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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Gin

Procera revisited: the Kenyan Gin story continues

Procera, the unique Kenyan gin made with African juniper, has been one of the biggest drinks success stories of the last few years. Now with two new versions on the…

Procera, the unique Kenyan gin made with African juniper, has been one of the biggest drinks success stories of the last few years. Now with two new versions on the market, we catch up with founder Guy Brennan.

We usually know what’s going to work on the blog: big whisky news stories like the crazy Macallan Reach, timely product round-ups like Islay single malts for Fèis Ìle, and Dr. Nick Morgan being opinionated.

But sometimes the success of certain features takes us by surprise. One such was in April 2020 when we ran an interview with Guy Brennan, the founder of Procera Kenyan gin, it proved to be one of the most-read posts of the year. Not only that but Procera has become a perennial bestseller through Master of Malt. Incredible for a gin that sells for more than £70.

Guy Brennan

Guy Brennan in front of his Mueller still

Out of Africa

But perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised as the story really had everything: a unique product gin made with African juniper, an ambitious and eloquent spokesman in Guy Brennan, and endorsement from industry notables like Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London. Most importantly, it’s a gin that once tried it’s never forgotten. As all the five-star reviews on Master of Malt attest. It really is worth the money.

Nevertheless, Brennan has been a bit surprised by Procera’s runaway success. “We knew we were doing some revolutionary things in using fresh juniper and African juniperus procera, but we never expected the response from around the world to be so unanimously supportive. Especially for a spirit from an unknown provenance and continent. We are so grateful to the trade and consumers for being willing to try something that sounds a bit unusual and for supporting us wholeheartedly,” he said. 

Much of this success has been down to Brennan’s enthusiasm and tirelessness. Except for a Covid-enforced period at home in Kenya, he has travelled around the world spreading the word about Procera. Sadly he hasn’t been able to visit much of Asia because of continuing restrictions so has been concentrating on America in particular which has “really taken off.” “We have been focusing on NYC and things are booming there,” he continued. “We have recently added Massachusetts and the Boston Metropolitan market which is the most English of US cities and has a preference for gin.”

Procera African juniper

African juniper, the heart of Procera gin

Backing from the trade

Another important factor was the backing of bartenders such as Alessandro Palazzi as Brennan explained: “We are so grateful to people like Alessandro who through no benefit to themselves have shouted about Procera from the rafters. This unbridled support from industry folk really is probably the thing that has touched us most about this whole difficult journey.”

Originally Procera’s focus was going to be the on-trade but when Covid lockdowns came into force in 2020, Brennan was quickly able to switch his focus to online retailers like Master of Malt. “The premiumisation and search for uniqueness during lockdown was very kind to products like Procera, so we were quite lucky in an unlucky world,” he explained. During those difficult times, people were looking for different products and interesting stories which explains some of the popularity of Procera.

Procera Red Spot Negroni

Procera Red Dot makes a delicious Negroni

Improving on perfection

The original Procera Blue Dot was dubbed by Palazzi as the ‘ultimate Martini gin’ but its subtle flavours can get drowned out by tonic water or in powerful cocktails like a Negroni. When we met with Brennan in 2020, he told us that he was developing a new more powerful version for just this purpose. He explained the difference: “It has five umami elements like oyster shells and seaweed and five African peppers that add a second to the finish on the palate and pinball around your mouth like cotton candy, it is wild. But Red Dot is for any cocktail where you want a spicy, umami-rich gin to come through bold ingredients.” 

Trying them side-by-side, the difference is startling. Whereas the Blue Dot is creamy and smooth, the Red is fiery and peppery. Both, however, have Procera’s trademark complexity, sweetness, and extraordinary mouthfeel that makes them great gins to drink neat. Like a good whisky, they have layers of flavour at the beginning, middle and end. They’re both the creation of South African distiller Roger Jorgensen who Brennan describes as a “genius.”

Now there’s a third version, Procera Green Dot. “As far as we are aware it is the world’s first single tree gin using only botanicals from the African juniperus procera tree,” he said. Brennan uses both fresh and dried berries along with the foliage and toasted wood from the juniper tree. No other botanicals are used. He described the flavour: “first on the palate, you get the richness of the fresh berries, then you move into the piney leaves and finish with the spicy, drying toasted wood. It’s like good Italian cooking, three ingredients perfectly balanced.” Trying it alongside the other two, you can see the family resemblance but Green Dot is utterly distinctive with an unforgettable freshness and focus. There’s nothing else on the market like it. 

All three explain why many people are calling Procera the best gin in the world. 

The Procera range is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Ten gins for Father’s Day

We’ve picked some of our favourite new gins and some classics which will make great gifts for Father’s Day. We’ve even included some tips on how to enjoy them. So,…

We’ve picked some of our favourite new gins and some classics which will make great gifts for Father’s Day. We’ve even included some tips on how to enjoy them. So, whether your old man is a Martini lover or adores a G&T, here are our top ten gins for Father’s Day.

The gin world does not stand still. Every week, we are inundated with great offerings from new producers and new offerings from great producers. It’s an exciting time to be a gin lover. But all that choice can be a bit daunting. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite gins both new and classic which will make great gifts for Father’s Day. Or just buy a bottle for yourself. 

There’s everything here from vibrant Mediterranean-style gins to complex port cask-aged spirits; we’ve included tiny producers and global brands. If it’s delicious and contains juniper, then it’s a contender. So without further ado, here are our top ten gins for Father’s Day 2022.

