I have learned from bitter experience, their Punk IPA, actually, to treat BrewDog’s products with a degree of caution, having got uproariously drunk on it at the 100 Club in London, another story for another time perhaps. Founded by James Watt and Martin Dickie and brewing in the Aberdeenshire town of Fraserburgh, they made hay, surfing the craze for craft ales. They raised money through four rounds of crowdfunding, attracting some 50,000 Equity Punks. Somewhat controversially, they cashed out a couple of years ago by selling 22% of the equity to American Private Equity investors, TSG Consumer Partners, who also own Pabst.
Such is BrewDog’s brand profile and almost cult-like following that there was an air of inevitability about the fact that the lure of the ginaissance would prove hard to resist. In July 2019 they launched their take on a London Dry gin, Zealot’s Heart, and having been diverted recently by flavoured gins and one’s that changed colour, it was a pleasure to get back to brass tacks. In characteristic BrewDog fashion, this is a gin not for the faint-hearted in either its presentation or its taste.
The bottle is an impressive piece of work, a vibrant blue which comes from the glass and not the contents, together with a glass stopper. The labelling at the front is an appealing mix of gold background with black lettering and at the centre an anatomical illustration of a heart with a sprig of juniper berries around it. Below the heart are to be found more juniper berries and other botanicals and if you look closely you will see a skull and cross bones on the left-hand side and more bones and the number 197, representing the recipe number, on the right.
The label on the rear gives more information, telling me that “it is made from scratch in our unique triple-bubble still. This extreme copper contact delivers uncompromising character and flavour. We are fanatical about our botanicals, citrus, pepper, spice, only the worthiest are selected. But ultimately it is in juniper that we trust, the beating heart of a gin made by zealots, for zealots”. A wonderful statement of intent and if you are brave to take a bottle, you cannot say you haven’t been warned.
Even more impressively, in my book, they list the botanicals that go into their home-made grain spirit – juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, Thai lemongrass, grapefruit peel, lavender flower, all spice, goji berries, meadowsweet, lemon peel, mace, kaffir lime leaves, Szechuan peppercorn, sansho peppercorn and grains of paradise. That’s a heck of a lot, I always think that less is more, but if they can get it all to work in their 44% ABV spirit, they have pulled off quite a trick.
With some trepidation, desperately hoping that my expectations would not be dashed, I opened the bottle. The aroma was intense, containing a heady hit of juniper, tempered, but only just, by the citrus elements. In the glass, the spirit was a little oily, it louched when tonic was added, and had an earthy feel about it. The immediate flavour in the mouth was juniper which did not go away, although as I rolled the spirit around in my mouth, the citrus zests came in to play before the headier floral elements made their presence felt. The aftertaste was strong and pleasantly warming and spicy.
Despite my concerns about the number of botanicals used, it was a well-balanced, complex drink but what they said on the label was right. This is first and foremost a heavily juniper-led spirit. In other words, a gin for people who like gin. Hooray for that.
Until the next time, cheers!