I looked at my wife, as I approached the door, my face wracked with a sense of trepidation and fear. I held her hand, and gently kissed her on the cheek, as I reached for the handle. I paused for a second, and turned back, looking her earnestly in the eyes. “I’m just going outside” I said, “and I may be some time”. Deep down, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it back home…
Oh ok, ok. I didn’t exactly say that. Truth be told, they were actually the final words of famous explorer Captain Lawrence Oates, to his men, as he stepped out of his tent in to the Antarctic wilderness to face his impending demise. However, it’s a situation that at this time of year I feel I can very much relate to.
Yes folks, it’s November. And it’s bloody freezing! Those walks from the front door to the car, a mere five to ten steps in distance, are becoming an ever increasing hazard to health and an Arctic adventure in their own right.
You may feel I’m being dramatic. You may be right. But I should contextualise this by letting you in on a few ‘home truths’. Despite my rugged, macho and devilishly handsome facade (your words, not mine) I am actually absolutely rubbish in cold weather! I quite literally start to fall apart…dry and cracked skin, chapped lips, reynauds numbness in my hands and feet – and that’s just when someone has set the air conditioning a little too high in the office! This is the time of year that I am generally inundated by tags in to Facebook posts of hilarious photos of some hapless sap wearing 20 jumpers, or wrapped up in a suit of hot water bottles, captioned with the line ‘we all know that someone who is always cold’…ME! I’m that ‘someone’! I am basically the walking embodiment of a social media MEME or GIF, here for your amusement.
I’d like to say that I could quite happily live in a warmer climate (except for Christmas Day – there’s no way I’m enjoying a turkey leg and a paper Christmas hat on the beach!) basking in the UV rays and soaking up the sun. But the reality is that I’m pretty rubbish in the summer too, spending most of the day light hours either hiding in the shade or being instantly sun burned! Text book.
So as I type this, I’m cold. I’m grumpy. And I’m not sure I have a sufficient number of jumpers to see me through the season…Surely nothing good can come of these dark, winter months right?!
I recently received word of something rather exciting, which could help tip the balance of my seasonal disdain. And, on this occasion, it would be my absolute pleasure to reach for the handle and open the door to winter. The Red Door that is…
Red Door Highland Gin with Winter Botanicals, Seasonal Edition
Now for those of you who aren’t new to my blogs, you will know that I am a big Red Door Gin fan, after the resounding success of their launch in 2018. And for those of you who are new to my blogs…hi, how you doing? Make yourselves comfortable.
What more can I say about Red Door Gin that I haven’t said before? Well, not much, as I’ve said it all before! You can check out the fuller back story of the brand in my 2018 review of their flag ship Red Door Gin:
But in more recent focus, the new gin release comes as the third instalment of a trilogy of exciting events for the team in 2019.
First off, Red Door celebrated their first birthday in July this year, having won over a lot of fans along the way to blowing out the candle on their cake. So much so, it seems hard to believe they’ve been on the scene for such a short tenure!
Next up, August saw the team open up their famous red doors to the public, with the introduction of their ‘Visitor Experience’. Gin fans can now flock to the Benromach Distillery in Forres, Scotland, to see where the magic happens and say a personal thank you to ‘Peggy’ (that’s the Still)!
And so if good things come in threes then the release of the Winter Botanicals Edition is a case of team Red Door perhaps saving the best until last. But what’s it all about? And why now?
The Low Down on the Highland
Red Door Highland Gin with Winter Botanicals is a small batch, limited edition, release of 6,000 bottles and promises to be the first release in a range of limited seasonal flavours.
Red Door Highland Gin’s flavour expert, Lizzie Haw, said:
“We’re thrilled to be adding to our product portfolio with the release of this limited-edition seasonal flavour. It’s the perfect addition to the winter drinks cabinet and ideal for festive entertaining or Christmas gifting.
This seasonal edition with winter botanicals is the first of our special releases, carefully created to showcase how festive flavours like allspice and sultanas combine with the classic notes from our core gin, such as sea buckthorn.”
Taking a closer look at the botanicals at play here, Red Door Gin are attempting to get winter wrapped up in a bottle, with a silky-smooth finish. The latest addition to the range sees the addition of the warming allspice, zesty blood orange, fruity sultanas and fresh, lemony hop blossom, to some of the firm favourites that I loved in the flagship gin – namely heaps of juniper and aromatic sea buckthorn.
And speaking of wrapping up winter, what can you expect from the look & feel? Well it’s very much the same as the distinctive bottle and labelling from the core gin. That unmistakable glowing red bottle, with the addition of subtle winter botanicals detailed on the glass.
A classy touch that I really like here is the imagery of the festive botanical inclusions depicted around the neck of the bottle. However, on the whole I was left wondering whether enough of a point of difference has been made in the design of the bottle. On the one hand, you know this is a Red Door gin, but on the other it could have perhaps benefitted from a bolder statement on its points of difference. Though this is a minor, grasping at straws, gripe if I’m being particularly fussy.
But, as they say, you should never judge a gin by its bottle (…I’m not sure they do actually say that, but they probably should!), so it was time to get down to the serious business of tasting. The proof is always in the (figgy) pudding…
Red Door Highland Gin with Winter Botanicals to taste; Naughty or Nice?…
On the nose, I get an initial blast of clove studded orange, reminiscent of the Christingle orange I’d carry around the church as a child each Christmas, trying to resist the urge to eat the raisins and Dolly Mixture off the cocktail sticks until I got home…There’s an earthy sweet liquorice to the scent, that works in harmony with an almost tangible dustiness of allspice that seems to coat the nostrils. There’s a big whack of boozy currant notes coming from those sultanas, which really helps to drive home that wintery, festive feel. It all merges together to deliver a divine mince pie, mincemeat sensation.
