Spiced Gins

Juniper is a spice, of course, and essential to the classic gin taste. But the new gins allow for experimentation with all sorts of other spices. I have yet to see a “pumpkin spice” gin, but some of these come pretty close. Perhaps they are more like “chai gins” since cinnamon or cassia always plays a big role. While that flavour is pretty common in gin, to stress it suggests they are Fall or Autumn gins, and so I consider the spiced gins from both Magnotta (Inginious) and Reid’s in Ontario alongside the Autumn GiNS from Compass in Nova Scotia. Any of these makes a great Tom Collins or, even better, a hot toddy (which I’m starting to think of as a Hot Collins). They’ll warm up your thermos for outdoor socializing.

Starting with the spiciest!

Reid’s Spiced Gin, the spiciest of the lot, with all the intensity and range that you could want in a gin. It is my favourite so far for a hot toddy and so I demolished the bottle by making outside drinks for friends. Admittedly, on its own, Reid’s sometimes has a soapy taste reminiscent of Old Spice, which means that this one is for cocktails only, but it makes those cocktails pretty exciting.

Inginious Spiced Hopped Gin from Magnotta also makes a great hot toddy and it’s more adaptable than Reid’s, combining a solid dose of cinnamon with hops that rounds it out.

Both Reid’s and Inginious can be bitter and the G&T needs to be softened with a big citrus squeeze or fruit bitters — I tried Dillon’s Pear and their house Aromatic DSB. Simpler and more effective are the tonic syrups that offer robust citrus, my favourite so far being Porter’s Cardamom and Orange Tonic Syrup. (You can make a hot G&T with these too! More to come on that.)

The one gin explicitly themed by the season, Compass Autumn GiNS can substitute across the menu for your regular gin, including in a Bramble. It already has its own berry notes that together with the spices alongside the spices give it a taste of berry crisp — so much fun.

If you are shy of committing to a whole spicy bottle, consider Heretic Gin #1 which is an all-purpose gin but features a distinctive cinnamon finish that will give that autumnal kick to your hot toddy.

Full reviews on all four gins to come soon.

Let’s travel!

Travel is really limited in the days of SARS-CoV-2 but we still have mail, and lots of great small distilleries across Canada doing interesting new things! Artisanal gins have become my COVID obsession and I hope to share this with you. The blog posts will allow for comments and I really do hope to hear from you!

When I started exploring Canadian artisanal gins in May, I started as locally as I could, in Ontario, but as I’m beginning to recognize and figure out how to access the range of these gins, I’m now organizing myself East to West, but also prioritizing distilleries that provide free or inexpensive delivery. (Please let me know if you know of such places, and they’ll go to the top of my list!) So, my first gin review is of Kazuki Gin from Sheringham Distillery on Vancouver Island.

The East-West
travel plan

I’m in Ontario where the LCBO, so I understand, provides the world’s largest liquor monopoly, and this can be good and bad. This means access to lots of interesting things but it makes certain things impossible to get. Crème de violette is a case in point. I will never be able to make an Aviation cocktail properly without it! I suppose we can order by the case — here, the power of the monopoly, but I don’t see that in my future.

Despite the lack of crème de violette — and crème de mûre for a traditional bramble (though it looks like I could make my own) — there are all sorts of interesting flavours to sample in the recently surge of artisanal gins across Canada. As many of them aim to capture the character of their region, sometimes going so far as to use only local or even on-site ingredients, it’s like having regions of Canada travel to you! In the case of Kazuki, that means a pan-Pacific taste of Japanese cherry blossoms and green tea, to excellent effect.

This second post marks my official launch, and I’ll be filling this site gradually with reviews of Canadian artisanal gins, other reviews, and some commentary. Book yourself in!

Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year 2020

Last night my friend Staci and I opened and sampled Kazuki gin from Sheringham Distillers in BC.  It won big at the 2020 Artisan Distillers Canada Competition.  Today I’m using the last of the summer watermelon to test it in a cocktail.

Kazuki gin is a great way to start off this blog if we are moving from West to East across Canada. Coming from Sheringham Distillery on Vancouver Island. Staci and I quickly noted all the light spice in the nose of the Kazuki Gin and strong floral notes, all balanced and tied together by the citrus. The juniper is “delicate” as they say on the bottle, but it grounds the other lighter notes.

Kazuki not only took the top prize, it won Best in Class Contemporary Gin, an award for Excellence in Terroir (expressing its place), and a Distinction, indicating that this year’s product is as good or better than last year’s.

The Kazuki gin is super interesting with its pan-Pacific palate although, for me, this gin may be a bit floral to sip on its own. Today seemed perfect to try with the last of the local watermelon. It’s dynamite.

Below is how I downscaled the recipe to make 1 drink from Monica Stevens Le at The Movement Menu, and upped the gin because of the delicacy of Kazuki. Its creamy finish is great with all the light fresh flavours, and the result is a great tall cocktail and, given the 2oz of gin, you could split it between two.

When and if you have good access to good watermelon, I imagine this can scale beautifully to a punch — make it non-alcholic so that people have a choice, but then offer it with the gin option. Show the nice bottle so that people can appreciate it all.

 

Watermelon Gin smash

Serves 1-2

Ingredients
  • 2 cups fresh watermelon cubed
  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 fresh cucumber slices about 1/2″ thick
  • 3/4 ounces simple syrup
  • 2 ounces Kazuki gin
Instructions
  • Blend watermelon chunks on high for about 30 seconds until smooth throughout. Pour through a mesh sieve into a large glass. Set aside.
  • Muddle together mint leaves, cucumber, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
  • Add gin, 1 cup of watermelon juice, and a small handful of ice cubes. Stir well.
  • Pour cocktail over fresh ice in a glass. Garnish with fresh cucumber slices and mint sprigs.