Scottish Gin: Mini Negroni Test – Part 2

(still having fun with mini Negroni)

The Negroni Cocktail….. Blah, Blah, Blah, Gin Blah, Blah, Blah, Vermouth Blah, Blah, Blah, Bitter Aperitif Blah, Blah, Blah…. if you have not read part 1 and want to read me blather on about this cocktail drink, then please by all means pause this post and divert your eyes towards Scottish Gin: Mini Negroni Test (part 1)

Go on check out Part I – I will still be here when you get back

Welcome Back – either you are now well versed in my Negroni obsession thoughts, or you just don’t care (bit harsh – but I can take it).

THis time mixing it up a little differently:

I had ran out of Cocchi Storicho vermouth since my last mini Negroni tasting . It was a day before deciding to try out some more Mini Negroni (My own fault for drinking it on its own over ice in a tumbler) And so I cracked open a new bottle of Martini Riserva Rubino vermouth. I do like the herbaceous nature of this vermouth and its deep red colouring. However, it is a little more bitter than Cocchi and for this reason I decided to mix up my premix bottles with this in mind:

  • 20ml Gin
  • 20ml Vermouth
  • 15ml Campari

Negroni purists will be beside themselves – but they will just have to get over themselves – equal parts may be the tradition and keeps it easy, but as I was wanting to allow the Gin to shine through I dialled down the Campari – just a smidge.

Constructing my Mini Negroni:

Again as in part 1, I used some small 60ml capacity bottles with swing tops – bit like mini Grolsch beer bottles. These I had saved over the years from Eden Mill Gin tasting sets.

The bottles were filled as per the list above with the addition of a dash of water to mimic the ice melt that usually occurs.

They were labelled with a letter so I knew which was which and then a few hours before the taste test placed in my freezer to chill.

The Scottish Gins:

As the main title says – this was my second 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scottish 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Gin Mini Negroni tasting and so for this I selected the following Gins:

  • (M) Mackintosh Gin –
  • (H) Hrafn – Valhalla Gin
  • (T) Tobermory Gin
  • (S) Shetland Reel – Filska Gin
  • (D) Verdant Gin
  • (B) BrewDog – Zealots Heart

All of the gins were ones that I have purchased myself, and are just on my shelves – they were picked with International Scottish Gin Day in mind – of which I am an avid supporter. If you want to read a little bit about why I think Scottish distilleries as a whole have an edge over some other countries you may want to read this post.

The distilleries are marked on the map below:

A note about my tasting notes:

As before I’m not going in to the minute dissection of each Gin or distillery, but will merely highlight what it is about each Gin that worked for me. I have tasted enough spirits to know that the taste buds can be deceived when flavours combine, and so I preferer to describe the feel and taste as a whole if at all possible.

Mackintosh London Dry Gin

Mackintosh is a true family affair. Headed up by James Mcdonald and Deborah along with their 3 daughters Steph, Charlotte and Alexandra.

Its been 2 years since they started their adventure releasing their Gin and I have had the pleasure of meeting them at Junipalooza briefly and have followed their journey via social media.

The Gin I have is their first expression, a London Dry. This is characterised by sweet orange peel and in my Negroni it really does play down the bitterness and enhance the sweetness of the Negroni, it combines well with the fresh orange garnish. I love it when one flavour enhances another.

More information can be found on their Mackintosh Gin website

Hrafn Valhalla Gin:

Hrafn Gin is the brain child of bothers Peter & Callum Sim. The name Hrafn means ‘Raven’ in Old Norse and is pronounced the same way. They make 3 expressions, and here I used Valhalla Gin which is their higher strength expression at 49%. Unusually one of their key botanical is mandarin skin. The distillation they say is long and slow to make the most of the botanicals and eek out the most flavour they can.

Hrafn Valhalla is unmistakably a strong Gin, the Mandarin has a lovely sweet citrus taste with spice lengthening it out – it is definitely a good sipping Gin.

