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Posts Tagged ‘Cocktails’

Gin and Tonic Challenge – Sahara Dry Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 26, 2014

Sahara and Tonic SAM_1258Highwood Distillers, who provided my recent sample of Sahara Dry Gin, is a Canadian distillery situated in the town of High River, Alberta, which lies just about 40 minutes due south of Calgary, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The distillery was originally established as the Sunnyvale Distillery in 1974, however it was renamed ‘Highwood Distillers’ in 1984 linking the Distillery geographically to the nearby Highwood River and the scenic foothills in which the Town of High River is situated.

Sahara Dry Gin is produced in the London Dry style from Canadian prairie wheat and naturally sourced Rocky Mountain water. Juniper, Citrus of Lemon, and other botanicals are all added during the final distillation. The gin is as described, very dry; so dry in fact, that the folks at Highwood Distillers named it Sahara.

When I reviewed this local gin I was quite taken in by its lightly bitter, softly dry nature, and I was very enthusiastic about the cocktails which I constructed which included a Lime Fizz, a Lime Gimlet, and of course a Gin and Tonic. During this challenge (about half way through it actually), when I made my G&T cocktail with the Sahara Gin, I was taken in all over again. It was so good that I made the decision to delay its published score such that I could sample it head to head against the other G&T cocktails which populated my leader board, and use it as the yard stick by which I would judge the other Gin and Tonics by. A few of the G&T cocktails which I made came close, but none measured up to the wonderful G&T made with the Sahara Dry Gin.

I think, and I am only guessing here, that it is the wheat base for the gin is what makes everything work so well. Although the Sahara Gin is very dry, it has a softness and a mellow quality which I have noticed before in spirits distilled from wheat. It is this softness combined with the dryness that is making me like the gin so much. In fact in my review, I concluded that this is a paradigm shifting gin which softly rocked my cocktail world!

All of the results from my head to head sampling is completed, and the Best Gin for Gin and Tonic Cocktails is Highwood’s Sahara Dry Gin with an outstanding G&T Score of 91.5/100.

All of my Scores for the Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge can be found here:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my newly published review of Sahara Dry Gin here:

Review: Sahara Dry Gin

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Posted in Awards, Extras, Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Gin and Tonic Challenge – The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 25, 2014

The BotanistBot and Tonic SAM_1260 is the creation of Bruichladdich Master Distiller, Jim McEwan whom I had the opportunity to meet and talk to this past fall when he came to Edmonton to host an exclusive Bruichladdich Tasting at our city’s historic Chateau Louis Hotel. Although the focus of the tasting seminar was the new range of Bruichladdich Single Malt whiskies, Jim did include his new Botanist Islay Dry Gin in the flight of spirits. In fact he spent more than a little time describing to us how the distillery had come to the decision to produce this gin and his own personal journey of discovery which he underwent while he went through the process of researching and producing the first Islay Dry Gin. (Jim McEwan even admitted to trading some of his prized Single Malt Scotch with one of the industries venerable gin producers in return for some of his gin secrets.)

At the end of the tasting, I was invited to talk to Jim, and he offered to pour me another glass of my favourite spirit from the tasting. Although, I had tasted a range of Single Malts which included spirits 12 years old (and older), Mr. McEwan did not seem at all surprised when I asked for a second glass of The Botanist straight up with no ice. It was, in my opinion, the star of the afternoon.

I finished my review of this lovely gin last night after and one of my conclusions was that it is not only a great cocktail gin, it is also equally enjoyable as a sipping spirit which is most unusual in the gin category.  of course this means, it scored rather well in my G&T Challenge landing near the very top of the leader board.

My G&T Score for the Botanist Gin is a very high 90.5/100 points.

By now you all know that you do not have to keep track of these scores yourself, as I have constructed a separate page to keep a running tally of all scores as they are published:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my newly published review of The Botanist Islay Dry Gin here:

Review: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

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Note: I received my sample bottle of The Botanist Gin from the local distributor, Select Wines.

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Gin and Tonic Challenge – No. 3 London Dry Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 22, 2014

London No. 3 SAM_1251Berry Bros. & Rudd is London’s oldest wine and spirits merchant with over 300 years of experience and tradition to draw on. Using this expertise and a team of spirits experts they created No. 3 London Dry Gin. I first sampled the No. 3 Gin a few years ago at a store called Lacombe Park Spirits in St. Albert, Alberta. I had come to know the proprietors, Karim and his brother Jeff, quite well, and when Karim discovered that I was about to venture into a series of Gin reviews he insisted that I try one of his favourites. I was convinced after one sip that this was a gin which I wanted to review, and after contacting the website for No. 3 London Dry Gin, Ross Hendry from Berry Brothers & Rudd, arranged for me to receive a bottle sample with the help of the local distributor Charton Hobbs.

