Spirited Reviews

Words by: Simon Difford
Pictures by: Dan Malpass

15:47 GMT // 3 Jan 2012

The festive period saw the flow of samples arriving at the Cabinet Rooms dry up, so apart from a fresh sample of Caorunn (much preferred to earlier variants), the following gins are from the many samples unearthed in our spirits Spring cleaning session. Also, just before Christmas we received the new cocktail mix offerings from Funkin reviewed below, and as always I finish with a handful of refreshing ales.

Cascade Mountain Gin

47.5% alc./vol.
www.bendistillery.com
Producer: Bendistillery, 19330 Pinehurst Road, Bend, Oregon, 97701, USA

Cascade Mountain Gin is flavoured by the maceration of botanicals rather than distillation, hence this gin's faint yellow hue. Fresh herbs and spice, rather than dried, are used. These include handpicked juniper berries from the Central Oregon high desert plateau.

Appearance: Clear, light pale straw yellow.
Aroma: (batch No. 211) Clean, fresh pine forest juniper rich nose with lemon pie citrus and delicate all-spice.
Taste: Herbal spicy palate, perhaps more reminiscent of a Czech absinthe than most gins. Dry resinous pine notes build to hot black pepper.
Aftertaste: Hot pepper spice finish.
diffordsguide rating: 2/5

Desert Juniper Hand-crafted American Gin


41% alc./vol.
www.handcraftedgin.com
Producer: Bendistillery, 19330 Pinehurst Road, Bend, Oregon, 97701, USA

First released in late 1998, Desert Juniper is made by Bendistillery in batches of around 500 gallons and filtered through crushed volcanic lava rock up to ten times before being bottled. The juniper berries used are harvested locally in Oregon from one of the world's largest juniper tree forests.

The back label claims "Desert Juniper Gin is micro-distilled from 100 per cent natural grains." It does not say that the botanicals are distilled and indeed this gin's colour suggests they are not, or if they are then a coloured distillate is usually a sign the still is being run too quickly. We suspect that the base spirit is distilled at Bendistillery and then the botanicals are macerated in the distillate to impart their flavour without re-distillation, so also giving some of their colour to the finished gin.

Would score higher as a botanical spirit than a gin.

Appearance: (Batch 132) Clear with very faint lime green/straw yellow hue.
Aroma: There's a whiff of sauna to the restrained fresh cedar wood, citrus and coriander nose.
Taste: Slightly sweet, oily, woody, nutty palate with very faint pine resin influenced juniper. More a botanical spirit than a 'traditional' gin.
Aftertaste: Lingering woody, nutty, sawdust flavours.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

Xoriguer Mahón Gin


38% alc./vol.
www.xoriguer.co.uk
Producer: M. Pons Justo SA, 91 Mahón, Menorca, Spain

Pronounced 'sho-ri-gair' and produced on the island of Menorca, Xoriguer is one of only two gins in the world with its own EU Designation of Origin. Gin has been distilled at Mahón since the 18th century when the island was under British control and the port was an important naval base.

Señor Miguel Pons Justo named Xoriguer after an old windmill used by his family in their former flour milling business. The distillery is still owned by his family and they continue to use traditional wood-fuelled copper stills. Even more unusually, the gin is based on grape alcohol, rather than the conventional grain or molasses spirit. Unlike most gins, Xoriguer comes off the still at bottling strength so does not require dilution.

Xoriguer is sold in green glass bottles with a handle, rather like Dutch stone crock bottles. It is widely available in Spain and the Balearics where it is mixed with real lemonade to make a drink called a Pomada.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: A very floral, almost perfumed oily orange zest and orange flower nose with delicate juniper.
Taste: The grape character of the base alcohol comes through on the spicy, aromatic palate. The flavour profile is more reminiscent of Morocco: hints of real Turkish Delight mingle with generous juniper, aniseed, camomile, lemon zest and almond. Xoriguer is a little rough round the edges but in a pleasingly, characterful way.
Aftertaste: Long, lingering, breath freshening juniper and orange zest finish.
diffordsguide rating: 4.5/5

Caorunn Scottish Gin


41.8% alc./vol.
www.caorunngin.com
Producer: Balmenach Distillery, Cromdale ,Scotland

