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As far as I know, the main difference between Gordon's in the US and Gordon's in the UK is that the former is 40% abv and the latter is only 37.5% abv.  All that means is that there is more water in the UK bottle than the US bottle.  I doubt there is any other difference.

I'm not sure that I think any brand of gin varies the formula by geographical location.  The proof may vary, but that is not the same thing as the formula.  Gordon's does appear to be manufactured in multiple geographical locations (all apparently former British territories), but from one recipe.  I'm not sure that brands like Tanqueray, Plymouth, Beefeater, Boodles, etc. are substantially produced in multiple locations.  In any event, the US versions are all "imported from the UK" (although, interestingly, they are often bottled in the US -- which means that giant tankers of gin must cross the ocean).

Anyway, in order for the gin to be responsible for the cloying sweetness you find in a US Gin and Tonic, the US version of Gordon's would have to be practically syrup coming out of the bottle.  It's much more likely that the tonic water is responsible (and, indeed, most tonic water available over here is disgustingly sweet -- which has opened the door for specialty products like Q Tonic and Fever Tree).

The thought of tankers of gin plying the shipping lanes is a highly enterntaining one for me, but I thought I'd add that I also find Gordon's to be pretty much the sweetest gin out there. I find Tanqueray relatively sweet/rich as well, but it's higher proof offsets this considerably. I don't really bother buying Gordon's anymore, as I've decided that the cost margin between 'just ok' gin and really excellent gin is so small as to make 'just ok' gin a waste of money.

-Andy

Andy Arrington

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

Some friends were lucky enough to be invited to one of the events in the Bay Area celebrating the near release of Plymouth's Sloe Gin.

Lucky bastards actually came away with a bottle.

Fortunately, for me, they are not particularly experienced mixologists, so invited myself and a few other cocktail enthusiasts over to make drinks and sample the Sloe Gin.

I made a list of the 6 or so Sloe Gin drinks I wanted to try and my friends made up a list of a few more.

Aside from a delicious Silver Sloe Gin Fizz we were surprised by the Millionaire.

Millionaire Cocktail (No. 1)

The Juice of 1 Lime.

1 Dash Grenadine.

1/3 Sloe Gin. (3/4 oz)

1/3 Apricot Brandy. (3/4 oz R&W)

1/3 Jamaica Rum. (3/4 oz Appleton V/X)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

A really tasty and accessible combination of flavors.

There are a bunch that are basically Vermouth and Sloe Gin. I generally avoid making vermouth heavy drinks unless I know the people I am with can handle the taste of vermouth. So I put off making the Sloe Gin drinks with lots of vermouth. Amusingly, as the evening progressed I discovered I had fallen in with a a posse of Vermouth enthusiasts. They loved the Blackthorne (2/3 Sloe Gin, 1/3 Sweet Vermouth, orange bitters) and San Francisco (1/3 Sloe Gin, 1/3 Sweet Vermouth, 1/3 Dry Vermouth, Orange Bitters, Aromatic Bitters). Both of these also went very well with the cheese plate our hosts had assembled.

The Savoy Tango (Sloe Gin and Calvados) and Modern Cocktail No 2 (Orange Bitters, Absinthe, Grenadine, 1/3 Scotch, 2/3 Sloe Gin) faired less well. The Modern, especially, seemed to highlight the medicinal flavors of the Scotch, Sloe Gin, and Absinthe, making it quite unattractive to our taste.

Anyway, looking forward to picking up a bottle for myself in the coming weeks. Quite excited about the return of this "lost" ingredient.

Edited by eje (log)

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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But the question on everyone's mind is this: how does your homemade damson gin compare?

I had Plymouth Sloe Gin for the first time at Forbidden Island. At the time I realized how dissimilar my plum gin was from Sloe Gin. The thing that surprised me the most was how much sour character Sloe Gin has.

I think my plum gin wasn't bad, and left with a choice between the horrible cough syrup that passes for most commercial Sloe Gin in the US I'd still pick it. But it came nowhere near to capturing the sour cherry bitterness of Sloe Gin. Just a lot more fruity and mild.

I think real Damsons are more sour than the plums I used, but I still don't think they come close to the nearly inedible bitter sourness of true Sloe Berries.

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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But the question on everyone's mind is this: how does your homemade damson gin compare?

I had Plymouth Sloe Gin for the first time at Forbidden Island. At the time I realized how dissimilar my plum gin was from Sloe Gin. The thing that surprised me the most was how much sour character Sloe Gin has.

Based on the way it's used in old recipes, I always imagined the real deal must be relatively dry, maybe not even sweet enough to qualify as a liqueur in the way we think of it. Would you agree with this?

Andy Arrington

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Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Plymouth's sloe gin is not particularly sweet.  There is some sugar added, but not much more than is required to balance out the sloes.

is it "economically" sugared? like a 70 proof flavored vodka... isn't alot of it about tax law and cordial licenses?

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What does "economically sugared" mean?

