Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin

UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?

Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  And increasingly, they are just variations on a theme. Some of them are just added flavours. Others barely stand out from each other. And then along came UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin.

One sip and I was taken.

A beautiful bottle for a beautiful gin

And what was so special about Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin?

Well where do I even start? The bottle is an absolute stunner.  A classic rounded shape with a graduated tinted glass where the colours of blue and pink blend into each other in the same way that mountains blend into the sea. This gin is elegantly Japanese and subtly understated. The label is a simple, square with rounded edges and Japanese lettering spelling out its name.  The neck tapers up gently, like the slopes of the nearby Sakurajima volcano and the whole affair is crowned with a gorgeous, chunky flat cap that sets it off beautifully.  Before you’ve even tasted the first sip, you know this is a gin with a difference.

“Floating world” gin for the mindfulness generation

We also love the story behind Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin.  The term ukiyo literally translates in English to “floating world” and it refers to “a state of mind that emphasises living in the moment, detached from the difficulties of life”.  This is a gin worth concentrating on. It will feed your senses. It’s sort of like a gin for the mindfulness generation.

So, what’s so special about it?

So much. This is not your normal gin.  In fact, this is a gin that all starts with Japan’s national drink, Shochu. This traditional Japanese spirit is distilled from barley and these guys have been practicing their art for more than 130 years.  They have drawn on all that knowledge and experience to distill this Shochu base from scratch. First, they distill the barley in a traditional Japanese pot still, which produces a gentler, more rounded flavour.

The fragrant, complex aroma of cherry blossom

They then redistill the mix with juniper, mandarin and spices before infusing it with the bright, citrus notes of yuzu and the subtle perfume of the sakura flower. The final blend offers up a soft, smooth mouth-feel, making this gin very easy to drink.  The Shochu adds a subtle, earthy flavour to the final product, that’s reminiscent of its more famous cousin Sake. This fragrant base is then redistilled with the required juniper, alongside mandarin and spice.  For the final touch, they infuse the gin with the delicate taste of Sakura flower, resulting in a perfumed, fragrant citrus-forward gin to delight your senses.

And on the nose? Boy, do those aromas tickle your taste buds.  Even before you take your first sip, your senses will be assaulted by a sweet, fragrant complex aroma that mimics the gentle scent of the cherry blossoms adorning the beautiful mountains that surround their beautiful Kagoshima base. And at a standard 40% ABV, this gin has just the right blend of strength and flavour.

So, what does it taste like?  Well, on the nose it is sweet and complex.  There is a fragrance that comes from the Shochu that delivers a perfume punch alongside the fresh, complex flavors of juniper, cherry blossom and orange. And there (f you look hard enough) lurking in the background, you’ll pick up more subtle notes such as woody spice, coriander and even a little Parma violet.

Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin perfect pour:

This gin is too unusual and has too many contrasting taste sensations to waste on a flavoured tonic water.  This is one for a premium Fever Tree Indian tonic, large, square cubes of ice and a slice of orange.  Best served in a Collins glass, you’ll need to drop a large, square ice cube (the larger the better) into the bottom of the glass. Then, take a wedge of orange, squeeze it to release the juice and wipe it around the rim of the glass.  Pour a generous shot of the gin over the ice cube.  Then pour a premium quality tonic water such as Fever Tree premium into the mix allowing the bubbles to blend the liquids together naturally. Finally, a brief stir and then drop a sliced orange wheel on top and you’re “good to go”. A delicious, G&T just bursting with bright flavour!

But if you’re looking to try this in a cocktail, here’s one you might like to try…

Ukiyo Cherry Cobbler

Ingredients:

  • 40ml Ukiyo Japanese Blossom gin
  • 10ml cherry brandy
  • 10 ml blackcurrant syrup
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • 10ml blackcurrant liqueur
  • 190ml ice
  • 20ml soda

Method:

  • Add ice to a 10oz (300ml) highball glass
  • Pour gin into glass
  • Add cherry brandy
  • Add blackcurrant syrup
  • Pour in lemon juice
  • Top up with a dash of soda water
  • Pour a Creme de Cassis float onto the surface
  • Garnish with a Maraschino cherry
  • Just sit back and enjoy the blossoms…

Kanpai everybody!!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
  • Merry Gin-mas everybody: 12 tips for a tipsy holiday!
    He’s been getting ready since January and his big moment is coming soon. The Jolly Old Elf (AKA Santa Claus) is already preparing to sprinkle holiday cheer around the world from his festive fleet of flying reindeer. Christmas is almost here and we’re all looking forward to welcoming Santa down the chimney as we celebrate … Continued
  • Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit
    There’s an old English Christmas rhyme that goes something like this: “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”  And while we wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of generosity and kindness that is the hallmark of the festive period, we suspect that it won’t just be the … Continued
  • Entropia Gin: lift your spirits with a little ginseng and guarana
    Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a … Continued

Merry Gin-mas everybody: 12 tips for a tipsy holiday!

He’s been getting ready since January and his big moment is coming soon. The Jolly Old Elf (AKA Santa Claus) is already preparing to sprinkle holiday cheer around the world from his festive fleet of flying reindeer.

Christmas is almost here and we’re all looking forward to welcoming Santa down the chimney as we celebrate all that is good in the world.

So, in the spirit of Christmas, we thought we’d help you to get the party going.
Here are our 12 tips for a tipsy Christmas to ensure that all your (gin-based) dreams come true. Read on to find out more about how gin can help to renew the festive spirit for 2021. We’ll drink to that! Christmas Eve cocktails: get the party started with a festive gin Cosmo!

Christmas Cosmos…

Every house is different and has a different tradition. In our house, we always start the holiday off with a Gin Cosmopolitan. This cranberry classic is easy to make, has a hefty kick and it looks really Christmassy! It’s the perfect drink to get the party started! Luckily, it’s really simple to make and only requires a few readily available ingredients. So, this Christmas, ditch the vodka and head into a winter wonderland of gin. Starting with a Christmas Eve Cosmo!

Something special for Santa: he’ll love these boozy sloe gin mince pies!

Don’t forget to look after the jolly old elf! He always remembers who’s been naughty or nice. But you can get in his good books every year by leaving him something tasty to nibble on as he slides down your chimney to deliver his presents.  In America, it’s generally milk and cookies. In Spain it’s Turron. And in the UK (at least in our house) he seems to enjoy mince pies and a little dram of whiskey.  But rumour has it that he’s also partial to a drop of gin.  We reckon if you really want to be remembered by the man himself, make sure you stand out from the crowd. 

