Sipsmith’s Sloe Gin Martini

Every once and a while folks move on to different lands, leaving behind a gift or two. In this case, it was a bottle of Sipsmith Sloe gin…

For those not familiar with sloe gin, what makes it distinctive is soaking blackthorn ‘sloe’ drupes and sugar in gin, bringing both colour and flavour to the gin.

sipsmith-soe-gin

I met up with this friend recently in Singapore and so on my return, decided to enjoy a summery Sunday (yes – it is still hot here in Mumbai!) cocktail.

Here is what I made…

Sipsmith’s Sloe Gin Martini

  • 2 generous drams of Sloe Gin
  • 1/4 dram of Vermouth
  • Few dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Shake or stir over ice until cold
  • Garnish with an orange peel
  • Serve in a chilled martini glass

If you want it even lighter, add a splash of sparkling water or soda…

This particular Sipsmith Sloe Gin is from 2013 and has a juicy sweet plummy flavour which becomes more refreshing chilled and diluted with ice.

Other cocktail adventures include:

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Columbian Rums – Dictador Esencia 25 year 40%

Our last rum for the evening was a Dictador… one you won’t find to easily… available only in Columbia.

Dictador Esencia 25 year 40%, Batch 243-8

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – Very woody, wet dish rag, light varnish, dry, caramel custard
  • Palate – Loads of wood, balsa, heavy character, depth, dry, complex
  • Finish – A zing that get deeper, fruity spice then sweet

There was no doubt this was a robust, complex, rich rum. A real treat!

Here are the Columbian and The Seychelles rums we enjoyed that same evening:

It was fun to digress into a rummy evening. However, truth be told, as fabulous as these rums were… I still remain first and foremost a Whisky Lady!

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Columbia Rums – Gobernador 12 year 35%

Back to Columbia, our next rum was from Gobernador, with the oldest rum matured for 12 years. Now this rum was a real treat!

Ron Gobernador 12 year 35%

  • Nose – Prunes, dates and plums! Christmas pudding, very rich, lots of candied dry fruits, simply gorgeous
  • Palate – Wow! Rich and complex without being overly sweet, just superb
  • Finish – Very dry finish, slightly salty at the end

For most of this, this was a clear winner. It also went beautifully with a cigar.

Here are the Columbian rums we enjoyed that same evening:

Plus a bonus rum from The Syechelles:

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The Seychelles Rum – Takamaka 8 year 40%

Just as we were settling into our Columbian explorations, one of our tasting companions added to the mix a recent purchase from his trip to The Seychelles with a rum from La Pleine St Andre.

Takamaka 8 year 40%

  • Nose – Juicy oranges, a refreshing fruity floral citrus, sugary caramel chased by burnt sugar, vanilla essence, sour cherry
  • Palate – Sugar, spice and all things nice! Very Christmasy, clove, cinnamon, oranges, oily mouth feel, nice oak
  • Finish – A nice chocolate orange or chilli chocolate, with more clove spice

In our opinion, this was the most “whisky like” – in a good way.

Here are the Columbian rums we enjoyed that same evening:

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Columbian Rums – Baluarte 8 year 35%

We had an evening dedicated to exploring rums… and not your ordinary easily available rums… these were personally sourced by our host from a recent trip to Columbia. His goal? Find something you couldn’t locate anywhere else…

Baluarte 8 year 35% (Dictador)

  • Nose – Citrus lemon, resin, sap, sour wine
  • Palate – Soft, very light flavours, delicate and subtle, a touch of caynne and liquorice, fruit cake
  • Finish – Long light spice, a bit bitter

Clearly this wasn’t an ‘in your face’ kinda rum, it was very light after La Hechicero, welcome for not being too sweet but not a favourite… still interesting to try.

Here is what else we explored in our rum evening:

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Columbian Rums – La Hechicera 40%

We kicked off our Columbian rum explorations with a no age statement rum. None of us had encounter ‘The Enchantress’ La Hechicera before.

La Hechicera Extra Anejo de Solera 40%

  • Nose – Plum, a bit sharp, exceedingly sweet, toffee, vanilla
  • Palate – Pure cane sugar, dry, pineapple, orange peel, a bit of liquorice
  • Finish – Cocoa mocha finish, slightly bitter tobacco with a dash of salt

What a wonderful full-bodied way to begin our evening. No doubt this was no ordinary rum and a great way to kick off our explorations.

What else did we try?

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Colombian Rums – La Hechicera, Baluarte 8, Gobernador 12, Dictador Esencia 25

While our base may be Bombay, we are an aventuresome lot… with one of our merry malters making his way to Cartegena, Columbia in a quest for quality rums.

