Lapsang souchong is a type of black tea, made by drying fresh tea leaves over a pinewood fire. The smoke dries the leave and the tea they make— well, it tastes a bit smoky. COIT Spirits, who specialize in gins flavored by tea, created Caravan Gin to celebrate this very unique tea.
The name “caravan” refers to the primary way this tea arrived in Europe during the Renaissance— by way of camel back on the Silk Road.
Nose: Insanely vibrant cardamom nose. Hints of black peppercorn, cubeb, white pepper and delicate splash of juniper. Very spice forward.
Flavor: Early, Indian cooking spices. Chiefly cardamom and coriander. Mid-palate, black tea. It gradually develops a smoky facet with green lavender towards the finish.
Smoked juniper berry, cubeb, coriander seed, more coriander, smoked paprika, bitter black tea leaves, and lemon oil all come through on the finish.
Very long, moderately astringent with long lasting base notes that linger on the palate many seconds after a sip.
Caravan Gin is incredibly complex and far more than a one-note gin. The tea is a complement to a complex array of botanicals.
On its own, Caravan Gin makes a delicious Martini gin, especially garnished with a lemon peel. I greatly enjoy sipping this gin Neat.
It should be treated like it’s own thing behind the bar. While it pairs well with citrus, it steps outside the box as well— try it in a Last Word. The herbaceous notes add a surprising green counterpoint that also plays up the smokiness of the gin. Recommended.
Overall, Caravan Gin
COIT Spirits’ portfolio celebrates one man’s journey to master the art of distilling a difficult ingredient like tea (I wrote a great article about the journey for Artisan Spirit in summer 2020)— and similar to their excellent Earl Grey Gin— mission accomplished.
Caravan Gin is a crisp, tea-forward gin with enough juniper to appeal to classic-gin fans. But it ultimately excels at celebrating the beauty of smoked tea.