Here is our roundup of must try spirits this Summer – just in time to celebrate the easing of lockdown 3.0 and a brighter year ahead! Stay sane and in the luxury lane with these marvellous tipples!
Masons Pink Grapefruit and Cucumber Gin 42% ABV
I do a very happy dance when a bottle of Masons arrives on the doorstep. Not only have the rather talented husband and wife team behind this fabulous collection of gins got an appetite for experimenting with delicious new flavours, but the branding (including the lush box each bottle comes in), is sublime. Masons to me is the Heston of the Gin world – not afraid to rewrite the rule books.
We’ve tried a number of the their flavours over the past 2 years, with not even a hint of a disappointing experience. In short, these guys know how to create tasty gins. What we have here with Masons Pink Grapefruit & Cucumber Gin is something really quite delicious for those who enjoy a fruity gin. On the nose, you’re immediately hit with a burst of citrus (the grapefruit), with a juniper / cucumber combo following up the rear.
To taste, it’s a similar story… a citrus burst of lemon meets pink grapefruit, followed by an ultra-smooth and refreshing, but subtle cucumber finish. We teamed with a premium Indian tonic and garnished with both a cucumber and slice of pink grapefruit.
This has Summertime written all over it people. Get garden party ready with a bottle of this incredible liquid.
Masonsofyorkshire.com – £34
Bathtub Gin 43.3% ABV
Bathtub Gin is a compound gin, meaning it is made by flavouring neutral spirits with essences, natural flavourings and botanical ingredients without redistillation. In comparison to adding the botanicals through the distillation process. This alternative way of crafting the spirit was used during Prohibition – and this is where this Gin gets its name!
But don’t let this traditional way of crafting take away from this truly contemporary and unique spirit – with awards under its belt, this gin a forerunner of the modern gin market. Leading with juniper, cinnamon and cardamon and perfectly accompanying all high-end tonics – Bathtub gin has become the first spirit we reach for when making classic G&T’s or cocktails.
Opposed to classically made gins, the spices and botanicals in Bathtub are vibrant and more present, whilst still being a smooth drink overall. We would suggest swapping out where ‘normal’ gins would be in an assortment of cocktails (Negroni especially!) and tasting the difference that Bathtub brings – in a flooded market, Bathtub brings something traditional, and it feels pleasantly new.
Masters of Malt – £31
Burleigh Dry Gin 40%-47% ABV
We’d like to introduce you to Burleigh and their delicious range of distinctive gins. Located in a converted cattle barn in Charnwood Forest (bang in the middle of Leicester and Nottingham), the Burleigh story started back in the Summer of 2014 when the distillery was founded. Many of the botanicals are sourced locally from the forest – impressive, and makes for a great story.
We’ve had the opportunity to trial 3 delicious gins in their range, each with their own back story and recipe. So without further ado…
Burleigh Leicester Dry 40% ABV
This gin pays homage to the city of Leicester, with infusions that nod to the area’s food and drink scene, and incorporate thyme, sage, nutmeg. You can expect dry juniper notes, hint of spice and herbs and plenty of citrus zest.
Team with a Mediterranean tonic and grapefruit and you’ll thank us!
Burleigh London Gin Signature 40% ABV
This is Burleighs’ trademark gin and absolutely nails a quintessential ‘G N T’ in our eyes. It’s a perfect long sipper, offering up elegant notes that are crisp and sharp, with juniper jumping around for your attention. It contains 11 botanicals including silver birch, dandelion, burdock and elderberries, which provide an enjoyable sharpness to it that we like, and a finish that is peppery and fragrant.
This is a staple, all round gin that is as nice teamed with a tonic, as it is within a cocktail.
Burleigh London Gin Distillers Cut 40% ABV
In a similar vein to the Signature Gin (above), the Distillers Cut is a non-fussy, traditional gin with oodles of delicious botanicals fighting for your attention. As far as we can tell, it also contains the same botanicals as the Signature.
It’s light and airy on the nose with a slight hint of eucalyptus. On the tongue, the juniper is abundant with spicier notes developing alongside the citrus burst and elderberry. There’s a floral finish, which keeps the entire experience very refreshing and will have you coming back for more, guaranteed!
Team with an Indian tonic, orange peel and rosemary sprig. Scrummy!
Masters of Malt – £26 – £34
Lyme Bay Pink Grapefruit Gin 40% ABV
Now for those craving a little sunshine, this is as close as you’re going to get to Summer in a bottle! One of our favourite local distilleries, Lyme Bay Winery, has delivered yet another absolute cracker.