Ten gins for Father’s Day

hyke-gin-very-special-gin

Hyke Very Special Gin

We loved everything from Foxhole Spirits. The team uses leftovers from wine production in their distinctive gins. This gives the base spirit an unmistakable floral character. Combine that with other botanicals including grapefruit and Earl Grey tea and you have a gin of great elegance and smoothness that’s worth treating with a bit of care.

What does it taste like?

A well-rounded, luxurious spirit carries notes of delicate citrus, herbal tea, crisp juniper leading into warming cubeb and ginger spiciness. Perfect Martini gin.

portobello-road-savoury-gin

Portobello Road Savoury Gin

If you like your gin to taste like gin, then you’ll love this latest release from London’s Portobello Road. It majors on the juniper which combined with Calabrian bergamot peel, Seville green gordal olives, rosemary and sea salt produces a deeply dry gin that positively reeks of Mediterranean. It’s the next best thing to going on holiday. Gorgeous bottle too.

What does it taste like?

Powerful juniper, pungent herbs and refreshingly bitter citrus notes. This might be the ultimate G&T gin but it’s a great all-rounder. 

port-barrelled-pink-gin-salcombe-distilling-co-that-boutiquey-gin-company-gin

Port-Barrelled Pink Gin – Salcombe Distilling Co (TBGC)

And now for something completely different. This was produced by Devon’s Salcombe Distilling Company in collaboration with Port house Niepoort and bottled by That Boutique-y Gin Company. The base spirit is a pink gin, steeped with sloes, damsons, rose and orange peel post-distillation. It’s then aged in a cask which once held a 1997 Colheita Port to produce something of great complexity and deliciousness.

How does it taste?

Fragrant and fruity with plum and orange oil. Lovely sipped neat on ice or with fresh raspberries in a seriously fancy G&T.

bathtub-gin

Bathtub Gin

Alongside all the exciting new products, we’ve included a few old favourites like the mighty Bathtub Gin. It’s made with a very high quality copper pot-still spirit infused with ingredients including juniper, orange peel, coriander, cassia, cloves and cardamom to produce a powerful gin with a creamy viscous mouthfeel. 

How does it taste?

The initial focus is juniper, but the earthier botanicals make themselves known in the initial palate too with the most gorgeously thick mouthfeel. Negroni time!

dyfi-original-gin

Dyfi Original Gin

Dyfi gin was set up in Wales by two brothers, Pete Cameron, a farmer and beekeeper, and Danny Cameron, a wine trade professional, in 2016. It took them two years of research and tasting to come up with the recipe which includes bog myrtle, Scots pine tips, lemon peel, coriander, juniper and more. A very special gin. 

How does it taste?

Drying juniper and coriander spiciness, powerful pine notes with a touch of oiliness, bright bursts of citrus keep it fresh and light.

cotswolds-no-2-wildflower-gin

Cotswolds No.2 Wildflower Gin

The Cotswolds Distillery was set up to make whisky but the team began making gin to help with cash flow. And they turned out to be rather good at it. This is based on the distillery’s classic dry gin which is then steeped with botanicals including elderflower and chamomile to create a floral flavoured gin inspired by the wild flowers of the Cotswolds. 

How does it taste? 

Earthy liquorice, a crackle of peppery juniper, softly sweet with candied peels, just a hint of clean eucalyptus lasts. This would make a splendid Tom Collins.

fords-london-dry-gin

Fords Gin

Created by bartender Simon Ford in conjunction with Thames Distillers in London to be the ultimate all-rounder gin. For the botanical selection, they use a varied selection from around the world, including grapefruit peel from Turkey, jasmine from China, angelica from Poland, lemon peel from Spain, as well as juniper from Italy.

What does it taste like?

Herbal rosemary and thyme meet floral heather and juniper, pink peppercorns, and grapefruit pith. Try it in a freezer door Martini

gin-mare-gin

Gin Mare

No, the name is not a reference to the bad dreams you have after a night on the sauce. It’s the Spanish word for sea, pronounced something like ‘mar re’, and it’s another Mediterranean stunner featuring rosemary, thyme, basil with lots of zest, and the start product, arbequina olive. This is the gin of Barcelona. 

What does it taste like?

A fragrant, perfume-like gin majoring, very herbal and aromatic with notes of coriander, juniper and citrus zest. 

ginbey-gin

GinBey Gin

A rather excellent gin here all the way from Lebanon, created by Faouzi Issa from the Domaine des Tourelles winery. It’s made with a delicious selection of 14 botanicals, including a base of juniper and coriander, plus a whole host of ingredients sourced from Lebanon including rose petals and pomegranate seeds. After distillation, the spirit is rested in amphora jars for six months, helping to round out the gin’s flavour profile and mouthfeel.

What does it taste like?

Piney juniper on the nose, lemon, warm spices, and rose petal. Take a taste and there’s a beautifully-creamy spirit, the predominant taste is juniper joined by floral, spicy and a sweet liquorice note.

finders-fruits-of-the-forest-gin

Finders Fruits of the Forest Gin

Made by the the Finders team just outside York in a town that rejoices in the name Barton-le-Willows, this Fruits of the Forest Gin provides a burst of berry sweetness alongside juniper, orange peel, lavender and sage. A fruity, floral treat, which should shine when paired with a Mediterranean tonic.

How does it taste?

Prominent violet and lavender florals, alongside summer berries and leafy sage. Could there be a more perfect gin to make a Bramble?

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What is London dry gin?

Ok, so we had some comments recently from people regarding London dry gin and it seems many still think the style must be made in the capital. This isn’t true,…

Ok, so we had some comments recently from people regarding London dry gin and it seems many still think the style must be made in the capital. This isn’t true, so let’s break down exactly what it is.

