Over the past year or so, I have enjoyed trading samples of gin with a few people, and am always very quick and keen to try them, though I think some of my friends are far more languid in their drinking of said samples, and may be yet to even taste the ones I sent them many months ago (you know who you are!).
Yesterday, I received a very generous and intriguing parcel from twitter chum @TheGinasium who had mentioned sending me a few samples some time ago. What made this one intriguing was that I was blinded! What a fantastic idea! So I thought I’d share my experience and thoughts with you!
As you can see, all I have to go on is the ABV of the liquid inside each of these adorable little swing top bottles! The secrets are kept securely in the envelope, which I will not be opening until I’ve tasted all four.
Now I’m going to state quite clearly that I am not going to try to guess the actual gin inside! What I thought would be interesting is to give my palate a little test, to see whether I can pick up on things that might actually be in the gin! Of course if I get it so wrong it’s embarrassing, it might be bad for business as a gin blogger and reviewer, so fingers crossed!
So without further ado, here are my thoughts over the days I tried each sample!
No. 1 – 42%
On the nose it’s bright and though I hate to say it, a little sweaty almost?! There’s an earthy, rooty spice that flips to a savoury note. It’s familiar but I’m struggling to put my finger on it. It’s almost salty too, and a little like a stewed leaf. I can’t say I’m loving it, but there’s a definite familiarity there. I wonder whether there’s burdock root in there, but I have to say I’m struggling to pick up on much beyond this. I think there are perhaps some herbs, and spices, but I couldn’t say more!
Neat it’s a little bitter with dark, pungent tones that are fairly nutty. The taste edges towards chocolate, but never quite gets there, then continues to a greener, more savoury area. There’s still something quite light and fresh in there, perhaps some citrus, but overall for me it’s firmly in the savoury, earthy spectrum. I’m put in mind of nettles and dried grass almost. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted a gin anything like this before!
With a drop of water, the flavour doesn’t change much, but softens and rounds out a little. Could wormwood feature I wonder? There’s a slight pepper too, which brings grains of paradise to mind, and possibly mace too. I am sorry to say though that I am not especially enjoying this! Let’s see what happens with tonic (and to be safe, a slice of lemon).
I’ve mixed it with Schweppes Signature Light and a lemon wheel. The result is… odd. It’s a lot less bitter, but for me there’s little more than a strange woody taste. It’s got to be one of the weirdest gins I’ve ever had.
Overall, I’m not a fan. Not even a little bit (sorry!). I’m reminded to paraphrase the old saying that if we all liked the same things the world would be a dull place! I’m sure there are some people who would like this, but I’m not one of them! That said I can’t wait to find out what the heck this is!
No. 2 – 45%
On the nose, I get some bright juniper notes, followed swiftly by leafy green, peppery tones. There’s a little spice, but it’s definitely a more herbal, grassy number. It’s almost a little minty, but with a herbal aspect to it. Could it be caraway or even something like lovage? It’s growing on me since I took my first sniff, with the brightness mellowing a little and introducing a very faint citrus, which quickly disappears into a much sweeter, creamier tone all of a sudden. I’m now wondering whether there’s some almond in there, and/or a few roots.
Neat it’s very green with a distinct pine element. Quite dry but still bright with some woody undertones which slowly turn to more grassy notes. It’s still quite different to most gins I’ve had but there are some familiar flavours in there for sure. I am wondering now whether there’s something like meadowsweet in here, but like on the nose, the more I taste, the more I like it!
With a drop of water, the familiar flavours get stronger, its like a sweet and savoury taste, with bright pine and a little earthy warmth underneath. It’s starting to bug me that I can’t put my finger on that flavour that seems so familiar! I’m looking at my trusty botanical tasting wheel and my eyes keep flitting between leafy greens and woody roots. I feel like I’m going to kick myself when I find out what this is!
Finally I mixed it with some tonic (2:1 Lamb & Watt Original) and a lemon wheel. It’s really nice! Very different, in a good way. I’m still getting those green, vegetal tones so I’m convinced there are some strong herbs or leaves in there, but there’s enough else going on with some sweeter, nuttier flavours that it doesn’t get one-dimensional. This does make a great G&T for sure.
Overall I like this a lot. It took me a while to get my head around it, but it’s got some great flavours that definitely make it stand out. I think I’m going to groan with realisation when I find out what the botanicals are in this (if I can), but whatever it is it’ll probably go onto my ‘to buy’ list!
No. 3 – 57%
On the nose this is a much more juniper-y, classic gin profile. Very little burn considering the ABV which is good. It’s nice and rich with a citrus edge and a little spice. I would guess there is lemon/grapefruit or bitter orange (or both) in this, perhaps cardamom and cassia. Very classic and it smells lovely.
Neat it’s got a bit of a kick for sure, but it’s much greener than the nose suggests. There are much more herbal, leafy notes, when I was expecting citrus, which is interesting. Eventually though the citrus does come through and it tastes more on the orange side than lemon. There’s definitely something else in there though, something green and herbal.