Caorunn, pronounced 'ka-roon', is the Gaelic word for Rowan Berry which along with Dandelion, Bog Myrtle, heather and Coul Blush Apple comprises the five Celtic botanicals used to flavour this gin by a vapour infusion method. The number of botanicals are reflected in the pentagon-shaped bottle.
Caorunn is distilled in small batches of around a 1,000 litres from grain neutral spirit and unusually the vaporised spirit is forced through a unique 'copper berry chamber' that was made in the 1920s. This is a round chamber with a copper frame and that holds four trays on which the botanicals are spread. These trays are designed to allow spirit vapour to come into contact with the largest possible surface area of botanicals.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Floral, citrus nose with spicy pine-fresh juniper.
Taste: Fresh, clean, slightly sweet palate which quickly turns dry with good juniper notes, zesty citrus, delicate spice and floral flavours.
Aftertaste: Long, cleansing, lightly spiced piny juniper finish which fades with cracked black pepper. (Much fresher and lacking the children's chocolate powder note found in our 2010 sample.)
diffordsguide rating: 5/5

Whitley Neill London Dry Gin


42% alc./vol.
www.whitleyneill.com
Producer: Langley Distillery (Alcohols Limited), Crosswells Road, Warley (Nr Birmingham), England

Johnny Neill, a fourth generation member of the Greenall Whitley distilling family, was inspired by his wife's South African homeland when creating this distilled gin. Hence, the use of two African botanicals, fruit of the baobab 'tree of life' and Cape gooseberry, with 7 more traditional botanicals.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Pine fresh juniper leads a tropical fruit and zesty lemon nose.
Taste: Dry, juniper led palate with lemon and orange sherbet plus hints of creamy mango spiced with cracked black pepper.
Aftertaste: The tropical fruit emerges again in the long peppered finish. Very clean and fresh throughout.
diffordsguide rating: 4/5

Palmer's Premium Distilled London Dry Gin


40% alc./vol.
Producer: Langley Distillery (Alcohols Limited), Crosswells Road, Warley (Nr Birmingham), England

This gin, made with 10 botanicals according to recipe that's more than 350-years-old, is owned and made by W H Palmer Group, a family-owned company which owns and operates the Langley Distillery near Birmingham, England where numerous other gins are also distilled under contact.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Subdued nose with pine forest juniper, almond and zesty lemon aromas.
Taste: Clean, muted, zesty citrus and juniper led palate with nutty angelica root, subtle spice and lightly tingling black pepper.
Aftertaste: Long, clean, mouth cleansing citrus and black pepper finish.
diffordsguide rating: 4/5

Sarticious Gin


47% alc./vol.
Producer: Sarticious Spirits Inc., 427 A Swift Street, Santa Cruz, California, 95060, USA

The word 'sarticious' is a made-up word that, while not recognised as part of the English language, the makers of this gin assert means 'well-dressed and desirable'. Botanicals used to flavour Sarticious include juniper, organic orange, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and pepper.

Sarticious is the product of two friends - Jeff Alexander and Mark Karakas - and their Californian micro-distillery. Jeff is an experienced brewer, winemaker and distiller who has previously worked at Los Gatos Brewing Company, Savannah-Chanelle winery and St. George Spirits (makers of Hangar One vodka). Mark used to run the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Today, the two use a 120-gallon Jacob Carl copper alembic still to produce their own boutique spirits.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Powerful, wet Christmas tree, orange zest and fresh coriander leaf nose.
Taste: Potent palate with woody piny juniper, fresh coriander, zesty lemon and orange citrus, fiery cracked black pepper.
Aftertaste: Long finish starts with bursts of red chilli pepper heat and subsides to reveal a vegetal, piny base.
diffordsguide rating: 4/5

Martin Miller's Gin


40% alc./vol.
www.address.here
.millersgin.com
Producer: Langley Distillery (Alcohols Limited), Crosswells Road, Warley (Nr Birmingham), England

Named after and minority owned by Martin Miller, creator of the Miller's Antiques price guides. Formerly labelled as a 'London Dry Gin', regulations forbidding flavouring to be added to a London Dry Gin after distillation necessitated this classification to be omitted from the new taller bottle.

