“YOU ALWAYS HAVE OPTIONS IF YOU HAVE BALLS” – written in bold capitals across the bottle, head distiller Ash Sutton’s tongue-in-cheek humour is hard to ignore the moment you set your eyes on the bottle.
Distilled by A R. Sutton & Co Engineers micro-brewery located in the heart of Bangkok, Iron Balls is one of a very selected few craft gins to have come out of Thailand in recent years.
The production of Iron Balls is extremely limited owing to the small distillery size, with master distiller Ash Sutton choosing the highest quality possible ingredients to create a truly artisan spirit. Much of the production process and ingredients are not open to the public so much of my review is based on pure speculation and largely formed from my own opinions.
Unknown. The exact botanicals and recipe are shrouded in secrecy, but Iron Ball’s official website states the base spirit used to make the gin is “handmade from fermentation to distillation using freshly cracked coconuts and pineapples with hints of juniper, hillside ginger and lemongrass”.
This in and of itself is an interesting concept as most gins are made using a neutral grain spirit base after which botanicals are added to the mix. By making a gin with a base of fermented coconuts and pineapples the resulting gin itself takes on very strong fruit flavours from the beginning which are then complimented by additional botanicals in the still.
If pushed to take a guess at some of the other botanicals, I felt some cinnamon/nutmeg warmth and spice, possibly a bit of black pepper kick, and the coriander seed undernotes.
Super fruity. Pineapple sweetness coming through very strongly but not in a sickly overwhelming way. Slight ginger and lemongrass notes. Juniper’s recognisable piney quality very much lacking.
Iron Balls made for very pleasant sipping. Generally speaking it tasted more like a flavoured vodka than a gin in the sense that it lacked that piney, raw juniper berry quality that is so typical of most gins.
As expected it was very fruity to taste, pineapple, citrus (mandarin?), mango (?) were at the forefront, with lemongrass and ginger backing it up. Very much lacked the heat that most gins pack, but no complaints here. 4 out of 5 stars.
Gin & Tonic
Iron Balls websites recommended serve was with a few slices of pineapple, basil leaves and a slice of lime; unfortunately I didn’t have a spare pineapple hanging around (or basil leaves for that matter) so I improvised with a few chunks of fresh ginger, a slice of lime and to keep with the tropical vibe a few dried kaffir lime leaves for good measure. This felt like a winning combination to me.
Iron Balls G&T was definitely something else. I’m hard pushed to call it a gin and tonic simply because it doesn’t taste anything like any G&T I’ve ever tasted. It belonged in another category altogether. With all that said, I enjoyed it immensely.
It was very fruity and fresh with just the right amount of spice. Citrus undertones were also present. Juniper’s presence was felt, but very much taking the backseat. The slices of ginger complimented it better than I could have imagined and really helped elevate it in my eyes. If I closed my eyes I could almost feel myself being transported to a beach resort somewhere in southeast Asia – good vibes.
Not a traditional gin and tonic by any stretch of imagination, but it was nonetheless a very tasty drink. 4.5 stars / 5
I honestly didn’t have high expectations for Iron Balls performance in a martini, but this little number really blew me away. This time around I mixed more on the wet side, at a ratio of 3:1 with Riserva Carlo Alberto dry vermouth and garnished with a lemon peel. Fruity and martini are not two words that I would usually use together positively in a sentence (I wouldn’t be found dead ordering an Appletini), but this martini just really worked for me.
It wasn’t “traditional” by any means; junipers presence was very much lacking overall but the pleasant ginger and cinnamon spice and warmth along with the strong tropical base spirit made for a very enjoyable contemporary martini experience.
Martinis are something that really get me excited and Iron Balls did not disappoint. 4.5/5.
The Take Home
Iron Balls overall left a great impression on me and I felt it really pushed the limits of what can be defined as a gin. You could tell how much time and effort had been put into the gin, from the handcrafted glass bottles reminiscent of an old naval mine sliced in half, to the handwritten batch number written by hand, to the beautiful liquid gold contained within.
I can understand people who would be quick to condemn this product, as it’s probably the furthest thing from the Dry London style that you could go, but I really appreciated it for what it was. At ฿1,800 a bottle (roughly AU$75) it doesn’t come cheap; however it’s definitely found a regular spot on my home liquor shelf.
- Official Website: http://ironballs.com/
- Iron Balls Instagram: @ironballsofficial
- ABV: 40%
- RRP: AUD75.00 Approx
- Botanicals: Unknown
- Purchase – see their website for details.
Disclaimer: this review is an unbiased and unsolicited review of a sample from the writer’s personal collection. All opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.
About our Guest Contributor
Simon Darveniza from Shepparton, Victoria, has worked in the hospitality industry for a combined total of 7 years; working as anything from a waiter, to a kitchen hand, to a craft beer specialist, to a cocktail menu consultant.
His hospitality journey has seen him travel around the hospitality industry of Melbourne to Taipei to Japan, where he has settled for the last two years.
Whilst working as a network engineer during the day, Simon currently co-runs a small rum bar in Kawasaki city (just outside of metropolitan Tokyo) by the name of “Carib”, primarily serving rum, beer and handmade beef jerky, as well as holding gin take over events every Saturday night.
He enjoys exploring new gins, rums and craft beers, as well as settling down in cosy cafes and reading classical literature (the former and the latter generally not in succession!).
His articles will mainly be focused around gin and the bar industry in Japan/Asia.