One of the perks of being the Martini Whisperer is that every so often something exotic in a bottle comes my way.
So a few months back I was fortunate to be sent a new release in Australia of the Garden Tiger Gin from Capreolus Distillery, all the way from Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.
This is a small batch, about 200 bottles per release, crafted by Barney Wilczak, who established the distillery in 2014.
The Distillery also produces, or is about to, Single Malt Whisky and Rye Whiskey with same fastidious attention to detail and care for each and every ingredient. This care was recognised with the gin being awarded 2017 Spirit of the Year.
Their website outlines better than I could the attention to the botanicals and distillation, and I suggest you have a read of their production process.
“Once fermented, the fruits are transferred to the distillery. Further processing is sometimes required, for example, plums are sieved by hand from their stones. This leaves just a hint of their almond flavour without covering the delicate spice hidden within the flesh. Respecting the ingredients the fruits are transferred by hand into our custom copper still. Heated by a naked flame it is clothed in a water bath, removing the risk of scorching. The choice of copper rather than cheaper stainless steel serves two roles. A superb conductor of heat, it allows a gradual transition of flavours as they evaporate within the still.”
The 34 Botanicals are individually hand treated and steeped in neutral grain spirit (English Wheat ) for about 40 hours. Whilst the botanicals used are closely held, you can certainly spot the Sicillian Tarocco blood orange which is the hero of the flavour profile, plus a local lime (non-citrus) is also used.
One thing to note is the decision to not to use chilled filtering in the production of the gin. Here’s a link to a detailed article about the chemistry involved, and the reasons why a distiller may wish to take this route.
But the very short version is that some distillers (local gin Melbourne Gin Company included) believe that by not using chilled filtration they retain the more generous and subtle flavours in the botanicals through retention of their natural oils. So this means that when the gin is chilled or diluted, say in a Martini or on ice, you get a cloudiness.
Whilst this may at first be disconcerting, the effect is intentional, and you are seeing the oils being released: this is called louche (think Pernod in those French cafes for instance), and hence the more complex flavours on the palette.
- Nose: Surprisingly subtle compared to the flavour profile with similar notes, doesn’t give much away.
- Taste: Very intense blood orange up front with a crisp, pepper-spicy finish and a very lingering long flinty after taste. On ice, it opens up to reveal layers of complexity, still within the dried orange and spice framework, and it becomes less austere overall.
- To drink: Whilst I rustled up a Martini, best with Dolin Vermouth I suggest, this gin works better in a Negroni (see my Negroni Blanco recipe here which would be a cracker), G+T of course, or simply on ice. For all its finesse it has a steely backbone and is very flexible in cocktail combinations I think.
The Take Home
This is a singular gin in the context of the craft distilling scene in the United Kingdom with its many releases that are variations on the classic London Dry Style.
Locals who are familiar with Four Pillars Gin may taste the similar Seville Orange flavours, but I prefer Garden Tiger for its finesse, tightly woven complexity and flinty finish overall. One should expect in a release so handcrafted some variation between batches, which for me is the point of craft spirits at times, their personality. It’s intensity and dryness may not be to everyone’s taste, but you can’t help but be impressed by the quality of this gin.
Clearly inspired by nature and his home landscape, Barney Wilczak has created a gin that is beautifully finished and resolved with a distinctive personality. 4.5 stars
- Capreolus Distillery website
- Find them on Facebook
- Purchase Direct from their website (UK) and also via here in Australia (AUD$85.00 per bottle)
- Distributor in Australia: Wonderland Drinks
- ABV: 47%
- Batch 22.
Disclaimer: this review is of an unsolicited sample provided by the distributor, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.