After a break of almost two weeks I am finally back with another article. It’s quite possible that in other times I would have used a two-week break to visit the German capital, because I have to admit that I really have a soft spot for Berlin! – This may sound rather facile because some people might wonder who doesn’t like Berlin (actually quite a lot of people do), but basically I just want to express that I like the city best among the big German bar scene metropoles. However, this has only little to do with the bar scene, but rather with the history of the city, the free spirit of Berlin, the unique, multicultural (gastronomy) – and somewhere of course also with the possibilities of upscale drinking pleasures that the city offers. (provided test products)*
I discovered Berlin relatively late in life (I was there for the first time when I was in my mid-20s) and I still rarely visit the city, although many friends in my environment have followed the call to the capital. Accordingly, I am anything but an expert on the city and far from being able to see or even evaluate any developments early on, but I just feel somehow comfortable every time I am there. Maybe Berlin sometimes reminds me a little bit of my home, the Ruhr area, but in the end it’s the unique charm of the capital that always convinces me.
At least as convinced of Berlin is obviously Jan Kreutz, the founder of the Berlin Distillery in Berlin Zehlendorf, which started distribution at the beginning of the year. In fact, the Berlin Distillery has been playing the full, regional card from the very beginning, and is fully committed to Berlin and its surroundings when it comes to the raw materials for its products, the design of the bottles and, last but not least, the production location itself. But more about that in a moment. First of all, it should be mentioned that we are talking about a new gin producer – yes, you’ve read correctly: another new gin producer. Of course, it takes a good deal of courage and conviction to become a new producer and seller of gin in 2020 (and I’m not talking about the Corona crisis, which will certainly not make the situation any easier). Accordingly, I gave up trying to keep track of the flood of new gin releases long ago. Nevertheless: What I have in front of me today, I will immediately examine because it promises to stand out from the masses.
The outline data are auspicious: distilled on a single 40-litre copper still, regional ingredients, bottles designed by Berlin artists with wonderful, translucent labels – that sounds quite nice. In general, you can also see the work of the Berlin Distillery for yourself, as the distillery offers not only guided tours of the distillery but also its own gin distilling courses (which will certainly start up again after the crisis, but there are even virtual distillery tours).
But well, now I’ve gone a bit further, although I’d like to focus on the gins (there are several of them). So let’s take a closer look at them.
They listen to the promising names BBQ Dry Gin, Berliner Nacht Gin as well as Sundown Gin and – as a special edition – the Beelitzer Spargel Gin.
I will start with The Berliner Nacht Gin – simply because it is probably Berlin nights during which most gin is drunk in the city. Here it is the interesting composition of juniper, lemons, Thai basil, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves that characterizes the Berliner Nacht Gin. By the way, it is a dry gin, which comes with an ABV of 45.2%.
Tasting notes “Berlin Night Gin.”
Aroma: Clearly citrus aromas dominate here. There is also a nice juniper, but it goes strongly towards lemon, lemon grass and lime leaves. In fact, the nose also reveals the spicy notes of Thai basil, only to then move on to an earthy note. I almost think I perceive a hint of Plymouth floating in the glass, but then I get associations of candied ginger and the pendulum swings back towards freshness.
Taste: On the palate, too, it is initially lemon peel and lime leaves that come to mind. But also ginger, juniper, herbaceous notes and associations of green apples. The Berlin Night Dry Gin is beautifully balanced and quite spice-loaded. I like it very much!
Finish: medium long, yet quite distinctive with juniper and again the fresh and spicy bitterness of lemon peel
Let’s move on to the next dry gin in line, the BBQ Dry Gin. This should not be used as a barbecue lighter, but is rather a particularly spicy representative that has what it takes to stand up to strong aromas – and even has some BBQ notes itself. 13 Botanicals are used for this bottling, not all of them are mentioned, but we learn of juniper smoked over beech wood, lemon verbena, Madagascar pepper, cardamom and dried tomatoes. Well, that sounds innovative and exciting! 45.4% vol. is also very promising.
Tasting Notes “BBQ Dry Gin”:
Aroma: strong, spicy, a light smoke joins the juniper, but here, too, one doesn’t look in vain for fruity fresh notes: limes, lemons, associations of sliced pineapple, indeed sweet tomato notes, plus an earthy woody undertone. In the end, the BBQ Gin turns out surprisingly fresh.
