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%

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

Santamanía Gin

Spain consumes the most gin in the world (not counting the Philipines, who make a local version of “gin”) and has been the main driver of the gin boom with their passion for ‘Gin Tonica’. It was surprising to learn that there are so few micro-distilleries, Santamanía is the first urban distillery in Spain and is located in Madrid.

Santamanía Distillery

You might recognise a couple of things from the above image, firstly, they use a Carl still (named Vera) and secondly that the dude in the brown T-shirt with his back to the camera is Cameron Mackenzie, Master Distiller at Four Pillars Gin. More on the reason why he’s in the photo later!

Santamanía gin is made using grape-based spirit (other gins using grape based spirit include Melbourne Gin Company and G’Vine), from Tempranillo grapes, known as Spain’s ‘noble grape’ that have been growing in the Iberian Peninsula since the mid 800s BC. Grape-based spirit gives gin a different, smoother mouth-feel than grain-based, in my opinion, but some think that grape conflicts with the other botanical ingredients.Using the traditional one-shot distillation method, they produce the gin in VERY small batches at a time – no more than 800 bottles at a time.

The botanicals

Juniper, coriander, Spanish lemon and lime, liquorice, angelica and orris roots, pistachio nuts, cinnamon, white pepper, dry ginger, rosemary and fresh raspberries. Some interesting ones in there!

On the nose, there is soft citrus. On the palate the citrus notes leads on to herbaceous flavours including juniper, before some spice and warmth from the pepper, coriander and cardamon. The finish is long with a tiny hint of sweetness (from the raspberries perhaps?) and it has a very smooth mouthfeel.

Santamanía gin works very well in a G&T (I garnished mine with lime and black pepper) as expected from a Spanish gin! In a martini it might have benefitted from a different vermouth, as although it was a decent drink, it didn’t have the juniper oomph I like in my martinis.

Santamanía gin martini
Santamanía gin martini
Santamania and Cousin Vera gins
Santamanía and Cousin Vera gins

If you are expecting a bold juniper forward Spanish style gin then don’t, and don’t be disappointed! This is a beautifully balanced contemporary gin. I love what Santamanía have achieved with their gin and admire their passion for collaborations with other distillers. The most recent, on with Four Pillars gin where together they have created ‘Cousin Vera’ gin (review to follow). This distillery is certainly one to watch.

Country of Origin: Spain

ABV: 41%

Price: High

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

Malfy Gin Bottle

Malfy Gin

Malfy gin is the first Italian gin to land on my desk and after an initial concern that it would be more limoncello than gin, I’ve been won over. Why the worry? Malfy Gin’s label states “con limone” and unfortunately,  I’ve tasted gins recently where the desire the produce a citrus forward gin has resulted in flavour profiles that lean towards how I imagine some lemon detergents might taste.

However, the distillers at Torino Distillati – a small distillery in Moncalieri owned by the Vergnano family, that makes Malfy gin – have used a different distillation technique to get some very fresh flavours.

Malfy Gin is made using vacuum distillation. It’s a relatively new phenomenon in the world of gin production and has some distinct advantages over traditional methods including avoiding heat-related degradation of the product being distilled and better flavour retention. The other advantage is no heads and tails need to be thrown out, so everything that is distilled can be bottled, reducing waste. The only downside I guess is the inability to upscale to larger quantities.

Bacardi used this method for their Oxley gin which is distilled at -5 degrees. Sacred Gin is also vacuum distilled.

Malfy Gin Botanicals

A mix of peel from Amalfi Coast lemons (10-20%)  and Sicilian lemons (80%) are steeped in alcohol and then squeezed in a traditional basket press.

Malfy Gin Lemon Press
Lemons being squeezed in the press

The lemon extract is then distilled with Tuscan juniper, coriander, cassia, liquorice, together with grapefruit and orange peels.

On the nose, it is bright and zesty with lemon as you’d expect. This freshness follows through on the palate, with the citrus notes mingling with some delicate juniper and spice notes from the coriander leading through to a surprisingly warm, lingering dry finish..

We tried it with tonic garnished with rosemary. It had lots of zesty lemon sherbet flavours going on which were delicious, however I think Malfy gin would stand up well with plain soda water.

