khao san

Khao San gin: a fiery trip back to Thailand

Khao San Gin – the spirit of South East Asia and named after a street I remember well. 
It was many years ago now when I flew to Thailand to meet my girlfriend. She’d been backpacking across Asia for 6 months.  I’d heard her saying how she had been dreaming of hot showers and clean sheets. I thought I’d surprise her with a couple of nights at a smart hotel for a bit of soul-reviving luxury. She met me at the airport with a big banner welcoming me to her world and after a giant hug, I told her my plan to whisk her off for a few days of comfort. But the look on her face was not at all what I expected. 

The street that changed my life…

Instead of a broad, happy smile, an unmistakable look of disappointment appeared.  When I asked her what was wrong, she was very clear. She didn’t see the point of coming all the way to South East Asia and then staying in a cookie-cutter American hotel.  The whole point of travelling, she said, was getting in among the people and experiencing life a bit differently.  She told me about a street called Khao San Road, where adventures were to be had.  That conversation changed my life and led to 20 years of backpacking that I still find hard to give up.

The next day, we checked out of our characterless, modern hotel and checked in to a small, Chinese B&B just off the main Khao San strip, built around a pretty courtyard.  It had the best banana pancakes in town and it was less than $10 a night.  And that was where our adventure really began. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered that Tarsier were bringing out Khao San Road gin, infused with red chili peppers, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf (three of my favourite ingredients). I just had to try it. And this is what I found.

The back (packer) story

Well, here’s the thing. It seems like the folks behind Khao San gin had a similar experience to my own. Inspired by the sights, smells and sounds of this buzzing backpacking district, they harnessed the flavours they found on the street and created an amazing gin.
They cold-distill their three prime ingredients separately in a vacuum still before blending it with an additional 10 botanicals. Everything in the gin is carefully selected to conjure up the sights, smells and sounds of Thailand. In fact, the gin has been bottled at exactly 41.2% ABV, a little nod towards the length of the street which is exactly 412 metres long. 

Virtual reality

But, not satisfied with real world senses such as taste and smell, they’ve also come up with another clever idea to take you right to the heart of this buzzing street. Point your mobile phone toward the QR code on the back label of Khao San gin and click.  You’ll immediately be transported to a fabulous collection of content that is iconic to this famous road. See photos, videos and recipes that will allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bangkok without leaving the house.  Very handy in these quarantine times. 
But enough of the marketing – the real question is does it taste good. And the answer is a resounding YES!

The verdict

Khao San Gin is made by the team at Tarsier Spirits and they’ve packed a big blast of flavour into a beautiful bottle. The result is a fragrant, spicy gin with plenty of juniper up front. There’s loads of citrus in there from the Kaffir lime, which cuts through the peppery heat from the chilli peppers. There is also a subtle, fragrant lemongrass flavour that is unmistakably Thai and which is a nice counterpoint to the fire of the chilli. But running through it all, there is still an unmistakable piney juniper reminding you that this is, after all, primarily a London Dry gin.

Plus, the squat, white bottle is as beautiful as the gin it contains, with a show-stopping red label featuring a large chilli, so you will be in no doubt of what the main ingredient is here. The bottle is then finished off elegantly with a stylish wooden stopper. It is bound to enhance any gin shelf and the virtual reality label offers an extra level of fun and fascination.

The perfect serve

We think this is so good, you really won’t want to dilute it with a flavoured mixer. Instead, we say serve this tall, in a Collins glass.

  1. Fill up your Collins glass to the top with large ice cubes.
  2. Pour in the required amount of Khao San Gin.
  3. Cut a large fresh lime wedge and squeeze it directly into the glass.
  4. Rub the rim of the glass with what’s left of the lime.
  5. Fill the glass to the top with a freshly opened premium Indian tonic water such as Fentimans or Fever Tree.
  6. Then garnish it with a thin lime wheel or a spicy, dried red chilli pepper.
  7. Take a sip, turn on the VR and you could almost be back in Thailand.

This may be as close as we all get for a while.



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

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
  • 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

RECENT POSTS

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
  • 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
5 kinds of gin

5 kinds of gin: do you know the difference?

5 kinds of gin, really?

When most people think of gin, they think of England. It’s the classic, buttoned up English drink with hints of Empire, straw hats and times past.  But you couldn’t be more wrong. 
While it is true that the English adapted and popularised this juniper juice in the 18th century, its origins are not British at all, but Dutch.  Before it hit our shores, a drop of Dutch Courage (gin) was administered to calm the jagged nerves of those about to go into battle. The Brits liked this Jenever gin and wanted some for themselves.  But they altered forever the rich, almost smoky taste of the original by adapting the recipe. The result is what we now think of as traditional English gin styles, such as London Dry, Old Tom and Plymouth gin.  