It’s hard to think of a city people associate with gin more than London. From the ‘Gin Craze’ era in the first half of the 18th century when England’s capital became a den of juniper-based mayhem (or so they say…) to the craft revolution that arguably began when Sipsmiths became the first copper-pot based distillery to start up there in 189 years, London and gin are as intertwined as, well, gin and tonic. 

Anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of gin will also have surely heard of the classification: London dry gin.

It’s a fantastic category of spirit, but its name is not exactly useful. It doesn’t tell you anything about what style these gins are, and misleadingly implies they must be made in London. Rule no.1 of London dry gin is this: it does not need to be made in London.

I repeat: you can make London dry gin in Newcastle, New Delhi or Norway. It’s not where you make it that’s important, it’s how.

London dry gin

Look, a London dry gin that’s not from London!

Misconceptions

The term London Dry Gin is the narrowest and most strict of the distilled gin categories and is a process designation. That means it doesn’t technically guarantee a flavour because that’s a subjective and pretty unenforceable standard, although the wider categorisation of gin requires a predominantly juniper-forward flavour and the way in which flavour can be achieved when making London dry gin does mean you typically expect a certain style. A junipery one. Once again, it’s also NOT a geographical designation.

Instead, a series of EU regulations put in place in February 2008 dictates that a London dry gin must be produced exclusively by distilling ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with no trace of methanol. It also must also be distilled to an initial alcoholic strength of at least 96% ABV. This is only really possible in a column still, and achieving that strength means the basis for London dry gin is a neutral spirit.

The law then states the spirit must be distilled again to at least 70% ABV “in the presence of juniperus communis L. and other botanicals.” Yes, that means juniper. Any additional flavours must be sourced through the distillation of ‘natural plant materials’. This means you’re relying on juniper and your chosen botanicals to create the taste of the gin. No cheating and adding any artificial ingredients, like flavouring or colourings, post distillation.

You can only add water, with London dry gin regulations stating that the minimum strength it can be diluted to is 37.5% ABV. To meet the ‘dry’ designation, it cannot be sweetened in excess of 0.1 grams per litre with sweetening products, a trivial amount.

London dry gin

London dry gin is a favourite of ours, so we hope you found this guide useful

Capital spirit

So why is it called London dry gin in the first place? Well, we have to do a quick bit of time travelling here to uncover that.

Cast your mind back to the early days of gin. I don’t mean the 1980s when you had about two choices of bottles to buy, I’m talking more like the 18th century. For much of this era, gin was typically made so crudely that the spirit was, to use a technical term, shite. It was often people whipping it up in their own home, for goodness sake.

This rough spirit required lots of flavouring. Think of those incredibly cheap vodkas you would have as a student (was that just me?), you need to do something to make them palatable. The old school solution for gin makers was bold and sweet botanicals, and the addition of sugar or honey post-distillation too.

When the Coffey still was introduced in 1832, this all changed. Distillers were able to obtain a consistent neutral spirit with ease that could be made into an unsweetened gin of quality. This new style quickly gained popularity and was dubbed ‘dry gin’. The boom of this style occurred in London, so before long the term ‘London dry gin’ began to be used. Although it was never exclusive to there.

Today, the term ‘London dry’ is ultimately a slightly complex but important distinction. In the variable, experimental world of gin, this regulated category stands out because it’s a guarantee that every bit of flavour was made in the distillation process, and people know what to expect. A profile and character they enjoy. That’s delicious with tonic water.

When done correctly, it’s often regarded as the pinnacle of gin distillation. But whether you like the gin the method produces or not is down to personal taste. What you should remember, above all else, is this:

London dry gin doesn’t have to be made in London. 

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Coming soon: The Master of Malt Gin Festival

Our virtual Gin Festival is coming next week, with several brands each getting a turn in the spotlight on our social platforms. Here we tease what’s to come… The sun…

Our virtual Gin Festival is coming next week, with several brands each getting a turn in the spotlight on our social platforms. Here we tease what’s to come…

The sun has made a triumphant comeback here in Kent recently and that calls for some refreshing drinks. That’s why we’re jumping on the juniper train and getting ready to enjoy some tasty gin. But we’re not just picking up one bottle and stocking up on our tonic water supplies, oh no. We’re going all out by hosting our very own virtual Gin Festival! 

Starting next week, some truly great gins will get a platform to shine on our Instagram page where we’ll recommend how to enjoy them, share their story, and explain why they’re so damn tasty. With expressions from India, Italy, Scotland, and closer to home, our selection includes bottles from around the world. Today we preview what’s to come. Now, who’s ready to discover their new favourite drink? 

Malfy Gin

Malfy Gin Rosa

Three words that guarantee flavour are Sicilian pink grapefruit. This gin with a pretty pink hue is ideal if you’re looking to transport your taste buds to the Mediterranean.

Ramsbury Gin

Ramsbury Single Estate Gin

A classic London dry distilled from local Horatio and Spotlight wheat with locally-picked juniper and quince among the botanicals, this is the gin to go for if you’re looking for high-end quality. Martini, anyone?

Bathtub Gin

Bathtub Gin – Grapefruit & Rosemary

This is a tremendous flavour combo already, but it’s even sweeter here as it was voted for by Bathtub Gin fans on social media! Zesty, fragrant, and refreshing stuff.

Silent Pool Gin

Silent Pool Gin

You’ll find all kinds of lovely things in the English countryside, including this sweet, floral gin from Silent Pool which is made with a hefty 24 botanicals including local honey and lavender.

Greater Than Gin

Greater Than Gin

This Goan-made gin is perfect for fans of citrus-forward spirits, with a combo of botanicals including Indian coriander seeds, fennel, chamomile, ginger, and lemongrass.

Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger

Rhubarb and ginger is a pairing that has really taken off in the gin world, simply because it works so damn well. Tangy, spicy, and popular flavours await in this beauty made in the Scottish capital.

Tobermory Gin

Tobermory Gin

The Isle of Mull is a beautiful place and it turns out it’s also got some delightful local botanicals, like elderflower, tea, and wild heather, and even a dash of Tobermory new make spirit, all of which feature in this Tobermory tipple.

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Wild spirits: three bottles that help the environment and taste great

This week we’re looking at three brands that help the environment and taste great too featuring delicious rums from Barbados and Nicaragua, and superb gin from Venezuela. These are wild…

This week we’re looking at three brands that help the environment and taste great too featuring delicious rums from Barbados and Nicaragua, and superb gin from Venezuela. These are wild spirits.

For many spirits brands, it’s not enough these days just to produce delicious liquids to put in cocktails or sip neat. They want to put something back, do some good and help protect the environment. So we’ve rounded up a few of our favourites from the Americas which taste superb but have a commitment to sustainability that goes beyond a PR exercise. Introducing three wild spirits that help protect the natural environment and, most importantly, taste incredible. 

Wild Spirits Flor de Cana

Flor de Caña 12 

Flor de Caña doesn’t do sustainability by halves. It has planted 50,000 trees annually across Nicaragua since 2005. Distilled with 100% renewable energy, its rum is the only spirit in the world to be both certified FairTrade and carbon-neutral, meaning all carbon emissions during its entire life cycle, from field to market, are offset. The firm also provides free schooling to the children of employees. In fact, the current maestro ronero Tomás Cano was put through university by Flor de Cana. The rum is made from local sugar cane, fermented with a local yeast and then distilled in a column before ageing in ex-bourbon casks. As with Scotch whisky, the age statement is the age of the youngest component. No sugar or other additives are added before bottling to create a rum of great elegance.

How does it taste?

The nose has orange peel and menthol with grassy freshness on the palate with a touch of tobacco and fudge. Sip this neat with one of Nicaragua’s fine cigars or make a decidedly superior Palmetto

Wild Spirits Canaima Gin

Canaïma Gin

The brand is dedicated to protecting and preserving its Amazonian environment and the local communities within it. Named after Canaïma National Park, 10% of the sales from each bottle of the gin goes towards the reforestation of the Amazon as well as preserving the culture and heritage of the indigenous people. The concept of using a spirit brand to aid conservation began with bartending legend Simone Caporale. His trip to the Peruvian Amazon gave him a troubling insight into the destruction of the rainforest’s fragile ecology. The result was Canaima Gin made in conjunction with Diplomatico. The team uses 10 unique Amazonian botanicals which are sustainably harvested alongside more traditional botanicals such as juniper, grapefruit, and orange. They distil each one separately in a 500-litre copper pot still before blending them into the final gin

How does it taste?

Tangy fruity notes of passion fruit and grapefruit citrus, with a herbaceous backdrop, black pepper heat and an earthy, grassy undertone. Try it in a G&G mixed with grapefruit soda. 

Wild Spirits_Neptune Rum

Neptune Rum

Proceeds from every bottle of Neptune Rum sold go to cleaning up the ocean through charities including Surfers Against Sewage, Seabin Project and Our Only World. Happily, the rum itself is absolutely superb which is no surprise as it’s distilled and aged at Barbados’s great Foursquare distillery. The blend consists of a mixture of pot and column still rum, created from a blend of eight, five and three-year-old rums made from pure sugar cane molasses. Since its launch in 2017, Neptune has been picking up awards left, right and centre including two gold medals in the Luxury Masters 2021 Awards. It’s also proved a hit with Master of Malt customers. Check out all those five-star reviews. 

What does it taste like?

Maple syrup, fresh apricot, vanilla, nutmeg, warm bourbon oak, sherried peel, ripe peaches,  shredded coconut and green banana. Try it in a rum Old Fashioned

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Five minutes with… Lorna Scott, CEO and founder of Inverroche Gin

When your own back story is as interesting as the drink you make, you better believe you’re making it onto the MoM blog. This week Inverroche Gin’s Lorna Scott tells…

When your own back story is as interesting as the drink you make, you better believe you’re making it onto the MoM blog. This week Inverroche Gin’s Lorna Scott tells us about her long and varied career, devotion to sustainable processes, and how to be the master of your own destiny. 

Lorna Scott has been an air hostess, a marketing and sales manager of a food service corporation, and even a deputy mayor. At the age of 55, she went back to university to do an executive course on sustainable development, and that path led her to found her own gin brand. It began with a lightbulb moment in a world-renowned archaeological site, the Blombos cave while listening to professor Chris Henshilwood tell the story of how our ancestors survived in this place one-and-a-half millennia ago because of the abundance of the ocean and plant life called ‘fynbos’, unique to this area. 

Scott’s idea was to create a product that could tell a story of a place where humankind has lived for millennia in harmony with nature, using the very botanicals that sustained them. After living in Scotland for 20 years, she returned with her children to her home in Still Bay, South Africa, and began using a baby pot still bought on holiday in Italy to experiment with. Rohan and Lauren (son and daughter) were involved from the inception and helped develop Scott develop her own proprietary process. 

Now the brand produces three distinctive spirits, its Classic Gin, Verdant Gin, and Amber Gin, a process that begins by charging a pot still with a base spirit and then layering the selected botanicals into specially designed steam baskets within the pot still, allowing the gently heated spirit vapour to extract the aromatic oils from the botanicals before collecting in the helm and traveling down the condenser. The result is a subtle, yet complex spirit that we very much enjoy. We’d sure love to pick the brains behind them. Luckily, Scott is right here to tell us more!

