Pienaar & Son – Orient is an aromatic spiced edition from Cape Town, and is Craft Gin Club’s November offering.
Price: ~ £35
Fresh orange peel
Andre Pienaar is the man, and the son, behind November’s Craft Gin Club offering, and despite having relevant qualifications in chemistry and biochemistry, making gin wasn’t what he initially set his mind to. After graduating, Andre went on to start a career in music that spanned a number of years, and eventually moved on to writing scores for film and TV. Sadly, the love for the industry faded, and he found himself looking for other opportunities to create. Cue distilling, fulfilling both his creative and chemist sides he fell into it with aplomb, and with his father Schalk, who designed the equipment, Pienaar & Son gin was born.
All the way from Cape Town, South Africa, it is this city that the makers wanted the gin to represent: complex and ever-shifting, gutsy and bold. It is not their only spirit though, as they produce another gin called ‘Empire’ as well as a vodka and (currently maturing) a whiskey.
The bottle is a slim rectangular shape with rounded corners. It’s tall and elegant, with a screen printed design on the front of what I believe is a sprig of juniper. At the top, relatively small, is the name of the distillery, and overlaid on the juniper is the name of the edition in a deep yellow. There is a small paper label with the batch number and distiller signature. On the right edge of the bottle is a label in the same deep yellow, giving information about the distillery and gin, though as the text is in white it’s actually a little tricky to read. Overall though it’s a good, minimalist design.
Big notes of bright spice ping out of the glass, with plenty of allspice, cassia, and ginger. In fact the fruit and spices mingle together to produce a tropical, almost pineapple note, with hints of mace too. It’s crisp but with a fuzzy, spiced edge that’s also nice and sweet. Juniper for me is not terribly evident, though the rosemary adds a lovely, savoury backdrop to the citrus and spice. It’s very distinct, and for me is all about the spices.
Neat, the flavour is a little more balanced than the aroma might suggest, with some of the richer, more bitter and savoury notes coming through. It has a kick from the citrus, and while there are gin-esque notes drifting around, this to me is very much a contemporary flavour. The cassia, allspice, and cardamom take centre stage here, perhaps a little too much.
Water does little to stop the tsunami of spices that roll over the tongue. In fact I can’t taste much beyond the four spices, and in honesty I’m starting to get that slightly numb feeling in my mouth I associate with cloves. I’m starting to think this gin isn’t meant for sipping.
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Schweppes Indian Tonic with a dried lemon wheel and cardamom to garnish). The result is much improved. Of course all those spices are still there, but they mix very well with the tonic, providing a surprisingly sweet but exotic and refreshing drink. Everything feels a lot more balanced (so long as you accept that this is a distinctly aromatic spiced gin) and pleasurable. This to me is definitely a summer sipper. One to enjoy on a hot, sunny afternoon, and I think it would actually go really well with some spicy food too.
Much as I am a fan of aromatic spices, and I really am, this was a bit too much, even for me. It sits at the limit of what I would classify a gin, and for that reason I think some would not find it as enjoyable as they might hope under that label. That said, it’s well made and the flavours, for what they are, are beautifully expressed in the liquid. Those spices really do taste freshly picked, and while the flavour is strong, it has a clean, bright sweetness that stops it from getting overwhelming. Fans of juniper forward gin might not like this, but if you like the spices listed in the botanicals, it makes a great summer G&T.
Remove up to one feather if you aren’t a fan of aromatic spice and prefer classic gins.
Pienaar & Son – Orient is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.