ETA: 27 CFR 5.22(h) defines the Standard of Identity for "Class 8; cordials and liqueurs" as "products obtained by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants, or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation, or maceration of such materials, and containing sugar, dextrose, or levulose, or a combination thereof, in an amount not less than 2.5 percent by weight of the finished product." 2.5% sugar by weight is not all that much sweetening, when you consider that plenty of liqueurs are over 20% sugar by weight. So there's no reason Plymouth couldn't make their sloe gin relatively dry and still qualify as a "liqueur" under 27 CFR 5.22(h).

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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What does "economically sugared" mean?

in the U.S. treasury departments classification of distilled spirits. "class 9: flavored brandy, flavored gin, flavored rum, flavored vodka, and flavored whiskey"... to which have been added natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, and bottled at not less than 70 proof..."

basically under the law you get the most economy out of your product at 70 proof. and your probably going to cut with sugar to get there... so they are probably making some kind of sloe concentrate syrup and cutting to the max.

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Sloe gin falls is defined under 27 CFR 5.22(h)(1), which says simply that sloe gin is "a cordial or liqueur with the main characteristic flavor derived from sloe berries." There is no further specification as to proof. As it turns out, Plymouth's sloe gin is sold at something like 26% ABV. Plymouth's sloe gin is produced by steeping sloe berries in low proof Plymouth gin and a touch of sugar for several months, then bottled.

If you've never had Plymouth's sloe gin, it is remarkably different from any brand available in the United States -- primarily because (i) it is much more "natural" tasting; (ii) it is much less sweet; and (iii) it has much more intensity of actual sloe flavor.

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Our friend who scored the Plymouth Sloe Gin talked a bit about Sloes.

She said, according to the folks from Plymouth, they are inedibly sour and bitter raw.

They are almost entirely pit and very bitter and tart skin with a tiny layer of mealy flesh.

Apparently, they had some preserved Sloes at the event and they were actually pretty vile.

She remarked, someone must have been pretty desperate to even think of trying to make food out of them.

I'd compare it to an almost an agrodolce kind of thing. I'm sure they must have to have enough sugar to qualify as a liqueur, just to make it drinkable, even though it ends up having a sweet-tart taste.

Edit - jackal10 uses 1/2 pound of sugar for 750ml of gin infused with a pound of damson plums in his recipe.

Edited by eje (log)

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Sloe gin falls is defined under 27 CFR 5.22(h)(1), which says simply that sloe gin is "a cordial or liqueur with the main characteristic flavor derived from sloe berries."  There is no further specification as to proof.  As it turns out, Plymouth's sloe gin is sold at something like 26% ABV.  Plymouth's sloe gin is produced by steeping sloe berries in low proof Plymouth gin and a touch of sugar for several months, then bottled.

If you've never had Plymouth's sloe gin, it is remarkably different from any brand available in the United States -- primarily because (i) it is much more "natural" tasting; (ii) it is much less sweet; and (iii) it has much more intensity of actual sloe flavor.

interesting. i would have thought it was far higher in alcohol... so it seems like it is an artisinal product and its proportions are for the sake of taste and not qualifying for any class of spirits...

would myrtle berry liquor be a substitute? i'm conspiring with my pastry chef to use them (flavor from a liqueur) in a dessert... mirto's have more of less the same alcohol as the plymouth sloe gin, an intense piney taste and an amusing adult bitter.

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interesting. i would have thought it was far higher in alcohol... so it seems like it is an artisinal product and its proportions are for the sake of taste and not qualifying for any class of spirits...

would myrtle berry liquor be a substitute? i'm conspiring with my pastry chef to use them (flavor from a liqueur) in a dessert... mirto's have more of less the same alcohol as the plymouth sloe gin, an intense piney taste and an amusing adult bitter.

Most homemade recipes for Sloe or Damson Gin contain no added water. So the only dilution of the gin comes from whatever juice and water moves from the fruit during the infusion.

I would guess most of those, especially since they are often made with "Full Strength" or "Navy" Gin, end up quite potent.

edit - re: Mirto. I haven't tried Mirto yet. Aren't the fruit kind of blueberry-ish? The flavor of the sloes is definitely along the lines of a sour-bitter cherry.

Edited by eje (log)

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Is there any reliable information about when Plymouth Sloe Gin will be available here, including where it might be found for sale?

Cheers,

Mike

"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."

- Bogart

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Is there any reliable information about when Plymouth Sloe Gin will be available here, including where it might be found for sale?

I'm told this first release is very limited and will mostly be sold through distributors to bars.

A few retailers in New York and California will have it available, I believe starting some time next week.

Edited by eje (log)

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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edit - re: Mirto.  I haven't tried Mirto yet.  Aren't the fruit kind of blueberry-ish?  The flavor of the sloes is definitely along the lines of a sour-bitter cherry.

mirto is like a sour bitter blueberry... it has a brambly sort of fruit character but it is obscured by its pininess... supposedly it is the king of aphrodesiac berries and was taken with adam out of the garden of eden... venus rose from the sea wearing a garland of myrtle... good stuff but not for the faint of heart in flavor...