Inverroche Gin

Say hello to Lorna Scott!

Master of Malt: What did you set out to do differently with Inverroche?

Lorna Scott: When I created the Inverroche gins, I wanted to create something that was unique yet recognisable through taste and presentation. I deliberately went looking for flavours and aromas that sat in the cosmos of the juniper berries where I clustered and grouped them into various categories. Taste and remarkable flavours have played a huge role in the innovation of the brand, it was through trial and error that the beautiful flavours birthed themselves into what we now know as Inverroche Amber, Verdant, and Classic.

MoM: How did your varied career path impact the formation of your own brand?

LS: I discovered my inner gin-making through a curious path. Following my career journey as the deputy mayor of the Hessequa Local Municipality in the Western Cape in South Africa (a small town I grew up in) in this role, part of my portfolio involved sustainable development. It was during this path that I realised the incredible potential our region had to bring people together and to create awareness around the need to protect the world’s smallest and richest floral kingdom.

Before I knew it, my son and I were experimenting with the botanicals found in the Cape Floral Kingdom, a local biome at the tip of the African continent – it was my love for this part of the world that led to the success of the Inverroche luxury spirit brand. My biggest driver has always been my love for a place I call home, Still Bay (the home of Inverroche).

MoM: How does having a family business affect your approach?

LS: Inverroche is first and foremost a family business, and family to us also means the community of Stilbaai at large. It is our belief that the creation of the gins themselves should have a social impact beyond the simple enjoyment of our products, and create opportunity. It is this belief that has kept us heavily involved and linked to our community – as Inverroche prospers, so should the people of Still Bay. We are extremely proud that just under 70% of our employees are indigenous women from the local area. The knock-on effect is dramatic, it means that at least 45 families are directly sharing in our success!

Inverroche Gin

Inverroche Gin is a reflection of the place it’s made, and its founder

MoM: Tell us about your work in sustainable development and how you applied this to Inverroche.

LS: The brand philosophy is about the connection between our planet, people, place, partnerships, and profits collaboratively working together to achieve real-life and tangible sustainability. We support businesses with the same values towards sustainable development and social upliftment. Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. Every action we take is a link to circular making, our approach is essential for sustainable growth and employment which is key to our brand. 

We have built our own nursery for some of our own Fynbos botanicals in the local Blombos area. That way our production process puts no real pressure on the natural environment as it is all done in a controlled environment. We burn Alien vegetation wood (“Rooikrans” which is on the red list here in South Africa) which is sourced from local area suppliers. We use a wind pump to move some of our water from the borehole on the distillery property for our gin distillation. And just recently we have teamed up with a local brick manufacturer to produce bricks using our water and botanical waste. This is truly innovative, and we are very excited about the opportunities here.

MoM: You’ve spoken before about wanting to inspire other women into drinks, what’s your advice to those who do want to lead their own brand?

LS: Be the master of your own destiny with the freedom to create products you know to fill the demand for something unique and delicious, the authority to ensure that every aspect of your business remains authentic, and the confidence that your personal ethics are reflected in everything you do. And always remember to remain flexible. The goal and vision always remain the same, but change is inevitable therefore be ready to adapt your strategies to get you closer to your vision. I believe when everyone sees and understands your vision, the rest comes naturally!

MoM: What is the ambition with Inverroche now and how has this developed from when you first started?

LS: The vision is to build a global brand that will remain authentic and retain its unique sense of place. We continue to achieve this ambition through our successful partnership with Pernod Ricard in Africa which has accelerated the growth of Inverroche throughout South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. On top of this, it has enabled us to tap into new global third party distributors with the help of Pernod Ricard’s Group resources and data.

Inverroche Gin

Dry Martinis, anyone?

MoM: What’s your go-to Inverroche drink?

LS: Our trio of flavours will always remain my go-to gins, they turn any moment into a special occasion! They are all different, soft and full of complex aromas and flavours. 

There’s the Inverroche Classic – a crisp, refreshing, clear spirit with sweet citrus top notes; Inverroche Verdant – a silky smooth floral spirit with subtle liquorice and almond top notes, infused with late summer blooms which give it a green tinge; and Inverroche Amber – a luscious, full-bodied spirit with a dry spicy finish turned a soft amber colour by the infusion of tannin-rich coastal fynbos. 

But, if I had to choose, it would be Inverroche Verdant in a Dry Martini with a lime zest! Yum!

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Whitetail Gin: spirit of Mull

Today, Ian Buxton visits a tiny distillery on the Isle of Mull in Scotland called Whitetail making fine Scottish gin inspired by the local flora and fauna, specifically an enormous…

Today, Ian Buxton visits a tiny distillery on the Isle of Mull in Scotland called Whitetail making fine Scottish gin inspired by the local flora and fauna, specifically an enormous eagle.

A Whitetail – just in case you didn’t know – is the name the aviation industry gives to an aeroplane that has been fully built but not yet delivered to a customer. With no logo yet applied the tail is plain, hence ‘whitetail’. Clever, eh?

It’s also a very, very large type of eagle, the UK’s largest bird of prey, with an impressive 2.4 metre wingspan. That’s big. Driven to extinction in the UK in 1916 the white-tailed eagle was eventually reintroduced during the 1970s, since which time some 40 breeding pairs have become established in Scotland, notably on the Isle of Mull.