Pop the lid and take a deep breath… fresh, crisp citrus meets subtle juniper. Delicious. Obviously if you’re not a fan of fruity gins, then this may not be for you, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – this may actually be the gin to convert you!
We teamed with a Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and a slice of pink grapefruit (of course), which worked wonders for our taste buds.
On the tongue, the citrus hit is immediate, pleasantly bitter, but is not overpowering in the slightest. For us, this gin would complete the most perfect sunny afternoon enjoying the fruits of your labour in the garden, or welcoming long missed friends and family back into our homes!
Whatever you’re doing Lyme Bay, keep doing it, you rock!
Lyme Bay Winery £32.49
Kingdom’s London Dry Gin 40% ABV
So, we featured a Gingerbread Kingdom’s Gin in our 2021 Spring round up, which proved rather popular with the team here. Here we have the brand’s London Dry Gin, which in a nutshell, is also well worth writing home about.
The back story to the brand is as enjoyable as the drink itself, with Kingdom jumping on a flight to London from his home country of South Africa to make his fortune. Things didn’t quite go to plan and not necessarily in not a good way… until a chance meeting and act of kindness that changed the fortunes of this ambitious young man forever.
The passion behind the product is as clear as the delicious liquid itself, and we’re certain you’ll enjoy which ever one of Kingdom’s gins you choose.
But back to this fine London Dry Gin for a moment… with its stylish pastel shaded graphics, we love the branding of the bottle for starters. It’s understated.
Open the bottle and the refined experience continues, with an ultra-smooth (smooth enough to drink neat in fact) gin offering tang of citrus from lemon peel and orange combined with a very slight burst of coriander. We suggest teaming with an Indian Tonic and a slice of orange – delicious.
Also amazing in cocktails – especially a Bramble:
40ml Kingdom’s London Dry gin
20ml sugar syrup
20ml lemon juice
10ml crème de mure
berries or lemon zest, for garnish
Kingdom’s Website £30
The Legendary Dark Silkie Irish Whiskey 46% ABV
Hailing from one of my favourite places on earth, Donegal, Ireland, this whisky is an absolute find! Its beautifully deep and rich shade of colour gives you a hint as to what awaits your taste buds. Oooh, they are in for a treat!
This is a smoky, peated, single malt Irish whisky, which has been matured in ex-sherry casks, giving it acres of depth with delicious rich tones. Whilst I’ve never been the biggest fan of peaty, smoky whiskies, this is 100% an exception to that rule!
On the nose, fresh apples, pears and spiced oak. On the tongue, soft rich caramel sweetness, liquorice with notes of toffee and pears. To finish, a malty smoke and sweet cream.
I’m loving this, perhaps a little too much!
anCnoc 12 Year 40% ABV
This award winning and simply magnificent whisky has got us pouring, again and again.
anCnoc represents what we love and find fascinating about whisky in general – it’s not just a spirit, it’s so much more! Collectors, tasters and aficionados world-wide will agree anCnoc fills a space in every good whisky collection. It is a bold drink, which is to be expected from a 12 year matured in ex-sherry and bourbon casks – however its really is an ‘everybody’ whisky, with a soft and sweet start on the tongue, it invites the taster into the complexities of the spirit – hints of honey and lemon, followed by a malt and zests of kiwi and white fruit.
Enjoy over rocks, or in an Old Fashioned – and if you aren’t already on a voyage of discovery on the seas of delightful whiskies out there – let anCnoc be your first, put wind in your sails and raise your anchor!
Masters of Malt – £32
Loch Lomond 12 Year Olds 40% ABV
Loch Lomond 12 year old Single Malt Inchmurrin Fruity & Sweet
We’ve two delicious Loch Lomond whiskies to introduce you to. The Inchmurrin 12 year old Fruity & Sweet being the first. But before I delve into our experiences with the whisky, I want to take a moment to reflect on my personal experiences of this amazing place. Hop on a luxury cruising boat (Loch Lomond Hotel put this on) with a glass of fizz and enjoy what is arguably one of the most intriguing, awe inspiring destinations in the world. If the location is anything to go by, these tipples are going to be rather special.
So, the 12 year old Inchmurrin Fruity & Sweet name hints at what you can expect. This is a bold and complex tipple dominated by hints of liquorice, apples and tropical fruit. It’s not the smoothest of whiskies, but add a little water and you’ll be at the right place if that’s what you prefer. This is a wonderfully creamy single malt, which features whisky drawn from a trio of cask style, namely Bourbon casks, refill casks and recharred casks.
On the nose; sweet cereal, apples and pears.
On the palate; salted caramel, allspice and malt.
To finish… a little spice with a long finish. Dreamy.