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Mirto is the Italian word for "myrtle." It is also the name of two drinks made from the myrtle plant, famously in Sardinia. Mirto rosso is made with the berries, and mirto bianco is made with the leaves. Zedda Piras makes both a red and white mirto di Sardegna.

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Mirto is the Italian word for "myrtle."  It is also the name of two drinks made from the myrtle plant, famously in Sardinia.  Mirto rosso is made with the berries, and mirto bianco is made with the leaves.  Zedda Piras makes both a red and white mirto di Sardegna.

Interesting. The Myrtle (Myrtaceae) Family of Plants also contains: Guava, Feijoa, Allspice, Bay Rum, and Eucalyptus, among others.

I can see why it would have a piney/camphor type flavor, given it's heredity.

Myrtaceae (wikipedia link)

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Is there any reliable information about when Plymouth Sloe Gin will be available here, including where it might be found for sale?

I'm told this first release is very limited and will mostly be sold through distributors to bars.

A few retailers in New York and California will have it available, I believe starting some time next week.

Oh great, that means Christmas 2009 til it gets to Texas. If it ever does (still waiting on Lemon Hart 151 and Carpano Antica).

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

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My search for sloe berries and sloe gin initially turned out to be fruitless, pun intended. Even the USDA website says they exist in the Northeast but many hikes in the woods and walks through neigborhoods with streets by the name of Blackthorn lane or road, turned out empty. Blackthorn bushes are very invasive and cut back or down altogether if there is any type of residential development. In England, they are found done many country lanes and picked for gin and jams. The fact that it grows wild only (I did find a farm in Bulgaria but they would only ship a boxcar load) and that fresh fruit from Europe is restricted in the US, made the task all the more difficult. An email to Plymouth revealed no source either.

Thank god for the internet and ebay. For a mere $4 a pound, I found a sloe berry picker on Great Britain ebay and convinced her to send me 4 pounds through the mail. The trip caused a few rotted berries but I eneded up with well over 3 pounds of sloes that I infused with Seagram's Distiller's reserve and some cane sugar. I bottled after 3 months (practical wisdom says 3 months minimum up to a year but no longer than 2 years as the pits could leach a toxin) and measured the volume increase.

The increase of juice lowered the proof from 102 to 81, still fairly potent for the traditonal liqueur. I wanted as much extraction as possible, hence the higher proof gin (and a good price too). Very rich flavor with almonds, vanilla, cherry and a hint of that medicinal quality but delicious. I have yet to make cocktails with it and so far prefer it as a neat after dinner drink.

I forgot to mention that during my online research, I came across the ultimate sloe berry sight, www.sloe.biz Everything you'd ever want to know about sloe and damson gin making! Also, for distillate proof conversions, without an alcometer, I found homedistiller.org very helpful

Edited by Oolong (log)
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Our friend who scored the Plymouth Sloe Gin talked a bit about Sloes.

She said, according to the folks from Plymouth, they are inedibly sour and bitter raw.

They are almost entirely pit and very bitter and tart skin with a tiny layer of mealy flesh.

Apparently, they had some preserved Sloes at the event and they were actually pretty vile.

She remarked, someone must have been pretty desperate to even think of trying to make food out of them.

I'd compare it to an almost an agrodolce kind of thing.  I'm sure they must have to have enough sugar to qualify as a liqueur, just to make it drinkable, even though it ends up having a sweet-tart taste.

Edit - jackal10 uses 1/2 pound of sugar for 750ml of gin infused with a pound of damson plums in his recipe.

Sloes are completely inedible -its not just the acidity, they are extremely high in tannins . Sucking in a raw sloe causes all the flesh in your mouth to dry out and shrivel up in a most unpleasant manner. You can , in the unlikely event of your wanting to do so, produce the same effect by chewing on a mouthfull of dry (black) tea leaves.

In Welsh, we call sloes "erin bach tagu", which translates as "little choking plums". Thats about right.

Traditionally they would not be picked until they had been exposed to a frost . Other than sloe gin and sloe jelly , to go with cold meats, they are not much use for anything.

I personally far prefer damson gin to sloe gin, the taste is usually more complex. I find sloe gin rather one dimesional. For practically no extra work , you can make a home made patxaran , usually rather more exiting than any sloe gin. (replace the gin and the sugar with anisette and add a few coffee beans and half a vanilla pod to the maceration).

gethin

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Even red mirto has more of a herbal / resin character than sloe gin. Both delicious when done well, but the sloe gin relies on the balance of sugar, acidity and tannin for a deep fruit flavour, while the mirto is more of a top note. Perhaps port would be a better sub for sloe gin...

Do blackthorns not grow in the States?

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  • 1 month later...

i just picked up a bottle of plymouth sloe gin ($40) at charles street liquors on beacon hill... its pretty cool. the nose has a charming cough syrup kind of character. its is elegantly sweet but finishes almost dry like there is much more acidity than a liqueur like cointreau. the botanicals seem to add only subtle nuance and there is no piny juniper leaping out at you...

all in all the product makes a sloe gin fizz among others seem really appealing....

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