No. 3 London Dry Gin uses only 6 botanicals in its construction, Juniper, Spanish Orange Peel, Grapefruit Peel, Angelica Root, Coriander, and Cardamom Pods. In my review, I note how each of these botanicals (with the juniper taking a strong lead) leaves its imprint upon the spirit, and how in particular, the dry juniper flavour shone through the cocktails I built. When I built a few G&T cocktails this past  weekend with my sample bottle of No. 3 Gin I again noticed the strong flavour of the gin running through the mixed drink. In fact an obvious ribbon of juniper permeated the cocktail which gave the drink a firm lightly bitter flavour and somewhat drier than usual mouth feel. It is of course a matter of taste; but I found that light bitter dryness of the G & T cocktail extremely refreshing. I did, at the same time however, find that the elegant simplicity of this London Dry Gin seemed to be (for my palate anyways) better suited to be mixed in a Dry Martini. And to be honest, that will be the more likely destiny of the rest of my sample bottle.

My G&T Score for the No. 3 London Dry Gin is a solid 86/100. If I was to award a Dry Martini Score, it would have been much higher (perhaps next year).

You may find a running tally of all of the G&T Scores here:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my published review of London Number. 3 Gin here:

Review: No. 3 London Dry Gin

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Gin and Tonic Challenge – Hayman’s Old Tom Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 20, 2014

SAM_1246Old Tom Gin represents a style of gin which was popular in 18th Century England prior to the introduction of London Dry Gin. According to gin lore, Old Tom Gin derived its name from Captain Dudley Bradstreet who in the early 1700’s purchased property in London which had a good amount of gin on the premises. He set a picture of a “tom cat” upon the window facing outside and allowed word to be spread that gin was available at the establishment with the cat in the window. A passerby who wanted a shot of gin would place a penny in a slot in the wall under the windowed cat which would roll into the establishment signalling the bartender inside to pour out a shot of gin which would be funneled into a tube running through the wall. The passerby would either drink it  directly from the tube or collect it to consume later. Apparently this practice spread throughout London, and gin generically became know as that ‘Old Tom’ Gin in reference to the Tom Cat which signaled the presence of gin within an establishment.

Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is said to be produced from an old English recipe which can be traced to the 18th century prior to the introduction of the Coffey Still. However, many old cocktail books from the 19th century still refer to Old Tom Gin in their recipes, and the recent cocktail renaissance has led to a renewed demand for the Old Tom Style.

In my review for Hayman’s Old Tom, I concluded that this softer style of gin yearns for a variety of different ingredients to mix with. As well, I noted that it isn’t necessarily a natural fit  naturally for the traditional Gin and Tonic Cocktail which would more typically be constructed with a London Dry Gin. However, as the Hayman’s Gin is the only Old Tom I have access to, I decided to include it in my challenge. I found that when I used both Lemon and Lime to build my G&T (see recipe here), the results were actually quite pleasant. (A drop or two of grapefruit bitters is a great addition as well!)

My resulting  G&T Score for Hayman’s Old Tom gin is a respectable 82/100 points!

You may find my running tally of all of the G&T Scores here:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my published review of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin here:

Review: Hayman’s Old Tom

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Note: According to their website, Hayman Distillers is the longest serving family owned gin distiller in England today. Their Old Tom Gin has recently arrived in the Alberta market imported by Lifford Spirits who provided me with a bottle to review upon my website.

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Gin and Tonic Challenge – Beefeater 24

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 19, 2014

Beefeater 24Beefeater 24 and T SAM_1250  is advertised as being handcrafted with 12 botanicals which include grapefruit, bitter almond, orris root, Seville orange peel, rare Japanese Sencha tea and Chinese green tea. This makes Beefeater 24 gin more complex in construction than the previously reviewed Beefeater London Dry Gin which listed 9 ingredients in its construction. There are other differences as well, the major one being that in my market, Beefeater 24 is bottled at a significantly higher proof (45 % versus 40 % alcohol by volume) which to me is very welcome indeed. As well, all of the ingredients for the newer gin are apparently steeped in grain alcohol for 24 hours prior to a 7 hour distillation where the master distiller makes an artisan cut by hand from the heart of the distillation run.

Beefeater 24 Gin is crisp, fresh and delightful in the glass. The flavours are balanced with the juniper and citrus zest forming a wonderful duo upon the palate. In my review, I admit that once I made my first Gin and Tonic with this spirit, I spent the next couple of days making more. When I re-tested the spirit for my Gin and Tonic Challenge this week, I fell in love with the Beefeater 24 all over again. Of course this means that the Beefeater 24 Gin scored very well.

