Category Archives: Gin

Kyrő Pink Gin

In England all the best ideas are hatched in a pub. In Finland, it would seem, are laid in a sauna. While drinking rye whisky in a sauna, a group of friends began pondering why rye whisky was not distilled in Finland. From that seed of an idea the Kyrő distillery was created. As well as whisky, they distil liquors and gins, including their Pink Gin.

Rye as a base for the spirit that goes to make a gin may seem an odd choice because of its temperamental character, but right from the outset the Kyrő team decided that they would use 100% Finnish wholegrain rye, a distinction that gives them an edge in the marketing of a product in the crowded marketplace spawned by the ginaissance.     

Sustainability is another key feature of the Kyrő brand. Their distillery makes use of locally produced bio gas, which uses fish and pork processing waste as a raw material. They reuse any hot water used in the distilling process and aim to heat their facilities and neighbouring buildings with it. Side-streams from the production of alcohol are used to feed local cattle while methanol and other higher alcohols are fed to the bacteria in the nearby sewage farm to keep the local water cleaner. All very laudable.

Pink gin is not normally my go-to kind of gin. It is normally made in the same way as other gins, but post-distillation red and pink produce, spices, or bitters, or even, heaven forbid, added colouring and sweeteners are infused into the spirit. Popular ingredients to be used in the manufacture of pink gins are strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, grape skins, rose petals, and red currants, all of which have a dual purpose of adding colour and sweetness to the drink and downplaying the heavier, drier, more bitter, and spicier flavours of the botanicals we classically associate with gin. The yin to the yang of London Dry Gin, you might say.

Why I tend to give them a swerve is that I generally find them too sweet for my palate. Here, though, while using strawberries, lingonberries, and rhubarb to provide the sweetness and colour, the team at Kyrő have carefully selected spicy and herbaceous botanicals to produce a well-balanced, creamy, pale pink drink which would be a delight to sip on a warm summer’s evening. And with an ABV of 38.2% a second glass is almost irresistible.

Kyrő Pink Gin comes in 50cl bottles which are dumpy, with squat, broad shoulders, and a short neck, leading to an artificial stopper. The labelling has a minimalist and modern feel about it with black and goldy bronze lettering against a white background. The information about the gin is printed vertically running from top to bottom which means you have to hold the bottle sideways to read the print which was too small for my rheumy eyes.

For a pink gin, it was impressive and for many reasons is worth seeking out.

Until the next time, cheers.

Wessex Wyvern’s Spiced Gin

Even the most intrepid explorer of the ginaissance will find that they have their favourites or hit upon a distillery whose range of gins, like the Sirens in Greek mythology lure, and charm them into their warm embrace, never to let them go. This is the effect that the spirits of Wessex Distillery, found deep in the Surrey Hills in Wormley, near Godalming, in what was eastern Wessex in days of yore, are having on me, establishing them amongst my all-time favourites.

There is a lot to admire about the Distillery. It is firmly a family enterprise, the Clarks having set up shop in 2017, although Jonathan had been involved in the City of London distillery from 2012 in what was a long, protracted, and occasionally bitter, saga to establish the first distillery in the Square Mile of the capital in two hundred years. All their gins are made in a 240-litre copper pot still, named Toby after a grandparent, reinforcing the family feel about the enterprise.   

The bottles are distinctive with a no nonsense look of a potion bottle about them; dumpy, thick glassed, fluted, with a wide shoulder embossed with the name Wessex, leading to a short neck and, a welcome feature, a real cork stopper. Their logo features the Wessex Wyvern, a legendary bipedal dragon, noted for the lack of fire that it exhales from its mouth, wrapped around the iconic Wessex Gin goblet. The choice of logo certainly grounds the distillery to its locale but sits a little oddly on the greyish coloured bottle which they use for their Wessex Wyvern’s Spiced Gin.

Jonathan and his team are also proficient marketeers, always willing to tempt neophytes and old hands alike with interesting and innovative offers. Ahead of Valentine’s Day they were promoting a 15% discount and free branded goblets on their range of spirits, an offer that proved too much for me to resist. There are also nice, if unnecessary, features to look out for such as the silver penny that hangs around the neck of some of their bottles, an exact replica of the rare coin from the age of Alfred the Great. Everything about the product and its presentation exudes careful thought, love, pride, and being at one with the traditions of craftsmanship.

Tired of gins that are insipid to the taste, or too sickly and sweet, or have lost contact with the central premise that first and foremost gin is a juniper-based spirit, I like to taste the juniper and for the drink to be distinctive, with a presence and, ideally, a bit of a kick. It is not much to ask for, but, increasingly more difficult to find. What intrigued me about Wessex’s Spiced Gin was that it promised me a “robust, fiery gin”.

