Little Scarlet Gin Liqueur
Little Scarlet Strawberries are small, wild and sweet fruits that are unique to Tiptree in Essex, where Wilkin & Sons have been growing the produce that makes their Tiptree jams since the 1800s. A couple of miles and several fields across from the Wilkin Estate lies Hayman’s, a distillery that has been producing gins for over 150 years.
Seeing as we’re well and truly in the jam jar age of cocktail consumption, it seems only right that these two British institutions have teamed up to produce the most quintessentially English product imaginable – Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur, a rich, sweet and smooth liquid with an undeniable moreish taste.
To cement this rather genteel English stereotype further, the story begins when the Hayman family sat down with the team behind Wilkin & Sons and shared a cup of tea as they discussed plans to produce a range of fruit liqueurs.
The newly formed team made strawberry, raspberry and damson liqueurs (reviewed separately here) , infusing Hayman’s London Dry Gin with the fruits and then adding the requisite amount of sugar to bring in the liqueur element afterwards. Though they were very happy with all three drinks, they needed to pick one as a guinea pig to launch first.
Wilkin & Son’s Liz Baker explains: “Little Scarlet Strawberry seemed the best choice, as it is our signature fruit. These are a variety of tiny wild strawberries, and, as far as we know, we are the only growers in the world. They give a lovely, deep flavour to our jam, and we hoped that the same would apply to the gin.”
Finding the right balance between the strawberry, the gin and the liqueur was no easy task – each is bold in its own right, and requires just the right elements for its distinctive characteristics to shine through. “What we have created are more gins than liqueurs,” Liz explained, “we wanted to make sure that the fruit notes came over very clearly, but that the juniper bite remained at the end. Gins are around 38-40% proof, with liqueurs generally down at 18–20%. We finished at 28%, as we believe this gin gives a lovely balance to the spirit.”
All Hayman’s gins are made in a traditional 450-litre copper pot still using 10 botanicals: juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, cinnamon, cassia, Angelica, liquorice and nutmeg. The end result is a smooth, unmistakably classic gin with a good juniper/citrus balance and a hint of spice.
To make Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur, Hayman’s distiller Lizzie Bailey cooked up small batches of Hayman’s London Dry Gin and then added in the Tiptree fruits. Each fruit needed different care and attention during the infusion stage, with Little Scarlet Strawberries and Raspberries taking five weeks, and Damon taking over three months.
Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur to taste…
Jammy sweetness is the first thing that comes through to nose; the smell is so reminiscent of a strawberry lollypop that we could almost feel it clacking against out teeth. The ABV is soft on the nose, but ever so slightly present and the core gin botanicals, though shy behind the booming Scarlets, are present, bringing with them a herbal depth. To taste, the sweetshop taste comes through at first, but the citrus botanicals from the gin rear up, playing nicely with the fruit and tipping the liqueur into more familiar, ginnier territory.
Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur is an undeniably delicious drink and one that was just made for mixing. Teaming it up with Hayman’s London Dry Gin and some pureed strawberries would be a killer cocktail, and one we’re going to have to try at some point. All in the name of research, you understand…
Liz herself predicts that fruit gin spritzers with tonic ill be popular in the UK as a long summer drink, and also says that the gin liqueur has been popular when added to Prosecco for a fruity Gin Royale.
Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur makes great use of its jam heritage and for Brits – instantly recognisable iconography – in the bottling; the label is redolent of that on the Tiptree jars and the bottle itself is a short, round shouldered dinky little thing (at 35cl) with a label on the neck displaying the words ‘Made by Marjorie’ – the Hayman still named in memory of Christopher Hayman’s mother.
It’s safe to say that the liqueur was well received; 3000 bottles were made in the first batch and were sold through Wilkin & Sons own shop, as well as a couple of local venues. The batch was made in November 2015 and sold out in December 2015. Keen to capture the Christmas market, they’ve lined up 5cl drams of each variety as part of a gift set.
Today, the liqueur can be bought online, for those not in the area, and is definitely one we’d advise those with a sweet tooth to seek out. If the Spanish Strawberry gin craze ever catches on in other countries (we doubt it though), this little gin will be a very frequent sighting. No word yet on whether or not the team are planning to extend beyond strawberry, raspberry, damson and rhubarb, but if they’re open to suggestions we’ll just leave this hint/begging letter right here: green fig please. Pretty please. Or even blood orange for the winter season…
For more information about Tiptree, visit their website: www.tiptree.com
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