You know by now that I’m a big fan of Four Pillars, and everything they get up to in the Yarra Valley. When I heard they were releasing a Navy Strength gin World Gin Day I beat a path to their door to purchase a bottle! It was bold and flavoursome, but definitely not for sipping!
Fast forward a few months and I learned that Cam wasn’t 100% happy with their first batch of Four Pillars ‘Gunpowder Proof Gin’ and had gone back to the drawing board (and Wilma) to refine the recipe.
Cam had already changed up the botanicals used in the first batch, most noticeably, switching out some of the biodynamic fresh oranges for native finger limes. However, for batch two, fresh ginger and turmeric were added to the dried botanicals to give an earthiness and to balance out the intensity of the other flavours.
Tasting the two variations side by side gives an insight into the art of craft distilling. The new batch is far more refined and can be sipped neat over ice (I’m not kidding).
‘Proofing spirits’ is an 18th Century term relating to rum, but later applied to gin. Sailors received a tot of rum as part of their rations. In order to check their rum had not been diluted it was “proved” by soaking gunpowder in the spirit and checking to see if it still ignited. If it didn’t, it was considered “underproof”.
As the British Navy were keen to make sure their gunpowder remained explosive, the gin they took on board was always 57% (ABV – alcohol by volume), the proof at which gunpowder ignites.
Distilled gin comes off the still at around 90% proof, so it needs to be diluted with water before bottling. Gins vary in ABV and it’s down to the botanicals and the flavour the distiller is trying to achieve.
Cam said the Four Pillars team tasted the gin at 57.5% all the way up to 62.0% (!) in 0.2 percentage increments until they settled on the sweet spot at 58.8%, where they found the flavours balanced perfectly. Now that takes patience AND dedication.
How to drink Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin
To be honest with you, it’s so darn drinkable that you could use this in any cocktail, but take note of that 58.8% ABV, it’s a sneaky sucker. I’ve tried it neat (amazingly good without stripping your mouth), in a G&T (sublime), in a refreshing cocktail made with honey water infused with pink peppercorns (made by Pete at The Black Pearl) and as a martini. It stood up well in all of them, but in a dirty martini it’s simply fabulous.
Dirty Martini with Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives
I’m not a lover of food in or on cocktails (I see nothing wrong with a side plate), but in conversation with my dear friend, Mrs Romance/Hair Romance the virtues of blue cheese stuffed olives in martinis came up.
I wrinkled my nose. Cheese – gin- NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
But curiosity got the better of me, and a quick search unearthed dozens of recipes, mainly featuring vodka (insert deafening silence here).
I had a feeling that these cheesy olives might work with the Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin, so set about adapting the recipes I had found. (FYI Martha Stewart sprays the inside of her glass with vermouth).
I used Silician olives (please, please get the best olives you can, it really makes all the difference) that I de-stoned myself for another experiment (more on later next week) and dolcelatte cheese. I omitted the olive brine as I wanted to see whether the cheese stuffed olives alone would suffice.
I am here to tell you gin-lovers IT WORKS. So much so, that I found it tricky to stop at one (I did, because, you know, 58.8% ABV)
So now I urge you to give it a go. It’s fiddly stuffing the olives (especially for a non-domestic goddess like me) but I made up a batch that are now stored in the freezer for future use (allow to thaw for a little while before using)
Ingredients for Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Dirty Martini with Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives
50ml Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin
15ml Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
3 olives (de-stoned)
Dolcelatte cheese at room temperature (any soft blue cheese will do)
Martinis need to be COLD. I pop my glass and stirring jar in the freezer for 10 minutes before I begin. Vermouth and Gin are already in the fridge
De-stone the olives and stuff with blue cheese. Put them in the fridge while you prep the martini.
Remember all of Greg’s tips on martini making: liquids in first, then ice, then stir.
Strain into your chilled martini glass then garnish with the cheese-stuffed olives.
On serving, let the olives sink to the bottom on the glass and enjoy!