Whitetail

Tiroran House, home of Whitetail Gin

Off the beaten track

But, as this isn’t a plane-spotting site or even Twitchers Central we’ll leave off the ornithological notes to mention the third – and tastiest – Whitetail which is a gin produced on Mull, hence the name. A pair of the giant eagles actually nest in a top-secret location close to the distillery so it’s not too hard to guess why Laurence and Katie Munro, and son Jamie, picked this particular name when setting up their company in late 2016.

Now, learning that I was taking an Easter break on this Hebridean island your editor volunteered me to ‘pop in and take a look’, curiously omitting to note that this would involve a 900 mile round trip from my front door [this was your idea, Ed.], a ferry trip and more miles than I care to recall on some seriously small and alarmingly busy single-track roads, culminating in a rutted track with little or no possibility of reversing if another vehicle came along in the other direction.

Not that that was actually terribly likely since, as you have gathered, Tiroran House where the gin is made is seriously remote, even by the standards of Scottish islands. Every drop of neutral grain spirit, every bottle, every label – not to mention the tiny still, because this is a true micro distillery – has to be slowly and expensively brought in along the aforesaid roads, though it has to be said that the local carriers drive with a cavalier disregard for more apprehensive visitors, at least in my brief experience.

Whitetail Gin

Local botanicals, naturally

However, the trip was well worth it to learn about this true family-controlled small batch producer of gin and gin-based fruit liqueurs. Originally hoteliers by trade (Tiroran House continues in operation), the Munros decided to diversify into gin in 2016 as all three were looking for some fresh challenges. With advice from the renowned Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers a juniper-forward recipe for a classic London Dry was soon devised, incorporating locally-sourced botanicals. These include heather, winter savory (a semi-evergreen plant, also used in herbal medicine to treat premature ejaculation – kindly note that I asked for a friend), together with pine needles from the family’s small estate and sea kelp (a type of seaweed) collected from the shores of Loch Scridain.

Kelp was once of huge economic significance here, to fertilise the croft lands and for sale as a lucrative cash crop. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century it was extensively harvested and burned in special kilns to form alkali kelp ash, then used in bleaching linen and also in the manufacture of glass and soap. In fact, in a little over six months in 1792 more than 1,800 tons of kelp was recorded as leaving Tobermory, Mull’s largest town. Today, it’s still used by locals as a fertiliser, has inspired a Dutch art collective at nearby Knockvologan (check them out, they get seriously excited about seaweed) and more recently has found a new role as a gin botanical, both here and on Harris.

Whitetail James Munro

James Munro from Whitetail with his little still. Photo from Oban Times 

A gin with real body

Distiller Laurence Munro explained that the inclusion of local ingredients was critical to their vision for the brand, as was the decision to adopt a 47% ABV strength – “I wanted a gin with real body, even after adding tonic” he insisted to me. And, like its namesake, Whitetail does indeed combine strength with power and a soaring grace in the glass. The pine notes are evident on the nose, while despite the strength, the taste is surprisingly soft and almost sweet. This is a classic gin with a distinctively local twist and the potential to ruffle a few feathers.

Coming out of the pandemic, which Whitetail met with free hand sanitiser for a grateful local community, tourism is returning to the island which will make for a busy summer at the distillery’s tiny shop and tasting room. But the Munros are looking now to expand their distribution and grow sales of their distinctive blue bottles off the island.

The summer should also boost sales of the range of fruit liqueurs, prepared to recipes devised by Katie Munro, which work well sipped neat (if you have a sweet tooth), poured over ice cream or mixed with Prosecco. The Late Summer Berry Gin Liqueur was my favourite but I could find a place in the drinks cabinet for many of the others, particularly the Lemon Balm & Elderflower variant. But then again, the Pink Grapefruit & Rosemary replicates the flagship’s signature serve and would be hard to resist…

Note to Editor: my Easter break has turned out to be quite hard work!

Whitetail Spirits are available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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New Arrival of the Week: Citadelle Juniper Décadence

Citadelle gin is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a special spirit that has been aged in casks made from juniper wood. It’s called Citadelle Juniper Décadence and it’s…

Citadelle gin is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a special spirit that has been aged in casks made from juniper wood. It’s called Citadelle Juniper Décadence and it’s only available from Master of Malt.

The founding of Sipsmith in 2009 is generally considered the beginnings of the British gin boom, along with the loosening of regulations around the size of stills that gin producers were legally allowed to use. This opened the floodgates to the cornucopia of gins that were now take for granted.

Before the gin boom

Things were very different back in 1997. Most pubs would have stocked Gordon’s and Beefeater, Tanqueray if you were lucky, generic house gin if you weren’t. The consensus within the industry was that nobody needed any more gin brands. LIke British Rail, it was about managed decline.

This was the year that Cognac producer Alexandre Gabriel decided to launch a new gin called Citadelle (read the full story here). He was ahead of his time: “It was like a moon landing!” he said. ”There was nobody on the gin planet. In 1996 I thought the world was waiting for an artisanal delicious gin. It was not!”

Citadelle Gin

“Who’s laughing now?” – Alexandre Gabriel at home in France

A French gin, que c’est?

“I remember our importer in America looking at me like I must have gone mad. A French gin?! This decision was made purely out of passion and it was almost disastrous to our business. I have made many mistakes and I hope I am going to make less,” he says. “It looked like Citadelle wouldn’t work because it was out of time and it was financially painful. But, in the end, the two wrongs became a right. Now there is a new gin every week, right?” he continues.

The thing that put Citadelle on the map was when super chef Ferran Adrià from El Bulli, the world’s best restaurant, endorsed the brand.  “In about 1997/98 Adrià was on TV. He said that Gin and Tonic is a gastronomic act and a beautiful aperitif and that you should use a great gin. He whipped out a bottle of Citadelle. We were like ‘wow’. That made a difference,” Gabriel says. 

