Follow along with us this holiday season as we go through Drinks by the Dram’s 2015 Ginvent Calendar. You can follow along yourself at home by either picking up a calendar and either run ahead on your own by grabbing a copy of my latest book GIN: THE ART AND CRAFT OF THE ARTISAN REVIVAL (nearly all of the gins are featured in the book!) or staying tuned here for notes on the gins as we open them up alongside you.
For Ginvent, our rating system will be out of 5 ‘s and will instead be solely judging the spirit based on how it is on its own. Where we’ve done a more full review on the site, we’ll link to that as well.
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Ferdinand Saar Quince
A cordial style gin that is absolutely exploding with good ideas! Riesling wine [check!]. Quince instead of Sloes [check!]. 30 botanicals! [check!] There’s just so many things happening that you can’t focus on what each of them does well. It’s an orchestra where everyone plays at once.
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In <100 Words
On July 17th, 1947 the following events occurred:
….and it was held secret for 66 years until Pickering’s Gin was launched in 2013. Juniper + 8 other botanicals, including coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime and cloves.
On December 31st, 2014 I tasted Pickering’s Gin and the following things occurred:
The nose has a slight emphasis on coriander.
also Herbaceous Juniper, and a slight touch of citrus on the edges.
The palate begins with fresh pine forest and lemon zest.
Juniper is really the most striking thing about the palate.
There’s a lot of depth and complexity in the background notes
These notes include hints of violet, lemon, black peppercorn and fennel.
The finish is dry, with still plenty of juniper.
The residual notes of the palate include fennel seed and clover oil.
…and I thought it was quite an exquisite classic style gin. Really good on its own, but also with great promise for mixing.
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Scotland seems to be no longer content to be simply known to gin geeks as the “place where some of the biggest gins in the world are distilled.” NB Gin stands out among its Scottish gin peers for not trying too hard to be Scottish. You might be thinking of some of those other guys that have tried using a Scottish base spirit as a gimmick, or trying to use a whole slew of exotic Scottish countryside herbs. But not NB Gin. It takes a more traditional road towards being a good gin.
In our own <100 words
The Muirs, husband and wife, have teamed up to create this latest Scottish gin. Their attention to detail is evident in their choice of facilities. A traditional copper pot still? Manual controls? Although the latter is shared with most small gins, the mission statement is clear: NB Gin is small batch and has been given close attention at every step. Like a master craftsman, they call out no stops in their botanical choice. Working with eight of the most common ingredients in gin (see below), the end result is more a result of close attention to the nuance of the ingredients than any exotic note the botanicals might bring.
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Photo and sample from David at Summer Fruit Cup.
When I think “Place”-ish gin, I don’t simply think of the physical location of the distillery. Plenty of gins, right or wrong can claim to be “Scottish” based on this alone. As if simply placing your building there allows you to claim something of the land.
But I reject this notion. When I talk about a Scottish gin, I don’t want to just be technical: sure the distillery is there… but it’s not really Scottish, now is it?*
Crossbill is of this new ilk. Crossbill takes provenance seriously. If you’re going to call yourself Scotland, there better be something from the place in your bottle.
In our own <100 Words
Whereas some people saw the litany of articles bemoaning the imminent demise of UK’s juniper industry at the hands of unjust environmental forces and wrote apoplectic click-bait pieces heralding the end times** others found opportunity. Enter Jonathan Engels. Engels worked closely with the Forestry Commission and Plantlife [one of the groups who was sounding the alarm about the aforementioned junipocalypse] to cultivate the juniper for Crossbill gin in Scotland. This means that Crossbill Gin can claim 100% Scotland-sourced botanicals.
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When Gilt Gin burst onto the scene I remember a couple of folks on Twitter saying “New Make Scotch?! That’s not even a thing!” Well for the sake of clarification, its just that the base is made of malted barley 100%. Which is the same base neutral spirit which would be used to make Scotch Whisky if they chose to pursue that route. They haven’t. Technically, there’s nothing “Scotch” about this, except that it is Scottish. And Scottish Gin is definitely a thing, a trend, and an emerging area of the gin thing that’s exploding everywhere.
A little bit of hay/grass on the nose. A tad bit of sweetness as well and a touch of anise. The taste is crisp juniper at first, a building bit of heat, caramel and burnt sugar in the middle, giving it a touch of sweetness. Lots of earthy notes. Coriander, citrus and anise again. The closing warm with a touch of heat and Orris root.
A little bit discordant in a gin and tonic. Though it doesn’t have as strongly of a whiskey character as some of the other novel grain bases, it does have that sort of “this just doesn’t meld” sort of taste.
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Caorunn gin captivated me from the first time I heard about. Exotic botanicals are nothing new in modern gin. With Big names like Bombay getting into exotic ingredients designed to invoke a certain region, it shouldn’t be surprising that a gin coming out of Scotland would attempt to do something that invokes a certain vision of the pastoral and idyllic Scottish countryside.
The 5 Unique Botanicals (w/ Wikipedia references for those who are unfamiliar with the Botany of the Northern United Kingdom)
Coul Blush Apple: The UK telegraph reports that native apples are making a comeback, after being obscured beneath the mounds of cheaper imports like Granny Smith. “Makes a good sauce.”
Heather is a short shrub that grows in bogs all across Europe and parts of Asia.
Bog Myrtle is also known as “Sweet Gale” and is a short shrub common in nitrogen poor bogs in North America and Europe. Bog Myrtle was a common component of beer flavoring in Europe prior to the availability of hops.
Rowan Berry is a common wild tree in the UK. Often as small trees with bright orange-reddish berries.
And Dandelion leaf should be familiar to anyone who’s ever had a lawn.
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