Here’s an easy recipe for some sloe ginfused mince pies, which we think he’ll love. Packed with our favourite Christmas spirit, these are absolutely delicious. And we think he might enjoy washing them down with a little glass of something special.  How about treating him to a glass of Himbrimi gin, made for sipping. It might be a nice transition from whiskey. Apparently, he’s also partial to a little gin liqueur. Here’s a little Christmas gin that we think might already be on his list – Tarquins Figgy Pudding gin

A Cocktail Christmas: 5 “must have” bartending tools for the festive season

Most of the year, if we need a fancy cocktail mixed up, we go to the nearest pub or bar and prevail upon the skills of an expert mixologist who has studied and practiced his art for many years. Not all of us are that lucky. That’s why it can be a bit challenging when we suddenly become head bartender at home over Christmas. But like everything in life, the more prepared you are the better.

And we all know that without the right tools, simple things can become quite complicated. Christmas can be a real test of our bartending skills. That’s why we recommend that your festive bartending kit contains the following five essential tools for a  flawless fiesta of festive cocktails! Don’t forget to visit our website to download our recent guide to the Top 10 bartending tools to make drinks like a rockstar. Until then, here are your bartender basics.

  1. A clean cutting board (so you don’t ruin the sideboard!)
  2. A sharp paring knife (to slice and dice all those garnishes)
  3. A cocktail shaker (a jam jar with a lid will work just as well)
  4. A muddling spoon (to get every last bit of flavour from your ingredients)
  5. A cocktail strainer (to keep your cocktails clear and free of floaty things!)

Christmas advent calendars: your daily dose of Vitamin Gin

Gin advent calendars are a real thing and we don’t understand why it’s taken this long to invent them. Why spend an entire month getting excited about individual chocolates when you could swap them for gin? There are now a multitude of ways in which we can access gin over the coming months. Some people will be going for gin-filled Christmas baubles. Others will be seeking out gin filled Christmas crackers. But they’re both for one day only. To make sure the spirit of Christmas lasts right up until the big day itself, we recommend Aldi’s gin advent calendar.

Packed full of a fabulous selection of 24 x miniature Haysmith’s gins, there is something for everybody in this lineup. From a traditional London Dry to rhubarb and ginger, from sloe gin to raspberry and redcurrant and from Seville orange and Persian lime to spiced plum and clementine, there really is something for everyone. This will brighten up your holidays for sure. Once again, Aldi leads the way for delicious, great value gins. 

Drink to your health: can the hair of the dog cure your Christmas hangover?

We all know that Christmas is a time for general gin-related shenanigans, festive fun and general frivolity. But, just in case you haven’t been as moderate over the party season as you should have been, fear not.  Here’s a proper article from the folks at Harvard who take a science-based look at the best way to rebound from a holiday hangover. Of course, the best course of action is not to drink so much that you get a hangover in the first place. But just in case that festive spirit gets the better of you, have a little read of this article on the best science-based hangover cures to get you back on track for a big Christmas rebound, just when you need it the most!

Christmas treats: no tricks!

By now, you will have already been deluged with Christmas offers as marketers try different ways to tempt you to put their products in your Christmas stocking. But don’t be fooled. There’s a lot of tat out there and prices at Christmas do not always reflect what’s inside your package. So, don’t fork out £10 for 5 chocolate truffles with a picture of a Christmas tree on the front.  Here are a few Christmas themed presents that will make your loved ones smile without breaking the bank:

  • Marks and Spencer Snow Globe – snow globes have become the must have gin treat for the last few Christmases.  We think this one from M&S is one of the best.  But they won’t last forever
  • Gin and tonic truffles – everybody loves a bit of chocolate, especially at Christmas.  But these days a foil-wrapped chocolate Santa just doesn’t cut it any more.  Here’s a fab recipe for some G&T truffles you can make at home. Guaranteed to give you the best of both worlds this Christmas
  • Gin tours – we spend our lives drinking gin and talking gin. But to really immerse yourselves in this great drink of ours, talk to the experts.  There are dozens of great gin tours now available from small batch artisans to big distillers.  You can either book one at your local gin distillery or check out our list of bespoke gin experiences.  Just book your slot online and turn up.
  • Make your own gin at home – there’s no longer any need to make your gin in the bathtub. Check out this neat little gin-making kit and create your own personalised gin from the comfort of your own kitchen. Taste is a very personal thing, and this kit gives you the chance to mix up the perfect blend and turn plain old vodka into your own, magical gin in as little as 36 hours.

Christmas gin liqueurs: boost your bubbly this Christmas

These days, there are a raft of gin liqueurs available that are perfect for the holiday season. In the end, what you like most is all a matter of personal taste. But the range is increasing every day, so we’re now spoiled for choice. They range from novelty flavours (such as peppermint candy cane and mint humbug) all the way through to more traditional Christmas flavours such as orange, cranberry and even ginger.  But you might want to check out the range from jam makers Tiptree, who have a delightful range of liqueurs made from English fruit. 

The range includes raspberry, strawberry, damson, rhubarb and quince. Sweet, comforting and full of the taste and smell of Christmas, there’ll be a bottle of this in my kitchen this year. Remember, these are not gins, but gin liqueurs. This generally means they are thicker, sweeter and lower in alcohol than proper gin. They make a nice change if you’re looking for something different from your traditional sherry or port.

They also work really well as a cocktail ingredient or even to add a little flavour to a standard G&T. And a little drop in the bottom of a glass of bubbly can change the game forever. We’ve heard that Santa is a bit partial to a little glass alongside his mince pies. It’s the perfect Christmas combo! 

Gin-filled baubles: will they survive to Christmas?

We wait all year for Christmas to come around again. And we all love the idea of gathering the family around to decorate our trees with tinsel, glitter and shiny baubles. But what if those baubles were filled with gin? Well your dreams have come true.  These days, you can buy gin-filled baubles from all your favourite brands. From personal experience, I can confirm that this simple idea really adds the festive element that we all desire at this time of year. And if you prefer, you can always opt for refillable balls that you can top up with your personal favourites.

We’ve had enough of cheap chocolates and tacky trinkets. They do nothing for us.  Gin baubles, on the other hand, is an idea we love.  Once again, they’re going fast, so make sure you get them while you can. 

Indoor fireworks: light your Christmas pudding with Navy Strength gin

For those of us who like a little Christmas pudding, there’s nothing like the thrill (and nervousness) surrounding the lighting of the pudding and the precarious march toward the table desperately hoping that the flaming blue brandy will not spill onto the kitchen floor and burn the house down. As anybody who’s tried to light their own Christmas pudding, it can be a bit tricky to get the thing to burn.

