Saturday, 7 May 2016

Gin Tasting at the Drinks Emporium, Birmingham, 5th May 2016

It has been a while since we last wrote about gin, so we decided to put that right with a visit to a tasting evening organised by Birmingham's Drinks Emporium. 
We had not long discovered the shop, visiting for the first time a few weeks ago after passing it innumerable times on our way into and out of the city centre.  The Drinks Emporium sells a wide range of wines, beers and spirits, and they hold tasting events on a roughly monthly basis.

The event was delivered, by James Goggin, Portfolio Ambassador for Maverick Drinks, a spirits distributor based in the UK and focusing on craft spirits with a strong emphasis on quality over quantity.

Eight different gins were offered for tasting, and a plate of cheese cubes and breadsticks were provided for additional nibbles.  It was nice to see the Drinks Emporium staff getting fully involved with the proceedings, and the atmosphere throughout the evening was relaxed and friendly, helped a lot by the pleasant spring weather.

After the obligatory photographing of the bottles which were to be providing the samples, we took our places at the neatly laid out table.

Gin #1:  Cream Gin
Cold distilled with fresh cream included as one of its botanicals.  Recommended for use in cocktails, in particular the Black Cat’s Martini, a speciality of London’s Worship Street Whistling Shop, which gives its name to the gin.
Distillery:  Worship Street Whistling Shop
Tasting Notes said:  (from Master of Nose: Rich, full-fat cream with a heavy whack of vanilla, though citrus notes of orange and lemon make themselves apparent.  Palate: Creamy and thick with lactic richness.  Finish: Sweet, creamy, and moreish.
Dee said:  Cold distillation gave this gin a fresh, clean aroma, which was strong in juniper and slightly sweet.  Further sweetness in the taste with a distinctive smoothness and pronounced vanilla flavour.  This gin is marketed as a mixer, and it would be ok with a tonic, but I rather enjoyed it on its own and wondered if adding tonic would take away its character.

Gin #2:  Bathtub Gin
Maverick Drinks’ biggest seller, and a long-time favourite of mine.  Probably the best known of the gins we tasted this evening.
Distillery:  Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, via Master of Malt
Tasting Notes said:  (from Master of Nose: An initially Juniper-rich bouquet is backed up with a solid backbone of rich grain spirit. Top notes of Cardamom and Orange blossom are evident with just a suggestion of Cinnamon. 
Palate: The initial focus is Juniper, but the earthier botanicals make themselves known in the initial palate too. Mouthfeel is exceptionally viscous and creamy – this is good spirit, and it makes itself known.
Finish: The Juniper subsides and gives way to the Cardamom and Cinnamon, with a late resurgence from Orange Peel.
Dee said:  Plenty of fruits and spices on the nose, especially coriander seed and cardamom, but also dried mixed herbs.  Dry and spicy to taste, with a big flavour of coriander seeds, with juniper far less in evidence.  OK with tonic but I prefer it neat.

Gin #3:  Breakfast Gin
Made in Chicago by Few Spirits, who make their gins while waiting for their whiskies to age.  This one is intended to add breakfast themed flavours such as Earl Grey tea, jam, butter and marmalade to the gin
Distillery:  Few Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  None available
Dee said:  A very strong aroma of smoked cheese, and in fact went really well with a cube of Red Leicester cheese.  Taste was equally rich and strong with flavours of toasted spices.  I loved it but it didn’t remind me of breakfast.  Not a gin to be adding tonic to.
Jay said:  I was intrigued by this one, being a big fan of Earl Grey and other fragrant teas, and especially as there is a steaming cup of tea of the label, I had high hopes. Whilst it was an interesting gin to try, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Note to self – don’t weigh up what you’re going to be tasting before you taste it!

Gin #4:  Terroir Gin
My favourite gin from last year’s Manchester Gin Festival (click here for details).  San Francisco based St George Spirits was the oldest distillery of the gins we were tasting.  Recommended for mixing with a glass of Green Chartreuse.
Distillery:  St. George Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  An ode to the wild beauty of the Golden State.  Forest-driven and earthy, Terroir is a profoundly aromatic gin with a real sense of place. We wanted to make a spirit that conveyed what we love about the monumental groves of trees, moist and misty glens, and sun-baked chaparral of our favorite local parklands. 
With Terroir Gin, we try to take you there with Douglas fir, California bay laurel, coastal sage, and other evocative botanicals. Sip it and be transported.
Dee said:  Still as fabulous as I remember it.  Both aroma and taste provide a big hit of pine needles, with a secondary hit of rosemary.  It can go with tonic but I prefer to drink it neat, garnished with a crushed rosemary sprig.
Jay said:  Really wasn’t keen on this last time I tried it, as I tend to prefer the more floral gins, but really enjoyed it this time. One of my favourites of the evening in fact.