Taste: Oh yes, that is self-confidence in a glass! A very successful citrus-juniper balance sets the pace, in which strong spicy notes (Madagascar pepper and cardamom are recognizable) play the instruments. Again, I find spicy smoke (but very subtle), plus a fruity and sour note, which may have found its way into the distillate through the tomatoes. Also this gin knows how to convince me, my respect!
Finish: long-lasting, spicy with candied citrus peels
With a gin like that, I immediately wanted to know how it would perform in my favourite, the Negroni. Because I believed that this gin would be able to make its mark in a drink in which gin does not play the usual leading role. And in fact I simply doubled the gin content: 4 cl gin, 2 cl Campari, 2 cl vermouth, that was it. And I am delighted: spicy, fresh, crisply bitter and full-bodied, a really great Negroni!
And then there’s the Sundown Gin. Here the term dry gin does not appear, but the reference “entspannt fruchtig” (relaxed & fruity) does. Probably the Sundown Gin with its eleven botanicals, which include sea buckthorn berries, juniper berries, orange zest, lemon balm, cardamom and grapefruit zest most likely serves the New Western segment. With an ABV of 43.2% it is also somewhat lighter.
Tasting Notes “Sundown Gin”:
Aroma: No doubt, the Sundown Gin is the fruity New Western representative in the Berlin Distillery range that pushes the boundaries of gin the most. Juniper is there, yes, but it is not really the protagonist here. Instead, it’s mainly warm orange tones, grapefruit, associations of berries, and I can also find sea buckthorn. A light, herbaceous substructure does not overwhelm here at any time. The Sundown Gin is certainly interesting for a wide audience and could convince even gin sceptics.
Taste: Surprisingly spicy, but not in the sense of the above mentioned bottlings. Here, too, fruity, fresh summer tones over the taste buds: oranges, grapefruit and lemony herbal notes (lemon balm), with juniper appearing somewhat shyly behind.
Finish: medium long, fruity
Especially for the asparagus season (and for the time being only available during this season), the Beelitzer Spargel Gin was launched. Yes, you heard right, it is an Asparagus Gin! A long time ago, I myself demonstrated that asparagus and spirits, even asparagus and cocktails don’t have to be a contradiction in terms. But now I have a ready-to-drink spirit in front of me that is based on asparagus. By the way, Beelitz is a town in the district of Potsdam-Mittelmark and is also known as the asparagus town because of its deep roots in the cultivation of the white stalks. It is considered the centre of asparagus cultivation in Brandenburg. And it is precisely from there that asparagus comes, which, along with lemon zests, juniper and tarragon, finds its way into the Beelitzer Spargel Gin of the Berlin Distillery. The gin is then bottled at 43.5% vol. I have to say, I am on the edge of my seat!
Tasting Notes “Beelitzer Spargel”:
Aroma: Ok, this is actually new for me – and surprising! Because there is actually more asparagus in the glass than I thought possible for a gin. But before anyone gets a fright: this gin is not a pure asparagus distillate, but you will find it very superficially, the characteristic, fine scent of white asparagus. Here again I find aromatic lemon zests, juniper a little more reserved and actually tarragon, which harmonizes wonderfully with the asparagus notes. This gin is unquestionably different, but its aroma convinces me in view of its clear program.
Taste: The asparagus is there, yes, but here not quite as intense as on the nose. Rather, it is successfully integrated into a lemony, fresh and spicy overall picture, in which the herbaceous notes of tarragon once again come into their own. If you are looking for an unconventional gin, you should try the Beelitzer Spargel Gin as long as it is available.
Finish: medium long, but quite dry with citrus freshness and herbal spice
What do you do with an asparagus gin? My first association was immediately the strawberry, not least because these days there are asparagus and strawberry stands everywhere along the roadsides. Therefore, I designed my Woodland Sprite Cocktail as a Smash, in which strawberries and asparagus gin dance a well-balanced duet. Aromatic white pepper, a hint of sage and a little angostura provide the right background.