So, here’s an idea. Switch from brandy to Navy Strength gin. We recommend Winchester Distillery’s Navy Strength gin. With a higher proof of 57% ABV, it is much easier to light. But remember to be careful. Top tip: warm the gin up slightly in a saucepan before pouring it on to the pudding and lighting it. The fumes help it to catch light and the show can begin. 

The King of Gin: splash the cash on the world’s most expensive gin

If you’re really into the ultimate gin for Christmas, you could really splash out.  If you’ve won the lottery and have the cash to splash, you could try a bottle of the world’s most expensive gin. Why not treat yourself to a bottle of Morus LXIV.  This English gin is distilled from the leaves of a single ancient Mulberry tree and is made in very small batches.  It takes more than two years to produce this little beauty and it’s packaged in a beautiful hand made white porcelain jar with a matching stirrup cup with a hand embossed leather hide. 

If you’re still feeling generous, I still have some room in my Christmas stocking. Just saying.  There’s still some stock left at Harvey Nicholsfor  around £4000 for a bottle, I’ve never tried it (and at that price I probably never will) But for the person who has everything, this could be the perfect gift.  Maybe next year, Santa?

Go crackers this Christmas: a Christmas tradition to get your party off with a bang

Non-Brits might be a bit confused by the concept of Christmas crackers. Traditionally, these Christmas surprises appear at the Christmas table. They’re basically paper-covered cardboard tubes colorfully wrapped in the shape of a giant bonbon. The idea is that you and the person next to you each pull on the ends of the cracker until it breaks, with a small bang. Inside, tradition dictates that there is a colorful paper crown that you wear at the table; a very bad joke that you read out at the table (to accompanying groans!); and some sort of gift that can range from a bottle opener (in the cheaper ones) to diamonds (in the very expensive ones!).

Somewhere in between, they invented the best ones of all – gin Christmas crackers. And now everybody’s doing them. So, to help you decide which one’s best for you, here’s a handy guide to the best gin Christmas crackers for 2021. A few non-gin ones seem to have snuck into the list. But they are rum and Bailey’s, so what’s not to like!

Gorgeous gin glasses: look good, taste good, feel good

Why is it that gin tastes different in different glasses? We’re not exactly sure if it’s psychological or real, but it always seems to taste better from a pretty glass. While most gin brands offer branded glasses for sale, not everybody wants a big logo on the side of their copa. There are some stunning branded gin glasses out there (think Silent Pool for example).

But for those who’d rather not become a brand advocate, there are some stunning gin glasses available on Amazon (and elsewhere) that will help you to stand out from the crowd. We love these beautiful hand-painted copa glasses. But for a little extra sophistication, check out these little beauties – classic style in an elegant gin glass. Plenty of room in the stocking for a couple of these. Just saying…

Merry Gin-mas everyone!

Make the most of your time with friends, family and loved ones this Christmas. And thanks for all your support in 2021!  Here’s to a brighter, gin-filled 2022!

The Barcelona Gin team

Steve, Marta, Jason (and Ruddles!)


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

  • UKIYO Japanese Blossom gin: is this my favourite gin ever?
    Banzai! I think I’ve just had the best gin I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact it was a gift at a surprise birthday party. And I wasn’t expecting that either.  But this gin has just blown my Christmas socks off! The thing is, there are so many gins around to try now.  … Continued
  • Merry Gin-mas everybody: 12 tips for a tipsy holiday!
    He’s been getting ready since January and his big moment is coming soon. The Jolly Old Elf (AKA Santa Claus) is already preparing to sprinkle holiday cheer around the world from his festive fleet of flying reindeer. Christmas is almost here and we’re all looking forward to welcoming Santa down the chimney as we celebrate … Continued
  • Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit
    There’s an old English Christmas rhyme that goes something like this: “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”  And while we wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of generosity and kindness that is the hallmark of the festive period, we suspect that it won’t just be the … Continued
  • Entropia Gin: lift your spirits with a little ginseng and guarana
    Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a … Continued
gin entropia

Entropia Gin: lift your spirits with a little ginseng and guarana

Entropia Gin is back in my life. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was probably always inevitable that I would fall in love with gin and tonic. I was born in post-colonial Malaysia, where G&Ts were sipped on whitewashed verandahs by men in Panama hats and linen suits. Later on, as a child in Calcutta, I have vivid memories of my Dad downing a few well-made G&Ts at the legendary 220 year old Tollygunge Club – a throwback to the days of the Raj and a place that was just wreaking of atmosphere.  

A fall from grace

Later in life, I discovered that back home, the traditional English G&T had fallen so far from grace that it had been relegated to the ranks of old ladies. In America, however, it had been elevated to include upscale brands such as Tanqueray, that were barely known in the land of Gordons. Gin in the States was poured in large measures, into large glasses and served with lots of ice.

Reinventing gin

But it wasn’t until I moved to Barcelona that I finally got it. In those in between years, the humble G&T had been completely reinvented. The industry was starting to spawn a legion of new, artisan craft gin distilleries.  These new gin makers were not afraid to challenge preconceptions and to apply creativity and natural ingredients to their gins. It was here that the love affair really began.

Rediscovering an old friend

Today, I stumbled across one of the first gins that I bought after moving to Barcelona, Entropia Gin.  It caught my attention all those years ago because of its distinctive bottle and it’s hero ingredients – guarana and ginseng.  Up until then, this gin was about as far removed from a traditional Gordons and tonic as I could imagine. I was intrigued. These two unusual ingredients were most commonly seen marked up on the outside of a can of Red Bull, so I was curious to find out more. Where was it made? What did it taste like? What on earth did guarana and ginseng bring to the party? And here’s what I found out…

A wild gin from rugged Galicia

Entropia Gin is made with a wheat grain base in the wild region of Galicia in Northern Spain.  It’s triple distilled in small batches using artisan techniques in Allariz, Ourense. This is where the unique botanicals and spices are sourced and distilled to create this complex and unusual Spanish gin. And then, at the end of the process, it is triple filtered to protect the pure essence of the gins complex aromas and clear golden colour.

Tall, round and handsome

The first thing you notice is the bottle. Tall, with a short neck and a round black top, this bottle stands out from the crowd.  And the second thing you notice is the pale golden colour of the gin within. This is not due to  subtle infusion of saffron or years of ageing within an oak soaked whiskey barrel.  Instead, this is a result of the post-distilling infusion of the guarana and ginseng that give this gin its distinctive flavour.