With water the taste mellows and becomes even greener. There’s a big pungent juniper, and another familiar flavour. Perhaps some of the citrus comes from lemon verbena or something like that. It’s a great tasting gin, I really like it so far! Finally, I’m wondering whether there’s a touch of floral in there too, maybe something like lavender, but it’s very faint so it could be a trick of the mind!
Finally I tried it in a G&T (2:1 Lamb & Watt Original) and a lemon wheel. The flavour has changed significantly, and it’s now much more floral to my tastes. It’s a really lovely drink, totally not what I was expecting in terms of flavour profile! There’s still a fairly green note in there somewhere, but it’s very mellow and light so it retains that classic gin flavour, though there’s a definite twist which is very refreshing.
Overall this one comes across as the most gin-like gin so far, but with enough in it to make sure it’s not too familiar. Considering the ABV it’s really smooth, tastes great and develops beautifully when added to a G&T. I’m excited to see what this gin is and what’s in it!
No. 4 – 58%
On the nose it’s quite rich and again a little grassy with a fair amount of alcohol, which is to be expected! There’s a slightly stewed fruit aroma which is nice. It almost jumps between jammy and mentholic, like a grassy, herbal fruit. I get a sort of yellow feeling to it, strange as that may sound and it’s reasonably sweet, with almost tropical notes.
Neat, it’s a little harsh with a fair burn on the tongue, but the flavour is really interesting. It’s like a smoked, burnt pineapple flavour, with a big grassy hit too. Finally I get some creamier, more toffee notes but if I’m honest the burn is a little too much to enjoy drinking it neat.
With a little water added, those tropical notes come through a bit more, though there’s an added bitter note. It’s still quite a stewed flavour, and I get much more juniper now but beyond that I am having trouble picking out anything I think might actually be a botanical! There are some hints at pepper and spice, and some earthy notes, but for me there’s a definite tropical sense to it.
So, a final G&T (2:1 Lamb & Watt Original) with a lemon wheel. It carries a lot of the same flavours over, so I really get that smokiness again, and a hint of pineapple. I wonder whether there’s black cardamom in here? It’s much improved with the tonic, though still a touch bitter for me. There are hints of dried grass, with much less of those jammy notes I first got. The juniper is still there, keeping some of those greener notes, but I can’t discern much else on this one! I did add a little more tonic to see whether that changed anything, but it remained much the same.
Overall I’ve enjoyed it and would like to get to know it better, but it’s not felt as expansive on the palate as a couple of the others. At this strength I imagine it’s designed for particular drinks and based on this I’m confident they would work well, but for me this is a so-so. I’d like to try it in the recommended cocktail.
So, now that I’ve tasted them all, I’ll open the envelope and see what’s what!
No. 1 – Jin Talog – Garej Spirits
Botanicals: Juniper, and nothing else!
No. 2 – Blended Dry – Junimperium Distillery
Botanicals: Three types of Juniper, Angelica root, Coriander seed, Cubeb, Thyme, ‘Berries’, and ‘two secret local botanicals’
No. 3 – Campfire Navy – Puddingstone Distillery
Botanicals: Juniper, Orris, Coriander, Angelica, Roasted Hazelnut, Physalis, Orange peel, Grapefruit peel, Rooibos, Lavender
No. 4 – GinT Rubro – GinT Distillery
Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Cassia, Elderflower, Sweet Orange Peel, Nutmeg, Clove, Fig Bark
Well, I’m pretty pleased with myself if I’m honest!
That said, I’m very surprised at No. 1 being purely juniper! That was quite the joker in the pack! No wonder I struggled so much to identify any of the flavours I was getting! I’m really interested in this one as it was by far my least favourite so I would love to hear thoughts on this from others who have had it!
I had heard of No. 2 but knew nothing about it. It’s definitely a grower and I’d be interested to try it again some time, but I’m quite pleased I managed to identify a few of the flavours in there, even if it was in more vague terms like ‘herbal’ etc.
Now, No. 3 was also a surprise as I actually have this gin! It was a birthday gift from my best friend a couple of years ago and as such I’ve hoarded it and hardly had any of it. Certainly the last time I had some was probably not within the last nine months! So, despite having it I’m not at all familiar with it and am therefore very pleased that a) I liked it so much, and b) I did a pretty good job of identifying what was in it!
FInally, No. 4 was a gin I’d heard of but again know nothing about. I wonder whether those smokey notes come from the fig bark, and perhaps a little from the clove. Otherwise I didn’t really think the botanicals came through as much as I’d have liked based on the list! The stewed flavours could have been down to the spices, and perhaps the fig bark too. An interesting one!
So… I am very glad to say that I don’t feel like I’ve disgraced myself, and can keep on reviewing gins with my head held reasonably high! I’ve really enjoyed doing this though so might make a bit of a thing of it in future!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my gin sample journey, and if you fancy trading samples with me (or heck, just sending me a bottle of gin!) feel free to get in touch!