It’s fair to say that the aroma that was rising from my clothes, so pungent that I had half expected to see a visible haze, was reminiscent of a smoked ham (if that ham had been smoked in the fumes of Chilli Heatwave Doritos, undercooked Pot Noodles and week old socks)…
I was returning home from the Reading Festival, still donning the same shirt that I had arrived in some 5 days (yes, 5 days) earlier. With my fringe matted to my face and my belongings inside a camping bag that was chafing my shoulders with every step, I felt as dishevelled as a Christmas Ham that had been returned to days later by peckish houseguests, picking through the scraps whilst mourning the passing of the festive period.
What I hadn’t banked on, as I arrived fresh faced at the festival days earlier, was that the clear skies and August heatwave of the day time would translate in to near freezing cold evening conditions. The only option was to huddle around the campfire, from dusk until dawn, readily accepting the eyeball melting excruciation of being engulfed in smoke in exchange for the momentary comfort of a little bit of warmth.
Could the burning of a camp chair, t-shirt and a stray trainer have accounted for some of the more challenging fumes? Perhaps. But that trainer burned fluorescent green and purple for hours and kept us toastie. Small sacrifices.
As I sat in a daze in the train carriage, I became acutely aware of a quiet hush that had replaced the gentle patter of conversation that had initially greeted me. I felt the stare of a dozen sets of eyeballs fixated on my proximity, presumably alerted by the offence that my odour had caused to all 5 of their senses (for if I could have been described as a taste, it would have been ‘salty garbage’). As I sat shamefaced, quickly realising that my weekend of ‘teenage showers’ had not paid the dividends that I had hoped for (essentially the act of dousing ones body in ‘Lynx Africa’ and deeming it a suitable replacement for the usual routine of personal hygiene) I tried my best not to make eye contact with any of my fellow passengers that were held hostage in the cabin.
Some five showers later, I began to return to a scent more befitting of a human being – though no amount of ‘Head & Shoulders’ could wash off the excruciating embarrassment of that train journey.
But why the trip down ‘Memory Pain’…sorry, ‘Memory Lane’…I hear you ask? Well, a recent gin drop ignited the old flame, though here’s hoping this flame would create a smokiness that would be turning heads for all of the right reasons… I was in the possession of the latest offering from my pals from north of the boarder. Gather round the campfire friends, and let me tell you about the ‘Rock Rose Smoked Orange Edition Gin’.
Rock Rose Gin; Smoke on the water…
Rock Rose Gin is made by the family owned ‘Dunnet Bay Distillery’, co-founded by the husband and wife duo of Martin and Claire Murray and based in Caithness, on the edge of the most northerly Scottish coastline.
Since writing my review of the teams ‘Coastal Citrus Gin’ in 2021, and most recently their ‘Autumn Editon’ for International Scottish Gin Day, the brand have gone from strength to strength, adding expressions to their repertoire and medals to their trophy cabinets.
The Smoked Orange Edition is thanks to the work of distiller, Craig, who was challenged by Martin to “explore an entirely different flavour profile, whilst remaining true to the distinctive notes of our original Scottish spirit”.
So, all together now, ‘THANKS CRAIG!’.
Want to know what makes this even more special? Craig (Chambers) is a graduate trainee of the youthful age of just 23 years old. Let that sink in for a moment… Furthermore, Craig recently won the NFU Mutual’s ‘Inspirational Young Person Award’, which celebrates inspirational examples of talented 16 to 26-year-olds who are involved in the food and drink industry.
Taking an influence from smokey, peaty whiskies, the gin incorporates Lapsang Souchong tea to introduce the smoky notes, and leans in to sweet orange peels and notes of the dried orange with tangerine sage, pineapple sage and lemon verbena to introduce the citrus elements (all grown in the distilleries own geodome and gardens). The gin also contains cassia, liquorice, water-mint, and bilberries.