Standing out from the crowd

So, what is it about  these two ingredients that separates Entropia Gin from other gins? Well, let’s start with the guarana. I first discovered guarana in its soft drink form while travelling through Bolivia many years ago.  It was a sweet, golden carbonated drink with plenty of sugar and a unique flavour profile that was hard to define, but delicious.  It kept me going when my energy and enthusiasm dipped. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Brazilian caffeine?

Some people describe guarana as Brazilian caffeine, due to its energy giving properties and it kept me going on many a long, bumpy bus ride as we crossed Bolivia’s Altiplano. It definitely helped to give me energy when I hit a dip. And it’s been associated with other health giving benefits ranging from an appetite suppressant to a diet cure and from sharpening up your mind to improving your staying power between the sheets.

Better sex?

And then there’s the ginseng. It shares some of the same properties including (apparently) improving your sex drive, sharpening your mental awareness and even boosting your immune system.  So, imagine what might happen if both of those ingredients were added to gin?  I knew there was only one way to find out for sure.

So, what did this little beauty actually taste like and did it really have the magic qualities claimed?

On the nose…

I thought I’d start off our acquaintance with a classic taste test – a standard G&T, garnished with a twist of lemon zest. But first, what’s it like on the nose?  There’s an earthy, woody aroma that keeps this gin on the spicy side.  But there’s also a lot of sweetness, possibly from the ginseng and guarana. There’s also a distinctive, fiery alcohol taste which is offset by a complex aroma of tobacco. And somewhere in there is a little citrus and cinnamon to keep you on your toes.

In the mouth…

But the proof of the pudding is in the drinking, so what’s it like? Well the first thing you notice as you take that first sip is that this is a complex gin. That woody spiciness carries on into the palate where it mixes seamlessly with the sweetness of bergamot and cinnamon and the warm heat of ginger and nutmeg. If you look hard enough, you might even notice a spicy chai taste that you might recognise.  

The finish…

And then, on the finish, there’s a smooth warmth with floral notes of hibiscus and the warm spices of nutmeg and cinnamon combining well with the softer, creamier flavour of vanilla.  In fact, this is packed full of seasonal flavours and is not a bad gin to drink at Christmas.  All in all, this is a great gin, well worth trying. At 40% ABV and less than 20 euros a bottle, it’s not expensive and it stands out on your shelf with its striking bottle and golden colour. It could be the perfect stocking stuffer for the festivities ahead.

Entropia Gin. The perfect serve:

Entropia Gin ginseng & guarana would work well with a classic gin cocktail such as a Negroni.  But we think it also makes a very unusual and worthwhile G&T. We garnished ours with a twist of lemon rind and served it with a premium tonic water over lots of ice.  A gentle stir released the flavours nicely and there’s no doubt that this is distinctly different from a standard G&T.

Leave your expectations at the door…

But if you leave your traditional expectations at the door, you might be pleasantly surprised. That spicy taste takes over from the traditional juniper and once you get our head around that, it all begins to make sense. The premium tonic releases the flavours within and brings out the juniper.  And the finish is complex and long and leaves you tasting the citrus notes before being rounded off with a smooth vanilla and cinnamon taste that will linger long after your final sip. 

Ólafsson Gin

Ólafsson gin: the exquisite, natural taste of Iceland

Icelandic gin is on the rise. I suppose it should come as no surprise that one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth has turned to its natural resources for inspiration. Iceland now creates some of the most interesting new gins available anywhere in the world. From the early days of the gin revolution, brands such as Martin Miller’s spotted the gin potential of this bleak and barren landscape.  They were one of the first to make the connection and marketed themselves as a “super premium gin, distilled in England blended with the purest Icelandic water” . This water is filtered through 800 years of glacial melt, so it is as smooth and pure and clean as water can be.

Martin Miller’s found a niche and made a bit of a name for itself at the vanguard of the gin revolution.  And then, a few years ago, some friends returned from a visit to Iceland. They introduced me to the delights of Himbrimi gin, a deliciously unique Old Tom gin. This unique, sweeter and smokier gin is made with pure Icelandic water, hand picked wild flowers and honey. It appeared that the Icelandic gin revolution was now in full flow.

Ólafsson Gin – made from nature

In fact, there are now more than a dozen craft gin distilleries operating on this island of 350,000 people. And it’s starting to build quite a reputation for itself.  So, when a couple of Icelandic friends visited us in Barcelona recently (bearing a lovely looking bottle of Icelandic gin), we were delighted. The classic label and limited edition batch number just made us even more excited to give this one a try. And, we were not disappointed. Ólafsson gin, with its slogan: “Hreint Og Villt” (loosely translated as “pure and wild”) comes in a striking bottle. It has an etched label featuring an image of Iceland’s most famous explorer, Eggert Ólafsson gazing out dramatically at a scene of geysers, rocks and wild animals.

Driven by a taste for adventure…

In the 18th century, Eggert Ólafsson roamed this island to discover more about its native culture and natural secrets. He wandered the tundras, rocks and hills, discovering geysers and glaciers and waterfalls and volcanoes along the way. In 1772, he recorded his findings in one of Iceland’s most famous books, Travels in Iceland. Since then, he has become a part of Iceland’s folklore and a hero to many.  So, when the folks at Eyland spirits decided they needed a name for their new gin, Ólafsson was the first name they thought of.

Iceland’s gin revolution

So, what is it about dramatic, rugged, cold Iceland that makes it such a popular place for gin making? Well first of all, apart from the pulsing heartbeat of Reykjavík the capital, there’s not much to do on those long Iceland days and nights. So, Icelanders turn to their heritage keeping traditional skills alive.  There is a rich craft history here and this has led to a culture of creativity that extends all the way to gin.  That enthusiasm, combined with the natural gifts of the rugged Icelandic landscape, have come together in a sensational blend.

Pure water and unique botanicals

Pure water direct from glacial melt and unique, hard to find botanicals, some of which are unique to Iceland all combine to create a little gin magic.  There are now more than a dozen distilleries on the island, each with their own unique blend and distinctive style.  And we expect more to come.  Icelandic gin might not be easy to find in your local liquor store. But it’s worth the effort to track some down and the proof is in the taste.  So, how about this Ólafsson gin – how did it all begin?