Malfy Gin and Tonic
Malfy Gin and Tonic

In a martini it was beautifully dry and crisp. I probably should have chosen an italian vermouth, but Dolin worked brilliantly, and knowing it would not require my usual a twist, I chose sage for a savoury lift. Perfection!

Dry Martini made with Malfy gin, Dolin vermouth and garnished with sage
Dry Martini made with Malfy gin, Dolin vermouth and garnished with sage

So there we have it, my first Italian gin. As winter approaches I’ll look to this one for a taste of the Mediterranean on a gloomy day.

Country of Origin: Italy

ABV: 41%

Price: Medium

Pickering's-Gin-Cosmopolitan

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin

The current gin boom sees ever crazier expressions of the spirit, with distillers appearing to be in a battle with each other to use the most unusual botanicals they can. I have tasted some disastrous gins (I’m not naming names) where the unusual has wrecked the sublime juniper spirit I enjoy. I know, I’m a purist. However, I am learning to appreciate the more contemporary gins, particularly if the quality is there. Aviation gin is a good example of a contemporary gin where juniper doesn’t dominate.

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin is one of the more left-field gin brands and was created by the Nolet Distillery in Schiedam, Netherlands. The Nolet family has been distilling for over 300 years, and produce Ketel One vodka and Jenever/Genever.

Noel's-Silver-Dry-Gin-bottle-top

The botanicals used in Nolet’s Silver Dry gin only have a whisper of the traditional ingredients (juniper, citrus, orris and liquorice) with white peach, turkish rose and raspberry added as essences. Rose and notes of turkish delight are detectable on the both the nose and the palate, as well as raspberries. Pine notes from the juniper came through towards the end with some pepper and earthy tones giving a surprisingly dry finish.

This is Hendrick’s bolder sister; fruity and floral, smooth and moreish.  Sipping neat over ice opens out the flavours and I would recommend using it in a Gin Rickey rather than in a G&T. It produced a rich, full negroni (I used Dolin vermouth and Campari) with a sweet rose finish. Interesting!

The dry martini is where Nolet’s Silver Dry gin comes into its own. The floral notes in the gin balanced well with the vermouth (Dolin Dry in a 5:1 ratio) and resulted in a soft (almost creamy) martini. If you aren’t confident drinking martinis this could be a good place to start! A Clover Club cocktail would also work well with this gin.

Nolet's-Silver-Dry-martini-and-bottle

This is the most contemporary gin I’ve tasted so far and will definitely polarise opinion. The price is at the premium end of the market and is only available in Australia via Nicks Wine Merchants. I’m intrigued to try the companion gin, Nolet’s ‘The Reserve’ Dry Gin (gold label) but at over $600 a bottle I think I might be waiting a while!

Country of Origin: Holland

ABV: 47.6%

Price: High

Elephant-Gin-and-tonic

Elephant Gin

Drinking gin to help protect elephants? The people behind Elephant Gin set out to do just that, combining their love of gin with their desire to save these endangered animals.

It sounds wonderful in theory, but at first glance at the gin botanicals used to make Elephant Gin, I was a little surprised to see there was no mention of coriander, orris root or angelica. Instead ingredients sourced from Africa like Devil’s Claw (a herb related to sesame seeds), Lion’s Tail (plant related to the mint family) the Baobab (also used in Whitley Neill gin), Buchu plant with a flavour similar to blackcurrant, and African wormwood have been used. Other botanicals are more familiar  – pimento, orange peel, mountain pine, juniper and ginger.  Also included into the mix are fresh apples.

On paper it didn’t sound much like gin, but happily I was to be proved wrong!

On the nose, there are fragrant pine and herb notes with light apple aromas. I swear I smelt panetonne – an assortment vanilla and candied fruit smells! The apple flavour is noticeable on first tasting, but think crisp granny smith rather than sweet reds. I was expecting a sweet, floral gin, but the herbaceous notes become bolder before earthy, spice notes lead to a lengthy finish. This gin is very smooth on the palate. Remarkably so given it is 45% ABV.

An unusual gin that begs to be sipped neat, Elephant makes a delicious G&T with a slice of apple and some juniper or a bold Negroni.

