Black is an unusual color for a spirit, especially a gin. To achieve this result they use a combination of pH sensitive natural coloring agents* including the well known butterfly pea flower, most familiar from Empress 1908 Gin. In addition it uses Sweet Potatoes (also pH sensitive) and more stable, familiar coloring agents like Saffron. When their powers combine, the unusual black hue is achieved. Similar to other colored gins, it will change to become lighter in the presence of acid.
Also note Scapegrace Black is a different gin than Scapegrace Classic, previously reviewed on this site.
Color: Smoky, slate with a slight greenish tint. It is still transparent, but Scapegrace Black Gin is as close as you can get to black with natural flavorings. Well done, and quite attractive on its own.
With added acid, such as tonic water, the color turns to a plum hue.
Aroma: Fruit forward. Concord grape with hints of pineapple. Very fruity and very floral. Scapegrace Black Gin is very different than Scapegrace Classic Dry Gin.
Flavor: Sipped, citrus comes through on the early side. Lemon zest eases into a somewhat jammy, mid-palate. I get notes of concord grape, but with added facets of blackberries and ripe pear. Late, a warmth and brings forward some mild hints of juniper and some spices— chiefly coriander, but hints of cloves and cassia.
Finish: Moderately long with lasting spice notes and pleasant warmth.
Cocktails and Suggested Serves
Obviously, Scapegrace Black Gin is intended for performance— at the bar, the lovely change to plum hue is a pleasant change from the myriad blue to pink transformations. I suggest a gin and tonic with a floral tonic such as Q Elderflower. Serve it traditional style over ice and without garnish to highlight the color change.
It makes a striking Martini for its hue alone, but bartenders, and fans of floral/fruity gins will find that it mixes well even when not in applications that highlight the color. Try it in a Negroni for a surprisingly bright version that highlights the natural jamminess of Campari.
Overall, Scapegrace Black Gin
Gin purists will likely spend more time looking for the juniper than admiring the beautiful hue. For a “Black Gin” it is admittedly a little bit light on the gin part of it. Juniper is present, but it’s really a background note.
Fans of fruity floral gins, will find a lot to like here. It has a nice texture, a round, evolving palate and a warming, pleasant finish. I think Scapegrace Black Gin is an ideal entry point for flavored vodka fans or people who stereotype gin as merely “pine.”
But overall, I found Scapegrace Black Gin to be a fun mixing gin, though I think a bit more juniper could add some needed balance. I enjoy it for what it does well, but I would likely reach for Scapegrace Classic as my main pour.
*I wrote more about this in an Artisan Spirit magazine, where I focused on the Butterfly Pea Flower specifically.