gin. They use Napue for the base minus the sea buckthorn and with fresh orange peel and black pepper added. The gin is rested in new American Oak barrels for 6-12 weeks.

On the nose, as you’d expect, there is plenty of vanilla, but also orange. Taste-wise there is the familiar oakiness associated with aged spirits,  with vanilla, orange and a pleasing peppery finish. I found a freshness in flavour that isn’t always apparent in longer aged gins. If I had to pick a signature cocktail for using Koskue, it would have to be a Negroni (although it’s been suggested that it’s also good in a breakfast martini). Koskue gin is also delicious over ice or in an old-fashioned.

Napue and Koskue gin
Koskue negroni

Undoubtedly, a great gin success story from Finland, Kyrö Distillery only produced 5000 bottles in 2014. Last year their total gins sales topped 350,000 bottles! Keep your eyes out for future projects, this is certainly a distillery to watch.

Country of Origin: Finland

ABV: 46% (Napue), 42.6% (Koskue)

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

 

Brookie's gin

Brookie’s Gin

I first met Eddie Brook when he was work for the Australian distributors of  The Botanist gin. Now Eddie and his family have launched Brookie’s gin in collaboration with Jim McEwan, creator of The Botanist. How’s that for serendipity?

Brookie's Gin
Brookie’s Gin Co Creators Eddie Brook & Jim McEwan (image supplied)

The Brook Family moved to Byron Bay, where the distillery is located, 30 years ago.  Then, it was little more than a run-down dairy farm with degraded land and poor soil. However some remnants of the rainforest remained and they set about planting macadamia trees and bringing the rainforest back to life. To date, they have planted over 4000 macadamia trees and over 30 acres of subtropical rainforest. Brookie’s Gin is part of their continuing commitment to supporting the environment around Byron Bay.

It was during Jim’s trip to Australia two years ago that he and Eddie hatched a plan to create Brookie’s Gin. Eddie confessed to me that he had been a long-time admirer of the man known as ‘The Cask-Whisperer’ and had avidly watched Jim’s YouTube videos.  Jim was captivated by Eddie’s stories about the family farm and plans to rebuild a rainforest. When Eddie began to talk about the various native botanicals within the area around Byron, Jim saw the opportunity to create a gin together.

Two years later and the dream is now a reality. The Brook family have built Cape Byron Distillery where you’ll find a 2000 liter pot still created by Peter Bailly at Knapp Lewer in Tasmania at the heart.

Brooke's Gin still
George, Brookie’s Gin still

Brooke’s Gin Botanicals

Of the 26 botanicals (interestingly The Botanist also has 26), 18 are native to Australia. The traditional botanicals, juniper, coriander, cassia, angelica and orris root form the backdrop for the gin. Then comes the extensive list of native Australian botanicals – Sunrise finger limes from Byron Bay, kumquat, blood lime, aniseed myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, White Aspen, riberry, the young leaves of the lilly pilly leaf, macadamia nut, native raspberries from Brook Farm, Dorrigo pepper leaf, river mint and native ginger. (If you want a little more information on some of these botanicals, check out this post).

Distillation

Brookie’s Gin is made using the one-shot method of distillation with a botanical basket to vapor infuse the gin with native ginger. The traditional gin botanicals go into the main body of the still, but because of the volatility of some of the native ingredients, these are placed inside a muslin ‘Babylon bag’ which is dangled over the alcohol inside the pot.

The taste

On the nose you are greeted with citrus followed by juniper and coriander and hints of cinnamon in the background. The flavour is initially citrus forward followed by some delicate fresh raspberry notes, but these are quickly replaced with bold spice flavours from the native ginger and aniseed myrtle and an intense peppery finish. As you’d expect from such a botanical rich gin, Brookie’s is complex and each sip reveals another facet of the spirit.

Drinking Brookie’s Gin

Brookie’s makes a fine gin and tonic with plenty of citrus and juniper flavours. I garnished with mint, lime peel and raspberries to complement the botanicals.

Brookie's Gin

With my martini I went for a 50/50 ratio (45ml gin to 45ml vermouth) as I wanted to let the botanicals shine. Maidenii Dry vermouth made an excellent partner and the martini was a botanical flavour bomb!

Brookie's Gin

Making my Negroni, I went full Aussie and used Applewood’s Distillery’s Okär (in place of Campari) and Maidenii vermouth. The result was a slighter sweeter Negroni than I usually drink, but was a good contrast to the spicy notes of Brookie’s gin.