The taste of Iceland in a bottle

Well, the folks at Eyland spirits were determined to capture the purity of the Icelandic landscape in a bottle of gin. That’s exactly what they’ve tried to do in their Ólafsson gin. Their aim was to harness these fresh, clean tastes in a bottle.  To do this, they began with the crisp, clean notes of juniper and a grain base. They then added a range of complex botanicals to deliver floral and citrus notes and earthy spice.

Getting under the skin of the gin

So, let’s get under the skin of this special gin. With a classic juniper base, the unique flavors of Iceland are brought out by the native notes of Arctic thyme, birch and mountain moss.  All of this is then blended with its pristine arctic water for a unique, smooth and refreshing drink. On the nose, you’ll pick up complex notes ranging from lime zest to kiwi. There are hints of ginger, Earl Grey tea and peppercorns to give it a little extra spiciness and angelica and juniper also shine through.

The taste test

And then, the best bit – the taste. There’s a lovely citrus zest from the lime and the complex warmth of the spices comes through to make this a sophisticated treat for the senses.  The overall impression is of a smooth, complex gin featuring classic botanicals in a refreshing. modern style. As with all gins, we think it goes best with a simple premium tonic water, but Olafsson gin is also a dependable gin for cocktail making.  In fact, we think it works particularly well in a Dry Martini, a Gimlet or even a French 75.

Ólafsson Gin: the perfect pour

While we would normally recommend a classic gin and tonic recipe as our perfect pour, for this gin, we’re going to go with a Dry Martini.  That’s partly because it shows off the complexity of this smooth gin, but it also just happens to have been awarded a Gold Medal as the Best Gin for a Martini by the Beverage Tasting Institute, so we thought we’d go with that.  Here’s all you need for a deliciously smooth Icelandic Martini!

Ingredients:

Ólafsson Gin
  • 2 shots of Ólafsson gin
  • 1/2 shot Extra Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 shot Martini Bianco vermouth
  • Ice
  • Lime twist

Method:

  1. First, find yourself a classic Martini glass (even better if it’s been in the freezer for half an hour!)
  2. Next, pour 2 shots of Ólafsson gin, ½ a shot of extra dry vermouth, a ½ shot of Martini Bianco vermouth into a cocktail shaker.
  3. Half fill the shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds.
  4. Strain into the martini glass. 
  5. Peel a twist of lime over the glass and drop into the drink. Et voila!

Enjoy this little piece of Iceland. And don’t forget the ice!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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sloe gin bramble pie

Sloe gin Bramble pie: blackberries, booze and elephants

It’s sloe gin time. There’s no point in pretending any more.  Autumn is well into its stride and winter lies just ahead.  While the last warm bursts of sunshine still make an occasional appearance, it’s only a brief tease before the grey clouds and drizzle take over.  However we believe in the brighter side of life. So, despite the colder weather, we’ll be making the most of this season and taking advantage of all the things we love about this time of year.  The leaves are falling, leaving a satisfying crunch under our feet and a dazzling display of fall colour for our eyes. Here in Barcelona, the sweet potato sellers are out. You can see them huddling around their little stoves selling piping hot yams and bags of roasted chestnuts to keep us warm as the days grow colder.  

Christmas is in the air

Across the world, the Christmas lights are starting to appear in all their festive splendour. They’re strung elegantly across our streets like twinkling diamonds in the night sky.  The sounds of Christmas are all around.  Seasonal carols echo down the streets and blast out of our shops and restaurants.  The terraces are less popular these days and outdoor sipping is best done with a scarf wrapped casually around your neck.  Serious eating and drinking has moved indoors where the vibe is cozy, warm and comforting. The sights and sounds of the coming festivities are starting to build some proper momentum to give us hope and cheer for the colder weather ahead.  We suspect a version of this is happening all around the world as everybody prepares for the cozy days ahead.

Cozy, warm and comforting

So, while we’re on the subject of cozy, warm and comforting, we thought we’d share with you a recipe that will make you feel all of those emotions in one go.  Last year, we introduced you to the delights of the apple and blackberry sloe gin crumble.  This year, we’re going to discover the world of the sloe gin Bramble pie.  This is a gorgeous, heart-warming, stomach-filling dessert that’s perfect for this time of year and it features a delicious dose of sloe gin, our favourite winter warmer.  This is the kind of dessert you want baking in the oven after a long walk in the countryside.  It’s full of fresh, natural ingredients and we think it works really well with a dollop of double cream or a drizzle of hot custard. 

Take it sloe…

And, as you sit back in your comfy chair, soaking up all the heat from that roaring fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin. Home made is best. But if that’s a step too far, we highly recommend a glass of Elephant sloe gin from Germany. Hand made in small batches by artisan gin-makers, this deliciously rich spirit is based on Elephant’s original London Dry gin, but it has been transformed with fresh apples and rare African botanicals. Hand picked sloe berries that have been macerated in the gin have been added to release all their fruity autumn flavours. And at 35% ABV, you’ll only need a little bit. After having some Bramble pie and a glass of sloe, I think a pre-Christmas nap might be in order…

Save the elephants

Don’t forget that 15% of all the funds from the sales of Elephant gin go to foundations fighting the illegal ivory trade. Another reason to raise a glass of sloe.

Sloe gin bramble pie recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2kg blackberries
  • 75 ml sloe gin
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 6 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 medium free-range egg yolk, beaten (to glaze)
  • Seve with hot custard or double cream

For the pastry

  • 200g unsalted butter (room temperature) cubed (plus extra for greasing)
  • 400g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • A decent sized pinch of salt
  • 1 medium egg

Method:

  1. Put the blackberries in a pan with the sloe gin and golden caster sugar. Set over a low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes until you have about 1 litre juice. Drain the blackberries, reserving the juices, then leave to cool completely. Return the juices to the pan and reduce to a thick syrup (see tips). Once the blackberries have cooled, mix them with the cornflour. For the pastry, briefly whizz the butter with the flour, 50g sugar and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly pulse in the egg, then 2 tbsp cold water, until the dough just comes together. Tip onto a floured surface, split into two (roughly two thirds and one third), then roll each into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap each disc in cling film, then chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 210°C/fan190°C/gas 6½ and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Take the larger disc of pastry out of the fridge. Roll it out to 0.5cm thick on a lightly floured surface and use to line the base and sides of a 5cm deep ceramic or metal flan/pie dish measuring about 18cm across the bottom and 23cm across the top. Once you’ve lined the dish with the pastry, spoon in the cooled blackberries. Put the blackberry-filled base in the fridge.
  3. Roll out the second piece of pastry to a 23cm circle. Remove the dish from the fridge and lightly wet the edges of the pastry base. Top with the second layer of pastry and crimp, using your thumb and forefinger, to seal. With a sharp knife, make a few slits and a hole in the top and, if you like, use any pastry trimmings to decorate (re-roll, cut into shapes and affix with a little water). Brush the top with the beaten egg yolk to glaze it. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then glaze again.
  4. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the dish for 2-3 hours so the filling can thicken. Serve the pie in slices straight from the dish, with lashings of cream.

