Tag Archives: Mark Neal

Gin O’Clock – Part Ninety Eight

The ginaissance knows no international boundaries and one of the pleasures to be derived from sampling gin is to find ones that come from distant parts of the globe.  This is a case in point with this week’s featured gin, Scapegrace Premium Dry Gin, which hails from New Zealand. It is made by the Rogue Society Distilling Company who are based in Canterbury, a company founded in 2014 by Mark Neal, Richard Bourke and Daniel McLaughlin. It soon became New Zealand’s top-selling premium gin, scooping up a few prizes along the way.

Plans to distribute their product internationally, and specifically with in the European Union, have not been plain sailing as they ran into trademark issues. A US brewer by the name of Rogue Brewers had got in there first and as trademark rules prohibit two products in the same category from having similar names, the Kiwi Rogues had no option but to change name.  It is now known as Scapegrace by Rogue Distilling Co throughout the world, the trio taking the bold step of using an internationally accepted name in their established home market. Scapegrace, apparently, is 18th century slang for a rogue so the connection is not lost. You can improve your knowledge by drinking!

The bottle itself is stunning, taking its shape, solid, squat, square, from the old genever bottles. The glass is black with Rogue Society Premium Dry Gin embossed on both sides. The front has a big, round metal plate just below the neck and the back has the logo and some information about the gin, but alas, not the botanicals, in white lettering, in keeping with its Kiwi origin. The stopper is artificial, black in colour externally and internally.   

In truth, it is not difficult to get hold of the botanicals in the mix, twelve in all, “nature’s wild apostles”, according to the bottle – juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, nutmeg, cloves, angelica root, liquorice root, orris root, cassia bark, and cinnamon sticks. The base spirit is a neutral grain and, the bottle tells me, the distillation takes place in “a whiskey still, 19th century, stumbled upon in a long abandoned shed”. What’s a missing hyphen between friends? The verbiage on the label gets almost poetic when it describes the water that goes in to the distillation process – “torn from the earth 80 years after it was hurled down on New Zealand’s Southern Alps” – seeping through sediment until finding its escapes into one of the world’s last natural aquifers.

On removing the stopper, I was relieved to be greeted by the unmistakable, but slightly subdued, aroma of juniper together with hints of citrus and spice. It was a nicely balanced aroma, not overpowered by the juniper but giving the hope that the principal constituent of a gin would have a significant part to play in the taste. In the mouth, this crystal-clear spirit is initially a tad disappointing. I was expecting an immediate hit of juniper, but it is more subtle than that, playing with us by presenting us with an opening burst of citrus and pepper, beautifully balanced. Now the juniper bursts on to the scene which, in combination with the spices, gives the spirit a warm, earthy feel to it before finishing off with a hint of liquorice and a warming sensation which lasts through to the aftertaste. Again, the aftertaste is not overstated, there long enough for you to take notice but not something which lingers with you for ages. To my mind it symbolises the spirit, well-balanced, smooth, but not over-powering.

Its almost shy, almost flirtatious, disposition poses a challenge for those who like a tonic to accompany their gin. So complex and delicate is the combination of botanicals that the introduction of a mixer which enters the scene with its hobnail boots on could ruin it. I don’t often drink my gins neat, but I found with this one that was the way to preserve and appreciate its subtle flavourings.

With an ABV of 42.2% it is an interesting twist on a juniper-led gin and made for a welcome change.

Until the next time, cheers!