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Tasting Gin | Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength

miller 008If money was no object and you just wanted to make the most wonderful gin possible, what would you do? This was the starting point for Martin Miller’s Gin. And it’s not a bad starting point, if money is no object.

Martin Miller the man came to prominence publishing an etiquette guide called Success with the Fairer Sex. I can only imagine what that was about. He established the Miller Academy, a Victorian style salon, but he got bored with burlesque at about the time in became a major plot point in Gossip Girl. I have sympathy for that. Somewhere along the line his attention turned to gin.

The Process

The neutral spirit is flavoured in a single pot still called Angela. No source is mentioned for the spirit so it is probably a grain spirit. The earthy botanicals are infused overnight in spirit and hot water, while the citrus peels are distilled separately. Now, this is where it gets interesting. The heart cut from the distillation is sent to Iceland at full strength where it is mixed with fjord water. We did say money was no object! The Westbourne strength is mixed to 45.2% ABV.

Botanicals

This is not an exact list, it is put together from various hints across the website.

Juniper
Cassia
Coriander
Orange peel
Lemon peel

Tasting notes

This is not a fragrant or perfumed gin. It is very light on the nose with ethanol and juniper detectible, but otherwise it is indistinct. On the palate it is clean and bright and surprisingly soft for 45.2% ABV. It’s well rounded with juniper, citrus and spice in a very pleasing balance. The most remarkable thing about this gin is how clean fresh it tastes. I can’t help but picture shiny, fresh snowfields and adds for toothpaste when I’m drinking it, and I mean that in a very good way.

Drinks

In a gin and tonic you need to use a high quality  tonic water (Fever Tree or Capi) as the flavours are so subtle that a cheap and sugary tonic water will completely overpower the gin. It’s a very soft and clean drink, very enjoyable with a cucumber garnish as the creaminess of the cucumber offsets the softness of the gin beautifully. A sliver of lemon peel also works nicely.

In a martini you want to keep it dry and clean, this is not a gin to dirty up with olive brine. A few drops of vermouth if you must, but I’d suggest Churchill style (look at the vermouth as you pour the gin) with a twist.

What others say

The Gin is In
Gin Time
The Gin Blog
The Whisky Exchange
The Drink Shop

Where to buy

Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength is available in Australia, I have bought it from Vintage Cellars but a quick scout of their website doesn’t prove fruitful. Your better independent bottle shop should stock it, or you can buy online from Nicks, free delivery for orders over $200.

Disclaimer after I had prepared this review I was offered a bottle of Martin Miller’s Gin (not Westbourne Strength) to review. While I appreciate the generosity of Martin Miller’s distributors in sending this sample, my appreciation has not effected this review. 

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Tasting Gin | Willliam Chase Gin

// gin, William ChaseWilliam Chase Gin is a gin I desperately wanted to love. William Chase is the only gin in England made from a neutral spirit made by the distillery; all other distilleries buy in their neutral spirit. Most gins are made with a grain based neutral spirit, William Chase make their spirits from cider apples. So you can see why I was excited to try it.

The process

Chase Distillery have a field to bottle approach, they grow apples and potatoes for their vodka on their property in Herefordshire. They make their base spirit, essentially vodka, by fermenting then distilling the apples and potatoes. The base spirit comes out at about 96% ABV.

To make their gin they put the botanicals into a pillowcase (yep, a pillowcase!) and toss that into the carter of their still, Ginny. As the vapours pass through the pillowcase they are flavoured with the botanicals.

Once flavoured, the spirit is mixed with water drawn from a source on their property, down to 48% ABV.

There’s no reason not to describe this gin as London Dry, although they do not market it as such.

Botanicals

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Liquorice
Orris
Orange
Lemon
Hops
Elderflower
Bramley apple

Tasting notes

With an ABV of 48%, ethanol overpowers the botanicals on the nose. There is a sense of juniper, but it’s very subtle. On the palate, again the neutral spirit is the star with the botanicals very difficult to detect. Given the provenance of the spirit I expected it to be more remarkable, to have a more distinct flavour, maybe the deficiency is in my palate, but it really didn’t taste the difference in the neutral spirit and found the botanicals almost undetectable.

When I was in London I tasted the William Chase Vodka, which I thought was delicious and wonderfully smooth. Look, I’m a bit confused about this too.

Drinks

I only had a 50mL sample bottle, so after tasting it neat I only had enough left for a gin and tonic, with Fevertree tonic and lemon peel. I was hoping the mixing the William Chase with tonic water would open up the flavours of the botanicals, but I found the flavour of the lemon peel overwhelmed any subtle botanical flavours.