Please note: You won’t need the syrup from the blackberries in this recipe, but it’s great as a base for a gin and tonic. Or drizzle it over sorbets and ice creams (you may need to sweeten it a little). If you’d like a sugary glaze for the pie, sprinkle the pastry with a little demerara sugar before baking. To make sure the filling is heated throughout, push a metal skewer into the centre, then carefully hold it to the back of your wrist. It should feel very hot.
Make the filling and pastry separately up to 2 days in advance, then assemble and bake at the last minute. 


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Oxley Gin

Oxley Gin: the gin that came in from the cold

If you like a classic juniper-forward gin with a twist, then we might have just discovered the perfect gin for you. Welcome to the wonderful world of Oxley Gin, a classic blend of tradition and innovation that delivers one of the most well balanced, smoothest and easiest to drink gins around. With 14 different botanicals (each individual batch is vacuum-sealed and frozen to make sure that the flavour is protected) you’d expect this to be a complex and sophisticated blend – and you’d be right!

So, how did this smooth, juniper-forward classic come about and what’s the secret behind its subtle, elegant flavours?

How it all began

Well, Oxley Gin is now part of the Bacardi family and it all began as an experiment.  In fact, the folks at Oxley spent 8 years developing this beautiful gin.  And along the way, they invented a completely new way of distilling gin. Traditionally, gins are distilled using heat.  This reduces the spirit and the botanicals to vapour.  However, the Oxley team decided to turn conventional wisdom on its head.  Instead of using heat to create the vapour, they did the exact opposite. 

They create an intense vacuum, which reduces the pressure within the still. In turn, this takes the temperature down to around -5C, at which point the spirit (already in its 15th hour of maceration) vapourises.  Then, a cold finger probe (frozen to -100c) is introduced, which returns the vapour back into a liquid with a beautiful, smooth blend of flavours that set this gin in a league of its own

Eight years to make, but worth the wait

Despite being owned by such a big brand, this is still a small batch gin. It took them 8 years and 38 recipes to get it right, but it was worth the wait.  The 14 botanicals include juniper, coriander seeds, vanilla, grapefruit peel, cassia bark, grains of paradise, nutmeg and cocoa nibs.  The cold distilling process means that the gin leads with a big hit of fresh fruit, citrus , herbs and floral flavours for a delightfully smooth, yet complex gin that works very well in a standard G&T but which also adds a rich complexity to cocktails.

Plus, the bottle is as classy as the gin itself. Tall, with a short neck, it tapers into a textured, indented base. It is decorated front and back with a classic rectangular, green edged label which contains the recipe number and the unique batch number

So, what exactly does it taste like?

Well this is one classy gin!  On the nose, you’ll find licorice notes alongside orange and tangerine, followed by a smooth (but unmistakable) juniper blast.  Then, when you take a sip, you start to get a sense of the complexities that lie within. One by one, you start to unravel the botanicals within and peppery notes and complex aromas begin to appear.  It all finishes with a clean, sweet finish that lingers with a delicate mintiness, lengthened by a touch of aniseed, juniper and even a little mace. 

The perfect serve: Oxley classic Dry Martini recipe

This is one of those rare gins that is so smooth and mellow that it can be sipped neat (or with a bit of water to bring out all the tastes).  It also works brilliantly in cocktails that require a smooth, well balanced taste profile that complements rather than detracts from the cocktail itself.  And,  like most classic gins, we think it makes a great G&T. 

At 47% ABV, this gin is no shrinking Violet, but its subtle composition doesn’t allow the alcohol taste to be over dominant, allowing for a great G&T.  But its smooth, subtlety means that it is a perfect companion for a classic Dry Martini.  With its delicate flavours and smooth, mellow tones, it works really well in a 3:1 ratio with a dash of orange bitters that allows the botanicals to shine through delivering a crisp, complex and delicate drink.  Best garnished with a little orange zest to bring out the best of the citrus notes, this could become your “go to” brunch cocktail.  We think you’ll enjoy it…

Ingredients:

  • 45 ml Oxley Gin
  • 15 ml Noilly Prat vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Orange zest

Method:

  1. Stir all the ingredients over ice
  2. Strain into a martini cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with orange zest

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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a gin zombie

A Gin Zombie: no tricks, just a Halloween treat

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

After a couple of years where Covid managed to transform our once busy Halloween streets full of children dressing up as ghosts and goblins into what seemed like genuine scenes from a post apocalyptic Zombie movie, a Gin Zombie seems like the ideal cocktail to usher in the Halloween feast. Now, that life is returning to normal the ghosts and ghouls can return for their biggest night of the year. It feels like Halloween is back.

Be prepared for fright night

Whether you like it or not, those pesky kids will be ringing your bell again this year demanding treats and punishing anybody who dares to deny them unlimited access to sugar and candy.  Some of you will have prepared for this for months and will have bags of candy at the ready for anybody who rings your doorbell. Others will turn the lights out, lock the doors and hide in the back room until the threat has passed.

But whether you are hiding from the kids or fully embracing the spirit of Halloween yourself, an appropriate cocktail can help to make your evening a pleasure, not a chore. And that’s when our thoughts turn to Zombies. The cocktails, not the living dead.

High spirits

The Zombie first rose to popularity back in the 1960s as part of the Tiki cocktail revolution inspired by the slightly tacky, legendary (and tongue in cheek) Trader Vic’s.  But its history stretches further back into the mists of time.

The original Zombie is centred around 3 types of rum. They then add a bit of apricot brandy, some lime juice, some pineapple juice and a dash of grenadine. But, as you’d expect, we’ve switched up and adapted the original for our favourite spirit, gin and turned it into a Gin Zombie.

So, if you’re looking for a little something to keep your spirits high as the ghosts and ghouls stalk your neighbourhood, then fear not. Lock the door, turn the lights down and mix up a Halloween gin treat.  And that way, you get to eat all the candy yourself!!