To sum up, this absolutely deserves a spot in the drinks cabinet. It’s an Autumn warmer for me, something I’ll be enjoying as the nights draw in anyway.
Loch Lomond 12 year old Single Malt Perfectly Balanced
This little beauty picked up multiple awards in 2020 and has been featured in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible (2017), therefore shouldn’t require too much thought process around picking yourself up a bottle. Similar to its Inchmurrin Fruity & Sweet sibling, Perfectly Balanced is aged in three types of cask – bourbon, refill and re-charred. It’s worth noting that both are bottled at 46% and non-chill filtered to keep things as nature intended.
First off, Perfectly Balanced is by far a smoother dram – it’s as it says on the bottle ‘Perfectly Balanced’ and right up there with some of my staple favourites. It’s also a bargain at £35 (what I found it for online).
On the nose; ripe apple, lemon rind and cereal undertones.
On the palate; this really comes alive and has such a character; hints of peat and smoke coupled with fruity character of peach and pear layered with vanilla sweetness.
The finish is delicious, with wood smoke and peat.
To sum up, you’ll not regret this purchase folks!
Rampur Double Cask 45% ABV
It was exactly a year ago that we featured Rampur’s vintage Select single malt, which was nothing short of gold standard. Put it this way, we’ll not forget in a hurry. Absolutely delicious!
Fast forward a year and we have our mitts on a bottle of Rampur Double Cask, which has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and European oak sherry casks. The result is as hoped for – sublime and on an even par with the Select. Thanks to the sherry cask finish, it’s rich, complex and sweet.
On the nose you can expect peppery, delicious tropical fruits – I’m picking out mango, guava and banana.
On the palate, the fruit disappears a little and you’ll get a hint of smoke. There’s malt, caramel and dark chocolate, with a touch of cardamom for good measure.
For the finish, the fruits come back and leave a delicious, really enjoyable taste on the tongue.
This is well worth it’s £55ish price tag. We’ve paid so much more for so much less in the past.
Also worth looking out for is the distillery’s brandy, rum and vodka, which we’ve also reviewed and featured in the past. Impressive stuff!
Masters of Malt – £55
Glen Moray 12 Year 40% ABV
We’ve had the pleasure of tasting a few in the Glen Moray range over the past couple of years, the 10 year olds and 15 year old in particular. This here 12 year old is entry level expression from their popular Heritage range, and has been aged in American oak casks, which gives it a delicious sweet malty taste.
On the nose there is subtle dried fruit here, vanilla too, and with the sweetness of honey.
On the palate, the honey continues along with a nuttiness. The longer this gets to breathe, the more delicious it becomes. It’s not harsh, in fact it’s smoother than its 10 year old siblings and would be our personal preference.
Nice long, sweet finish, dried apricots with an organic herbal edge.
To sum up, this is a good, staple and beautifully balanced dram for a very fair price.
Masters of Malt – £35
Benromach Contrasts Organic 46% ABV
Hailing from Benromach’s Speyside distillery, this is a certified organic single malt, matured in virgin oak casks, which were filled in 2012 and opened last year in 2020.
What do you mean by ‘organic’ we hear you say – well, every ingredient that goes into this absolutely delicious whisky is, you guessed it, organic and what’s more, meets rigorous UK Soil Associate standards in relation to growing the ingredients.
On the nose; nutty, warming spices with a touch of dark chocolate – intriguing for sure. It’s when this hits the tongue that it gets really interesting… pancakes, cinnamon and toasted banana and a sort of hearty earthy tone – wow, what a dram!
To sum up, Benromach Organic Single Malt is incredibly well rounded, with a lovely sweet yet slight smoky finish that will have you longing for… just one more wee dram (oh dear, I’m already ½ way through the bottle!)
VintageRoots – £44
Liqueurs and Cocktails
Stambecco Maraschino Cherry Amaro 35% ABV
The word ‘Maraschino’ is thrown around a lot when we make cocktails – a cocktail isn’t finished until it has its garnish – and Maraschino cherries are our favourite! On trend and in bars Stambecco Marachinno is crafted by Torino Distillati with a combination of 30 herbs and spices including sweet and bitter oranges, coriander seeds, marjoram, oregano, wormwood, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and of course maraschino cherries!
This unique expression of complex ingredients creates an ideal flourish of flavours, which transcends your typical Amaro – with a bitter-sweet intro, followed by intense cherry flavour. Much like the ‘Stambecco’ – Italian for ‘ibex’ that the bottle is aptly named after, this concoction delivers a hard and bold punch, supported by dreamy marzipan notes.
