Five Unusual Spirits to Drink at Gin Lane

Words by Jane Ryan + Grant Collins

Photography by Trent van der Jagt

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Think you're not a fan of gin? Think again. This Chippendale bar will convert even the most juniper-adverse among us with its range of spirits from Europe, America, Asia and Australia. It's not just modern gins though, here you can try vintage gins from up to 50 years ago.

Gin Lane is, unsurprisingly, a haven of great spirits and curated cocktails that speak to every type of drinker (gin lovers and gin-sceptics alike). These days the shelves boast over 220 gins from around the world and there's speed lists for Happy Hour as well as "Gin Of The Month” specials to ensure new gins are being poured and loved all the time.

We asked owner Grant Collins to pick out some of his more unusual bottles to share - and he didn't go for a complete line up of gin either. Before we dive into them, here's his pick of gins for a cocktail:

"Deaths Door from Wisconsin, US for a great simple straight up Dry Martini. Boodles British Gin would be my go for a London Dry - giving it upfront juniper and piney notes to a classic Negroni. For an Australian Gin, Green Ant Gin from SA adds a layer of citrus and light kafir lime to a Martini," he said.

GORDONS 1970

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Originally purchased by Gin Lane for the Covid-cancelled World Gin Day 2020, direct from the UK, this vintage spirit is a unique drinking experience, with a completely different flavour profile to the current Gordons London Dry.

"With the research I conducted on natural bottle aging, this Gin should not change too much in contrast to the liqueurs/vermouth which usually oxides more rapidly due to being macerated rather than being distilled. However, with the Gordons 1970, there was a marked difference in taste (to the Gordons we know today) - this could be due to possibly a recipe or production change, although officially it's exactly the same," says Grant.

The flavour notes are a lot more citrus forward than the current Gordons London Dry. On the nose it's citrusy and vibrant and on the palate, a real flavour explosion of lemon zest, licorice, spice and juniper. The gin has a long dry, yet soft finish with sharp licorice and juniper notes.

In a side by side tasting of modern Gordons London Dry it bears little resemblance. The ABV of 40% rather than the current 37.5% seems to also have a marked effect on the flavour profile.

Order in a Dry Martini with a lemon twist .

CAMPARI 1970

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Like the Gordons, this vintage bottle was also purchased by Gin Lane for WGD 2020 from the UK.

As it's a macerated liqueur, the flavours have aged quite dramatically whilst staying in the bottle for over the last 50 years. This aging has made the citrus notes more prominent, exactly as you find with the Gordons.

"The colour has darkened and it seems more viscous and even a little “jammy" in comparison with modern Campari. The colour change is due to the colour additive from the original carmine dye (from cochineal insects) being phased out in most countries in 2006 in favour of an artificial colour additive," explains Grant. "This could also be due to storage and light/heat bottle conditions over the years."

On the nose the vintage Campari is very citrus forward with zesty orange and grapefruit with a little spice and lemon thyme. The flavour profile takes a similar path: Grapefruit jam, orange and orange sherbet. The quinine bitterness and light spice has softened over time and aging.

Adds a real roundness to a Negroni.

MARTINI ROSSO 1970

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This vintage Martini Rosso was quite a rare find for Gin Lane and proved very difficult to purchase.

As it's also a macerated liqueur, like the Campari, the bottle aging is very marked. It's a little flat on the nose with just small notes of fruit and wood. Yet on the palate it's much more fruity and quite viscous, with a little pepper spice and almost sherry type finish.

The liquid is also quite darker in colour than the current Rosso - and again this could also be due to storage and light/heat bottle conditions over the years.

CAMBRIDGE JAPANESE GIN

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"When I first discovered this gin, I assumed it would be a 'Miso Soup' type drinking experience! The botanical mix really should not work," says Grant.

But as he discovered, it's a superb and well balanced gin and was one of the first to use native Japanese botanicals such as shish, bamboo, sesame, seaweed and Yuzu, giving it a unique flavour profile.

Cambridge Japanese gin is made in super small batches under a vacuum, meaning each botanical is separated due to its unique property and point of boiling and distillation. This is done to ensure the best flavour compound from each botanical is extracted.

On the palate it has a light pepper spice, with cucumber notes and juniper with a dry finish where the Japanese botanicals come to the party-seaweed salt/yuzu citrus and sesame.

Best served long in a G&T.

UMAMI GIN

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Named after the fifth savoury taste, umami, Grant says this has to be one of the most perfect gins for a Martini.

"I picked this one for it's unique distilling and flavour profile. We have no other gin in stock that tastes anything like it."

This savoury gin is woody to the nose with a slight pepper scent and has a light wood note (from barrel aging) on the palate, with hints of capers, light spice and capsicum, light parmesan cheese finish.

Order in a Dry Martini with capers.

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