Inspiring and botanically distinctive, Elephant Gin is fast making a name for itself.
Elephant Gin is a handcrafted London Dry Gin inspired by Africa and made in Germany. With Africa as their theme, the inspiration behind Elephant Gin comes from 19th Century explorers and their journeys throughout the East African wildlife.
According to their website “Elephant Gin is produced for adventurers and travelers of today.” With neat packaging and a decent price point just shy of £30, more and more gin enthusiasts are clearly feeling adventurous as this gin seems to have exploded since 2013. Similarly to the team behind Whitley Neill Gin who donate a percentage of its profits towards African charities, Elephant Gin contributes 15% of its profits to two charities: Big Life Foundation and Space for Elephants. Both charities are focused on the conservation of Elephants (thus the name of the gin) and make it worthy of closer attention than just for its taste alone. Drink gin, save the planet – It’s been our mantra for a while but it’s good to see that the theme is catching on.
While on their adventures through Africa, the founders of Elephant Gin; Robin Gerlach, Tessa Wienker and Henry Palmer were all inspired to create the spirit after they fell in love with the wildlife there. Their wish was to launch a product they hoped would help conservation trusts. “Every year more than 35,000 elephants die because of uncontrolled ivory poaching; in other words, one African elephant dies every 15 minutes.”
It’s an honourable feat to have come back from their visit to Africa, successfully brought a product to market and, in doing so, helped causes they feel strongly about. They’ve created a genuinely different product unlike any other gin out there; it’s unusual for a brand to hit all these areas with a new twist and add to the category with something new to say. The flavour profile of Elephant Gin is no exemption either.
Crafted just outside of Hamburg, Germany, Elephant Gin is made up of 14 botanicals. There are classic botanicals such as juniper, cassia bark and sweet orange peel alongside the more unusual additions of ginger, lavender, elderflower, pimento berries, fresh apples and pine needles. For those counting, you’ll notice we’re missing a few ingredients still and this is where the African link comes into play. The known botanicals from Africa include Baobab fruit, Buchu plant (similar to blackcurrant), African Wormwood, Lion’s Tail and Devil’s Claw.
The process to make Elephant Gin begins with the botanicals being macerated for 24 hours in an Arnold Holstein copper pot still. Elephant Gin use a “one-shot” distillation method and remove any impurities they find by making a relatively large heads and tails cut during distillation. Each run produces around 800 bottles, which is then diluted to 45% ABV using locally-sourced spring water.
In the context of gin, this is a really unusual lineup of botanicals. No orris, no coriander, no angelica and only one citrus makes for a unique selection. While the cynics can say what they want about picking botanicals for their peculiarity, we’ve got to say it’s actually quite nice to see not just one curveball in the mix but a complete selection of obscure ingredients.
It’s both different and unexpected. That said, it’s only worth doing this if the ensemble works and it tastes good: back story, packaging and production are important, but creating an intricate and balanced flavour is the most important factor. Thankfully, Elephant Gin achieves this with panache.
On the nose, aromatic dry pine, sweet floral flavours and other herbal notes emerge in what feels like a dusty, earthy gin. To taste, Elephant Gin does not seem like a gin at 45% ABV as it has a smooth mouthfeel. Spicy flavours present themselves upfront, before pine and juniper dominate to create a dry, warming gin with a long finish. While clearly designed with the Gin and Tonic in mind, it’s easy to see how the gin will mix well with other cocktails, particularly a Negroni.
Elephant Gin‘s logo and bottle design has had a lot of thought put into it. The logo’s design as a stamp on the top right corner is a reference to the letters sent home by African explorers. The map with red dots clearly represents the journey either the explorers or elephants would have taken across the plain, which is a nice touch and appealing to the eye. The bottles are custom-made – definitely not an easy decision budget wise – and resemble a flask; explorers would have had similar bottles to these on them throughout their journeys. We’re also most definitely ready to bet they would have been filled with gin. Well, ours would have been certainly.
Additionally, each batch of Elephant Gin is named after great elephants of the past and present that the partner foundations currently do their best to protect. This gives an even more personal touch than the regular batch number we are now accustomed to. Our bottle was named after an Elephant named Ahmed, who we like to imagine as a giant male who likes to spend his time flapping his ears about on the bank of a river. We’d like to know a little more about the fella and hopefully the team will one day allow you to read up further about the animals on their labels, much in the same way that WWF do for the animals you sponsor, or like Sipsmith do when they recount a tale of what happened on the day your batch was distilled.
At the end of 2015, the Elephant Gin family grew with the addition of a sloe gin. An ABV of 35% places Elephant at quite a unique point in the market; the spirit is neither a liqueur nor a gin, rather a product that slips into the crack between both of them. It has a lot less added sugar, too, than most other sloe gins, making it a tarter affair.
The Elephant team use fresh, wild sloes, which they break before soaking in Elephant Gin for several months. The resulting liquid is unfiltered, so as to “retain the highest amount of aromatic flavour components,” explained Tessa. Becasue they break them – the stone inside is more exposed to the spirit, giving an even bigger marzipan note to the gin.
Big Life Foundation and Space for Elephants are not the only causes to benefit from Elephant Sloe Gin. The 2016 edition comes dressed in a chain of beads made by the Kenyan Massai tribe, an African tribe famed for their beautiful jewellery.
On the nose, Christmas cake. A raisin-like smell, marzipan and rich red fruit assault the senses. It’s utterly, unbelievably compelling. That sweetness translates to the tongue, but its joined by tart, drying sloes, which retain their bitterness as though you’d licked your fingers after splitting them to make your own sloe gin. It’s delicious, doing somersaults in the mouth and leaving behind a dark, rich, berry taste and a vague hint of almonds. No tonic is needed, nor any garnish – although a handful of winterberries wouldn’t be remiss.
When we caught up with Tessa, Robin and Henry in early 2016 to find out how things were going since their emergence as one of Germany’s premier gins it was clear where their biggest area of pride lies. “The most thrilling part has been to see the scale and size of our contribution to the cause of elephant conservation grow beyond anything we could have done on a personal level, ” said Tess. “To date, we have been able to give €70,000 to various projects through the sales of our bottles as well as events.”
Details aside – we wished that others would heed the important lesson that Elephant Gin has to give. Unusual ingredients are only good if they work. That’s true of both adding a weird botanical to a gin to give it “an edge” and for those who – for some unknown, demented reason – think that either ivory or other tusks make beautiful ornaments or good medicine. Elephant Gin is a gin to appreciate on flavour alone, never mind its other plus points, and is worth seeking out if you can get hold of it. With great design and packaging to boot, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be making huge leaps in the coming years.
For more information about Elephant Gin, visit their website: www.elephant-gin.com
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