Infusion gins like Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Navy Strength Bathtub Gin have a sometimes unfair reputation. Talk to someone who’s been around spirits for a long time and the notion of an “infused gin” probably conjures up to the notion of an inexpensive “store brand” gin that has been infused with artificial flavors after distillation. Or perhaps someone who has bad luck with a home DIY gin kit.
Fortunately this reputation is on the wane and the bar has been raised. For example, Tru2 Organic Gin has a golden hue from fourteen botanicals that been infused to create a bold, herbal, gin. Distilleries like Bendistillery really raised the bar for infusion gins with their excellent Crater Lake Gin. I’ve rambled about this reputation in the past, so I won’t continue here. But along comes the Professor Cornelius Ampleforth line of gins from Master of Malt which in the tradition of “Bathtub Gins”, continues to elevate the notion of what a compound gin can be.
The nose of Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Navy Strength Bathtub Gin isn’t as strong in terms of alcohol as other Navy Strength Gins. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell its perhaps a bit overproof but on nose alone I wouldn’t be saying “57%” on guess alone.
Lots of citrus, orange is strong. Cinnamon is the next botanical that is rather obvious on the nose in Ampleforth’s Navy Strength Gin . There’s some juniper in here too. Compound gins tend to have much more “obvious noses,” in the sense that distillation can alter the character of some botanicals. But infusion you’re perceiving them much more in the form you’re likely to see them on the spice rack. I think that folks not familiar with picking botanicals out of the nose will probably be able to readily recognize a couple in this one. Its vibrant and interesting.
The flavor is intense and complex, the botanicals mingle together in a furious flurry. I’d have to say, baking spices come to mind first, but then orange, lots of orange. Orange rind and orange oils specifically dominate the middle part of the taste, and that’s when the heat starts to build rather intensely. Navy Strength gins are best for mixing rather than sipping neat. This is no exception, there’s complexity here. A complexity which can be opened up with a little bit of water and ponderously sipping. Back to the taste, the finish is mildly acidic with the orange notes giving way to a Chinotto/Myrtle Orange flavor. A little bit of an earthy baking spice tone. Again, cinnamon, but I think that the finish is heavy on the cloves. And the finish is loooooooooong. With a lot of o’s in there. You’ll be tasting the faint notes of bitter orange and clove long after the sip when you have this neat. Juniper is faint and prevalent throughout. At no point does the juniper hit you over the head, but also at no point is it tasting wholly un-gin-like. The juniper element is refreshing and as with other compound gins more “vegetable”-like and a little sharper. All in all, this is a rather complex and interesting gin. The tasting notes are a tad longer than some other gins I’ve written about.
One of the challenges with some infusion gins is that the flavors are so incredibly strong that they don’t quite mesh in cocktails the way you might expect a gin to.
I thought Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Navy Strength Bathtub Gin created a muddy, confused Tom Collins and Gimlet.
I thought the Negroni was excellent, though the martini was dependent on the vermouth. The martini I had tasted confused with Dolin, but I think a more herbal vermouth might be a better accompaniment. Much better than a Martini, might be the Alaska Cocktail.
Overall, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Navy Strength Bathtub Gin
All in all, I think this is a gin that excels at being sipped neat or with amaros. The complex herbs mix well. I think gin aficionados in search of something more herbal or some unique flavors might appreciate the notes it brings to some classics in the cocktail canon, I think that to best appreciate how this gin works in cocktails [and best respects the fact that it is 57% ABV] you might want to look at drinks which make use of Chartreuse, Cynar and Campari. Or, add a drop or two of water and sip it neat as you would an overproof whiskey.