Irish gin has come a long way. Building on ancient traditions of whiskey making, a well-known Irish love of a good drink and the growing reputation of Irish cuisine, it’s not surprising that gin is Ireland’s next big thing. And now, there is a mini boom as small batch (and larger) distilleries across Ireland get creative.
The result is a plethora of new gins, often based on locally foraged ingredients, creative thinking and hand-picked (sometimes unusual) botanicals.
Ireland’s brave new world of gin
Ireland is blessed with a new breed of distillers who aren’t afraid to experiment. These brave souls are innovators and the result of their work is a myriad of delicious and imaginative gins including gin made from seaweed, gin made with tea and gin made with Irish heather.
Foraging for local botanicals is also a major theme in Irish gins with everything from locally sourced samphire to sweet Irish honey and from wild heather to spruce appearing in local gin brands. In fact, right now there are around 50 distilleries operating in Ireland and many of these small batch brands are finding a significant market in the UK and beyond.
The St. Paddy’s Day challenge: Bertha versus Dingle
Two of my favourite gins of all time are Irish, so today (in honour of St. Patrick) we thought we’d put my two favourite Irish gins head-to-head to see which is the best.
So, here we go with a little competitive gin review to see who wins the battle of the Irish gins.
We’ve chosen Bertha’s Revenge from County Cork (made in small batches by the Ballyvolane House Spirit’s company using cow’s milk as its base) and Dingle Original Pot Still Gin (made in the Dingle Whiskey distillery on the beautifully rugged Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry, South West Ireland). Both gins are exceptional and brimming with integrity.
But which one tastes better?
Who will win the battle of the Irish gins?
Bertha’s Revenge: ABV 42%
Made in small batches in County Cork, this is an Irish milk gin. That’s right, I said milk. From a cow.
But this was no ordinary cow. This was a cow called Bertha and according to local legend she was at one stage the oldest cow in the world. Having giving birth to around 39 calves during her lifetime, she has now become the inspiration behind one of Ireland’s most unusual (and delicious) gins. Alas, poor Bertha died in 1993. But she lives on in local legend and now she’s been immortalised in the gin that bears her name.
Using whey alcohol, their own natural spring water and locally sourced and foraged ingredients, the team have come up with a truly unique gin that would have made Bertha proud.
On their ingredients list, they mention everything from juniper to coriander, from cinammon to cloves and from elderflower to almonds. Apparently, they’ve also managed to bottle laughter, love and childish enthusiasm, all of which come through with every sip. So, what does this milk gin actually taste of? Well, there is a soft, creamy fragrance up front on the nose. Complex, rich and creamy you know you’re in for a treat. Then take a sip and warming, spicy notes appear in your mouth bursting with complexity and flavours that will keep you guessing. And then, to end there’s a long, smooth finish that leaves a blast of fruit lingering on the taste buds long after the final sip has been taken. All in all, this is a delicious gin.
The perfect serve
We think you should keep this simple so that all the flavours of the gin come out.
- Place some large ice cubes into a highball glass and fill up with ice.
- Squeeze a juicy wedge of lime into the glass and wipe the lime around the rim.
- Pour a large shot of Bertha’s Revenge over the ice.
- Open a fresh bottle of premium tonic water such as Fever Tree and pour gently over the ice.
- Garnish with a slice of lime and sip.
You will be amazed!
Dingle Original Pot Still gin: ABV 42.5%
A two hour drive away, dangling on the edge of Europe, lies the Dingle Peninsular.
Blasted and cleansed by the strong winds blowing across the Atlantic, this is a place of fresh air, green hills, craggy cliffs, dramatic landscapes and crashing waves. And those are the feelings that are evoked by Dingle Gin, made by the Dingle Distillery in Co. Kerry. While this gin is officially classified as a London Dry, its unique flavour combinations take it into new territory through a carefully selected botanical range. These include unusual botanicals such as rowan berry, fucshia, bog myrtle, heather and hawthorn.
These unique flavours are macerated first for 24 hours to bring out the depth and complexity of the spirit. Then, when the spirit is ready, the maceration is passed through a basket in the neck of the still which imbues the gin with the subtle and complex flavours that are so reminiscent of the Kerry landscape. The result of all this work is a deliciously well balanced gin combining nine traditional and home grown botanicals. Each bottle is then cut with pure water taken from their own well, 240 feet below the distillery. But what does it actually taste like?
Well, this gin was named the best in the world at the 2019 World Gin Awards, so they must be doing something right. It is quite sweet and bursting with flavour. Leave it in a glass for a bit to fully appreciate its spicy, floral notes. You can taste the summer berries in every sip – it’s almost “jammy”. Then, just when the fruit blast starts to fade, you’ll pick up loads of fresh herbs including peppery ginger and minty eucalyptus. This is a gorgeous gin with loads of character and is perfect in a cocktail or a long G&T.
The perfect serve
- Serve this in a large highball glass which you have filled with large ice cubes.
- Pour a large measure of Dingle into the glass.
- Wipe a grapefruit wedge around the rim of the glass.
- Top it up with a premium Mediterranean tonic water and finish it all off with a slice of grapefruit.
This is an absolute delight!
Two amazing Irish gins, two great stories, two different tastes – but there can only be one winner.
Despite Dingle’s appearance as one of the world’s best gins in 2019, for me, Bertha’s Revenge wins by the smallest of margins.
I love the complex background of different botanicals, the mix of flavours and the fabulous story of Bertha and her offspring. But most importantly, there is a rich creaminess to this drink that really brings out the flavours in a way that no other gin does. It is complex, and bursting with character. For me, this is right up there amongst my very favourite gins in the world.
Well done Ireland – you have much to be proud of on St. Paddy’s Day.
Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)
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