The gin revolution begins

Now, fast forward to the 2010s, when the good people of Barcelona spotted a way of pumping up the style and invented the copa of gin (otherwise known as the Gin Tonic).  For the first time, gin and tonics were lovingly complemented with garnishes, herbs and exotic fruit to bring out the drink’s deeper aromas and flavours.  Once these gin pioneers had kick-started the gin revolution, small batch distillers and mixologists started to reappraise this extraordinary drink.
A decade later, there are more than 250 craft distilleries in the UK alone cranking out exceptional gins.  Craft distillers are pushing the boundaries of mixology further than ever.  Spain is not far behind with hundreds more dotted around the country. And Germany is a big player too. Even the Japanese are on the bandwagon! 

How many have you tried?

Genever gin

Genever ginThis is where it all began. Genever gin is the forerunner of modern gin. First heard of in 16th century Holland it is much maltier and more savoury than contemporary gins. This is due to the fact that it is distilled from malt wine spirits instead of neutral grain. It also works really well in a gin old-fashioned.  Originally, Genever was made by distilling malt to 50% ABV and then adding herbs to disguise the bitter taste, but it’s got much better since then. These days, there are two main types: Jonge Genever (Young Genever) has a neutral taste with a slight aroma of juniper and malt wine.  The second style is Oude Genever (Old Genever), aged in wood and with a maltier, smokier taste that is more reminiscent of whisky.

London Dry

London Dry ginContrary to popular opinion, London Dry gin doesn’t have to come from London. Or even the UK.  It is simply the name of a style that originated there in the aftermath of the genever wave. It is a very juniper forward style (as you would expect) and generally has citrus, angelica root and coriander as its other key flavours. Often bottled at high proof levels, this gin is great for cocktails, which is why it has become one of the most widely known gin styles on the planet.  This style became dominant and originally became known as Dry Gin to contrast it with its sweeter cousin, Old Tom.  London Dry gin has some additional rules to regular distilled gin.  It must be flavoured exclusively with distilled natural botanicals. No additional flavourings can be added after the distillation process.  In fact, nothing can be added except for neutral spirit, water and a maximum of 0.1 g of sugar per litre.

Old Tom

Old Tom ginA sweet style that developed in the 19th century this gin got its name from its secret history. In order to avoid paying taxes on gin, a certain Captain Dudley Bradstreet from London started selling bootleg gin. He advised people to look for it under the sign of the cat, where he had cleverly placed a lead pipe attached to a funnel on the inside. Customers would put money in the slot and he would dispatch their gin down the pipe directly into their glass, bottle (or even mouth!). Over time, the practice caught on and others started to change their door knockers or signs to feature an Old Tom Cat. Old Tom gin is a sweeter, maltier gin and is sometimes barrel-aged for flavour. It has become a classic ingredient for bartenders and mixologists around the world because it is such a versatile cocktail ingredient and features prominently in classic cocktails such as the Tom Collins.

Plymouth gin

Plymouth ginSmoother than its London relative this is generally produced in the south of England and is a lower strength gin than its big city neighbour. Juniper is less dominant in Plymouth gins, making it a great gin for drinking neat or in a Martini.  Plymouth gin can only be made at the Plymouth Gin Distillery in the beautiful South West of England and pops up frequently on bartenders shelves all over the world. It has a long history, dating back to that late 18th century.  It is the only gin to have its own geographical indication and is still made in the oldest operating gin distillery in the world.  This classic gin is still produced in an ancient still that has been operating for 150 years and it has a subtle, full-bodied flavour which avoids any bitter botanicals.  The result is a an earthy tasting gin with hints of orange and cardamom and a soft, smooth finish with a hint of spice. There are two versions of Plymouth gin – the original (41.2 ABV) and their Navy Strength version (which comes in at a hefty 57% ABV).

Contemporary gin

Contemporary gin The gin revolution that blew in earlier this decade has resulted in a contemporary international selection that could have only been imagined a decade ago. Now, contemporary gin makers are dispensing with tradition and experimenting with new flavours and techniques that are challenging everything we thought we knew about this traditional drink. From the UK to Spain and from Japan to Latin America there’s something for everyone – you are only limited by your imagination.



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

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
  • 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

RECENT POSTS

  • The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North
    Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short).  Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even … Continued
  • Goodbye cocaine and coffee, hello Colombian Treasure gin!
    We’d like to introduce you to the delights of premium Colombian Treasure gin from the folks at Dictador (43% ABV). This deliciously smooth, sugar cane-based gin is packed with local citrus and aged in oak barrels to give it a rich citric smoothness that makes it stand out from the crowd. And it’s well worth … Continued
  • 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