Gin #5:  Hven Organic Gin
A Swedish craft gin produced in a small distillery, with a strong insistence on organic produce.
Distillery:  Spirit of Hven
Tasting Notes said:  Spirit of Hven organic gin is a true handcrafted distilled gin produced from fresh botanicals which are infused for 24 hours with the finest quality organic grain spirit.
Following infusion, distillation is carried out in the unique copper pot stills of Hven. These stills have long graceful necks which promote the development of the classic Spirit of Hven organic gin profile. The result is an outstanding luxury gin with the delicate aromas and taste of citrus, juniper and grains of paradise. The blended complex that is paramount to Spirit of Hven organic gin is a background of vanilla and spice which combines uniquely with the tradition of juniper.
Dee said:  A very subtle aroma compared to the Terroir.  Faintest hints of oak, oregano and sage.  Very smooth and oily to the taste, with earthy and slightly smoky notes.  The botanicals included two types of peppercorns, though there was no fire at all.  Quite a unique gin but I loved it.
Jay said:  Loved the back story to this one. An ex-chemist turned distiller (living the dream!) with a passion for organic production and ensuring highest quality (he has his own GCMS and makes his own barrels.. love it). A much more subtle gin than the others we tried this evening but a great gin.

Gin #6:  Dry Rye Gin  *Dee's Gin of the Evening*
Described as a Boundary Pusher for St George, this gin is made with dry rye, and flavoured with 50 per cent more juniper than they normally use.  Not suitable for use in a Gin & Tonic, but recommended in a Negroni.
Distillery:  St George Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  A base of 100 per cent pot-distilled rye makes this a gin for whiskey lovers—and for gin im-purists willing to take a walk on the rye side.
Think genever, then think again—and brace yourself for a gin with structure, spice, and an impossibly rich mouthfeel.
We also make a limited-release, barrel-aged version we call Dry Rye Reposado Gin. Rested in French and American oak wine casks, it has a lovely pink hue and a deep, rich flavor that we think of as an offering to the gods of gin, whiskey, and wine!
Dee said:  An aroma of dry toasted grains and a slight smokiness, similar to the Breakfast Gin but with the addition of burnt sugar.  Oily, rich and spicy taste, with hints of barley and corn, almost like an alcoholic syrup.  A nice caramel-like aftertaste.  Wonderful.

Gin #7:  Perry’s Tot Gin
At 57%, this was the strongest gin of the evening.  Made in the centre of Brooklyn, New York.
Distillery:  New York Distilling Co.
Tasting Notes said:  This original Navy Strength Gin – at 57% ABV – is the historical proof at which gunpowder might still be fired should it unfortunately be soaked by spilled spirit.  ‘Tot’, a British measurement for alcohol, gives nod to Navy Strengths roots.  Aromatic and smooth, Perry’s is ideal for the gin aficionado.
Dee said:  A strong aroma of traditional juniper and a hint of citrus.  Juniper was strong again in the taste, with the lemon and orange peel in the background.  The addition of honey gave this gin a certain smoothness.  No problems adding tonic to this one, and it would be fine to use in cocktails too.

Gin #8:  Barrel Aged Gin
The second of two Few Spirits gins that we tasted.  This one had a distinctive whiskey colour, gained from ageing it in whiskey casks.
Distillery:  Few Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  What was once clear, is now complex. Exuding subtle notes of fennel & peppery spices, while a smoky smoothness from the charred barrel permeates the juniper, this barrel-aged spirit tastes like gin, but has the maturity of a bourbon.
Dee said:  Plenty of banana and vanilla in the aroma, with a fainter trace of buttered sweetcorn.  I didn’t get the juniper or fennel that were described as being big presences.  It was Quite smooth in texture, with a complex flavour profile which included toffee, a certain woodiness and even bubblegum.  I wouldn’t add tonic to this one.

Jay - Based on the questions and discussions during the evening there are also a number of gin cocktails we need to try out. Gin cocktails have never really been on my radar, I mean, if you’ve got good gin and good tonic, if its not broke, don’t fix it! However, the enthusiasm with which James was talking about them, honestly, we’ve got to try them.. So we will be seeking out the ingredients for Gimlets, Gibsons and Last Words..

Dee – After the tastings were completed, the evening took a more informal turn, and the bottles were brought back out for attendees to revisit their favourite gins.  I thought was a great way to end the evening, and certainly encouraged people to visit the venue again.

A quick vote was taken on which two gins were peoples’ favourites, and I took a note of the results, which came in as follows;

Cream Gin:  2
Bathtub:  5  
Breakfast:  1
Terroir:  Lots
Hven Organic:  5
Dry Rye:  2
Perry’s Tot:  2
Barrel Aged:  3

On leaving the event, we received a few leaflets detailing future events, and a bottled single measure of Terroir gin, which I drank when we got home but Jay saved.

At £20 a ticket, this really was excellent value for money. , and we will certainly be keeping a look out for future events as well as visiting for drinks purchases.


  1. You've given me a few new gins to try there! The cream gin sounds interesting.

    1. Thanks, would love to hear what you make of them. The Cream Gin is great if you like smooth and sweet gins. Also the Black Cat's Martini is worth a try: It is garnished with a radish :-)