Here is what he found in Columbia:

Plus another tasting companion simply had to add to the mix with another rum from his recent trip to The Seychelles:

And if this wasn’t enough, from Colombia also came a trio of “Licor de cacao” – Chilli, Passion Fruit and Orange… with narry a drop of alcohol but an experiment that intrigued our travelling man.

Do yourself a favour and stop now. We all concluded we had never come across something quite so foul before. Ever. I guess some experiments simply don’t cross the oceans well…

As for the rums? Read on over the next few days… you won’t be disappointed.

Other rum explorations include:

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Gin gin gin! Gin Mare, Queensborough, Few, Tanqueray

Our gin explorations continued… with gins from a jaunt around a few countries with:

  • From Spain… the Mediterranean Gin Mare
  • From the west coast of Canada,  the classic dry Queensborough
  • From south of the border in Illinois, USA a blind sample from FEW
  • And finally… a step back into familiar territory with the very British Tanqueray Ten

We sampled them on a lazy Sunday sundowner in South Bombay, anchored by a collection of a travelling friend, augmented by a few more offerings!

Here are our tasting impressions…

Gin Mare 42.7%

  • Very dry, olives, has the biggest nose of all sampled so far, yet less rosemary than expected, a bit of cardamon and mint, juniper there but supporting, basil, thyme
  • Green pepper, spice, olive, quite warm

One of our tasting companions has spent time with the Gin Mare team and shared how they distill 12 different gins – one for each element – then blend together. A painstaking and meticulous process. It is a bit different, not for everyone.

A  few remarked on a shift – previously finding it both more olive and rosemary forward yet now sweeter. For more info, check out their website Gin Mare.

Queensborough Small Batch Dry Gin 43% (BC, Canada)

  • Very classic, spruce tree, lots of juniper, nice clean citrus, lightly floral
  • Nice light spices, juniper and pine forest, direct, clean, lightly floral
  • Nice clean citrus after taste

This was my offering to the evening and one brought in by a friend who picked it up after researching the “best classic dry gin” from BC. It is produced by Central City Brewers + Distillers. It uses Juniper from the BC interior and Spruce Tips sourced from Vancouver Island.  (Central City)

Above all it can best be described as “classic and clean” with a nice fresh forest feel. No crazy experiments here just a solid dry gin.

Mystery gin 

  • Initially was surgical spirit, floral perfume, fruits like peaches or apricot?
  • Very anise or fennel on the palate, then finishes with a salty pear
  • Not something very appealing initially then adjusted and began to enjoy

One of tasting companions brought this carefully concealed gin to the party… just to see what we thought. To be honest it wasn’t for everyone but it grew on us too.

And what was it? While I can’t confirm the full details it was a barrel gin from FEW Spirits from Illinois, USA.

Tanqueray Ten 47.3%

  • Lower on the botanicals, spice dry
  • Citrus, sweet
  • An easy one to enjoy in a G&T… which is exactly why it was picked!

Which is exactly when our attentions shifted from comparing different gin profiles to pairing with different tonics. Which will be a topic for another day…

Other gin experiences:

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Gin gin gin! Rock Rose, Tarquin, Silent Pool

Once upon a time a lad discovered he had a penchant for gin… so he travelled far and wide, collecting a bottle here and there… Sparking an idea to have an evening or two or three to explore his booty properly.

It took a few aborted attempts till we finally managed to get calendars to align… it was a lovely Sunday sundowner in a sultry Mumbai…

And what did we check out? Our plan was to explore four “different” gins with a standard to contrast and settle down for G&Ts…. Somehow that morphed into seven gins.

What also was the most remarkable about our explorations was the different tonics! That will be a topic for another day…

For now… enjoy the first part of our foray into gin territory…

Rock Rose “Scottish Botanicals” 41.5% 2017, Batch 61, Bottle 452

  • Fresh clean, citrus, coriander, cardamon, green peppers, dry with lemon zest… and yes rose but of a wilder variety
  • Orange sweet (sea buckthorn?), more coriander finishing in… could it be fennel? Or something else?
  • Quite the contrast between the nose and palate

From Dunnet Bay Distilleries Ltd, based in Caithness, Dunnet Bay, is one of Britain’s most northerly mainland distilleries and established in 2014. Rock Rose is produced by a wife / husband duo – Claire and Martin Murray – using 18 botanicals, of which 5 are grown locally and distilled in their coper pot “Elizabeth.”