25 years of fine gin

Gradually, the rest of the world caught up with Grabriel’s vision. Now, as Citadelle celebrates its 25th anniversary, the gin landscape looks very different. The market is probably saturated with gins at all price points – I wouldn’t want to be launching a new product now – but Citadelle is well-established as one of the best premium products on the shelves. 

It gets its distinct flavour from a unique process which Gabriel calls ‘progressive infusion.’ He uses a mixture of 19 botanicals including French juniper berries, orris root, French violet root, Moroccan coriander, almonds, Spanish lemon peel, and Mexican orange peel. According to Gabriel: “Each botanical is infused in neutral alcohol of French wheat for different lengths of proof and time, according to its aromatic function. While some require a strong degree of alcohol and a long infusion such as juniper berries, others infuse better in a weaker degree of alcohol, in a shorter time like star anise”.

Citadelle Juniper Décadence

Citadelle Juniper Décadence is aged in juniper wood casks

Introducing Citadelle Juniper Décadence

To commemorate 25 years of juniper-infused excellence, Citadelle has released a new gin called Juniper Décadence. It’s made with the brand’s signature 19-botanical recipe but then the gin is aged for a period of time in casks made from juniper wood, before bottling at 44.4% ABV. This imparts a gentle smokiness alongside the bright, herbaceous gin notes. We think the subtle woodiness would work brilliantly with sherry in something like a Palo Cortado Martini. Only 84 bottles are available to the UK market and only from Master of Malt. 

It’s the perfect way to celebrate Alexander Gabriel’s persistence and prescience. As the man behind Plantation rum and Ferrand Cognac, he’s one of the most innovative people in the drinks business and we make no apologies for the blog being somewhat Gabriel heavy at the moment – there’s a lot going on and more to come. 

Let’s raise a glass to Citadelle’s silver anniversary. Santé!

Citadelle Juniper Décadence is only available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy. This is a strictly limited edition product, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Robust oaky juniper, liquorice, grapefruit, a hint of dry smoke, toasted seeds.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Elderflower and Raspberry 

This week’s cocktail, the Elderflower and Raspberry, is perfect for the busy host. All you need is some gin, Chambord, and Fever-Tree tonic water, and you can’t go wrong.  At…

This week’s cocktail, the Elderflower and Raspberry, is perfect for the busy host. All you need is some gin, Chambord, and Fever-Tree tonic water, and you can’t go wrong. 

At this time of the year, you don’t want to be messing around measuring, shaking things, making tinctures, and squeezing fruit. This is why we were very pleased to receive a new recipe book from Fever-Tree full of very simple drinks you can make with just two or three ingredients – one of them naturally being something from the Fever-Tree range.

Fever-Tree: Easy Mixing

Easy mixing

Fever Tree: Easy Mixing contains over 150 recipes and it’s perfect for the host who wants to chat rather than shake. As the introduction states: “Wonderful-tasting drinks don’t have to be time consuming or complicated. And you certainly don’t need arcane instruments or obscure ingredients to make them.” We picked the Elderflower and Raspberry this week because it sounded particularly delicious and it can be updated to whatever you’ve got in the house. There’s a full recipe below. 

This isn’t the tonic water company’s first foray into the book market. In 2017, it released Fever Tree – The Art of Mixing subtitled ‘simple long drinks & cocktails from the world’s leading bars’. This was a massive bestseller, sitting on top of Amazon’s drink book charts for months. Quite galling for everyone else who had a drink book out at the time. 

Before the gin boom

But then again, Fever-Tree is something of an institution. Its launch in 2005 actually preceded the gin boom by a good few years. Sipsmith didn’t appear until 2008. Indeed, so important was this date that bar magazine CLASS picked the arrival of Fever-Tree as one of its  ‘20 defining moments of the London cocktail scene’. 

Before Fever-Tree, if you wanted a G&T, that meant Schweppes, supermarket own-label, or on-trade brands like Britvic. Schweppes was tonic in the way that Hoover is synonymous with vacuum cleaners. It wasn’t universally popular though: some thought it was too sweet and masked the taste of gin.

The brand traded on its natural ingredients making much about obtaining quinine from the Rwandan/ Congolese border. This is commonplace now, even mass-market lagers like Carling trade on using British barley, but it was heady stuff way back in 2005. 

Its success inspired dozens of imitators, both big and small. In 2016, the giants finally awoke to the potential of premium mixers: Britvic launched the London Essence Company range, and the following year Schweppes launched the 1738 range named after the brand’s founding year. 

Fever-Tree is now the establishment with a large share of the market and particularly strong in the off-trade, with 39% of the market according to Harper’s Magazine

From the original, there are now myriad types of fizzy bottles including a particularly deliciously spicy ginger beer

Elderflower and Raspberry cocktail Fever Tree

How to make an Elderflower & Raspberry

For this week’s cocktail, we’re using the elderflower variant. For the gin, we’re using our house gin Bathtub. The recipe also calls for Chambord raspberry liqueur but you could use crème de mure, sloe gin or even Ribena.

You could fancy it up a bit and shake the gin and Chambord with ice, strain into a glass and top up with tonic, but perhaps not when you have guests over this Christmas. You don’t want to be mixing when you could be mixing. If you know what I mean.

Right, let’s cocktail!

35ml Bathtub Gin
3 teaspoon Chambord Liqueur
Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic Water

Pour the gin and Chambord into an ice-filled Highball glass. Squeeze and drop in a lemon wedge. Top up with tonic, stir gently and garnish with a fresh raspberry.

