Strawberry flavoured gins, I find, are too sweet for my taste and so I tend to give them a wide berth. If nothing else, a pairing with balsamic vinegar seemed too intriguing to ignore. Setting my prejudices to one side, I sampled the miniature bottle of Strawberry and Balsamico Gin in my Retro Gin Fridge Tin from That Boutique-y Gin Company, a brand of Tonbridge-based Atom Brands.
The vinegar that has been chosen for this rather unusual gin is not your common or garden balsamic but Aceto di Balsamico tradizionale di Modena DOP, made from cooked Trebbiano grapes and aged for between twelve and 25 years in wooden casks made from chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and juniper. Together with fresh strawberries and strawberry and black pepper distillates, the balsamic is added to a classically-styled gin base and the result is unforgettable.
The gin is a deep tawny red in colour and the sweetness of the strawberry, which hits you as soon as the cap to the bottle is removed, is toned down by the balsamic to make a surprisingly peppery and oaky drink, albeit a tad syrupy. Its finish is warm and woody and makes for an interesting drink, even if it is not one I will be rushing to repeat.
Citrus australasica, to give the finger lime its correct botanical name, is one of those fruits that is becoming increasingly trendy. As its name suggests, it hails originally from the rain forests bordering Queensland and New South Wales and grows on short, thorny trees. It is a tube-shaped fruit which contains pearl-like citrus bubbles in pastel hues of pale green, yellow, coral, and dusky red, which pop like caviar. Botanists are divided as to whether it is technically a citrus, but so popular has this most gourmet of bush tucker become that it has been grown commercially since the mid-1990s.
Finger Lime Gin celebrates this fruit in spirit form. The immediate sensation upon removing the bottle’s cap is one of lemon and lime with juniper and spices filling in the background. A clear spirit, the citrus elements come to the fore initially in the mouth. As the flavours settle, it has a distinctive floral quality, and the finish is surprisingly short and perfumed. It is a refreshing drink, which would go down exceptionally well on a warm summer’s evening.
Cherries are not a fruit I would have naturally associated with gin but That Boutique-y Gin Company’s Cherry Gin is a valiant attempt to rectify that misimpression. Using sweet and sour Mascara cherries and distilling in the finest sloe gin tradition, the dark red spirit reminded me, on opening the bottle, of a well-seasoned Christmas cake. In the mouth the initial hit was of sourness from the cherries until the spicier elements led by juniper came to the fore before retreating to allow the sweetness of the sweet cherries and orange to linger at the end. It was a heavier and drier spirit than I had imagined, but of the fruit gins in the pack, this was my favourite.
The Retro Gin Fridge tin certainly allowed me to explore some botanicals and some combinations that I had not encountered before. That is the joy of a tasting pack. It allows you to experiment and broaden your horizons. If one is not to your taste, put it down to experience and move on.
Until the next time, cheers!