Although, frustratingly, there is no definitive list of the botanicals that go into the spirit, it is pretty clear that the foundations of this gin are built on a solid and welcome bedrock of juniper and coriander. The top notes are provided by fresh ginger, cardamom, and cubeb, while a not inconsiderable kick is provided by Indian cloves before the longer lasting citric notes provide a cooling aftertaste. I found it remarkably well-balanced as a drink with all the disparate elements allowed time to play their part and the potency of the spices not allowed to overwhelm the whole. Some care needs to be exercised over choice of mixer to avoid upsetting the delicate balance.   

With an ABV of 40.3% its punch is not so much one to the solar plexus as one that lets you it means business. It is a seriously impressive gin from a seriously impressive distillery. Keep an out for it, you might even stumble across an offer.

Until the next time, cheers!

Brewdog Lone Wolf Original Gin

The last time I got uproariously drunk was on Brewdog’s Punk IPA, appropriately enough at the 100 Club. Ever since I have had a healthy respect for them as a business and also for their products and there is a lot to be admired. They began life with an interesting business model, inviting subscribers in a form of crowdsourcing initiative entitled Equity for Punks.

Their growth has been inexorable, allowing them to establish their own state-of-the-art distillery on a green field site north of Aberdeen in Ellon. In an industry that emits carbon, it is Scotland’s first carbon negative distillery, their boast being that for every tonne of carbon they produce, they take two tonnes out of the atmosphere. In 2020 they purchased a 9,308-acre plot of land in the Scottish Highlands and have plans to embark upon one of the largest reforestation projects in the UK to date.   

Brewdog’s company profile is one of fierce independence and defiance, disrupters aiming to reshape the world of brewing. Their ales helped to fashion the craft ale explosion and, taking the opportunity to exploit the opportunities created by the ginaissance, are aiming to make their own splash in the spirit’s market. Everything is done from scratch, allowing Brewdog’s Distillery, under Steven Kersley, to take complete control of their destiny and product.         

The distillery is the home to what may be the tallest column still in the UK, standing at just under sixty feet tall. It is in this three-headed bubble still and columns that the base spirit is created using a mix of wheat and barley (a 50/50 mix) and the distillery’s own special yeast, before the botanicals are added to the spirit and distilled in a smaller 400-litre Arnold Holstein still.

As is to be expected, they are picky as to the botanicals they use. They rejected thirty-nine types of juniper before settling on a berry from Tuscany which, together with Scots pine, provides the baseline for the botanicals. The other botanicals deployed are grapefruit peel, lemon peel, pink peppercorn, orris root, angelica, mace, cardamom, lemongrass, Kaffir lime, almonds, coriander, and lavender.    

The bottle is made from clear glass, rounded with a conical shoulder and a shortish neck leading t a cork stopper. The design of the label is crisp and clean, the front label is shaped like a shield with a white background with copper coloured lettering and a silver square tipped at a jaunty angle. The labelling on the rear of the bottle follows the same crisp, clean style and, unusually for gins, is particularly informative.  

On removing the stopper, the aroma is a heady mix of juniper with piney and citric overtones. In the glass the spirit is clear but louches when a mixer is added. In the mouth it is creamy and oily, the immediate hit is one of juniper and hot spices. The juniper is no wallflower and is constantly discernible as the other flavours, first the citrus, lemongrass, and lime, and then the more delicate flavours from the coriander, peppercorns, and mace move in and out of the flavour spectrum.

It is a well-balanced, very drinkable gin which, with an ABV of 40%, is strong enough to bite but not savage you. It is highly recommended.

Until the next time, cheers!

Viper Barrel-Aged Gin

One of the advantages that distillers who specialise in gin have over those who concentrate on whisky is that of time. It is a relatively simple process, leaving aside the tricky bit of getting the mix of botanicals to produce an acceptable drink, and the period between staring the distillation and having a finished product can be numbered in a handful of days, if not hours, compared with the years that whiskies have to be laid down in barrels to mature. The pressure to differentiate your product in the frenzied marketplace spawned by the ginaissance has led to a new type of gin, matured in a barrel. On the face of it, it seems a tad counterintuitive to give up the immediacy of bringing your product to market for the benefit of infusing your carefully curated distillation with the flavours drawn from a wooden barrel.

However, for what may be called the taste archaeologist, someone keen to sample the tastes of yesteryear, a quirk perhaps analogous to the renaissance of vinyl records as the perfect antidote to the blandness of streaming, there is sound reasoning behind this latest trend in gin distillation. Well into the 20th century wooden casks were the most common means for the storage of spirits including gin. In the late 18th century Citadelle Reserve Gin was smuggled into England from France, supposedly by Royal order, in wooden casks and recipe books from the Savoy in the early 20th century show advertisements for barrel-aged gin. Wooden casks were only phased midway through the century.