Martin Miller's Gin is distilled using traditional pot maceration in Langley, England with botanicals that include juniper berries, cassia bark, orris, liquorice root, coriander, angelica, ground nutmeg, cinnamon bark and citrus peel. The concentrated distillate is shipped to Borganes, Iceland where it is blended with cucumber flavouring and glacial water from the Selyri Spring. Miller's is bottled on site in Borganes.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Very aromatic pronounced zesty orange nose with woody juniper, liquorice and light spice.
Taste: Like the nose, orange zest appears to dominate the palate with underlying freshly cracked black pepper spice, juniper and vegetal flavours (perhaps from the added cucumber essence. A touch of added sugar is suspected).
Aftertaste: Black pepper heat leads and ends the slightly bitter finish with coriander and citrus shine also coming to the fore.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

Finsbury London Dry Gin


37.5% alc./vol.
www.borco.com
Producer: Langley Distillery (Alcohols Limited), Crosswells Road, Warley (Nr Birmingham), England

The Finsbury Gin brand name was founded by Joseph Bishop back in 1740 and is possibly a reference to Clerkenwell springs which was once the centre of London's gin industry and part of the old London Borough of Finsbury. Today Finsbury Gin is owned by a German company, Borco International.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Aromatic nose has a whiff of lemon meringue pie-filling and coriander.
Taste: Robustly flavoured oily citrus palate with lemon sherbet, liquorice, and coriander supporting juniper.
Aftertaste: Slightly bitter citrus finish.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

Finsbury London Dry Gin


60% alc./vol.
www.borco.com
Producer: Langley Distillery (Alcohols Limited), Crosswells Road, Warley (Nr Birmingham), England

Finsbury London Dry Gin is based on molasses neutral spirit rather than grain spirit and is distilled in Langley Distillery's still N0.7, a 10,000 litre copper pot still by the name of Jenny.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Cracked black pepper spirit aromas dominate until dilution (to approx. 40%) reveals generous coriander, woody juniper and citrus.
Taste: Clean, juniper rice palate with cleansing coriander seeds (candied ginger, lemon and sage taste) , citrus and Angelica root (musky, nutty).
Aftertaste: Lingering juniper coupled with its sheer strength of alcohol and flavour scream "bring it on" to a G&T.
diffordsguide rating: 4.5/5

Finsbury 47 Platinum


47% alc/vol.
www.borco.com
Producer: Langley Distillery (Alcohols Limited), Crosswells Road, Warley (Nr Birmingham), England

More than ten botanicals, including juniper berries, coriander seeds, lemon and orange peels, are used in the distillation of this London Dry gin.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Liquorice and resinous pine nose with fresh coriander and cassia.
Taste: Initially slightly sweet palate with the juniper rightly to the fore supported by citrus and the distinctive Parma Violets, earth and cold stewed tea notes of orris. Cracked black pepper builds to counter any initial sweetness.
Aftertaste: Somewhat bitter, lingering liquorice and juniper flavours with cracked black pepper reaching a crescendo.
diffordsguide rating: 4/5

Lighthouse Gin


42% alc./vol.
www.lighthouse.co.nz
Producer: Greytown Fine Distilleries Ltd, 112 Ahikouka Road, Greytown, 5794, New Zealand

Made using dried kawa kawa leaves which are unique to New Zealand as well as fresh zest from New Zealand-grown navel oranges and Yen Ben lemons. The rest of the nine botanicals are more traditional.

Lighthouse Gin is distilled in a 200-litre copper still designed by the gin's distiller Neil Catherall and built by local craftsmen at 2K Design in Masterton. Lighthouse is hand-bottled and hand-labelled.

The Lighthouse brand was inspired by the Cape Palliser Lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the Wairarapa and the southernmost tip of New Zealand's North Island. This cast-iron lighthouse was imported from Birmingham, England in 1896-7 and erected in sections, one on top of the other, hauled up by cast-iron pulleys to the top of a seemingly inaccessible cliff.

Lighthouse Gin is the brainchild of distiller, Neil Catherall and a local businessman, Andrew Wright who established Greytown Fine Distillates in 2005.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Clean pine and citrus (particularly lemon zest) dominate the nose with whiffs of violet.
Taste: Very dry, slightly oily palate has strong lemon citrus, eucalyptus, pine notes, hints of floral violet and a somewhat earthy note.
Aftertaste: Raspingly dry citrus finish with lingering pine and pepper.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

Funkin Strawberry Woo Woo Cocktail Mixer


0% alc./vol.
www.funkin.co.uk
Producer: Funkin Ltd, 33 Lonsdale Road, London, NW6 6RA, England.

