Gin Glorious Gin!

 

Four Pillars

Gins Tasted

  1. Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Yarra Valley, Australia
  2. G’Vine Floraison, Cognac, France
  3. G’Vine Nouaison, Cognac, France

A recent review of our cellar revealed that the winery Giant Steps (GS) has a lot to answer for when it comes to my drinking choices. Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander both hold a long standing spot in our cellar but that has now expanded to include wines made independently by former and current GS winemakers, such as Salo Wines (winemakers Steve Flamsteed and Dave Mackintosh, current and former winemakers for GS), Ar Fion (Dave Mackintosh), Dirty Three Wines (Cameron Mackenzie former winemaker with GS) and now, if that wasn’t enough, Four Pillars Gin, headed up by Cameron Mackenzie, seems to have snuck its way into our house. Mr. Sexton, we really need to talk if my liver is to survive!!

Four Pillars is a tiny company producing some top quality gin in the Yarra Valley. A couple of things add to the unique style of Four Pillars – the use of Tasmanian pepper berry leaf in the botanicals recipe and the use of a vapour basket during distillation. Typically in the production of gin, the neutral spirit and in this case a grain spirit, is distilled in a pot still either with the botanicals mixed in with the spirit or after the botanicals have been macerated in the spirit. During distillation the alcohol rich vapours are collected in a narrow tube, or the lyne arm of the still before they are condensed and collected. A distiller has the option to feed these vapours through a basket, which usually holds dried citrus peel, after which they are passed through a condenser and collected as full strength gin. This process adds another layer of complexity to the final product with the addition of flavours from the dried peel to the overall flavour profile. Some other producers who use this method include Tanqueray for their Tanqueray 10 gin and the City of London Distillery gin among others.

Wilma

Where Four Pillars differentiates itself is that instead of dried citrus peel they use fresh oranges cut in half. The effect is an intense orange note to the gin, alongside clear notes of cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper berry to name but a few. Perhaps more accurately, the effect is a rather delicious gin that when paired with the right tonic water makes an unstoppable combination and with two gold medals at the recent San Francisco World Spirits Competition I am certainly not alone in my appreciation!

Four Pillars

By contrast, G’Vine represents a very different style of gin. It is a French gin based on grape spirit that is infused with flowers from the grape vine. The flowers are harvested each June from Ugni Blanc grape vines grown in the Cognac region of France. A number of different processes employed in the production of this gin place it firmly in the super premium category. The removal of the flowers from the grape vines before they produce grapes eliminates any potential for further revenue from a grape crop, the flowers are hand harvested and the gin is produced in a small Florentine pot still traditionally used by perfumers. Building on a sense of the premium is a sharply designed bottle coupled with bespoke glassware, distinctive in size and shape and clearly branded. My first experience of this gin was at the Top Shelf Boutique Drinks Festival in Melbourne and I enjoyed both the Floraison and the Nouaison expressions. Imagine how pleased I was to attend the launch of this gin in Hong Kong on Wednesday night …

G'vine FloraisonG'Vine glass and balloonG'vine nouaison

So while I am most definitely the Happy Wine Woman, I do have moments as the Grateful Gin Gal particularly when I see the number of top quality gins readily available to the market!

Happy Drinking!

48 hours in Épernay: Day 2 Champagne Gosset

Champagne Gosset logo

The final appointment for the 48 hours I spent in Épernay was to Champagne Gosset in rue Godart Roger with the absolutely lovely Nathalie Dufour, Export Sales Administrator. Despite Nathalie’s best efforts and although the sun was shining I couldn’t bring myself to part with my jacket as we set off for a tour around the facilities – it was a true winter’s day!

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 2 Salon and Delamotte

SalonDelamotte copy

Following my visit to Besserat de Bellefon I had dinner at Les Avises where by sheer good fortune I happened to arrive a little earlier than most of the guests so the other party at the restaurant very kindly offered to share their first bottle with me… the party being led by M. Didier Despond, of Salon and Delamotte and the first bottle being none other than a 1997 Salon. How lucky I felt at that moment especially as I had tasted the 1996 earlier in the year and was very excited to be able to compare the two.

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 1 Besserat de Bellefon

Bessert de Bellefon logo

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Besserat de Bellefon, Blanc de Blancs NV
  2. Besserat de Bellefon, Brut Rosé NV
  3. Besserat de Bellefon, Brut NV
  4. Besserat de Bellefon, Extra Brut
  5. Besserat de Bellefon, Brut 2002

Besserat de Bellefon was founded in Aÿ in 1843 by Edmond Besserat and two generations later a grandson of the same name married Yvonne de Méric de Bellefon, thus creating the family crest under which the champagne is known today. In 1971 the company was bought by Pernod-Ricard who, in the 1990s, sold it to what is now known as Lanson BCC and this is where I find myself for the third appointment of my first day in Épernay.

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 1 Champagne Lenoble

Champagne Lenoble logo copy

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Champagne AR Lenoble, Cuvee Intense NV
  2. Champagne AR Lenoble, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, NV
  3. Champagne AR Lenoble, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, 2006

I first encountered Champagne AR Lenoble at the Altaya Wines Annual Tasting last year. So when I realised I was going to be in Épernay I immediately contacted Antoine Malassagne, one of the two owners and great grandson of the founder, Armand-Raphaël Graser, who kindly agreed to have me visit.

Pulling into the small offices in Damery it was immediately clear this is a smaller, family run business. As I waited for my appointment, I chatted with a sommelier from Paris who had driven down and packed his Mini to the brim with stock for his restaurant – it would appear I am not the only one who finds these bubbles delicious!

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 1 Perrier-Jouët

PJ logo

Champagne Tasted

  1. Perrier-Jouët, Belle-Époque, 2006

Champagne and I have long been friends, and when I say Champagne I do use the word loosely whilst reflecting on all I have learned in my wine studies. I love a good glass of bubbles and in my world every day is an occasion to celebrate with bubbles! As I have spent more time “studying” wine my tastes have changed and I have come to adore the biscuity, yeast characteristics of aged sparkling wine sitting alongside the mouth watering acidity of all those citrus and green fruits.

At the end of last year I happened to find myself in London and with an invitation or two to visit Épernay, a Eurostar ticket in my hand and the GPS enabled on my phone I set off to get up close and personal with those bubbles…

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A Couple of Little Stars from South Africa

SA flag

Wines Tasted

  1. Morgenster Estate 2005
  2. Morgenster Estate 2003
  3. Morgenster Estate 2001
  4. Beyerskloof Wines, Pinotage Reserve 2011
  5. Beyerskloof Wines, Field Blend 2008

Having recently emerged from the depths of study for my WSET Diploma spirits exam I find myself tasting wines from South Africa, and like Tersina Shieh in her recent article on Swartland producers, I am very definitely on board with the revolution!

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