Elephant-gin-label
Each batch is named after past greatest tuskers or elephants the charity is trying to protect.

Too often we see gins available full of wacky ingredients that are used at the expense of making a decent gin. Elephant Gin is a masterclass in taking the unusual and making them work! Not only that but 15% of their profits go to Big Life Foundation and Space for Elephants Foundation. Two charities focussed on protecting elephants and their habitats.

Country of Origin: Germany

ABV: 45%

Price: Medium

Follow Elephant Gin on Facebook and twitter.

Gin 1495

When I heard about the Gin 1495 project last year I was intrigued. Juniper has been used in medicine and drinks since the 13th century, but no recipes had been recorded. The discovery of a recipe from 1495 was extremely exciting, but there was talk of limited bottles and only a few people in the world being offered a taste. I crossed my fingers and hoped that a bottle would wing its way to Australia and that I might have an opportunity to taste a little history. Thanks to my friends at G’Vine gin an invitation found its way to me.

The Gin 1495 tasting event was held at Juniper Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Sydney and home to a former English distiller, Robert Cooper, who had been transported to Australia as a convict!

Only 40 guests were invited along to hear Philip Duffy, drinks historian and gin expert, talk us through this extraordinary venture.

Phil first came across the reference to a gin recipe in an out of print book on Jenever. His interest piqued, he began investigating its origin and discovered that the text came from a 1495 cookbook from a merchant’s house in East Netherlands and was part of a collection of Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum) and that the collection was housed in the British Library.

What do you do when you discover an ancient recipe? Well, in Philip’s case you gather some of the foremost drinks historians: David Wondrich, Gaz Regan and Dave Broom together with Jean-Sébastien Robicquet (owner and founder of Eurowinegate and G’vine gin creator) and recreate it.

The botanicals listed in the recipe were nutmeg (at that time was worth more than its weight in gold), ginger, galangal (similar to ginger), grains of paradise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, sage, and juniper.  The recipe states to use one part botanicals to nine parts wine distillate.

Wine was used as the base as opposed to grain spirit because it was easier to come by. It’s worth remembering that this predates the East India Company being founded, so these spices would have been brought across the silk route, probably by a lone merchant.

Two versions of gin were created from the recipe Verbatim is the exact recipe, while Interpretatio is the same recipe but with the inclusion of some of the more familiar gin botanicals used today that were unavailable then.

1495gin

Verbatim (42% ABV)

On tasting this screamed “NUTMEG”. It was bold and herbaceous and very spicy. I felt warmed to my toes. One can only imagine the response when the merchant brought this out for his dinner guests. It would have tasted like nothing they had ever tasted before!

Interpretatio (45% ABV)

This version was made with more juniper, citrus and some angelica root. The resulting liquid is very different to Verbatim and more familiar as a gin, with the juniper more noticeable. It’s fresher, but still with herb and spice notes evident.

Only 100 sets of the gins have been produced. They will not be on general sale, but instead have been  donated to various museums, spirits collections, archives, and gin institutions around the world. Some of them will also be auctioned off for charity.

Philip Duff and I with the two gins and a reproduction of the recipe manuscript
Philip Duff and I with the two gins and a reproduction of the recipe manuscript

It was an experience of a lifetime to taste something so unique and I love that this passion project is such an altruistic one.

In Australia the auction will be raising funds for Wine to Water a A movement dedicated to providing clean water and sanitation to people in need around the world.

If you would like to make a bid to become one of the owners for these rare gins, you can do so here (auction closes on Friday Jul 31st, 7:30pm AEST)

For more information on Gin 1495 click here.

herno-gin-and-tonic

Hernö Gin

Hernö Gin hails from Sweden, better known for its vodka and brännvin (literally burnt wine). However, as you need a good spirit base, i.e. vodka to make gin, it’s not surprising that the Swedes have turned their hand to the juniper spirit!

Founder and master distiller, Jon Hillgren, discovered a passion for gin while working as a bartender in London in the late 1990s. He spent the next 12 years travelling the globe tasting gin, studying to become a distiller and visiting other distilleries, before opening his own in 2011.

Between his two copper stills, Kerstin and Marit, Jon produces four different gin styles: this one (a dry gin), Navy Strength, Old Tom and Juniper Cask (barrel-aged).

