Launched in February 2014, New Zealand based Rogue Society Gin are waving the flag for a new generation of gin brands in Australasia. 3 years on, we have revisited our initial article and see how they have evolved, where they went a little rogue and what lies ahead…
While the gin boom that swept the USA, the UK and Europe has long held Australia in its grasp, neighbouring country New Zealand was a little slower to wake up to the juniper-based elixir. All that changed in 2014, when – inspired by what they saw globally – Rogue Society Gin founders and Gin fans Daniel Mclaughlin, Mark Neal and Richard Bourke began working on developing a spirit to remedy this situation.
As with most new distilling businesses the team had to go through a few obstacles in order to get set up. This included tackling the typical loop holes of legislation and finding the capital to get started in addition to fine-tuning their initial raw idea into a genuinely inspired and innovative product.
The gin really started to take shape when the trio found Master Distiller John Fitzpatrick. They worked with him for two years to create what they like to call the ‘Rogue Society combination’. John’s distillery is based at the foothills of the New Zealand Southern Alps, an area chosen for its access to unimaginably pure glacial run off.
Having trialled numerous gins and perfected their vision, the team settled on 12 botanicals for Rogue Society. In addition to juniper berries there are the likes of cassia bark, cinnamon, orris root, cardamom, angelica root, citrus peels (lemon and orange), cloves, nutmeg and liquorice. All botanicals are distilled with a wheat based neutral grain spirit in a 19th century John Dore Copper Pot still.
Rogue Society Gin to taste…
Rogue Society Gin is classic both on the nose and to taste. Juniper leads cardamom and cinnamon, while the citrus offers a good dose of zing. The gin is smooth neat and offers a well rounded profile. It’s on the dusty, spiced side of classic as opposed to overtly citrus or floral so it’s definitely one for fans of the likes of Plymouth Gin, and traditional gin lovers would wholeheartedly embrace this.
Overall, it’s soft and accessible at 40% ABV, though the flavour was a little too easily subdued once mixed with tonic so our advice would be to opt for a slightly heavier dose of G to T when you are making one. We enjoy it with a grapefruit peel garnish but a clove studded orange peel goes down a treat during the more wintery months.
Rogue Society Goldilocks Gin to taste…
In late 2015 the brand stepped their offering up a notch and added another gin to their folio, releasing their Navy Strength Goldilocks Gin, so named for that little blonde porridge thieving girl and her penchant for trying things in threes. As well as a huge rise in ABV (to 57%), the gin has had one botanical added – tangerine peels. Along with the already existing orange and lemon peel, the newly formed trio drive the gin in a whole new direction, with the now huge spices joined by fleshy, juicy citrus fruits. With emboldened flavours emerging from both the higher ABV and the re-proportioned citrus influence, this its a much more captivating gin and impressively, the use of tangerine seems to have helped maintain a good mouthfeel that can sometimes go awry with higher proof spirits.
When cut with tonic, the citrus is even more apparent on the nose: pithy, earthy and slightly vegetal. Lemon sherbet floods the tongue, with the quinine adding heft to the peels and bringing a big, marvellous effervescence. Juniper plays a big role here and seems to be loving life at the higher proof, preventing the gin from slipping into a mad dessert world and keeping it on a strict herbal path. It’s a far superior offering to the flagship in our opinion, and one that feels almost purpose built for a Negroni. This is where that roguish, cool, anti-establishment brand message fits perfectly with the liquid they’ve made; it’s gin, but with such a strong accent placed on the citrus that it stands out from the pack.
The Rogue One…
Given it was the trust of our objections and the centre of much our attention during the initial review, we would be amiss not to mention a release that has now been chalked up to a learning curve. In 2015 Rogue Society collaborated with Electric Wire Hustle for the launch of their album, Aeons. The collaboration was linked to the Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto who believed that water was “a blueprint for our reality”, and that the energies and vibrations of music could change the structure of water.
With that in mind the idea to have Rogue Society distilled to the sounds of the new album was born. A small batch of the bottles were distilled in this method and sold to music and gin enthusiasts alongside a download of the new album. Collaboratively, it was a neat idea to add a little interest into two companies, even if fundamentally flawed and almost the textbook example of when bullshit PR takes hold of an otherwise genuine team.
Some art-house Japanese philosophy may sound great but playing music to white spirit during the distilling process will not make a blind bit of difference to the taste of it. Literally none. It was the same liquid with some colourful marketing and while it may have helped them both shift a few units, it did little for genuine Gin fans keen to see real innovation. The result caught the wider media interest eager for an unusual easy story, but also left many drinkers who, like us, had got excited about Rogue Society emerging with swagger and style and were left feeling like it was all just a calculated facade. It was a shame – especially as there’s so much room for experimentation in the category – but to their credit, the team have moved on and it was a one off. Since, (as illustrated with Goldilocks Gin) they have been back on their initial path and have become the brand they showed the potential to be and one that we’ve been tracking with interest as they become available across the world
Changing over to Scapegrace Gin…
With a dark green glass and circular stamp like logo, the bottles are a nod to the old Genever bottles of yesteryear. It’s both eye catching and satisfying to hold and, incidentally, would make for a nice gift as it’s an undeniably impressive package (one to remember for all of you looking for that special something to send).
Rogue Society has created a very sexy looking package, decked with enough swagger to attract the right kind of attention. The flagship gin is tasty and undeniably good quality but, admittedly, a bit boring and somewhat forgettable in a world of wayward spirits. Needless to say, we forgive them that – Gin has been Gin for hundreds of years and while the scene has gone a little mad of late, with their Navy Strength addition they’re sticking to the path, although treading one rebellious foot in the grass.
In 2017, the gin became available in Europe but due to a copyright issue with similarly named brewery offering, the Rogue Society team were forced to come up with a new moniker for the EU market; Scapegrace Dry Gin. It is the same liquid, same bottle, same story and same team behind it and as we have understood it, Rogue Society will be transitioning into Scapegrace Gin globally over 2017/18 in order to avoid any further complications or confusion.
The brand has done incredibly well to cement their place in hundreds of bars across New Zealand and by all accounts sales have grown at break neck speed. The packaging can compete globally and even in saturated markets like the UK, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fair now they’ve secured international distribution with Hi Spirits. It definitely sits at the far, far end of the price spectrum, but the super premium market is the one that’s growing the fastest…
A Rogue is an independent person who rejects conventional rules of society by instinctively following their own personal goals and values. We’re still waiting for Rogue Society Gin to push the boundaries further, to avant the garde and live up to its complete potential, but they are doing well getting there. We’re overtly harsh about the gin and the brand as we feel it has the ability to really be one stand out international offerings and we’ll be continuing to push until it reaches that. Now that they’ve established their brand and got the drink into international waters, navigated legalities, they’ve got time to play around. Seek it out, keep your eyes peeled for what they are up to, the next chapter is underway…
For more information about Rogue Society Gin, visit their website: www.roguesociety.com
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