The name was inspired by the “Rhodiola rosea” which grows on the cliffs of Pentland Firth. According to Celtic folklore, the Vikings allegedly harvested wild, exposed cliffs to gather Rhodiola rosea with the thought that it would give them the extra strength to continue on their long arduous journeys. (Dunnet Bay Distillers)

Tarquin Gin 42% Batch 488

  • Sweet subtle perfume, lots of other botanicals, strong coriander, pink peppercorns, cardamon, mild, sweet violet
  • Cardamon, very sweet, orange, dry pine forest, paprika
  • Started soft then took on more spunk and character

From North to Southwest, Tarquin is made at Southwestern Distillery by the coast in North Cornwall. They use Devon violets fresh orange zest – both quite pronounced qualities… and it also had a distinctive pine forest dimension too. (Southwestern Distillery)

Silent Pool 43%

  • Surprisingly briney. very orange and forward,  some detected a bit of olives, brussel sprouts, vegetable cabbage, sea salt, sour kraut… how could that be?
  • Mandarin, sweet, soft, caramel, salt water taffey
  • Orange blossom, spice finish

Silent Pool Gin is produced on the Albury Estate in the Surrey Hills, next to the Silent Pool, a spring-fed lake.The gin features 24 botanicals, including kaffir lime, chamomile, local honey and lavender. (Silent Pool Distillers)

We found it a bit curious and the quite vegetal quality which came out originally wouldn’t be for everyone. But then it settled into a lovely orange sweet gin – with a distinctive character.

Up next Sunday we continue with:

  • Gin Mare 42.7%
  • Queensborough Small Batch Dry Gin 43% (BC, Canada)
  • FEW Gin
  • Tanqueray Ten 47.3%

Other gin experiences:

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Impromptu Gin Delights

So here we were… a couple of gal pals finding ourselves with a free evening. What to do? Why get together of course!

And what would accompany our merriment? Wine? Whisky? Or…. gin? Yes indeed we shifted to an impromptu  evening sampling and then settling down with a few gins…

We couldn’t decide which gin, so out came assorted bottles… and wee shot glasses to taste, compare and decide which would be our evening companion.

What all did was wander through?

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Whobertus Dry Gin 43% – Munich, Germany

  • This gin was a discovery from Munich. And I LOVE it!
  • There is something so pure, almost delicate or tender about it, beautiful and silky smooth. There is no distracting dimensions, just delightful!
  • Fresh thyme, coriander, light sweet citrus, juniper
  • This is no peppery gin, there is straightforward but lovely quality
  • While generally sweet gin isn’t my thing, this has just the right touch of sweet
  • My favourite way to enjoy? Ice.. that’s it, nothing else required

Caorunn’s Gin 41.8% revisited – Balmenach Distillery, Speyside, Scotland

Most of us were no stranger to Caorunn gin…

  • Light sprightly and delightful, fresh like springtime
  • Perfect with a few cubes of ice, splash of tonic and topped with a slice of apple

Sipsmith’s London Dry 41.6% – London, UK

Equally, for many Sipsimith is a ‘go to’ gin for G&Ts

  • Heavier than the Caorunn, shifting seasons from spring to summertime!
  • Classic London Dry style with citrus, juniper with a hint of spice

The Botanist Gin 46%  – Bruichladdich Distillery, Islay, Scotland

Bruichladdich is a fav whisky distillery yet its gin sales have soared in recent years.

  • Multi-layered, multilevelled, there is a lot going on with The Botanist from floral aromas to a slightly spicy finish
  • Berries, barks, seeds and peels, this is no light gin however it is full of flavours just begging to be sipped and enjoyed

Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin 47% – Black Forest Distillers, Schwarzwald, Germany

Monkey 47 has recently entered the Indian market with launch parties and more! From Germany’s black forest, it is named for its 47 botanicals and strength of 47%.

  • Complex, an intense range of aromas and flavours
  • There is a lot going on – more wood, spice and more than some of the other gins sampled, bursting with robust character
  • Those that reached for the Monkey 47 also tended towards tonic with either a slice of apple or twist of citrus

Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin 41% -Rheinland Distillers, Germany

  • Lots of pink peppercorns – almost too much…
  • There is some ‘oomph’ here – bold juniper, light spice, ginger, bitter orange
  • It is also a bit bitter and while it can be had neat, we found the best to have is with lots of ice and a splash of tonic, with a citrus twist!
  • If I was to be honest, the Whobertus is just such a class act that having the Siegried next required a real switch in expectations

Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin 45.7% – Kyoto Distillery, Kyoto, Japan

Distinctly different, Ki No Bi is made from rice spirit with botanicals from Japan like yellow yuzu, hinoki, sangho pepper, bamboo leaf, gykouro tea.

  • We found it had more pepper and kick than some of the others, a strong ginger, pronounced citrus
  • The tea adds a different dimension as well
  • We found it worked best with tonic water and ice with a twist of lemon

It was a refreshing departure from our usual structured whisky tasting evenings. The range of botanicals used, profiles and personal preferences made the discussions animated and most enjoyable.

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