Introducing the Gin Zombie

Ingredients:

  • Old Tom gin 1 oz
  • Navy Strength gin 1 oz
  • London Dry gin 1 oz
  • ¼ oz lime juice
  • ¾ oz grapefruit juice
  • ¾ oz elderflower liqueur
  • ½ oz grenadine
  • ¼ oz ginger syrup
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters

Method:

  1. Put some ice cubes into a cocktail shaker with the 3 gins, lime juice, grapefruit juice, elderflower liqueur, grenadine, ginger syrup
  2. Pour into a chilled glass without straining (hurricane glass works well here)
  3. Add a large dash of Angostura bitters to the mix and float a little extra Navy proof gin on the top of the mix
  4. Decorate with a wedge of pineapple or and a slice of lime
  5. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top and serve

Happy Halloween everybody!!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Hot Gin Toddy

Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and gold and purple.  It’s a time of year when we appreciate every day of sunshine as we get ready for the inevitable winter weather ahead. It’s nature’s transition time and it follows a rhythm as old as the earth. We dig out the scarves and the Wellington boots and seek refuge in long country walks.  Sometimes this manifests itself in the glory of warm shaft of sunlight on your face. Other days, it shows itself in your breath, visible in the colder air.

The season of mists, mellow fruitfulness…and colds

In North America it is the season of Halloween costumes, pumpkin carving and family gatherings around the Thanksgiving table.
In the UK, it’s all about long country walks through gorgeous foliage. The trees are in their ultimate glory, lighting up the countryside with a rich tapestry of colours. The lure of a gorgeous country pub with a roaring fireplace, comfy chairs and convivial company keeps the walkers motivated whatever the weather.
In Barcelona, the sun still shines, but  it’s a time of transition. Some hot days, some colder days, but the sky stays blue and the locals still pile on the autumn clothes, wrapped in scarves and enjoying a welcome relief from the heat of summer.

But this seasonal uncertainty has its consequences.  The frequent temperature changes, the wetter weather and the chillier days and nights mean that it is also a time when we all become subject to seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu. And we’re delighted to let you know that gin can be a great ingredient in your winter recovery plan.  You might have read our recent article about the healthy properties of gin. Well, here’s more good news. Hot gin toddies are here to save your day!

Having just succumbed to my first major cold of the season, complete with stuffed up nose, headache, constant sneezing, a chesty cough and what seemed like a river flowing through my nose, I mixed myself up one of these.  And the results were great.

What is a hot toddy and how does it help?

Well, one thing a hot gin toddy won’t do is cure your cold. But it can be a big help in managing your symptoms and helping you to feel better until the infection leaves your system. Tradtionally, the home made remedies are made with honey, lemon, hot water and alcohol. The customary booze for this remedy is whiskey but, as you’d expect, we think gin is a great substitute. And here’s the reason why.

The complex botanicals in gin are opened up nicely by the addition of hot water. Choose a good gin (with a flavour profile that suits your taste) and suddenly taking your medicine gets a whole lot easier. In fact, the flavour release is so effective that you don’t need to add tea (or anything else, for that matter). Drier gins may work better for this concoction and its best to add water that is just at the end of its simmer to get the best from the gin. And there’s even more good news – this cold cure tastes great and only has 120 calories!

How does a hot gin toddy work?

Well, let’s take one ingredient at a time.

  • Hot water – hot water seems to have the effect of clearing congestion. But remember, not too hot. Just 45 seconds in a microwave should do the trick and release all the aromas and flavours of the botanicals within.
  • Lemon juice – Vitamin C is the best thing for fighting colds and flu. Lemons are chock-full of antioxidants that have been shown to be good at fighting colds. According to studies, regular doses of vitamin C can reduce the length and strength of a cold and regular intake can stop you getting one on the first place.
  • Honey – this natural treat has been playing a significant role in treating cold symptoms for hundreds of years. Not only is it packed with natural goodness, but it’s also really good at soothing sore throats, reducing coughs and helping to improve sleep quality.
  • Gin – the alcoholic content in gin is a great decongestant. It helps dilate the blood vessels making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection. Plus, if you have one of these before bedtime, it can also make you a little drowsy, helping you to get a good night’s sleep – essential to a strong recovery.

Toddy tips:

  1. Use a juniper forward gin if possible. It’s bold flavours bring the best out of this drink
  2. High strength gins work better. Navy strength gins work particularly well.
  3. Use hot water, not boiling water. 30-45 seconds in the microwave should brng the best out of the botanicals

Hot Gin Toddy recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • ¾ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 oz hot water
  • Garnish with cinnamon stick or clove (other garnishes are available!)

Method:

  1. Gather your ingredients
  2. Add the gin, lemon juice and honey into an Irish coffee glass, brandy snifter or mug
  3. Heat your water to a high simmer, ad to glass and stir to dissolve honey
  4. Garnish with cinnamon stick, clove or a slice of lemon

Please note: alcohol may interact negatively with other cold treatment remedies, so be careful.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble

Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul

Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer sun.  But there is an inevitability about the seasons that we just can’t ignore and we know that these months are the start of a gentle transition into the colder, darker, wetter days of winter ahead.

New season, new flavours

Fall in America is accompanied by hot cider and pumpkin pies as the last of the summer harvest is turned into delicious, sweet, spicy desserts.  In the UK, mulled wine, hot toddies and sloe gins begin to make an appearance alongside comfort food that is made to keep your soul and spirit warm for the cold months ahead. Think natural blackberry and apple crumble with sweet, rich custard drizzled lovingly from above.  In Barcelona, the sun still shines in a blue sky but the weather cools and the mood changes to something softer and gentler.  The locals take their city back from the tourists and enjoy the autumn colours from their front row seats on the terrazas and bars, dipping freshly made churros into hot chocolate so thick you can stand your spoon up in it.  Every country and region has its own autumn traditions.

Sloe-ly does it…

Last year, we introduced you to our friends Hamish and Jenny, who put aside time every autumn to forage in the English countryside for ripe sloe berries to star in their amazing home made sloe gin.  If that sounds like something you’d like to try, you might want to check out this little interview we did with them last year, in which they reveal their most closely guarded secrets for making a truly delicious sloe gin.  This warming, sweet, aromatic drink is a perfect drink to beat the chill on those cold days.  It’s rich, fruity warmth is ideal for a hip flask to accompany your outdoor activities.  But it’s also a perfect aperitif before a hearty lunch and is equally at home as an after dinner drink. The perfect end to a convivial dinner.

Or is it?

