I don’t know about you, but the experience of a good truffle is a singular one, and hard to describe. It’s unique aromas and flavours can defy easy description, but if you can afford them, they are one of life’s special bounties.
No one knows exactly how truffles grow and only seem to flourish in very particular soils and climates. Only a few regions in Australia such as Tasmania, WA, Canberra and the Southern Highlands of NSW have successfully cultivated the most prized type of truffle – the French Black or Perigord truffle.
Even with the most suitable site and conditions, production can take several years and varies from year to year. To add even more complexity, actually locating this elusive delicacy, up to 20cm under the soil, requires a highly skilled truffle dog and their trainer.
All these factors add to the mystery, scarcity and appeal of a fresh black truffle which came with a price tag of between $2,000 and $3,000 per kg this season! To learn more go to the Australian truffle growers website to read this article.
The cultivation of truffles takes several years to come to fruition after planting an orchard and the yield can vary each year. For more about the process see this article from the Australian Truffle Growers Association.
So given it’s unique flavours, expense and scarcity, it’s easy to see why gins featuring truffles are a rare thing indeed. I estimate there may be less than a dozen truffle gins around the world.
Therefore I was very excited earlier this year when I was approached by Truffle Mad’s Gin and truffle producer, Paul Dadd to help him create a new gin, I leapt at the challenge.
Developing a new Gin
The whole process I was involved with was to critique prototypes, take them to market for feedback, test the final option and of course, suggest best ways to enjoy the Gin! I immediately went to work on what Truffle Gins were out there and to my disappointment, there aren’t that many, and those that exist are a mixed experience, and with the wisdom of hindsight I know that Truffles are a delicate flavour and difficult to capture in a Gin
Having visited his beautiful farm in the Southern Highlands, near Bowral, I thought the creation of a Truffle Gin needs to reflect the complexity involved in cultivating a Truffle, with the expression that spoke of the beautiful country environment, allowing the Gin to stand on its own and yet be an approachable drinking experience.
Redwood Distillery’s owner Paul Dadd was very thorough with the way he wanted to develop a Truffle Gin. He commissioned two contract distillers to come up with prototypes, using different production styles and botanicals.
Once I received the prototypes I reviewed them as I would in a spirits competition, Non-partial judge and scoring as I went. I immediately found some were a gorgeous “Scandi-style” gin that had a rich palette, with complex yet balanced botanical flavour profiles.
It was clear that the team at Blend Etiquette in South Australia has really nailed the approach with some very clever choices in botanicals, the means of distillation and use of an excellent grape based spirit to carry them. Working closely with Paul we sampled, made minor tweaks in %’s and shared ideas of what we wanted the nose and feel to provide.
Working with Geordan Elliss at Blend Etiquette to create a Truffle Gin recipe was a great experience. Her botanicals choice made a lot of sense together with the truffles and meant it would harmonise with the spirit and offer a natural expression of the environment if came from.
Through the process we shortlisted three gins who I then blind tested with industry leaders in retail establishments (on-premise and liquor stores) and target market consumers. From this feedback we were able to define a clear favourite and our winning recipe!
This is a gin designed to showcase the truffles in a thoughtful way that doesn’t overwhelm the drink with intensity.
On the nose your greeted with a delicate truffle aroma and hints of pepper (from Tasmania) and on the palette the delicacy continues based on that well rounded grape spirit base, there’s a hint of natural sweetness at the back of the palette from the Kangaroo Island Honey and a crisp finish.
Overall it’s a subtle expression and you can have fun guessing some of the other botanicals in the mix.
Other serving options include tall with soda and fresh thyme, or even a thin slice of fresh ginger. Or you can try it chilled neat from the freezer.
The Martini Deluxe
I couldn’t resist rustling something special up for the gin.
- 60ml of Truffle Mad Gin
- 15ml of Belsazar Dry Vermouth
- Single unpitted Green Sicilian Olive, wrapped in gold leaf
- A spray of Truffle oil
In a chilled mixing glass, add the Gin and Vermouth, and add plenty of ice, stir about a minute, or until very chilled. Place olive in chilled cocktail glass, and strain Martini over it. The spray, using an atomiser, a little hint of Truffle Oil.
- Website: www.trufflemad.com.au
- Instagram: you’ll find them here.
- Online Shop via their website and selected outlets in Canberra,Southern Highlands and elsewhere
Disclaimer: Redwood Distillery engaged me to critique the prototypes, take them to market for feedback, test the final option and suggest ways to enjoy Truffle Mad Gin.