That's the spirit
Interest in gin and rum is booming. Cocktail maestro Luke Galea from Lab 22 gives us a few pointers for the novice!
At Lab22 we stock an increasingly wide variety of gins and rums, however, every week there will be a request for something we don’t have. This demonstrates the remarkable growth in popularity and variety for these products! But not everyone’s an expert so here’s a quick guide on where to start.
Like most, we began our journey with the well-known brands but quickly realized there are some great, and arguably better, alternatives. One is Tanqueray Export. Originally produced in Bloomsbury, London, it’s a great staple for the gin drinker and has a beautiful lemon zest with a light tang of pepper and pine. Although Tanqueray, like most gins, guard their recipes with their life (and then some!) it’s pretty much certain that they use juniper berry, coriander, angelica root and liquorice as their main botanicals during distillation. On the tongue you may even pull out a small hint of grapefruit and orange flavour to this gin. Due to the strength (43.1% abv) and fruitiness this gin can be paired with almost any tonic and can also be used in a Martini or a longer cocktail. This really is an affordable, accessible, gin to use as your benchmark so if you haven’t tried it, please look for it on your next tipple!
A good next step is Plymouth Gin. As the oldest working distillery in England this gin boasts of using only 7 botanicals and having a more earthy, lemon finish with a lot more complexity in its flavouring in comparison to Tanqueray. It is
heavily scented with coriander and has an almost sweet and creamy taste.
Which makes it ideal for a short Martini style drink, however, I would use a less sweet tonic as a G&T in order to keep those subtleties of the gin.
A new found love for me (and most of the staff at Lab22) is Shortcross Gin. It’s a small batch craft gin, and as such, gets a uniquely high level of care and attention at its distillery in Northern Ireland. It has underlying tastes of berries and is often described as having ‘grassy notes’ which I completely agree with. It still has the peppery and orange flavours typical of most gins but there is a world of complexity on the tongue with the faintest hints of vanilla. Having a slightly higher 46% abv the finish is long but still remarkably smooth. This gin gets my utmost seal of approval and lends itself wonderfully to an array of shorter less-ingredient style drinks. It works exceptionally well stirred down with fig liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters and a lemon zest finish.
When picking out our rums we’ve tried to include full ranges, such as the Appleton range. The Appleton VX is our house-pour rum and works great as a rum and coke (lime squeeze recommended), as well as the base for any exotic style Tiki drink. From the Appleton distillery in Jamaica this rum is a blend of rums with at least 5 years ageing in barrels. It has a rich vanilla and toffee taste that offers an almost spicy finish. I would recommend this as the base for your next Mai Tai as it’s charismatic enough to cut through the other ingredients.
If you like the Appleton VX then you really should try the Guyanese El Dorado range. All of it, if you can. From the 3 year (white rum) up to the 21 year, these rums are almost flawless. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of white rums, however, the white in this range can be used in a cocktail or even sipped… That’s right, sipped over ice. My favourite of the range is the 12 year old. As a demerara rum the 12 year takes the stage hosting a dark sugar flavour mixed with notes of honey and vanilla but still being fruity. As this is a more full bodied rum I would recommend it only in short cocktails and for sipping with a little squeeze of lime or even orange. Whether you ask your bartender for it in a Rum Old Fashioned or a Corn and Oil you’re not going to be disappointed.
So, there you have it. A few suggestions to get you on the road to gin and rum nirvana. Enjoy!
Lab22, 22 Caroline St, Cardiff, CF10 1FG.
Tel: 029 2039 9997 www.lab22cardiff.com