What happens when you make the most potent Gin in the country and wrap it in some of the most handsome packaging of any spirit category?
The term “proof” dates back to 16th century England, when spirits were taxed at different rates depending on their alcohol content. Spirits were tested by soaking a pellet of gunpowder in them.
If the gunpowder could still burn, the spirits were rated above proof and taxed at a higher rate, Gunpowder would not burn in gin that contained less than 57.15% ABV.
Therefore, gin that contained this percentage of alcohol was defined to have “100° (one hundred degrees) proof.
So the tax man had an influence on gin, even then.
There was also another practical consideration for having gin at a certain level of alcohol: the ship’s gunpowder could still be fired should it accidentally get soaked with booze if was strong enough to be deemed Navy Strength.
Drunken sailors, matches and gun powder, what could possibly go wrong?
So in more modern times, there’s another reason why we’re seeing a re-emergence of the Navy Strength or Over Proof versions of existing gin labels. The higher alcohol by volume (say 57% plus instead of the usual 48% to 50%) is not about getting a buzz on quicker.
The style offers more ‘heat’ and intensity on the palette and an opportunity to create a variation on the parent gin expression by empahising one or more of the botanicals. To be clear: it is not a clone of the original gin.
These are new expressions in their own right.
The intensity of the alcohol must be balanced out, otherwise you can get a kick in the head for your trouble.
Q+A time with Wes + Adam
How do you see your product in the spectrum of Australian craft spirits
It is exciting times for craft spirit in Australia…with so many new distillers popping up, consumers are just starting to realise that Australia is producing spirits that punch weight with the best in the world… We set out to do just that, benchmarking our favourite gins from around the world, we aimed to create the most distinctive and highly drinkable neat-drinking gin we could make.
As such we hoped it stood well against the best in Australia. It is only through the feedback we are receiving and early award wins, that we are getting confirmation of that hope… it’s exciting and rewarding.
What inspired you to make Bathtub Cut Gin?
We both love over proof spirits – Westwinds and Four Pillars have paved the way with their over proofs – we didn’t want to be just another high percentage alcohol we wanted to be something different… Cheeky 69, bring colour to the spirit and make it as drinkable neat as it is in a cocktail – the biggest complaint we get is that our bottle isn’t big enough!!!
Can you share some of the botanicals that go into the mix?
We start with a Barossa grape-based spirit for both our ginS. Our Prohibition Bathtub Cut at 69% features:
- Coriander Seed
- Ginger Root
- Orris Root
- Star Anise
- Cassia Bark
- Orange Peel
- Green Tea
The Bathtub Cut gets double the maceration time, plus a second maceration of Juniper post distillation – giving its golden colour.
What advice would you have to someone thinking of making their own craft spirit in Australia?
Craft spirits are amazing as they represent the producer and what they want to portray as their passion! For me I always ask those that are looking at starting their own brand… What do you stand for and what is your point of difference?
If you can own those two answers you most likely have a market – I look at the awesome work 36 Short Rakia are doing – I didn’t even know what Rakia was until I met the brothers from 36 Short – they are taking Australia on a journey and those willing to give it a go are falling in love with their spirit their story and their brand!
How do you recommend people enjoy your gin?
By the bottle 😉
As a purist I drink both our spirits neat out of the freezer
- Both the Bathtub Cut and original make an amazing martini (made super dry and garnished to your liking)
- Both make a Ginsational G&T – we recommend both with Capi Dry Tonic garnishing our original with dehydrated blood orange and Bathtub Cut with star anise and a cinnamon quill
- The Bathtub Cut makes the absolute best negroni I’ve ever had with equal parts of Maidenii Sweet Vermouth and applewood Red økar garnished with fresh orange.
Was there an eureka moment when you knew you’d nailed the spirit in development?
Our brief for both gins was to make them as drinkable neat as they will be in a mixer – our original took longer to hit the mark – when we added Lavender to the botanical list it made all the difference, we were missing the nose and finish that it gives
Our bathtub cut on the other hand was two lads being cheeky; it’s a gin made for me! Our original was designed for Adam… 69% was just for shits and giggles, let’s face it 69% shouldn’t be neat drinkable – we weren’t trying to set a new benchmark for Alc/Vol in Australia, we were just being lads…
We wanted to pay homage to the clandestine prohibition period, so the simple idea of post maceration of juniper to bring out the golden rich colour of the spirit and then call it Bathtub Cut just felt right!
- Nose: Intense perfume and I picked out the ginger and citrus botanicals- with the alcohol introducing itself at the end
- Neat: This lends itself to sipping on ice. Surprisingly it is pale in colour and light in body. Delicate aromatics, with Star Anise and Orris Root making their presence known. Very long, very dry finish with a persistent light butterscotch and citrus finish. It doesn’t taste big as you’d expect, but the heat and spice are there from the alcohol in the background.
- Martini: Mmm, this one is a tricky one to pull off. Yes you can make a Martini by adding Vermouth to this- I would shoot for a generous Noilly Prat which has the spice and intensity to handle the flavour profile of the gin, and use a Blood Orange or grapefruit zest garnish.
- Otherwise, its a cracker G+T (again Blood Orange slice works a treat) or Negroni as suggested above.
The Take Home
This singular gin really commands your attention. Made under contract at Applewood Distillery it is very well crafted and sits well alongside the over-proof gins now available and emerging (I count about 6 or 7 in Australia right now).
It wears it 69% in way that isn’t intimidating, and there’s an intelligent use of the botanicals that means that you feel the heat of the spirit, but it doesn’t knock you sideways. So if you’ve up for the challenge of the biggest gin from Down Under, then knock on the door of the nearest speakeasy and tell them the Martini Whisperer sent you.