My G&T score for this fabulous gin is 89.5/100 points.

You may find my running tally of all of the G&T Scores here:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my published review of Beefeater 24 here:

Review: Beefeater 24 Gin

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Gin and Tonic Challenge – Bombay Sapphire Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 18, 2014

Bombay Sapphire & Tonic SAM_1253Bombay Sapphire is a brand of gin owned and distributed by Bacardi. It was launched in 1987 and draws its unusual name from a competition where several marketing agencies were asked to submit possible names and bottle designs for the new Gin. Bombay Sapphire, the chosen name, refers to the British Empire and the heritage for the spirit in India as gin was an extremely popular spirit during the time of the British Raj. The Star of Bombay (featured on the label) is a famous Indian Sapphire now on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

Bombay Sapphire is produced through a double distillation of a neutral grain spirit with botanicals added during the second distillation. The botanicals used in its production are, Spanish almonds and lemon peel, West African grains of paradise, Chinese licorice, juniper berries from Tuscany, orris root from Italy, angelica root from Saxony, coriander seed from Morocco, cassia bark from Indo China, and cubeb berries from Java.

When I reviewed this spirit I commented upon how well-balanced its flavours were which made it hard for me to distinguish individual botanicals. However, one aspect of the flavour which did stand out (with the juniper of course) was the vibrant citrus. When I mixed my Gin and Tonic cocktails for this challenge, I found that the push of fruit worked particularly well when I replaced the hit of lime in my mixed drink with a hit of lemon instead (see recipe here).

Based upon how nice the resulting Gin and Tonic cocktail tasted with that hit of lemon, my G&T Score for the Bombay Sapphire Gin was 87/100 points.

I am keeping track of all of these scores here:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my published review of Bombay Sapphire here:

Review: Bombay Sapphire Gin

Posted in Awards, Extras, Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Gin and Tonic Challenge – Citadelle Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 16, 2014

Citadelle and Tonic SAM_1243Citadelle Gin has a history which stretches back to 1775 when King Louis XVI authorized two Frenchmen, Carpeau and Stival, to open a genievre distillery at the Citadelle in Dunkirk, which would serve as the Royal Distillery with an exclusive 20 year privilege. The Citadelle Distillery produced about 1000 litres of genievre per day which was predominantly shipped in small casks for sale in England, where gin was very popular.

About 200 years later in 1989,  Alexandre Gabriel of Cognac Ferrand, recognized that in France, gin had become more of an industrial spirit with much of the heritage and refinement lessened by time. He decided to create a handcrafted gin using small copper pots in the style and tradition of the Citadelle Distillery of old. Fortunately records existed of the old gin making techniques at the Citadelle Distillery, and after several years of research Alexandre was successful in distilling an old style handcrafted gin under the Citadelle name at the Cognac Ferrand facilities in Cognac, France.

When I reviewed Citadelle Gin, I noted how well-balanced the flavour was in particular how the spicy cardamom and coriander seemed to play so nicely with the strong push of bitter juniper. This combination resulted in some fantastic cocktails including a recipe I designed called the March Lion. The strong balanced flavours also results in a fantastic Gin and Tonic!

My G&T Score for the Citadelle and Tonic based on my standard cocktail is 89/100.

Just so you do not have to keep track of these scores yourself, I have constructed a separate page to keep a running tally of all scores as they are published, and you may refer to that page here;

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my published review of Citadelle Gin here:

Review: Citadelle Gin

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Posted in Awards, Extras, Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review: 1 Barrel Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 9, 2014

Baron Bliss1 Barrel Rum is a product of Belize, the northernmost mainland country of Central America. A former British Colony, Belize lies just south of Mexico with the Caribbean Sea to the east and Guatemala to the west and south. Travellers Liquors Limited has been involved in the production of 1 Barrel Rum in Belize since the early 1960s originally working with independent distillers. In 1989, Tavellers acquired full control of their own distillery and has remained in full control of the brand ever since.

The 1 Barrel Rum is made from locally grown Belize sugar cane. According to the Travellers’ website, this cane is cut and crushed in a manner which retains its natural flavors, and the all of the rum is aged in Kentucky oak barrels for at least one year.

