From the Distiller...For the Love of Herbs
Slowly but surely we are working on developing a new gin, one with a bit less juniper and more herbal notes. This, of course, means we have been doing some testing of various herbs. There are two herbs in particular which I have been interested in for some time, and for which if have been teased about since I talk about them a fair bit. One of these is lovage, which I planted in my garden over ten years ago and it has slowly spread itself around the yard. Lovage is related to celery but is a perennial. It looks like celery on steroids and tastes like it too. Typically, only the leaves are used. This spring I dug up a large plant and transplanted it here at the distillery. Well, the plant was quite large, so to help it survive the move, we cut off most of the leaves/stalks. We took the leaves and used them several ways test it out. First off, I made a lovage-infused simple syrup. I took one cup of sugar and one cup of water and heated that until it just started to bubble. Then I added about a cup of coarsely chopped leaves and let that heat for a couple minutes then took it off the heat and let it cool. We then took some leaves and put them directly into a bottle of gin, and a bottle of vodka and let them sit overnight. All three worked great! Actually, the gin version was too strong so we diluted it a bit with regular gin. The vodka version made a fantastic Bloody Mary. We tested the infused gin versus regular gin plus lovage syrup in some cocktails and folks were pretty evenly split as to which they liked better. To add to the lovage, we’d like a little more citrus notes so we took some of the lovage-infused gin and diluted it a bit with vodka to soften the juniper, and then added a tiny bit of lemon peel and that met with pretty good approval.
The second herb I have played a little with is borage, which has a nice cucumber-like aroma and flavor. Last year if took some and muddled it in a martini and I really liked it. Borage is an annual, but it self-seeds so I always have a bunch in my garden. Unfortunately, it is still too small to harvest any yet this year. I just transplanted some here at the distillery so in the next few weeks I can do the same tests I did with the lovage and see how it works out. Ideally, I would like to find a good blend of the lovage and borage, with a little lemon. One final thing we would like to have in the new gin is a slight floral note. We are still deciding on what to use for this. We have discussed rose, but the staff is split on loving it/hating it, so the search for this element continues. We have no official timeline for release as we are still in the early stages of experimentation. We will keep you posted.