Whether it’s turkey breast, elephant dung or asparagus, distillers are turning to lesser-used infusions and botanicals to make their gins stand out. We take a look at some of the most weird and wonderful gins out there…
As we all know well, when it comes to gin, it’s not just about the juniper these days. Whether it’s fruity, citrus or pink, flavoured gins have become the new normal for consumers – but, as the following curious gins demonstrate, there’s still an appetite for less familiar gins. From gins made with familiar ingredients such as tea and hops, to less familiar (and desirable?) ingredients such as ants and elephant dung, we reveal a treasure chest of tipples from around the world that are guaranteed to test your palate and tickle your taste buds. Enjoy!
Hussingtree Asparagus Gin
Launched spring 2018, family business Hussingtree takes inspiration from the produce grown locally in their home county of Worcestershire, including a particular verdant green veg we wouldn’t usually associate with gin. As co-founder Duncan Gilroy explains, “We hand-craft our gins in the small village of Martin Hussingtree (from where we take our name). Our Asparagus Gin is juniper led, with local asparagus being the next most prominent botanical. We also include a very small amount of local Droitwich Brine Salt within the botanical mix, which we’ve found helps unlock the flavour of the asparagus, alongside providing a quality to the overall mouth feel of the gin.” But how does it taste? And does asparagus actually work well with gin? “The asparagus provides a little of what you’d expect – most people taste the asparagus immediately when sipping neat,” explains Duncan. “It also provides a wonderfully earthy, nutty, sweetness to the overall flavour. The most common description is that it’s ‘green’, which makes for a really refreshing and distinctive G&T.” If you’re keen to give it a go, Duncan recommends serving the asparagus gin with unflavoured premium tonic, ice and a couple of fresh mint leaves, or rosemary and tarragon.
When considering the botanical makeup of your favourite gin, we’re pretty sure that elephant dung isn’t a flavour profile that immediately springs to mind, unless you’re the creators of Indlovu Gin, Les and Paula Ansley, who have worked with craft gin specialist Roger Jorgensen to create their curious tipple. The gin is made using a traditional London Dry base, featuring the likes of juniper, angelica, orris root and coriander, plus the all-important elephant dung. But how did the gin come about? “Shortly after we moved back to South Africa from the UK, my wife Paula had an opportunity to go to Kenya on safari,” explains co-founder Les. “She was sipping a G&T and watching a herd of elephants. The guide was explaining how little of the plant material elephants actually digest when Paula had this crazy idea… would it be possible to make elephant dung gin? And that’s how Indlovu was born: a gin made in Africa, designed by elephants. ‘Indlovu’ is the word for elephant in several African languages and we use the foraging habits of the world’s largest land mammals to select the botanicals used in the gin process.” The elephant dung is collected from Botlierskop Game Reserve, before being washed and dried. The botanicals are then extracted and added to the gin to create a warm, earthy and spicy juniper-led gin with hints of musk and grass.
Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin
Alongside gin, tea is one of England’s most-loved tipples, so it does make sense to add tea as a botanical to gin. This was also the thinking of Karl and Cathy Mason, co-founders of Masons Yorkshire Gin who, in their quest to make their gin as dry as possible, decided to add tea to their signature blend. Like tea, this gin works well with lemon, and balances sweet, citrus, and dry juniper flavours with aplomb.
A gin that might make you look more youthful may sound like something that’s more likely to come from a genie in a bottle than a gin bottle, but thanks to Collagin gin, it could be more than just a pipe dream. With their mutual love of beauty and booze, co-founders Liz Beswick and Camilla Brown saw a gap in the market and the opportunity to “Make a stand out gin that could sit on a bar but also a beauty counter,” explains co-founder Camilla. Available in original, rose and in the near future, cherry, Collagin is a collaboration between the two founders and master distiller, Jamie Baggott. “I worked with the distiller on the botanical makeup of the gin, including star anise, fresh orange, pink grapefruit, vanilla and orris,” explains Camilla. “Then, when the gin is at 100 per cent alcohol, we add in 100mg of pure collagen.” While the collagen isn’t said to affect the taste, smell or appearance of the gin, Camilla recommends serving a Collagin G&T with pink grapefruit and star anise to bring out the flavour profile of the other botanicals.
Cambridge Distillery Anty Gin
Insects have been creeping onto menus around the world, and now they’re being used to flavour gin, too. Cambridge Distillery’s Anty Gin – a collaboration with Noma’s Michelin-starred chef and co-owner René Redzepi’s Nordic Food Lab – is the world’s first gin to be made from insects. Each bottle contains the essence of roughly 62 red wood ants, as well as hand-foraged botanicals such as juniper and nettle. The result? A sharp, citrus-led gin that’s guaranteed to be a talking point. But, at £200 a bottle, be careful not to tell everyone at once.
More to explore…
Other intriguing gin infusions to look out for:
Scotland’s Eden Mill distillery have married their brewing and distilling expertise to create a zesty, floral and hoppy gin. http://www.edenmill.com
For a jammy, citrus-led gin, look to Aber Falls and Manchester’s The Zymurgorium for your fruity fix.
For a floral twist, Whitley Neill’s Parma Violet Gin evokes all of the nostalgia – and flavour – of the much-loved retro sweets.
Chocolate purveyors Hotel Chocolat’s Cocoa Gin is malty, moreish and best served with an orange slice garnish.
London’s Portobello Road Gin is known for its yearly inventive and limited edition Director’s Cuts, and 2017’s Pechuga Gin, which was distilled with turkey breast, was no exception.