The Smoked Orange Gin, launched in July 2022, was available in a limited quantity of just 600 bottles initially, which sold out at an impressive pace! But fear not friends, in November this year a significantly greater number of bottles will be available for sale directly from the Distillery as this gin becomes part of the core range. When in November? November 5th of course, to align with the bright bonfire profile that will greet your nose and palate.
Rock Rose; A sight for sore eyes…
The teams iconic Rock Rose porcelain bottle is undeniably beautiful, with its matte effect white bottle providing the canvas background for an eye catching autumnal effect that conjures Bonfire Night imagery. Even Guy Fawkes would be impressed!
And now would be the perfect time to remind you that Rock Rose options from across the range also come in refill pouch form.
And let’s be honest, with such beautiful porcelain bottles, and the ability to pick up refills for a cheaper retail price, why wouldn’t you want to do your bit for Mother Nature?!
Why not find out more about the Refill Rewards Club at the teams website…
Rose Rose Smoked Orange Edition Gin to taste
So as I reached for my trusty tasting glass, the only question left to answer was whether the liquid would be sending up the clouds of white smoke, or whether it would be a tragic case of crash and burn…
And I’ll be honest – I went in to this one with feelings of trepidation. On approach I did have an internal monologue running, sharing doubts of ‘just what we needed…another spiced / smoked orange gin…’
But this is different.
On the nose plumes of smoke rings rise from the glass, reminiscent of festival campfires with friends or barbecues on the beach; it has that transportive quality. Importantly the orange feels vibrant and fresh, which is so often where brands have fallen short of the mark in other expressions. On several occasions, I’ve been left disappointed by soapy and synthetic flavour profiles that misread the need for balance and poise. That’s not the case here! The combination of the oily flesh of the fruit, grated peels and tangy juice work wonders, as they sit masterfully behind the smokescreen.
On the palate, I’m pleased to report that it’s very much the same story. I always love it when the nose translates directly on to the taste, which is achieved here and then some.
The smoke is the first thing that grasps the tastebuds, closely followed by sweet pangs of tangerine hot on its tail. The juniper is purple and pungent, delivering a resinous and oily depth of pine flavour. It’s the most unique and diverse profile I’ve experienced from Rock Rose to date, departing from the classic groundings whilst never forgetting its roots.
I didn’t expect this to work with a standard mixer. I felt the smoke would be too polarising for a long serve, distracting from the enjoyment and overwhelming the glass. I thankfully stand corrected – it is a delight.
The addition of tonic makes for a well rounded and considered G&T, pulling forwards the depth of the smoke, the sweetness of the citrus and the confidence of the juniper. A joy to behold.
And does it work in a Negroni? You bet your ass it works in a Negroni! Smoke & Orange? A match made in heaven.
Rock Rose; No smoke without fire…
My overwhelming opinion at the end of sampling the Smoked Orange Edition is that this is an effort to truly be applauded. Here is a flavour profile that has been born out of wanting to step out of a comfort zone, which it achieves tenfold. At no point does the gin wobble from the tightrope of balance in to aggressiveness or overly assertive individual components. Rather, everything has its place and its reason for being.
Without a Christmas Ham, melted retina or burning trainer in sight, this is smoke put to its very best use. Igniting the tastebuds, it’s a delicious standout of 2022 so far.
With huge thanks to Dunnet Bay Distillery and Axiom Communications for my complementary refill pouch and bottle of the Rock Rose Smoked Orange Edition Gin.
For all of the latest happenings, do like the cool kids do and head for the t’interweb where you can keep up on the next steps in the exciting Rock Rose journey;
Facebook: Rock Rose Gin
This blog is also brought to you in recognition and celebration of International Scottish Gin Day 2022! Hitting your calendars on 1st October this year, the team at ‘The Gin Cooperative’ are doing an incredible job of setting up the events annual outing! Make sure you’re following the team to keep up with all of the latest in the build up to the big day:
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!
Look so good, need to try them all…