Month: May 2011

Brecon Special Reserve Gin

 - by Dug

I bought a bottle of Brecon Special Reserve Gin at the same time I bought the Old Raj; I have taken a long time to write both of these up and the Bottle of Brecon is nearly empty.

I bought the Brecon gin because I tried their single malt whisky in a hotel a few years ago (intrigued as I was by the idea of a Welsh whisky) and was stunned by its smooth, sweet character. I was delighted to find out that Penderyn Distillery make gin as well and was hoping for something rather special.

Brecon Special Reserve Gin

Brecon Special Reserve Gin

Presented in a tall, elegant, heavy-bottomed bottle (like all Brecon spirits) the monochrome labelling and cork stopper really make for a delightful package. Brecon kindly lists all of the botanicals in a neat column down the front of the bottle; they are…

  • Juniper berries (from Macedonia)
  • Orange peel (from Spain)
  • Cassia bark (from China)
  • Liquorice root (from Sri Lanka)
  • Cinnamon bark (from Madagascar)
  • Angelica root (from France)
  • Ground nutmeg (from India)
  • Coriander seed (from Russia)
  • Lemon peel (from Spain)
  • Orris root (from Italy)

By the botanicals, this is a very classic gin with little in the way of USP ingredients. The recipe is, apparently, 100 years old and the water used is drawn from under the distillery. A small-batch gin, Brecon lays no claim to the type of gin it is; the website declares that no flavourings are added, but the lack of the London Dry labelling leads me to thinking it falls into the Distilled Gin category – possibly due to its sweetness, but this is mere conjecture on my part.

Uncorking, sniffing, pouring and sniffing some more, reveals a very sweet, smooth juniper-laced aroma. I wondered if it held and edge over Sipsmith Gin and a quick sniff test certainly saw the Brecon coming top in a cursory test; certainly worth exploring further.

A nip of the neat gin rewarded me with a very smooth experience. There was a medium-to-heavy juniper loading and so little harshness, I went back for more.

The addition of tonic water (Fever-Tree premium) drove off a very clean, crisp scent of juniper and a hint of spice and something not too far from coconut (odd but not unpleasant).

Adding the lime and tasting the finished G&T was a tremendously rewarding experience. Brecon gin and tonic is a remarkable G&T, on a par with Sipsmith; in fact so good was it, that I might have to hold a gin-off between the two. It is fresh, clean, slightly sweet and a little warming – cracking good stuff and firmly putting Wales on the map of the gin-producing world.

Brecon gin’s price-point is a fair bit lower than that of Sipsmith gin and, for the money, is well worth investing in; I will certainly be buying more of it.

Why are you still reading this? Go buy some.

Old Raj gin

 - by Dug

Cadenhead’s Old Raj gin is next on my list of gins to review and drink. This is long over-due but before I crack on with the review, I feel I need to explain where I have been for the last three months.

Well, the day-job is hectic and I am on a diet, so drinking less alcoholic drinks. Anyway, enough of that, you are only really here for the gin-talk. Needless to say, I apologise for the lapse in updates.

Old Raj Gin

Old Raj Gin

Old Raj gin had been on my target list for some time. I had never heard a bad thing said about it and I had been wanting to try a saffron-infused gin for some time. Old Raj comes in two strengths, 46% and 55% (red and blue-labelled respectively). after some reading around, the stronger gin seemed to come the most recommended and so I picked and purchased.

The Old Raj came in a nice little box (pictured alongside the bottle to the right) and the overall package was one of imperial elegance. The only thing that ruined it for me was the cheap metal screw cap; if this gin had a cork stopper (I am a sucker for the pop) it would have been a near-perfect presentation.

The gin, is of course, straw yellow, and apart from it looking a little like a bottle of wee, it seemed to not be at-odds with its label design.

With a botanical list that is hard to come by, we can assume juniper and saffron, but the rest is a bit of a mystery. Made in a copper-pot still, the saffron is apparently added by Cadenhead’s chairman.

A sniff of the bottle, and subsequently the neat gin in the glass, reveals a respectable payload of juniper and alcohol; no surprises really, given that it is 55%, but there was little else to it.

A sip of neat Old Raj reveals a slightly harsh, very alcoholly (yes, I know it isn’t a real word) experience. There were strong undertones of a harsh vegetative taste and a hint of spiciness.

With a little nip of water, a certain level of sweet spiciness came to the fore, but the vegetative harshness was still there.

Mixing with tonic water (Fever-Tree tonic, as usual) drove off little aroma, although the were hints of spice and greenery.

As a drink, the Old Raj made a slightly disappointing gin and tonic. While the initial attack developed into a somewhat sweet and spicy warmth followed by hints of fragrant angelica, it quickly evolves into lingering bitter vegetative after-taste, which ruins the whole experience.

Maybe I am used to saffron in sweet form (cakes and the like), but this really didn’t do it for me. Maybe there is an element of Phantom Menace syndrome; I have heard nothing but rave reviews and glowing commendation about Old Raj gin and I was expecting something truly spectacular. Maybe my expectations were just too high.

All-in-all, the Old Raj experience was a bit of a let-down.


During a weekend martini marathon I discovered that Old Raj makes an excellent martini. It is a very warm, spicy, almost comforting drink – which is not what one normally expects from a martini.