Recipe “Woodland Sprite”:
6 cl Berlin Distillery Beelitzer Asparagus Gin
3 cl lemon juice
1.5 cl sugar syrup
4 fully ripe strawberries
2 Dash Angostura Bitters
2 sage leaves
4 white peppercorns
Preparation: First put sugar syrup, peppercorns, sage and strawberries in a shaker and crush them with the bar pestle (do not completely shred the sage leaves). Add the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously with ice cubes (at least 20 seconds). Finally, strain everything twice through a fine sieve into the pre-cooled glass.
Garnish: sage leaf
Update from 07.01.2021:
Meanwhile, the range of gins from the Berlin Distillery has expanded again. For this reason, I would like to take a closer look at three gins today, which all sound extremely promising.
On the one hand, there is a Reserved Gin, which, however, goes a rather unusual way in the Reserved Gin area and was post-matured in a rum barrel. The post-maturation took place for 100 days (the barrel previously contained rum from Trinidad). With an appealing abv of 47.2% it finally comes into the bottle.
Tasting Notes “Berlin Distillery Reserved Gin”:
Aroma: Indeed, you can immediately detect the rum barrel on the nose. The juniper and also citrus-toned basic characteristics of the Berlin Distillery Gin are joined here by beautiful nuances of tropical fruits. Here I find especially mango as well as some cinnamon. It is actually quite a strange combination, which I have not yet encountered. My brain wants to break out either in the direction of gin or rum, but then it doesn’t work out each time. Nevertheless, this indecision is a very exciting and appealing one.
Taste: On the palate, plenty of oranges occur first! Then again mango and also some pineapple. I almost have to think of Fanta. The juniper asserts itself somewhat timidly, but ultimately confidently and creates the impression of a fruity and spicy distillate with a slight vanilla impact, which I have definitely not encountered before. I like that!
Finish: relatively long and rather dry with orange peel and actually notes of Szechuan pepper.
Even though Christmas is over, we are still in the middle of winter – and baked apples (German: Bratapfel) taste especially good at this time of year! Those who have already enjoyed the unconventional asparagus gin, will certainly also enjoy the innovative Bratapfel Gin, which is actually completely new to me in this form. Of the 17 botanicals used, besides juniper, baked apples, cinnamon, roasted almonds, vanilla and raisins are mentioned. Well, if that does not make you want to grant the Christmas season another addition, then I do not know. Oh well: it comes to the bottle at an abv of 44.2%.
Tasting Notes “Berlin Distillery Bratapfel Gin”:
Aroma: Quite exciting! It does smell like baked apples, but not as if you just opened the oven, but more subtle, more delicate. Vanilla and raisins show up, I find the almonds very faint on the nose, if at all, even the juniper clearly plays a supporting role. Instead, there is a lot of spice, apple and a hint of Christmas in the glass.
Taste: on the palate, the baked apple remains subtle in its own way, but recognizable and round. This is not a spiced apple brandy or anything like that, you have to be aware of that. Juniper is not the first momentum here, but the spices play the first fiddle (especially cinnamon) along with the vanilla.
Finish: There they are, the roasted almonds! Medium long and with toasted notes, you almost think you can taste the sweetness of the crunchy shell.
And last but not least, the Urban Garden Gin. Urban Gardening has long become a common term and this gin is, in a sense, the spirit to go with it. Well, at least the producer refers to the modern urban garden as the source of inspiration for the very interesting distillate. The botanicals for this gin are grown sustainably and come mostly from the surrounding region of Berlin. Named here in addition to juniper are lavender, lemon zest and wormseed (Artemisia maritima), which comes from the manufacturer’s own urban garden. This one is bottled with an abv of 43.4%.
Tasting Notes “Berlin Distillery Urban Garden Gin”:
Aroma: Floral and light is not exaggerated here! Juniper does not play a starring role here either, but herbs, herbs, herbs. Wormseed, yes, notes of rosemary, lavender, lemon is also clearly present. The juniper stays in the background, notes of curd and associations of agave.
Taste: Also on the palate this one remains clearly on the herbal side, again wormseed and an idea of rosemary, then a slight note of white pepper, finally lemon peel, behind it the juniper. The alcohol brings the flavors across very well, the Urban Garden Gin seems very balanced.
Finish: medium long with coniferous woods and associations of tree resin.
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online
*The fact that this product has been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.