The combifitMidi carton pack (yup that's the brand name and technical term for the 1-litre handsome silver packaging) declares the ingredients of this 100 per cent natural fruit cocktail mixer to be "water, peaches, strawberries, sugar, cranberry juice from concentrate, lemons, concentrates (carrot, blackcurrant), natural flavouring". Given the 'Woo Woo' name, bartenders won't be surprised to learn this cocktail mixer is "Best served with vodka".

Funkin Strawberry Woo Woo contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or additives so should be refrigerated and used within six days of opening.

Appearance: Cloudy, ruddy red with fruit sediment.
Aroma: Boiled-sweet, strawberry and peach with candyfloss sweetness.
Taste: (reviewed mixed with vodka) Like the nose the palate is boiled sweet fruit with flavours of passion fruit, pear drops and bottled pomegranate.
Aftertaste: Fruityness dries with pomegranate and cranberry sourness.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

Funkin Cosmopolitan Cocktail Mixer


0% alc./vol.
www.funkin.co.uk
Producer: Funkin Ltd, 33 Lonsdale Road, London, NW6 6RA, England.

The declared the ingredients of this 100 per cent natural fruit cocktail mixer are "water, cranberry juice from concentrate, orange juice from concentrate, sugar, limes, concentrates (carrot, blackcurrant)." That sounds like a lot of concentrate.

As per the classic Cosmopolitan, this cocktail mixer is "Best served with vodka" - well, that is, unless you prefer a 'Rude Cosmopolitan', in which case serve with tequila.

Funkin Cosmopolitan contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or additives so should be refrigerated and used within six days of opening.

Appearance: Cloudy, pinky red with fruit sediment.
Aroma: Metallic, copper pennies, wet dog, citrus.
Taste: (reviewed mixed with vodka) Fruity, sweet and sour ice-lolly fruit with metallic berry fruit and citrus flavours.
Aftertaste: Slightly metallic finish with pasteurised strawberry and orange squash.
diffordsguide rating: 2.5/5

Funkin Sour Mix Cocktail Mixer


0% alc./vol.
www.funkin.co.uk
Producer: Funkin Ltd, 33 Lonsdale Road, London, NW6 6RA, England.

According to the silver Combifit packaging, this contains "water, limes, lemons sugar". It is "100% natural" so should be refrigerated and used within six days of opening.

Appearance: Cloudy, muted yellow.
Aroma: Lemon barley water, citrus nose with metallic aroma.
Taste: We mixed tequila, triple sec and Funkin in a 2:1:1 ratio and also simply with white rum. Both were far too sour with metallic pasteurised citrus flavours.
Aftertaste: Sour, pasteurised, metallic lime.
diffordsguide rating: 1.5/5

Funkin Mojito Cocktail Mixer


0% alc./vol.
www.funkin.co.uk
Producer: Funkin Ltd, 33 Lonsdale Road, London, NW6 6RA, England.

Funkin Mojito Cocktail Mixer contains "water, limes and lemons, sugar, mint extract" and unsurprisingly is recommended to be served with white rum. Funkin Mojito contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or additives so should be refrigerated and used within six days of opening.

Appearance: Cloudy, muted yellow.
Aroma: Earthy spearmint with toothpaste aromas.
Taste: (sampled mixed with white rum) Spearmint chewing gum, lime skin with pith and mint stalks.
Aftertaste: Lime pith and fresh mint tea.
diffordsguide rating: 3/5

Funkin Strawberry Daiquiri Cocktail Mixer


0% alc./vol.
www.funkin.co.uk
Producer: Funkin Ltd, 33 Lonsdale Road, London, NW6 6RA, England.

The combifitMidi carton pack declares the ingredients of this 100 per cent natural fruit cocktail mixer to be "water, strawberries, limes, sugar, concentrates (carrot, blackcurrant)" As you'd expect from a Daiquiri this cocktail mixer is "Best served with white rum".

Funkin Strawberry Daiquiri contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or additives so should be refrigerated and used within six days of opening.

