Puddingstone Distillery’s Other Gins…
Change is afoot at Puddingstone Distillery. Not only have Campfire Gin founders Ben and Kate Marston tweaked their recipe and scaled up production, they’ve pushed open the doors of their distillery to guests and embarked on some mightily inventive collaborations, and they’ve also added to the core Campfire Gin portfolio with two new full time family members: Campfire Gin Navy Strength and Campfire Gin Cask Aged. Naturally, we it felt only right to taste them.
A couple of tweaks were made to the Campfire Gin recipe before it made its transformation into a 57% gin. Ben explains: “Primarily, this has been a shift upwards in the quantity of juniper and the way we treat it pre-maceration. There have been a couple of other small tweaks just to balance out the whole aroma/flavour profile. We often find ourselves explaining to folks that the Navy Strength is not just a less diluted version of our London Dry… it’s a completely different recipe and indeed a slightly different set up for the still. It is produced in a manner that would allow it to be classified as a London Dry, but with a focus on ensuring integration between the higher alcohol levels and flavours.”
We’re not sure if the Marstons will appreciate this, but in our opinion, Campfire Gin Navy Strength is a superior product to their flagship offering. It seems that there’s a consensus on this, too, with Craft Distilling Expo’s annual awards naming Campfire the Winner of the Year in its Navy category. Awards, of course, are always welcome: “More than anything it acted as additional reassurance,” Ben said. “We’ve already seen the Navy Strength gain traction with our private and trade customers, however there’s a huge difference between consumers enjoying a product in isolation and a focused, critical panel of judges reviewing and comparing in a controlled environment. For a product to stand out in both of those scenarios is hugely encouraging, especially when this was the hardest of our current products to get right.”
Campfire Gin Navy Strength to taste…
The botanicals at hand in Campfire Gin Navy Strength (and indeed, Campfire Gin) are juniper, orris, coriander, angelica, roasted hazelnut, physalis, orange peel, grapefruit peel and rooibos. It’s an incredible gin, with a nose full of warm pine and rich, festive oranges.
To taste, it’s perfumed and oily, with oranges coating the tongue in a thick, sweet syrup and a fiery coriander doing double time with the high ABV. It’s absolutely worth noting that we completely forgot the fact that this was a Navy Strength whilst tasting. It sat on our tongue far longer than it should have, heating us up, but coming nowhere even close to a burn until the end. Which is outrageous, because at 57%, any other distiller would have us reaching for a fire hydrant upon contact with our lips.
Juniper pushes its way through, thick and sappy, like the goo you get when you squish the berries between your finger and thumb. The back of the sip is dominated by the hazelnuts, which bring a rich, sweet quality that sits pretty on the tongue, watching the other botanicals waltz by. Sip it neat – you’ll be amazed.
It’s obviously an excellent Gin and Tonic. Loud and proud, sweet and bitter, it has everything you could want from a G&T and has most definitely earnt its place as a constant on our shelves. Ben has an alternative serve for it, though, that sounds like it could just work – the Red Admiral. Add 50ml Navy Strength Gin, 100ml fresh apple juice and a dash of Regans No.6 orange bitters to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into two chilled Martini glasses. Gently pour 20ml of ruby port down the side of the glass so that its rests at the bottom of the glass. Yes please.
True to form, Campfire Cask Aged Gin is a different beast. The same botanicals are used as in the other two, though again at different ratios, to balance the effects of ageing. The casks used are ex-Bourbon, American Oak from Kings County Distillery in Williamsburg, and the ageing takes just a matter of weeks, as any more time in cask resulted in the spirit losing from the gin more than it gained from the wood.
Campfire Cask Aged Gin to taste…
Mellow oak shines through on the nose, bringing a sweet hint of toasted coconut with it. The other botanicals are a little masked (as you’d expect), but their ghosts remain, roaming the halls like a tragic Victorian bride.
To taste, it’s gentle and muted, with the wood reducing both the sweetness and the spice of the original. Bottled at 43%, there’s room for a little bit of burn to come through, but it does so with a certain laziness, as though it’s just woken up from a killer nap and doesn’t quite have the energy yet. As far as Cask Aged Gins go, it’s a good’un. A balance has been struck between accepting the new flavours and eking out some of the old, and the resulting spirit is one that is immensely sippable, leaving the tongue with a bright candy coating. it also leaves it on the right side of cask aged gin, in that, the wood is palpable throughout, but the star of the show is the botanicals and the spirit, not the oak.
As for how to drink it? Well… Ben recommends a Gin Old Fashioned or a Negroni, but also recommends his Firestarter Martini, made with Cask Aged Gin and Antico Formula Vermouth (a gin heavy version of a Gin & It if you will). That said, it goes pretty well when sipped straight from a hip flask…
We are filled with optimism for this little distillery. The Marstons have proved time and time again that they are in this purely for passion, but the glacier-like smoothness of the Navy Strength more than insists that Ben has a natural talent for distilling – and one that is improving all the time. The best of them would struggle to get a 57% gin smooth enough to rest on the tongue, but Campfire Gin does just that.
We’ll keep adding to this article as and when a new gin joins the line up to keep you up to date with their progress. By the sound of it, that could be very soon indeed, as Puddingstone Distillery is rife with experiments calling out to be bottled!
For more information about Puddingstone Distillery visit their website: puddingstonedistillery.com
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