What others say

The Gin Blog
Drinks Enthusiast

Where can you buy it

I can’t find an Australian supplier for William Chase Gin, but you can order it from Master of Malt in the UK, just watch out for the shipping!

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Tasting Gin | Stone Pine dry gin

Stone Pine Dry GinA dear friend of mine has been touring the country in various plays for quite some years now, and in doing so discovered the Stone Pine Distillery in Bathurst. He’d been telling me about this wonderful gin for a year or so before he was back in the region and had the chance to pick up a bottle for me. It was worth the wait.

Originally from Scotland, Bev and Ian Glen founded their mircodistillery in 2006. Bev’s background is in hospitality, while Ian is a biochemist and is an Associate Member of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, so they make a great team.

I’m excited about the emergence of some terrific Australian gins using native botanicals. (I have quite a few on my reviews to do list.) Overall they are punchy and flavoursome.

The process

Stone Pine Dry gin is pot distilled, the website says they gently infuse their botanicals, but it does not specify if it is vapour distilled or macerated then distilled. Based on the wording I would guess vapour distilled.

There is no indication of what is used in the spirit base, but the describes Ian Glen’s background is brewing whisky so I’d guess that he is using a grain spirit base.

They call the style ‘new world’ which I guess is another way of saying New Western, though it owes a lot to the London Dry style too.

Botanicals

They are a bit secretive about the botanical ingredients, describing a proprietary of native and traditional botanicals. There is definitely juniper and some earthy herb tones, and also some quite hot spicy notes. They use a lot of finger lime in their other products so it’s quite possible the citrusy top notes come courtesy of the delicious native finger lime.

Tasting notes

Unsurprisingly Stone Pine has a strong pine aroma with clean ethanol and juniper. On the palate it is full-flavoured with juniper and hot spice dominating. There is a subtle hint of a citrus top note.

Drinks

Mixed with Fever Tree tonic it’s a full and loud drink with a lot of complexity. The tonic dampens the hot spice and opens up the slightly sweet citrus top notes. While it doesn’t of the clean softness of a classic London Dry, it is an interesting and vibrant gin and tonic. They offer gift packs of the dry gin with Capi tonic water, which is an excellent Australian product. It’s so good to see a distillery committing to good tonic water.

What others say

I haven’t been able to find any other reviews of Stone Pine dry gin, if you stumble upon any, do let me know. Or if you have the chance to try it, I’d love to know what you think.

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Tasting Gin | Beefeater 24

gin, london dry, reviewAfter tasting the Crown Jewel we wanted to try the replacement, Beefeater 24. Of course our gracious host had a bottle on hand.

The Process

Beefeater 24 is infused for, wait for it, 24 hours, then distilled for seven hours. The website describes that the cut for Beefeater 24 is taken in the middle of the distillation an ‘Artisan Cut’ which makes for a ‘more citrusy, softer, contemporary style of gin.’

Tasting Notes

The first thing that struck me about the Beefeater 24, as compared to the Crown Jewel, is that it’s much softer. That’s partly because it’s 45%ABV rather than 50%ABV, but possibly also because of the Artisan Cut process. It’s also much more complex. A heavy juniper base, but the grapefruit is much more distinct. I could also taste notes of black pepper. I’m not sure where the pepper flavour comes from and the only difference in botanicals is the addition of Japanese Sencha tea and Chinese green tea.

The thing I found really interesting in tasting these two Beefeater premiums, as well as the regular Beefeater, is the distinct flavour palate across the three gins. They certainly have a very consistent house flavour which is very identifiable in each version.

Botanicals

Almond
Angelica Root
Angelica Seed
Chinese green tea
Coriander Seed
Japanese Sencha tea
Juniper
Lemon Peel
Liquorice
Orange Peel
Grapefruit Peel
Orris Root

What others say

The Gin Blog
Gin Journey
Drink Hacker

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Tasting Gin | Beefeater Crown Jewel

BeefeaterCrownJewelPeerlessWe were lucky to be invited to a housewarming party over the weekend. The host is a passionate spirits enthusiast. He has custom built shelves with down lights to house his collections. He even brews his own bitters.

My first gin sample of the evening was St George’s Terrior gin. I’m not going to write up full notes on this gin as it is very strongly flavoured with coriander, which I absolutely cannot abide. Coriander and its root a quite common ingredients in gin, and as long as I can’t taste or smell it, that’s fine, but it was so over-powering in this gin that I really couldn’t do it justice. Aaron at The Gin Is In has a very favourable review of it here.

