Review: Bathtub Gin
It seems that everyone is getting in on the gin production game these days; and long may it continue. One of the downsides however of such an explosion in popularity is that the gaps in the market are becoming increasingly tricky to come by. Unusual botanicals are becoming less, well, unusual, and the once obscure concept of a ‘sipping gin’ is now not all that obscure at all. Us Brits are nothing however if not inventive and I was delighted to hear that the wonderful chaps over at Master of Malt have gone right back to the early days of gin production and created a gin using the process of cold compounding.
Cold compounding is simply the process of infusing neutral spirit with botanicals much like one might do when making sloe gin/vodka at home. There is no distilling after the botanicals have been macerated and hence (in theory at least) it would be possible to create a gin in ones bathtub! In the case of bathtub gin, the botanicals including juniper, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cardomon are infused separately in copper pot-still spirit in very small batches (30-60 bottles) before being blended and bottled in what is one of the more imaginative packaging vessels I have seen in a while. The Navy-Strength Bathtub Gin uses the same botanical combination as the ‘regular’ version but aims for an altogether more intense experience by “bashing them up” (the botanicals that is) into smaller sizes to increase the flavour extraction, as well of course of bottling at an bold 57% abv.
Bathtub Gin 43.3% abv
Nose: The nose has a good whack of waxy juniper upfront with sweeter citrus in the background, and just a touch of cardamom and cinnamon. This is an earthy, spicy and classically-styled gin as far as the nose goes, with a depth of character that suggests a bold flavour profile.
Neat: The supposedly inferior process of cold-compounding has just blown it’s cynics out of the water, for this is a most excellent gin. Full of character and ‘classically-styled’ in as much as the juniper takes a central role and there are no surprises from the supporting botanicals, this is a gin stands on it’s own merits rather than as a result of its production. The juniper shines immediately, but is more floral and piney than the waxy nose suggested. This allows it to blend smoothly with the next round of flavours which are at first slightly sweet and earthy, with a hint of liquorice about them. These build to a spicier and bolder mid-palate of cinnamon, cloves, coriander and cardamon, refreshed with a lemony citrus note that follows through and is joined by a hint or orange to offer a refreshing finish. The absence of carefully controlled distillation might cause concern over the possibility of some rough edges to this gin, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a delightfully smooth and indeed rather viscous number that, whilst delivering plenty of robust flavours, can most definitely be enjoyed on its own.
Mixing: The real test of a classically-styled gin is versatility. The gin should be equally at home in a simple and refreshing G+T, as the star of the party in a Dry Martini, or as part of a team effort in drinks like the Last Word where it must neither outshine, nor be outshone by its fellow ingredients. Bathtub Gin performs admirably whatever the challenge that is set, to the point where it genuinely offers a compelling argument for being selected as the categories representative in a one-gin home bar. Fans of lighter cocktails such as the Aviation might find it a little robust, whilst many will conclude that it adds another dimension that only enhances the drink. Sweet-sour cocktails such as the Bramble are particularly successful, as the flavour profile is opened out to reveal its full complexity. Best suited to boldly-flavoured libations such as the Alfonso Martini, rarely achieves anything other than excellence whatever is thrown at it.
Bathtub Gin Navy Strength 57% abv
Nose: Unsurprisingly, this is an altogether much more intense aromatic experience. Still juniper-led, the citrus is much more assertive and gives the impression of a lighter and more refreshing profile. Somehow the rest of the botanicals are both more intense and less dominant at the same time. Overall this sets the expectation of a more citrus-led and perhaps sweeter gin.
Neat: The high abv, whilst relatively restrained on the nose, is most certainly not restrained on the palate; there is no doubting this is a strong gin. This is nothing however to compete with the frankly insane intensity of the botanicals. It is as if the aromas have lied to you; this is no citrus-led gin, it is a spicy little number the like of which has perhaps never been seen before. Cardamon and and cinnamon lead the charge , with coriander and clove also prominent shortly after. The juniper and citrus play a more supporting role, but do a very fine job of keeping this gin under control. Although intense at bottling strength, dilution with water serves only to further heighten the effect of the spicy botanicals, and eliminates the pleasingly oily sensation that has followed the regular bottling.
Mixing: If the regular Bathtub Gin’s strength was it’s versatility, the strength of the Navy Strength is it’s uniqueness. It would be a hardened palate that considered this to be the gin most-suited to a Martini or G+T, and indeed in many a cocktail the intensity of the botanicals is a bit out of kilter with what would be desired. Sour drinks such as the White Lady help cut through both the high abv and botanical intensity, but remain an extreme offering. Although a little extra Maraschino is required for sweetness, the complexity of the vermouth in a Martinez moves things even further in the right direction to create a deeply flavoured and impressively balanced libation. The real USP of this gin however, is in drinks that demand a spicy flavour profile. Nowhere more so is this the case than in mulled drinks, and cold winter nights are good enough reason on their own to need a bottle of this gin on your home bar. Mixed 6:1 with pressed apple juice and sweetened to taste (plus a healthy slug of Kamm and Son’s Ginseng Spirit if you have it to hand) then gently warmed on the stove, this gin shines like the northern star. Try it, your taste buds with thank you.
Bathtub Gin illustrates that in the right hands, quality gin can be produced using the cold-compounding technique. This classically-styled gin makes for a fantastic choice for classic gin cocktails, whilst the Navy Strength version is a must-have for easy mulled drinks on a cold winters night.
Bathtub Gin is available from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.