A taste of autumn with a sloe gin twist

We think that we may have found something even more delicious for you to try.  We’ve searched high and low for a great Autumn recipe that will warm you up from the inside out.  We think this rich, boozy crumble, packed with ripe Autumn fruits is the ultimate comfort food.  The cast of ingredients includes sweet juicy apples, sharp, bright blackberries and the secret ingredient – loads of rich, delicious, boozy sloe gin. This classic autumn dish has a depth and complexity that sets it apart from the rest. Plus, it’s packed with toasted pistachios and almonds for the crunchiest topping ever to offer a nice contrast to the juicy softness of the fruit that lies within.  

We think this sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble is the perfect way to end a long, lazy, Sunday lunch.  One of those lunches when nobody is in a hurry to leave because inside is so much more appealing than outside.  Especially if you’re in a cozy pub, drying out your feet in front of a roaring fire in the company of good friends.

So, here’s a simple, easy to make recipe that will warm you up on those gorgeous autumn days and warm your heart from the inside.

Sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 900g apples (Bramley apples are ideal)
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 250g blackberries
  • 5 tbsp sloe gin

For the crumble topping:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g oats
  • 75g butter, cubed
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • Handful of toasted almond flakes

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180c and fill large bowl with water
  2. Add the lemon juice
  3. Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks
  4. Add them to the water as you cut them to prevent discoloring
  5. Drain and transfer to a baking dish (approx 2.3l)
  6. Toss with the sugar and bake for 20 mins (until tender)
  7. Mix together the flour and the oats and use your fingers to rub in the butter
  8. Stir in the sugar, spices and pistachios and put aside
  9. Add the blackberries and sloe gin to the baking dish and toss to distribute
  10. Scatter over the crumble topping and pack down gently before topping with almonds
  11. Return to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until the topping is golden and the fruit juices bubble up around the edges
  12. Remove from oven and serve with generous servings of custard
  13. Pull your chair closer to the fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin and enjoy…

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med

Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value Spanish gin. It has been offering excellent flavour at a great price for many years. It’s become one of those gins that you should always have behind your bar.  And it’s a gin with a history that goes back to early 19th century Malaga, when the Larios family moved into the distillation business.  

Since then, Larios has been building a solid reputation across Europe before being bought by the Pernod-Ricard Group back in 1997 before ending up with the Beam Suntory group. This partnership has catapulted Larios into the big time and it is now the number one gin in Spain and continental Europe and one of the top 10 gins internationally.

Expanding the brand…

Once the brand was built and established, they did what many gin brands have done over the last decade – look for ways to expand with new flavours and propositions.  I thought I’d tried most of them, including their original London Dry version (now rebranded as Larios Mediterranea). With its subtle notes of juniper and orange peel, this is a gin you should always keep in your cupboard just in case). I’ve also tried the sumptuous Larios Citrus (with a bitter orange sweetness that gives Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla a run for its money) as well as Larios 12, their premium version, with its 12 exotically sourced botanicals and its complex flavour balances. 
I’ve also heard good things about Larios Rose. One day, I’m looking forward to trying Indigo by Larios with its deep blue Macedonian juniper berries and citrus notes.  And I thought that was about it for the Larios range.

And then, I stumbled across Larios Provenzal while perusing the Duty Free store at Gatwick airport. At just over £12 for 1 litre, it was too good a bargain to refuse. I slipped one into my basket and boarded the plane in anticipation of a nice welcome home cocktail once I had landed back in Barcelona.
And I’m pleased to say, that’s exactly what I did.

Larios Provenzal: exclusive and elusive

Larios Provenzal is an unusual and particularly elusive gin – and now I know why it to be “as rare as hen’s teeth”.  This gin appears to be a “one off” that has been created exclusively for travel retail. That’s why it can only be found at duty free stores, so keep your eye out for it as travel starts to open up again.  It comes in the same distinctively shaped bottle as all the other Larios brands, but this one has a particularly attractive green label that somehow transports you to a Provencal forest.  

A corn base for a smoother taste

This gin has been exclusively created for travelers and it features four distillations of wild juniper.  But what makes Larios Provenzal different is that it uses a corn base during distillation.  The purpose of this is to smooth out the flavour profile of the gin. Once they are happy with the smoothness of the base, they then flavour the resulting liquid with a selection of Mediterranean fruits and herbs. The result is an easy to drink gin with a twist that is both unique and exclusive.  Well that’s what the PR material says, but does this drink live up to its promotion?

There’s only one way to find out…

The perfect pour

I tried this as a perfect G&T.  Larios is as Spanish as it comes, so a large copa glass was the obvious choice for my new experience.  I gingerly dropped two giant, round tonic water ice cubes from my mold into the glass. Then, I squeezed a juicy lemon wedge directly over the ice and wiped the wedge around the rim. Then I dropped it into the glass (with a satisfying “plop”) and drizzled a generous double shot of Larios Provenzal over the ice cubes.  Finally, I poured a bottle of Fever Tree Premium tonic water over the blend to naturally shake up and mix it all together before the big reveal.

Citrus notes and herbal overtones: a taste of the Med

The first thing you notice is the colour – the liquid has a lovely herbaceous green tint that works well with the new label. The packaging instantly transports you to Provence. On the nose, this gin delivers instantly with notes of rosemary, thyme and basil up front.  This is all rounded off with a soft injection of citrus from the oranges and lemons that Larios have become known for.  And then, the all important taste test.  Smooth and well balanced (as promised) with an unmistakable Mediterranean character and a refreshing blast of juniper. So far, so good. 

Sweet, smooth and complex

Larios Provenzal has all the ingredients of a great gin. But that corn base gives it a distinctive sweetness that feels a little unfamiliar to a palette more used to drier, juniper forward gins. It’s this subtle sweetness that pervades the overall taste – and sometimes even dominates it.  If you’re looking for a traditional dry, crisp gin this is probably not the one for you.  But if your tastes errs on the side of sweetness and smoothness, this will not disappoint.  

Just the tonic

At first sip, it was not what I’d expected but now that my brain has caught up with my senses, this gin is really growing on me.  I served it with a Fevertree Indian Tonic water, but I suspect this will also go really well with the new generation of flavoured tonic waters such as the delicious Franklin & Sons Rosemary and Olive tonic water. It would also work with a Fevertree Mediterranean or even a ginger beer topper.  Garnishings can range from Basil leaves to toasted Rosemary sprigs and from lemons to oranges depending on your taste.  This will also be an excellent cocktail ingredient for any gin drink that requires smooth, sweet herbal and citrus notes.  

I have a feeling that this is a gin that will divide opinion.  It may not be to everyone’s tastes but give it a chance. I did and I keep going back for more, so it must be good after all.



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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