Towards the end of the evening, in fact I think we were the only guests left, our gracious host dug out a bottle of Beefeater Crown Jewel. The Crown Jewel was the Beefeater premium before the Beefeater 24. It was discontinued it 2009. Our host found this bottle at the back of a dusty shelf in a Wellington bottleshop and snapped it up.

The process

As this gin is discontinued it’s very difficult to find out exactly how it was made. Being familiar with the Beefeater process, I’d assume it is macerated and infused then distilled, in true London Dry style.

Tasting notes

At 50%ABV this is a firey alcohol hit, spicy and warming. The flavour feels heavy on spice, but I think that is the interaction between the juniper and the very strong alcohol. There is also a slight metallic tingle at the front of the tongue. I tasted this late at night, so these are not my most detailed notes, but there isn’t a lot of subtly in this one, I guess it’s hard to be subtle when working with 50%ABV.

Botanicals
Almond
Angelica Root
Angelica Seed
Coriander Seed
Juniper
Lemon Peel
Liquorice
Orange Peel
Grapefruit Peel
Orris Root

What others say

Summer Fruit Cup
Everyday Drinking
Proof 66

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A love letter of sorts to Bombay Sapphire

Dear Bombay Sapphire,

gin, Bombay Sapphire, London Dry Gin

You were the first good gin I met. Sure, I’d pilfered Vickers from Mum’s dusty liquor cabinet and survived a few years of Gordon’s and postmix in sticky uni bars, but you were my first real gin. And oh how I loved you!

My grandmother introduced you to me. I can’t remember exactly when, but do remember thinking, ‘so this is what gin’s supposed to taste like!’ It was a revolution in my mouth.

I bought a few bottles duty free and saved the pretty clear bottle. I studied the botanicals etched on the sides. For the first time I really started to think about what goes into gin and wanted to know more. You, Bombay Sapphire, inspired me.

That was some time ago now. I’ve tried a lot of other gins. Flashier gins. Gins with special flavourings and unusual spirit bases. Gins that just about sing on your palate. But Bombay Sapphire remains in my heart. When reaching for an everyday gin, one that’s versatile, happy with tonic, good in a martini. And you, Bombay, are easy to find. Stocked in most bottle shops, at varying prices, offered as a premium gin in most bars. You are reliable and ubiquitous and you will always be the first gin I loved.

Love,

The Ginstress

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Tasting Gin | Beefeater

I bought a bottle of Beefeater. I’ve always been suspicious of Beefeater. For a start I don’t eat beef. Yes, I know that’s not what it means, but it’s so inelegant it always struck me as the wrong name for a gin. Anyway, I was lulled into a false sense of security after enjoying a couple of terrific negronis with Beefeater at Eau de Vie.

Just as a by-the-by, if you are heading to Eau de Vie (and you should, it’s lovely), it’s hidden at the back of the Kirkton Hotel with no street number or sign. Elusive.

Image from Eau De Vie

Eau de Vie have a pretty good range of gins, some hard to finds like Junipero and Sipsmith, but the bartender steered me towards Beefeater for a negroni. ‘Beefeater’s great,’ he said. ‘A big juniper hit, and that’s what you want in a negroni’. And he was right; it was a great negroni, not too sweet up front, big round mouth feel and a nice bitter hit at the back of the tongue. Could have done with a touch more orange zest.

So when I was in the very small bottle shop with the very small range that is vaguely close to my house, I saw that Beefeater with it’s alluring $40 price tag and thought, I’ve changed my mind, I’m going to give it a shot!

In a straight tasting, Beefeater is like being punched in the mouth with juniper. I honestly couldn’t detect any other botanicals. It also had a very big ethanol hit to the sinuses, which surprised me as at 40% it’s not a huge proof.

Beefeater’s ingredient list boasts orange, liquorice, coriander seeds, angelica seeds, angelica root, almond, lemon and orris root, but as I said the juniper really dominates, not even the citrus cuts through. It is a London Dry gin and is made through a maceration distillation. They soak the botanicals for 24 hours, maybe it could be a little longer for a more complex flavour, but I am certainly not a distiller!

I probably don’t even need to tell you that mixed with tonic I got a pretty disappointing result. No subtlety of flavour, no complexity, to be blunt it almost could have been a vodka and tonic. On the suggestion of some friends who were unfortunate enough to visit when Beefeater was all I had, we added a squeeze of mandarin, which was really very nice. But once stocks are replenished, Beefeater will be going to the back of the cupboard for negroni times.

Just to really stick the boot in with this, my harshest review to date; their website is annoying.

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