Brookie's Gin

Brookie’s gin could not be anything but good with the distilling knowledge behind it. However, using lots and lots of native botanicals is risky and can result in an unbalanced gin (easy on the lemon myrtle people), but Eddie and Jim’s skills have created a tasty gin with a true sense of place.

ABV: 46%

Price: Medium

Follow Brookie’s gin on Facebook, instagram and twitter.

Gin and Jonnie GastroGin

Gin and Jonnie GastroGin is one of the more intriguingly named gins I’ve come across recently! The choice of name becomes obvious when you discover that the recipe was created by Dutch chef Jonnie Boer. Jonnie became the youngest two Michelin-starred chef in the Netherlands and in 2004, his restaurant De Librije, receive 3 stars, only the second in the Netherlands to do so.

Restaurant De Librije

A die-hard gin and tonic fan, Jonnie sought the expertise of Onder de Boompjes, to collaborate on his passion project, a gin that would “captivate my favourite flavours, ones that are fresh, real and genuine“. Onder de Boompjes have been making genever since 1658 and is the second oldest distillery in the Netherlands. Together with his chef Maik Kuipers, master distiller Justus Walop and Johan Kersten from Onder de Boompjes, Jonnie took over a year to create the recipe for the world’s first  “GastroGin”.

The botanicals

Gin and Jonnie GastroGin contains an abundance of citrus and pepper botanicals. There are four citrus ingredients: Lemon verbena, grapefruit, lemon and orange peel, and five types of pepper: Jamaican (flavours reminiscent of cinnamon and nutmeg), Szechuan, Voatsiperifery (aromatic with a subtle sweetness), Long, and Sarawak (black) pepper.  They have also used fennel seed and fennel flowers, against a background of more traditional gin ingredients – juniper, cardamom, licorice, angelica and caraway seeds.

The taste

Citrus, citrus, citrus on the nose and palate. If you love a citrus forward gin you’ll love this. As the flavour builds the citrus gives way to some interesting aniseed flavours before those peppery botanicals come through and deliver and good blast of spicy warmth.

Drinking Gin and Jonnie GastroGin

Jonnie nailed the brief when it comes to making a gin that is made for tonic. It’s a great drink and the pepper and anise prevent it becoming overly sweet.

I used Lillet Blanc in place of vermouth to soften my martini and garnished with grapefruit peel to bring out those citrus elements. It was slightly sweet with a good peppery punch at the finish.

With my Negroni I used Antica Formula instead of sweet vermouth. With an ABV of 45% Gin and Jonnie GastroGin was a good choice,  the spice and pepper notes work well with the bitterness of the Campari.

Gin and Jonnie GastroGin negroni

Gin and Jonnie GastroGin recently came 33rd in The Spirit Business Top 50 Innovative Spirits Launches of 2016, and if you like a bold gin with lots of flavour, then this is right up your gin lane!

Country of Origin: Holland

ABV: 45%

Artemis Gin

Australian distilling is growing at quite a pace and it’s thrilling to see so many people having a go at making gin, but when a renowned bartender and all-round industry legend like Seb Reaburn throws his hat into the ring, you know it’s going to be good.

Seb and his partner (and scientist) Derv, have set up shop at Craft & Co., a unique venture on Smith Street Collingwood. With a beautiful Carl still on the shop front, a brewery at the back, a deli, a bottle shop and the facilities to make cheese and cure meat on site, it’s a one stop shop for foodies!

Seb was clear in the intentions for Artemis gin. “It had to work with the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book“, he told me. Classic cocktails are dear to his heart and the inspiration for his gin.

The Botanicals

Artemis gin gets its name from Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), one of the key botanicals. Booze geeks might recognise this as an ingredient in absinthe and vermouth. It gives a herbal, sometimes bitter flavour to spirits.

Artemis Gin
Artemisia absinthium (image Giuseppe Mazza)

Artmesia dracunculus (French tarragon) is there to give some licorice and vanilla notes. Seb has used two Australian natives, Eucalyptus radiata (river peppermint) and Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon-scented gum).

There are two types of Juniper – Macedonian and Hungarian, together with a combination of Egyptian and Indian coriander, the latter to provide more “lemony” flavours according to Seb.  Angelica and orris root are included as fixatives, alongside Vietnamese cassia which give hints of lavender and rose. Also included are grains of paradise, finger limes, clove, nutmeg and ginger. The last three create a softer finish to the gin.

It’s an interesting, complex group of ingredients that require careful management to create a balanced spirit. Some of the botanicals, like clove, nutmeg and ginger are used in almost minuscule quantities, but according to Seb, the gin wouldn’t work without them.