Once the gin is left to open up in the glass, it’s red berries that come to the front and create the top notes. It’s cranberry sauce-esq, and seems to become juicier with some very welcome raspberry vibes. Those boozy currants grow in strength, washing around in the sweetness of zesty blood orange. The allspice is pretty hefty, but it’s not at all overwhelming. Actually, it’s perfectly balanced; the whole thing somehow becomes brighter the longer it’s left!
From smell alone, mince pie remains my go to point of reference. That said, Red Door have still been able to portray the subtle chocolate tones and red berry bitterness that I loved in the original offering.
A question I’ve already been asked a few times is ‘how does the new release compare to the original’? Well, both are 45% ABV, but the Winter Botanicals Edition seems far more powerful in every sense! Where the core gin is silky smooth on the pallet, with the lush chocolate notes feeling very defined on the tongue, the Winter Botanicals has amped up the spices to ‘11’. But strangely, given its not my usual preference on the flavour spectrum, I find it a really enjoyable.
The chocolate is still there for sure, the hops combining with the sea buckthorn to deliver the rich cocoa flavours. But there’s an (obvious) emphasis on festive flavours here. There’s a real sense of a ‘mulled wine spice bag’ about the taste, primed and full of festive flavours about to be stewed in a warm pan (if that makes any sense at all?!). And once you get it, it’s inescapable.
There’s a huge amount of depth to the neat gin – it’s layer up on layer of flavour. The juniper is big and rich, with the pine delivering Christmas tree imagery within the context of the drinking experience, as it washes across the pallet.
There is a gorgeously long lasting mouth feel. The spice means you can’t help but puff your cheeks, with a warning fizz on the tongue continuing long after each sip, with a satisfying warmth lining the stomach.
Red Door Gin Winter Botanicals to serve
As a G&T, with a light tonic and a fresh slice of orange to complement the blood orange and red berry flavours, the Red Door Winter Edition is bright and invigorating. The tonic pulls all of that lively citrus zing forwards, whilst still managing to maintain the festively spiced backbone that warms you from the tip of your tongue to the soles of your feet. There’s bucket loads of cinnamon warmth, with the rich sweetness of earthy liquorice. The additional power behind the gin helps it to push out its chest and stand its own amongst the tonic, with piney juniper clearly present with each enthusiastic swig.
All of that said, I was impatiently waiting to try this in a one cocktail in particular, and one with a rather fitting red hum…
Red Door Winter Botanicals Negroni
In my tasting notes for the original Red Door Gin, I waxed lyrical about how well it worked in a Negroni;
“The smokey chocolate tones of the sea buckthorn lend them selves to that classic Negroni bitterness, with the bitter orange flavours complemented by the Campari & vermouth in equal measure. The red fruit hints of rowanberry bring a natural sweetness to the party and all combines to make this a very, very enjoyable drink.”
So you can bet that I couldn’t wait to get this in to a short serve and see how it stood up to my very high expectations!
As a Negroni, Red Door have retained the silky smooth delivery that blew me away in the first place. In fact, everything that worked so well in the original is maintained here.
The addition of Campari and vermouth (in this case I tried it with both Dolin Rouge & Byrrh…I take my research very seriously) helps to ramp the booze heat right down. It is definitely spicier than the original Negroni offering, with the allspice carrying though to provide a welcome sense of smokiness. The blood orange works incredibly well with the sultanas adding something a little extra to the mix.
But don’t be mistaken. A gimmicky Christmas gin this is not. You don’t sit there thinking you’ve poured vermouth and Campari over a mince pie. But there are subtle festive tweaks to the classic that make it intriguing and interesting.
It’s slightly sweeter. The orange feels slightly brighter. The red berries/cranberry vibe lend themselves to harmonise with the bitterness. The chocolate notes are still evident, though they’re perhaps not as forward thinking as in the flagship version. But given the complexity and flavour profiles at work in the Winter Botanicals Edition, you don’t feel short changed in the slightest.
This is every bit as delicious as the Red Door original Negroni and sure to be a certain hit with the gin and cocktail scene!
Red Door Winter Botanicals; Wrapping it up
Let’s get this straight. As I said previously, this isn’t a ‘Christmas gin’. What it is, is a confident stride in to a broadening of a product range in a well thought through and considered way.
It seems that the days of being able to ‘just be’ a London Dry are long gone. In a market becoming increasingly saturated, consumers demand that brands continue to innovate and evolve. Indeed, it will likely become the factor that determines survival at the point that the ‘gin bubble’ decides to burst. And this is where Red Door are ‘bang on’ (sorry). The opening of the visitors centre earlier this year demonstrates an understanding that longevity and brand affinity go hand in hand with building a relationship with consumers, making gin a drinking experience rather than a one off purchase. And in adding strings to the bow through the crafting of small batch seasonal additions to the range, the team will look to bolster a reputation that already far exceeds their relatively youthful stance in the market. If they can continue to capture hearts and minds with their new releases, whilst maintaining the consistent quality of the core gin, the plaudits and awards that I predicted at the end of 2018 can only be just around the corner.
So remember this important message; Red Door Gin is not just for Christmas! It may now have some winter botanicals, but it’s far too good for those kind of festive restrictions. No, no. Red Door Gin is for life.
Huge thanks to my friends at Red Door Gin for my complementary bottle of their Winter Botanicals gin! Be sure to follow the team to keep up to date with all their exciting news:
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Come and say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!