Appearance: Cloudy, lurid purple pink, raspberry puree
Aroma: Melted strawberry ice-lolly with greenyness
Taste: Greeny-woody, corked wine and tinned strawberry palate.
Aftertaste: Cleansing fruity pine sap finish.
diffordsguide rating: 2.5/5

Mapcap Double Madness


8% alc./vol.
www.madcapbrewery.com
Producer: Maddison Craft Ale Producers, Madcap Brewery, Annan, Dumfriesshire, DG12 6ER, Scotland

A Belgian dark/double style ale from Scottish independent family brewers who started out as importers of Belgian bottled beers through their specialist beer shop 'Beers Unique'. Production started in November 2009 with the launch of Madcap's first cask ale, Annandale Black.

Appearance: Cloudy, dark brown with thick beige head.
Aroma: Fruity malty nose with a aroma reminiscent of old fashioned cloth sticking plasters.
Taste: Slightly smoky, yeasty malty palate with liquorice and stale cigarette ash.
Aftertaste: Yeast extract on burnt toast finish with lingering liquorice and cigarette ash.
diffordsguide rating: 3/5

Honey Madness


9% alc./vol.
www.madcapbrewery.com
Producer: Maddison Craft Ale Producers, Madcap Brewery, Annan, Dumfriesshire, DG12 6ER, Scotland

A pale ale style beer flavoured with made with Dumfriesshire Auldgirth honey.

Appearance: Hazy, copper amber with small head that quickly fades to mere ring of foam.
Aroma: Strong honey aromas to the nose with faint boiled apricot sweets/apricot jam.
Taste: Slightly sweet honey flavoured palate with caramel and faint hop spice.
Aftertaste: Honeyed, apricot marmalade finish.
diffordsguide rating: 3/5

San Miquel Cerveza (UK brewed)


5% alc./vol.
www.sanmiguel.co.uk
Producer: Carlsberg UK ltd, Northampton, NN1 1PZ

You may recognise San Miguel from Spanish holidays, but it was first made in 1890 by a Spaniard in the district of San Miguel, Manila - the capital city of the Philippines. More recently (since 2008) San Miquel has also been brewed by Carlsberg in not-so-hot Northhampton, England.

Appearance: Clear, bright light golden with quickly fading white head.
Aroma: Clean, grain with tinned sweetcorn aromas.
Taste: Clean and refreshing but somewhat bland with slight metallic salty note.
Aftertaste: Dry, slightly metallic finish with lingering salty tinned sweetcorn.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

James Boag's Premium Lager


5% alc./vol.
www.boags.com.au
Producer: J. Boag & Son, 69 Esplanade, Launceston, Tasmania, 7250, Australia

James Boag's brewing history dates back to 1881, with the establishment of Esk Brewery in the remote colonial settlement of Launceston, Tasmania. This Premium Lager was launched in 1994.

Appearance: Clear, golden amber with moderate white head which quickly fades to thin layer of foam.
Aroma: Bland, Euro-lager, slightly skunky nose with faint cereal and floral hops.
Taste: Clean and refreshing, the nondescript palate has a touch of metallic about it with mild bready malt and faint hop spice.
Aftertaste: Clean, mildly bitter finish.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5

Lucky Beer


4.8% alc./vol.
www.luckydrinkco.com
Producer: China - unknown producer

Brewed from malt, rice and hops using water drawn from the Qiandao Lake (Thousand Island Lake), a man-made lake in Chun'an County, Zhejiang, China. The lake was formed after the completion of the Xin'an River hydroelectric station and encompasses 1,078 large islands and a few thousand smaller ones.

Appearance: Clear, golden amber with minimal head which fades to little more than a ring of foam.
Aroma: Yeasty, lightly malty, egg fried rice nose with grassy hops.
Taste: Malty palate with over grilled corn and hay flavours. Faint hop spice.
Aftertaste: Grassy, slightly bitter finish.
diffordsguide rating: 3/5

Heineken


5% alc./vol.
www.heineken.com
Producer: Heineken Brouwerijen B.V., Amsterdam, Netherlands

This now internationally recognised European pale lager was first brewed in 1873. An apprentice of Louis Pasteur, Dr. H Elion developed 'Heineken A-yeast', which is still used to brew the beer.

Appearance: Clear, golden yellow with moderate white head which quickly fades.
Aroma: Very subdued nose with faint grassy hops.
Taste: Clean, light, bordering on bland palate with sweet malt and mild hops.
Aftertaste: Clean, lightly flavoured malty finish.
diffordsguide rating: 3.5/5









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