Tasting Artemis Gin

On opening the bottle there is the welcome smell of juniper with plenty of citrus and a little anise in the background. I could also detect the faint aroma of indian spice. On the palate I could taste fresh, minty herbaceous notes with lime, licorice and anise coming through. The flavour builds with grains of the paradise and ginger providing a warm, spicy and lengthy finish.

Sweet Martini
Sweet Martini made with Artemis gin

Artemis does exactly what Seb and Derv set out to achieve, it offers a great base for the old style cocktails they adore, and with the clever use of Australian natives, they’ve created a truly classic Australian gin.

It’s been on high rotation in drinks at GQHQ since my bottle arrived after they successfully achieved their Pozible campaign target. Whatever I’m drinking it stands up well in and that is the mark of a great gin.

ABV: 44%

Price: Medium

You can follow Artemis gin on Facebook, and Instagram.

Don’t forget to book your Gin Queen on Tour ~ Urban Melbourne tickets to meet Seb and Derv and taste their wonderful gin. Tickets available here.

Ransom Gin Old Fashioned

Ransom Old Tom Gin

Old Tom is a sweet gin that was fashionable before distilling became more sophisticated, and added ingredients were relied upon to mask the poor quality of the spirit. As gin got better, tastes changed and London Dry became the all the rage.

Bartenders’ quests for authentic products is fueling innovation at craft distilleries all over the world and Old Tom is one gin style (for more gin styles read this post.) that is growing rapidly.  Appreciation of it is not limited to our savvy bartenders either, at Junipalooza Melbourne 2016, Jensen’s Old Tom gin was one of the strongest sellers amongst attendees.

As you know, my tastes favour the drier end of the spectrum, but I do like Old Tom, particularly when I’m drinking a martinez, a gin sling or any other classic from the Savoy Cocktail book. Although, when I first clapped eyes on the Ransom Old Tom, my was first reaction was “oh no, surely that’s a whisky pretending to be a gin?”.

Ransom Old Tom Gin
Gin Sling

However, its possibly the most historically accurate Old Tom Gin, which is unsurprising given that it was produced in collaboration with historian and author David Wondrich.

Ransom Old Tom gin has a base of malted (85%) and unsalted (15%) barley which is unusual for a gin. Most begin with neutral grain spirit, using a malt base creates a flavour before any botanicals are added. I was intrigued as to whether the botanicals would be fighting against the malt!

The botanicals

The botanicals, as you’d expect are a very traditional list featuring: juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seed, cardamom pods, and angelica root. Rather than going into the still, they are mixed with corn spirit and allowed to infuse.  The infusion is blended with the malt base spirit and distilled. The gin is then aged in 100% used French oak wine barrels for six to twelve months.

The flavour

As you’d expect the malted barley comes through on the nose. Pleasingly though citrus and juniper flavours are fully present on the palate, while licorice and oak notes add depth and length to the gin.

Ransom Old Tom Gin was the first US barrel aged and first Old Tom Gin to be released since Prohibition, and has been extremely well-received winning a gold medal in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The malt base and oak-aging will win over the some whisky lovers, but I love Ransom Old Tom for its unique character and place in the ever-expanding gin category.

Country of Origin: USA

ABV: 44%

Price: High (but worth it!)

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.

Flavour

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

Windspiel Premium Dry Gin

Windspiel Premium Dry Gin

Late last year I met Susann from Windspiel Premium Dry gin who was visiting Melbourne as part of a German trade initiative. The beautiful details on the bottle caught my eye immediately, and I hoped that this was going to be matched by a quality spirit within. I wasn’t disappointed.

Windspiel Premium Dry gin was launched 2 years ago by four friends Sandra Wimmeler, Denis Lönnendonker, Rebecca Mertes, Tobias Schwoll and their master distiller Holger Borchers. Like Chase distillery in the UK, they are a paddock to bottle distillery, creating their spirit base from potatoes they grow themselves in the rich soil of the Volcanic Eifel region of Germany.

Windspiel Premium Dry Gin
Windspiel’s Holstein gin still.

What’s in a name?

German King Frederick II was responsible for introducing the potato to Germany as an agricultural crop. His passion for greyhounds, ‘windspiel’ in German, was the inspiration for the name of the gin, and it’s why there is a greyhound on the label!

Windspiel Premium Dry Gin
Windspiel Premium Dry Gin and tonic

The botanicals

Juniper berries, lemon zest, coriander, lavender blossoms, ginger, cinnamon, plus a few other secret ingredients are macerated in alcohol to extract the most flavour. Each botanical is then distilled individually and stored for a few weeks, before being blended with the triple-distilled potato distillate.