You may read my review of 1 Barrel Rum by clicking the following excerpt link:

Review: 1 Barrel Rum

“… The aroma from the glass is not overly complex; but it is nice with what I will call a laid back, lightly sweet quality. The initial scents and aromas I receive are very reminiscent of butterscotch and caramel, and I notice some subtle baking spices and a touch of tobacco appearing after I allow the glass to decant …”

Note: Included in the review is a nice tall cocktail (Baron Bliss) which pays homage to Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, more commonly known as Baron Bliss. He was a British-born traveller who bequeathed approximately two million dollars ($US) to a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of what was then (March 9, 1926) the colony of British Honduras. That colony of course is now known as Belize.

Please enjoy the review!

Posted in Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Gin and Tonic Challenge – Caorunn and Tonic

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 5, 2014

Caorunn and TonicCaorunn Gin (a product of Inver House Distillers) is hand-made in small batches (about 1,000 litres per batch). This Scottish gin features (six traditional botanicals; juniper berries, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, and cassia bark and five Celtic non traditional botanicals; rowan berries, heather, bog myrtle, dandelion, and coul blush apple). It is produced using a quadruple distilled grain spirit as its base, with the flavours from the hand-picked botanicals infused into the spirit when the distilled vapour of the final distillation passes through the trays of the Balmenach Distillery’s vintage 1920’s Copper Berry Chamber which of course contains the botanicals.

When I reviewed Caorunn Gin (April 2013) I found that although the spirit had a traditional flavour profile, this traditional flavour was accented by sharp wisps of dandelion and rowan berry flavours. I found these flavour accents mixed very well with lemon juice in the cocktails I constructed. Therefore, in addition to the standard Gin and Tonic  Cocktail (see recipe here) which I was using as my base mixed drink for the competition, I also constructed a modified Gin and Tonic cocktail for Caorunn Gin using a bit of lemon juice in conjunction with the Lime (see recipe here). It turned out that this alternate construction was my preferred G&T cocktail (see photo left) for the Caorunn Gin, and my G&T Score for this gin is based upon the preferred cocktail.

The G&T Score for the Caorunn Gin based on my preferred cocktail is 83.5/100.

Just so you do not have to keep track of these scores yourself, I have constructed a separate page to keep a running tally of all scores as they are published, and you may refer to that page here;

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my published review of Caorunn Gin here (which includes the aforementioned Gin and Tonic #3 Cocktail):

Review: Caorunn Gin

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Note: I should point out that this series of Gin and Tonic Challenge publications occurs in no particular order. Every day or so I shall grab one of the sample Gins from my review shelf and build one or two Gin and Tonics. If that particular gin has not been reviewed on my website, I will publish a review and I will also assign the spirit a G&T Cocktail Score out of 100. Only when all of the featured Gins are have been examined (one at a time) will I declare which Gin I feel is the Rum Howler 2014, best spirit for Gin and Tonics. I plan to have fun this August, I hope you do too!

 

 

 

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Review: El Dorado Spiced Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 30, 2014

ED Spiced-750-USA-cut-CMYKI was privileged recently when I received an invite to visit the facilities of  Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) in Guyana, South America two years ago. During this visit I was given a complete tour of the Diamond Distillery where DDL’s famous El Dorado Rums are produced. This included a tour of the old plant which houses the heritage stills (famous stills from various estates in Guyana some as old as 250 years, all working and still producing rum), and I saw DDL’s new high-capacity five-column distillation plant which is now in operation.

During this trip, I also was able to taste the entire line of El Dorado rums including the new El Dorado Spiced Rum. In fact at the guest house where I was staying, a full bottle of the El Dorado Spiced (and a few others as well) were left for our small Canadian group to enjoy each evening. I snapped a nice picture of the bottle while I was there and spent a little time gathering some tasting notes. At that time the Spiced rum was produced using lightly aged rum which had been produced at the old plant using the old heritage stills.

Georgetown Punch

However, two and a half years have passed and the transition of rum production (for El Dorado’s younger rums) has almost certainly been moved to the new plant and this rum is now entering into the North American Marketplace. I strongly suspect that the El Dorado Spiced rum is now a product of the new distillation plant rather than the old heritage plant, and I have decided to revisit and replace my original review with a more timely review from a current bottle.

You may click on the following excerpt link to read my full analysis:

Review: El Dorado Spiced Rum

“… The rum crosses the palate with sweet flavours of brown sugar melded into cloves and cinnamon with orange peel, nutmeg, and coriander adding additional spicy character. As before,strong notes of vanilla are evident and there is also a light dusting of oak woven into the flavour profile. The heat from the rum is more carefully melded into the firm butterscotch and brown sugar flavours …”

I hope you enjoy my fresh look at the El Dorado Spiced Rum which includes a nice punch style recipe, Georgetown Punch.

Cheers Everyone!

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