 

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Top ten Christmas drinks

In need of the perfect festive tipples? We thought you might be so from mulled wine to advocaat, we’ve rounded up our top ten Christmas drinks. Christmas is arguably the best time…

In need of the perfect festive tipples? We thought you might be so from mulled wine to advocaat, we’ve rounded up our top ten Christmas drinks.

Christmas is arguably the best time of year to have a drink. From office parties, festive fizz opportunities, or a dram of whisky to keep out the cold, there’s no end to the excuses to have a cheeky tipple. Then there are certain drinks like sloe gin or mulled wine that just scream Christmas.  

From Gingerbread Rum to gin made with festive botanicals and even Brussel Sprout Vodka we’ve got the best selection right here, for your convenience. Perfect if you need to do a little present shopping too…

Top ten Christmas drinks

Christmas drinks

Christmas Mulled Cup

Christmas is a cup is what is promised in this delightful creation. Created as the perfect base for simple, delicious mulled wine, Winter Mulled Cup is produced with a mix of VSOP Cognac, fine Port and festive spices. Then, this is combined with cold-distilled orange and lemon peels and cold-distilled fresh root ginger. It’s not just great for mulled wine, you can make all kinds of wonderful things with this beauty and even sip it neat.

Christmas drinks

Christmas Cake & Dark Chocolate & Medjool Dates & Cinnamon 8 Year Old

Whisky that tastes like Christmas is something none of us should pass up and this bottling hits the nail on the head. Featuring festive flavours like Christmas cake, dark chocolate, medjool dates, and cinnamon, the aptly named Christmas Cake & Dark Chocolate & Medjool Dates & Cinnamon is a superb Speyside single malt Scotch whisky, aged for eight years and boasting a sleighful of Yuletide elements. Any whisky fan will be thrilled to find a bottle under the tree with their name on it.

Christmas drinks

GINgle All The Way (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

You might not be a big fan of puns, but seasonal gin is something we can all agree on as being a wonderful thing. That Boutique-y Gin Company’s GINgle All The Way come complete with a festive snow globe on the label that is filled with the gin’s botanicals, and you can see the likes of spot cocoa, bitter orange, ginger and cardamom. Note, the baubles aren’t botanicals. The recommended festive serve is to add a splash of grapefruit tonic, which sounds absolutely amazing, doesn’t it?

Christmas drinks

Project #173 Gingerbread Rum

Let’s face it, we all love a good drink that’s based on a classic flavour. Jaffa Cakes. Chocolate. Even gingerbread. It’s a bedfellow of rum anyway, as both are spicy and sweet, but the folks behind Project #173 have ramped things up a notch by taking a good quality rum as a base and bringing in all those yummy aforementioned flavours you’ll find in gingerbread to pair with it. The bottle even features a flake of 23 karat gold leaf, making this one extra-giftable. 

 

 

Christmas drinks

Shanky’s Whip 

If you are looking for an alternative to your favourite cream liqueur this Christmas, then why not try Shanky’s Whip? This affordable and versatile Irish whiskey-based liqueur is based on a combination of Irish spirits, and aged pot still whiskey, blended in with the natural flavour of vanilla-infused with caramel. Smooth, rich and creamy, it’s the perfect drink to serve to guests this festive season as an after-dinner digestif, well chilled over ice or even as an indulgent liquid dessert! 

Christmas drinks

Tiptree Christmas Pudding Rum Liqueur

Did you know you can distil Christmas puddings? Well, you can. And Wilkin & Sons did for the wonderful boozy arm of its Tiptree range. This small-batch English rum was distilled alongside hand-made Tiptree Christmas puddings to create the ultimate festive liqueur. Play around and make all kinds of wonderful seasonal cocktails, or enjoy as an after-dinner sipper.

Christmas drinks

Big Peat at Christmas 2021

We love a bit of Big Peat and don’t need an excuse to enjoy it at Christmas, but creator Douglas Laing has given us one anyway. This limited edition bottling of Big Peat follows something of an annual tradition for the fab independent bottler, who make the blended malt with malt whiskies from a medley of marvellous Islay distillery, and boasts a full-bodied peaty profile. Titular character Big Peat is naturally the star of the label, enjoying a spot of sledding. 

Hayman's Sloe Gin

Hayman’s Sloe Gin

Were you out in November collecting sloe berries to make your own gin liqueur? No, we weren’t either. Instead we rely on Hayman’s to do it for us, blending their classic gin with sloes and sugar to make a classic winter drink. You can sip it neat, rather as you would Port, but it also makes a great addition to various cocktails like the Negroni (or Sloegroni), Bramble, or combine it with English sparkling wine for a British take on a Kir Royale.

Advocaat

Advocaat Warninks

Advocaat is a traditional Dutch liqueur made from a mixture of egg yolks, vanilla, sugar and alcohol. It’s essentially boozy custard and who doesn’t like boozy custard? Warninks, the leading brand is part of the De Kuyper group. This can be used to make such classic cocktails as a Green Monster, a Fluffy Duck, a Broken Nose, and, of course, a Squashed Frog. Oh and don’t forget the mighty Snowball.

Christmas drinks

Nelson’s Brussel Sprout Vodka

What a way to round things off, right? And don’t think we’re trying to fool you, this is real. Nelson’s used a whole load of Brussels sprouts to create the most festive and ludicrous of vodkas. Oh, and if it wasn’t Christmassy enough, if you shake it, it also sparkles. Perfect as something of a joke for the office Christmas party or as an after-dinner surprise.

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