We strongly suggest trying a ‘Stamhattan’ – a change on the classical Manhattan or serves over ice – garnish with…. maraschino cherries! Obviously!
Masters of Malt – £26
Bottle Bar and Shop Lychee Martini 16% ABV
Handmade in Bottle Bar and Shop in Catford, London – this pure dream of a pre-mixed cocktail is for those with guests, conversations and other things to prepare!
We adore lychee so it comes as no surprise to us, that this is a delight of a drink. With a welcoming reminder to slow down, sip and relax, enjoy the sun and good company this summer! Made of Holy grass vodka, lychee juice, coconut syrup and lime – pour over ice and add a real lychee to the mix, this simple yet zesty Martini will put a spring in your step and have you demanding another, and with no artificial flavours and made from all-natural ingredients, there really is no excuse not to!
Bottle Bar and Shop – £9.50 – £28
Amor Traditional Honey Wine Mead 12.5% ABV
Created by fermenting natures nectar – Honey! Amor Traditional Honey Mead utilises honey made from a specific flower, Amorpha Fruticose – which gives this addictive substance its unique and sweet taste. This crystal clear mead is made in the traditional sense, where no extra additives or spices are added – it is literally just honey and water. Simple and clean.
The majesty of mead is in its historical roots, however Amor Traditional Honey Mead is a level above the rest – reclaiming the historically barbaric associations with the term ‘mead’ back from the Vikings and into the modern age. This drink is an object of nature and as such, will suit perfectly as a replacement for bulky dessert wines, sit well on top of fizz and also as a unique ingredient in any cocktail makers portfolio.
We look forward to sipping this drink over ice, in the height of summer, in our garden, with a good book and the noise of bees buzzing around!
Honey Heaven – £15
Sherbet Gin Liquers 20% ABV
Here’s another remarkable trio from funky drinks producer, Gravity Drinks. Three delicious sherbet gin liqueurs that have me time travelling back to my 80’s roller disco childhood with every sip. These are super sweet tipples, with heaps of tangy, fruity and sherbety flavour. You can pick these up for £15 each (bargain), and they make for great sippers or mixers with a whole new take on a gin cocktail – we recommend the Raspberry flavour in a Gin Fizz – whoaaaaa!
The three flavours tried were Raspberry, Lemon and Orange. Each have the same consistency, sherbet fizz and oodles of personality. There likely is a limit on how much of this stuff you’d want to consume in one sitting, so likely that you’ll just roll out these barrels to get the party started rather than finish the night… although they will bring back some funky childhood memories that you’ll be discussing until the sun comes up the next morning!
Masters of Malt – £15
Cranes Cranberry and Blood Orange Liqueur 17% ABV
We’ve experimented with Cranes previously and it’s here again! With good reason – this is a must have this summer. Cranes represents the perfect accompaniment to Prosecco and a whole array of cocktails – made in Cambridge with cranberries from the US!
If you’re looking to expand your cocktail skills, try replacing the Campari in a Negroni with Cranes, you will not be disappointed. The lush blood orange and cranberry juices ooze through the vermouth and combine with the gin to create an elaborate and sweet tipple, worth handing out at your next BBQ or garden party. Quintessentially English in taste, we are constantly experimenting with this wonder.
Masters of Malt – £19
Drambuie 40% ABV
Where do we start with such a drink shelf ‘must have’! Drambuie is steeped in Scottish history and lore – the bottle depicts sword slashes on the neck, in homage to the Jacobites who fell on Bonnie prince Charles’ behalf, whilst its mysterious origins shift across Scotland from the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh. But within each glass vessel is a copper nectar that is truly Scottish in name, taste and nature.
Like a Glasgow kiss, Drambuie immediately hits you with aromas of scotch and honey, and a hint of dried figs and currants – Elevating your initial experience by reminding you that this is very much a whisky liquor.
On the tongue, an amalgamation of classical scotch notes, dried fruits, treacle all carried by a central honey note. This is an outstanding, versatile drink – try a Rusty Nail as a nightcap this summer or drink neat over ice, any time you feel like a ‘wee dram’!
Morrisons – £18
Bardinet VSOP 40% ABV
Bardinet is a brandy that is at least 4-year-old and hailing from oak casks in the region of Bordeaux. For the price tag, you get a very decent French brandy that is as delicious neat, as it is in a cheeky cocktail.
You struggle to find many negative reviews for Bardinet, because there is literally very little to moan about. It’s a total bargain!
Bardinet is a deep mahogany colour, with fruity aromas on the nose, including raisins, prunes, peaches and oak.
On the palate, I love the smoothness. It’s beautifully balanced with marked fruit flavours, vanilla and lingering oak and a long finish.