But this is a Negroni test and in my Negroni this was a really pleasant surprise – I thought the Mandarin might be lost, but no it was most definitely evident and added a sweet twang to my Negroni.

More information can be found on the Hrafn Website (they have lots of Cocktail suggestions)

Tobermory Gin

I have fond memories of Tobermory, from a family trip of the Outer Hebrides some 15 years ago. The children (as they were then) were excited by the idea of staying in ‘Ballamory’

Tobermory distillery was established 1798 – most of the years since have been dedicated to whisky production, but more recently (since 2019) they have branched out to produce this Gin. One of the things that sets this aside is that they use a little “splash” of spirit taken from their whisky stills. This add a subtle malty element to the Gin. The 13 botanicals include a very surprising one: locally grown Hebridean Tea!

In the Negroni whilst the malt is subtle it is still evident, and makes me wonder what it might be like with a sweeter vermouth.

More information can be found on the Tobermory distillery website

Shetland Reel – Filska Gin

The Shetland Distillery Company was created by four people Frank and Debbie Strang who regenerated the former RAF site into tourist resort and Stuart and Wilma Nickerson who own and operate The Malt Whisky Company

Local botanicals are used to create a Gin that is unique and embodies the place where it originates. There are several expressions in their range. The Gin in my collection is from their named “Filska” – which means high-spirited and flighty. One of the lead extra botanicals is Red Grapefruit and then this is followed up by a cinnamon finish.

In my Negroni this Gin added a fruity quality pulling out the fruitiness from the Vermouth.

More information is available on the Shetland Reel website.

Verdant Dry Gin

I found Verdant Dry Gin first at the True Origins Gin show in London. Andrew Mackenzie (the founder) gave a talk on Verdant Spirits and their story. The first Distillery to be based in Dundee for 200 years. This mas the reason why I marked my Negroni mini bottle with a ‘D’ (if I had marked it with a ‘V’ it would have been a little obvious for others to guess online)

This is a classic Gin and is made using a modern style of still called an i-Still. This seems to suit the mix of old and innovation that was evident from Andrews talk.

On its own the liquorish sweetness and peppery finish of the Grains of paradise make this a very enjoyable neat Gin.

In my Negroni It is just a little lost – The Gin is evident but the sweet and ‘green’ flavours of this Gin are not shining through – I suspect the Vermouth is the culprit here and perhaps a larger Gin measure would correct this – it IS still a good Negroni though.

More information is available on the Verdant Spirits Website

Brewdog – Zealot’s Heart Gin

I first came across this Gin at Junipalooza last year (2019). I think its great. It is Juniper forward with a complex citrus and spice finish.. it is another great sipping Gin. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be much information about it online other than they use some form of triple bubble copper still! There is quite a lot going on in this Gin.

Who can fathom (or doubt) their marketing machine though, as Lone Wolf branded Gins along with their beer are clearly their current focus.

In a Negroni the citrus seems to be highlighted, the spice not so much – but as I have said before its interesting to see which flavours are drawn out by different cocktail ingredients.

Summing up

Once again this has been very worth while experience. It has taught me as much about the Gins as it has about by Negroni preferences.

Some of these gins really suited the change in Vermouth and some would I am sure have shone better with a sweeter and lighter vermouth. I regret nothing though as each had their own special something to bring to teh party and we are not all born with the same tastes.

I have tried this taste test with 11 Gins in the last two weeks and I am really glad that I did. as it has expanded my knowledge of my personal taste and look forward to taking this forward.

One thing I can say is that all of the Gins in this batch and the last batch were great sipping Gins and as that is the way I prefer to drink my Gin, I am happy that I have made so many good choices that suit my palate. Hopefully there are Gins in these two tastings that strike a chord with you, and you might look out for them on your travels.

I am finishing this up hastily as Today (24th October 2020) is International Scottish Gin day 2020. It is the brain Child of Nat and Martin of The Gin Cooperative who’s website in these days of COVID lockdown, have been a great aid in helping me to chose Gins to buy without being able to try first…. Sláinte!

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