The taste

Juniper is present on the nose and the palate, with lavender and cinnamon coming through towards the end. Hints of lemon were also detected.  Windspiel has a very smooth mouth-feel and is very sippable neat, considering its higher than standard 47% ABV. It has the balanced, lengthy finish you’d expect from a quality gin.

In order to create their perfect gin and tonic, Windspiel have developed their own tonic water and it complements the gin very well, making a subtle g & t, but a delicious one! The gin shone in a 2:1 ration dry martini (I used Dolin) where the earthier notes of the gin brought out the botanicals of the vermouth fantastically well. In the Windspiel negroni, the juniper was a little subdued, but overall it was a decent enough drink.

Windspiel Premium Dry Gin
Windspiel Premium Dry Gin martini
Windspiel Premium Dry Gin
Windspiel Premium Dry Gin negroni

Getting the base spirit right can be a headache for many distillers attempting to produce their own (which is why the majority choose to buy theirs in), but Windspiel have produced something very special and it’s a perfect canvas for their choice of botanicals. Unsurprisingly, Windspiel Premium Dry gin has won many awards including a Gold Medal at San Francisco World Spirits Competition. A highly recommended addition to any gin cupboard!

Country of origin: Germany

ABV: 47%

Price: Medium

Jinzu Gin and tonic

Jinzu Gin

Many of the best (and my favourite) gins have been created by bartenders. Ford’s Gin (Simon Ford), Portobello Road (Jake F Burger), Aviation (Ryan Magarian) and West Winds (Jason Chan).

Jinzu gin was created by British bartender, Dee Davies for Diageo’s Show Your Spirit competition in 2013. Named after a river in Japan, Jinzu is a British gin with a Japanese flavour. Cherry blossom and yuzu are used as botanical ingredients and then Junmai sake is blended with the finished gin.

I caught up with Dee who answered a few questions about how she came up with the idea for Jinzu.

What made you choose gin as your spirit for the competition?

I am a huge gin fan but it took me a little while to understand the complexities when I first tried drinking it. It’s my third favourite spirit after Scottish whiskey and tequila/mezcal. I chose to make a gin because you can push the boundaries further than you can with any other spirit.  Also, I wanted to make a spirit which was a representation of myself, with its head in Britain and its heart in Japan.

How long did it take you to get the botanical recipe right?

Forever! We were working with very difficult and some unknown botanicals. So although we knew we were going to launch in summer 2013 it took until summer 2014 to perfect the recipe.

Why did you choose Junmai sake over other styles?

I chose Junmai as it is the premium of the two basic sake classifications. It would be such a shame to be using so fussy about all of the other ingredients in Jinzu and then just dump in a less than perfect sake. The particular sake we use I chose for its flavour profile, I wanted a sake which was strongly rice flavored.

Did you have a hand in the bottle design?

Yes I did. In fact I’ve had influence in every aspect of Jinzu. With the help of a couple of very talented designers we took the image in my head and turned it into the beautiful bottle we launched.

What’s your favourite way to drink Jinzu?

It depends on the weather. In the summer of course a Jinzu and tonic. I use Fever-tree tonic and a slice of green apple. In the winter try it in this cocktail a mix of Jinzu, almond, amaro, orange flower water and rice milk.

Botanicals

Juniper, coriander and angelica are macerated in the pot still before cherry blossom and Yuzu are added.

Flavour

There is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar with Jinzu. On the one hand, juniper is still present (thank goodness) so we know it’s gin, but on the other, the unfamiliar (to me) earthiness of the Junmai sake gives a different finish. On the nose citrus from the yuzu together with juniper are evident. On the palate a good juniper and citrus flavour gives way to some floral notes from the cherry blossom. There is some warmth towards the end and it’s here that the sake comes through to create a smooth finish.

How to drink

As usual, I tried Jinzu neat, in a G&T, in a saketini and a negroni. Neat, it’s very smooth and easy to drink. Nothing overwhelming about the spirit at all. It makes decent G&T.

Jinzu gin saketini
Jinzu gin saketini garnished with umboshi

It was brilliant in the saketini, with the addition of more junmai sake in place of vermouth, Jinzu really shone. The only drink where it fell a little flat for me was a Negroni. I think the ratios would have to be changed a little, as the usual 30ml of each ingredient nuked the delicate flavour of the Jinzu gin.

jinzu negroni
Jinzu Negroni

If you are looking for a contemporary gin to experiment with then Jinzu is a great choice.

ABV:  41.3%

Price:  Medium