The only problem is that you may struggle to locate any as it’s so damn popular!
Sainsburys – £16
El Recuerdo Abocado con Gusano (with worm) 40% ABV
I love a drop of Mezcal and this stuff is no exception to that rule. Hailing from Casa Armando Guillermo Prieto in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, this has it all going on; smooth, deliciously smoky and just so clean.
The fact that the agave for this mezcal is not roasted as usual, but boiled, creates a sweet and fruity aroma – far fruitier than a few other Mezcal’s we’ve had the pleasure of tasting. On the tongue, you’ll enjoy bitter, sweet and smoky flavours with notes of caramel, sugar, vanilla and nuts, followed by a long, vibrant finish. Perfect flavours to enjoy on the rocks.
It’s also sold ‘Con Gusano’, or, ‘with worm’ for those non-Spanish speakers. This is going to get interesting!
Masters of Malt – £36
Two Drifters Dark Rum 40% ABV
Distilled in the heart of our amazing county (Exeter, Devon), we’ve previously had the pleasure in reviewing and featuring both the Spiced Rum and Overproofed Spiced Pineapple Rum, which were both outstanding by the way, but we’ve not yet tried this little beauty.
But before we get stuck into our experience with Two Drifters Rum, we want to celebrate the leaps and bounds these guys are making in their stance on minimising the environmental impact of production and distribution. The thought that has gone into every aspect here is remarkable. For one, the team collect the CO2 from the distillation process and convert it to make stone underground. In fact, Since April 2019 they have turned 7.58 tonnes of CO2 into stone and avoided 18.28 tonnes of emissions. The result – this set up is Carbon Negative!
Right, back to the booze, and starting with the sniff test – banana, brown sugar and a smidge of honey.
To taste, mind blowingly delicious with a powerful combo of burnt sugar, treacle and baked banana. The flavours remain for a decent amount of time. We experimented with a Pina Colada as well as teamed with ginger beer. Officially our rum of the Summer!
Masters of Malt – £35
Eight Lands Organic Gin and Vodka 42% & 46% ABV
Eight Lands is a family-owned distillery based in Glenrinnes, north of Cairngorms national park and right next to Ben Rinnes mountain, in Scotland. To break the stereotypical and traditional Scottish mould, they produce both gin and vodka…not whisky!
These aren’t any old “let’s try our hand at making a spirit” drinks – both the Eight Lands vodka and gin are crafted using organic materials, with no corners cut – to protect their environment, ecology, and family legacy. They can literally point to where the water is sourced and are as transparent the delicious spirits they produce.
The gin is a classic juniper lead spirit which will sit just as well in a Martini as a G&T, classically versatile and pure. It utilises cowberry and sorrel from the family estate, and has a distinct black tea finish that is as warming, as it is surprising.
The vodka is divine – smooth and buttery with a strong vanilla undertone, supported by clean notes of marzipan and coconut. It’s not very often we drink vodka straight, but this pure concoction sits perfectly on the rocks. We expect to see a lot more from Eight Lands in the future and can’t wait to see what other delights this family have got planned! They are one to watch!
Eight Lands – £30 – £33
Smokehead Selection 43% – 46% ABV
This little selection of divine whiskies is the perfect gift for someone (or yourself!) looking to test the waters of the wonderful Islay whiskies and experiences Smokehead have become known for. Not for the faint of heart or palate, each of these contains an encapsulating taste for those who adore peaty, coastal whiskies and desire to expand their whisky worldview.
Our favourite one of the bunch, we’ve sunk a few bottles of these in our time! On the nose is cinder, toffee and warm oily wood with a trace of salt. On the tongue, autumn mist, more campfire with the obvious smokiness, and a hint of dark chocolate. This whisky is one for the collector’s shelf, especially if you are into your Islay’s.
Smokehead made in rum casks – a combination that makes a great dram. This wonderful combo gives a heightened Smokehead experience, with the normal peaty and smoke notes, complimented by the rum cask citrus and tropical undertones. There is an incredible sense of vanilla and cinnamon, which lends itself to the feeling of eating a comforting dessert, on a tropical archipelago.
Smokehead High Voltage takes it up to the next level – adding another intense layer to the sensations you get from classical Smokehead. With an ABV of 58% the first noticeable thing when sampling this dram is the bold and heavy notes it delivers. The smoke is there, but also sea air, vanilla and toffee. When tasting, you will be met with the burn of Islay, what seems like a thicker liquid gives off salted nuts and citrus vibes. This is a strong spirit that leaves a unique tonality in your mouth, like the smell of clothes after a night around a campfire.
The Whisky World – £23
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