The Botanicals

Hernö Gin is made with juniper, coriander, lemon peel, lingonberries, meadowsweet, black pepper, cassia bark and vanilla. All of the botanicals used are certified organic.

lingonberries
Lingonberries

I like the fact that Hernö have used Lingonberries (a red berry native to Sweden, Canada and Alaska) among the more traditional gin botanicals. Lingonberries are related to blueberries but closer to cranberries in flavour, although less tart.

Aroma and Flavour

On the nose Hernö Gin is green and fresh with a slightly floral aroma. It has a light, fresh flavour with a delicate floral sweetness. This slight sweetness is balanced out by spicier notes from the coriander and black pepper. It’s a testament to the skill of the distiller that none of the botanicals overpower one another.

Hernö Gin is perfect for those who prefer their gin with a lighter juniper flavour. The number of awards it has won tells you that this is a quality gin and I’ll certainly be seeking out the other styles to try.

Country of Origin: Sweden

ABV: 40.5%

Price: High

broken-heart-gin

Broken Heart Gin

The history and stories around gin fascinate me. Whether it’s how the distillers came to make gin or how they came to choose the ingredients, anecdotes add something to the drinking experience for me.

But none have touched me as much as the story behind Broken Heart Gin.

Joerg and Bernd, two Germans, living in the Southern Alps in New Zealand were great friends sharing a love for gin and a passion for distilling. They decided to work together to create a new gin. Sadly before they could complete the project, Bernd became gravely ill and died. Bereft, Joerg and Bernd’s widow, Annie, almost abandoned the idea, but after some time decided that they should continue in Bernd’s memory. The broken hearts they were carrying for Bernd, became the name of the gin.

Broken Heart Gin is a traditional London Dry style with 11 botanicals that include; juniper, coriander, lemon peel, lavender, cinnamon and angelica. These botanicals are steeped in a base spirit of wheat and molasses before being re-distilled.

On tasting, there is a welcome hit of juniper on the nose and palate, with coriander and citrus also coming through, ending with a hint of liquorice. It’s a fresh, clean gin and very well-balanced. Broken Heart Gin recommend serving with a slice of orange, but it stood up well in my Monday Negroni!

broken-heart-gin-negroniCountry of Origin: New Zealand

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

bols-genever

What is Genever?

During the events I host, I like to share some of the rich, vibrant history behind gin. Genever (or Jenever) is considered to be the starting point for gin in England, however it’s also a delicious spirit in it’s own right.

So, what is Genever?

Genever is a separate white spirit category that has been produced since the 16th Century.

It is a blend of malt wine, a botanical distillate containing coriander, caraway and aniseed, and juniper that has been distilled separately in malt wine rather than neutral grain spirit. Bols, the main producer of Genever, also add a secret ingredient from their ancient recipes.

Genever has Appellation D’origine Controlee status meaning it can only be produced in the Netherlands (and a few surrounding areas), putting it on par with champagne, cognac and Scottish single malt whisky. The status also determines how much malt wine and juniper the genever must contain.

Relationship to gin

When William of Orange, the Dutch king, ascended the English throne, he brought Genever over with him. Sadly the English distillers weren’t as skilled in the art of grain distillation and began using other distillates that they would flavour with juniper, creating early versions of gin.

What does it taste like?

Fresh, pine flavours with hints of spice rounded out with hints of yeast. It tastes a little like unaged whisky.

 Use in cocktails

In the 19th century the import of Genever to the USA was six times greater than gin and it was one of only 4 spirits recognised as accepted bases for cocktails (the others being brandy, whisky and rum). Genever is the main ingredient in some of the oldest cocktail recipes, like the Tom Collins and Holland House. It makes a fabulous ingredient in a Gin Crusta.

Should you try it?

Yes! Genever is a versatile spirit suitable for making cocktails or sipping, or if you prefer, you could do what the Dutch do and perform the kopstoot (headbutt). Genever is taken straight from the freezer and poured into tulip-shaped glasses. As the glass is so cold it’s best to instead leave the glass on the table, and sip directly, bending your back to get the drink in your mouth!

genever-crusta
Genever Crusta by The Barbershop, Sydney