A distillery that has added a barrel-aged gin into their range is Viper, based in Cerne Abbas in Dorset. The origin of their name is a delightful tale that marketeers love. As they were preparing their plot to grow some of the botanicals they intended to use, they discovered a viper in the long grass, and decided to use the name. At least they were able to justify the strapline, “a gin with a bite”.    

Viper Barrel-Aged Gin has been aged in a finely grained Allier oak cask, famed in their spiritual home in central France for the subtlety and elegance in which the convey spicy flavours and aromas, ideal for a juniper-led gin. The cask used is an exact replica of the barrels en route to South Africa when the MSC Napoli beached on the Dorset coast in 2007 and was previously conditioned with the finest Cider Brandy from the Somerset Cider Brandy Company. The barrel gives a distinctive smoky, oaky flavour to the spirit.

The base spirit is made from English wheat grain and ten botanicals are used, although, sadly their identities are not revealed save for the assurance that they have been “carefully selected” and sourced, wherever possible, locally.  

The bottle is shaped like a slightly overweight wine bottle with a rounded shoulder and a short neck with an artificial cork stopper. The labels, at front and back, use a chocolatey brown background with a typeface reminiscent of that used in 19th century posters with jagged edges and lettering in a muted silver. My bottle is from batch no 001.

The first thing that struck me was the spirit’s colour – a pale green. On the nose it is distinctively piney and smoky and in the glass is an exceptionally smooth and well-balanced drink with juniper and apple to the fore. The aftertaste is long and lingering. This is a gin with a difference and certainly has a bite with an ABV of 5%. I loved it and as it only comes in a 50cl bottle I will be savouring every drop. It is well worth seeking out and I will be intrigued to sample Vapour’s other gins. If this is the standard for barrel-aged gins, then it may be a trend that will be around for many a year.

Until the next time, cheers!

Wessex Wyvern’s Classic Gin

Pick up the right bottle of gin and you can learn a thing or two. A wyvern is a legendary winged dragon, commonly found in insignia and as a heraldic symbol. Unlike its fire-breathing four-legged compadre, the wyvern is bipedal and usually comes complete with a tail which either has a diamond- or arrow-shaped tip. It appears in the heraldic symbol for Wessex and its name is thought to derive from the French word guivre meaning viper or snake. Based in Godalming on the eastern side of the old kingdom of Wessex, the distillery is aligning the name and geographic location of this gin to a tee.

I have tried Wessex’s Alfred the Great Gin before – I am on my second bottle – and I have been impressed by the quality of the product, following on from Jonathan Clark’s sterling work at the City of London Distillery. He certainly knows a thing about making gin and after moving out of the metropolis he commenced operations at Wessex Distillery in 2017. As a distillery they seem adept at marketing and if you keep your eyes open or join their mailing list, they promote some mouth-watering offers from time to time.

Wessex Wyvern’s Classic Gin is not one for the faint-hearted but is aimed firmly and squarely at the drinker who loves a juniper-heavy, juniper-led spirit in the classic London Dry Gin style. And this does not disappoint. With an ABV of 47% it is not about to take any prisoners and from the outset when you remove the enormous cork stopper from the neck, you are overwhelmed by the delightful aroma of juniper in its full glory, tempered with hints of liquorice and pepper and, just discernible, some sweeter notes provided by lemon and honey. In the glass, the crystal-clear spirit is a delight to behold and smell and, in the mouth, it has a kick to it, full-bodied and powerful, and yet allowing the other elements some elbow room. It is a wonderfully well-balanced drink with a prolonged spicy and peppery aftertaste. Perhaps the heralders got it wrong and the wyvern did breathe fire after all.  

Aesthetically, the bottle stands out from the crowd, squat, broad shouldered, rather like an apothecary’s bottle or a decanter, a short neck and an enormously broad cork stopper. The Wyvern gin comes in a dark bottle, compared to the turquoise of the Dry gin, and the label has the same design, the wyvern looking to the right, and Wessex embossed in the glass on the shoulder. The wyvern emblem is also stamped on the cork stopper. Where space is at a premium on a shelf groaning with the fruits of the ginaissance, its size may a problem, but it is a beautiful shape and bottle.

A nice touch is that hanging around the neck of the bottle on a string is what looks like a small silver token. It was only on later inspection, usually the first time I handle a bottle I am more interested in the contents than the external décor, that I realised that is an exact replica of a silver penny coin from the reign of Alfred the Great, the erstwhile and most famous king of Wessex, who ruled around 871 CE.

That sums the gin up. Attention to detail, providing a first-class and thoroughly enjoyable drink.

Until the next time, cheers!