Regular readers of this series will have come to realise that throughout my explorations of the ginaissance, my preference is for the classic juniper-led London Dry Gins rather than the botanically loaded contemporary gins. Occasionally, very occasionally, something comes along which makes me reconsider my prejudices. One such gin is Pink Pepper Gin from Audemus Spirits.
The rather dumpy bottle with a slightly pale yellow liquid had caught my attention on the shelves of my local Waitrose but the price of £40 had rather put me off. Fortified by a nice win on the Premium Bonds, a money-off voucher and a timely drop in price I was encouraged to take the plunge. And I wasn’t disappointed.
It is French, distilled in the Cognac region and has been on the market since late 2013. It was originally produced by Audemus to trial their ability to distil spirits but so popular was the hooch that they watered down plans to be a third party distiller and concentrated on knocking out their very distinctive gin.
It is distinctive in a number of ways, firstly in the range of botanicals – nine in all – that they have chosen, two of which have a whiff of controversy about them in certain parts of the world. The first is pink peppercorn which has given the spirit its name. Botanically it is not a black pepper but is rather a berry from a bush found in South America. However, the similarities to the black peppercorn in shape and its slight peppery Taste have given it its popular name. But the American Food and Drug Administration are not amused, preferring a spade to be called a spade, and there has been a bit of a stushie with the French government over its import. The French should stand firm – it will mean more for us to consume!
The other botanical used which is under a bit of a cloud is the tonka bean which is a definite no-no State-side. There are two reasons for this – a high level of coumarin which is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys and because it was often used as a cheap substitute for Vanilla. But, hey, I am doing enough damage to my liver and kidneys drinking gin that a bit of coumarin won’t make too much difference. What is undeniable is that it imparts a wonderful blend of taste sensations ranging from vanilla through to honey, caramel and cinnamon.
What is missing is juniper’s usual companion, coriander – another mark of distinction. For the record, the other botanicals which are named – two are anonymous – are black cardamom, cinnamon, honey and vanilla. The gin is made using the fractional method which means that each botanical is steeped and distilled separately in a neutral wine spirit base before being blended and proofed down to the still punchy 44% ABV, rather than all thrown into the mix together. Yet another mark of distinction.
On removing the synthetic cork stopper, it has a spicy, perhaps peppery aroma with more than a hint of citrus, perhaps one or both of the unnamed botanicals. The taste is complex, well-balanced and an exotic blend of sweetness and spice. It is slightly oily in the mouth and it leaves a wonderful sensation of vanilla and pepper as an aftertaste. It is also incredibly moreish.
Apparently, the taste of the gin changes with age, with the sweeter notes enhanced. Maybe I will be disciplined enough to find out with the next bottle. This is a gin that knocks all your preconceptions about contemporary gin into a cocked chapeau.
Until next time, cheers!
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