Friday, March 28, 2014

A Conversation with Martin Price, the owner and creator of SW4 London Dry Gin

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I love receiving products to review. There is something very intriguing about tasting liquors (and wines) that I may not be able to secure easily. Most liquor is available in the New York Metro area. If you live away from New York City and the idea of driving into Manhattan just to buy a special bottle of liquor frightens you, have no fear.

DrinkupNY does a fantastic job sourcing hard to find expressions from craft spirits distilleries that you probably won’t see in your town.  I consider DrinkupNY to be my one stop shop for this kind of liquid exotica that most liquor stores have never heard of, much less considered.

A gleaming bottle of SW4 Gin arrived on my doorstep recently from SW4’s PR, just about the time I was pondering what gin means to me.  The context of well-distilled gin becomes more than a metaphor for good taste.  I’m intrigued by gin, perhaps because I understand very little about it.  One thing for certain is my love of the flavor balance.  Another thing that I like about gin is that there are many different styles of gin.  Each style is categorically different from the next.  Then there may be London Dry styles that are sweet in character, just as there may be Botanical styles that are spicy and dry on the finish.  There are the Genever styles of gin that rely on aging techniques and ingredients and then there are the Old Tom styles that pick up the sensual flavors of the aging cask. 

I’m fond of them all.  Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I tasted the SW4 (evidently the London Zip code) and I loved the bursts of citrus and wet stones.   Generally I’m quite fond of the style named London Gin.  As you may know by reading my work, I’m passionate about small producers and craft spirits.   When I starting reading up on the SW4 gin, I became more and more intrigued.

And very thirsty. 

Here is what I’m thirsty for!

One Night in Balfour Fizz
2 oz. SW4 Gin
½ oz. each freshly squeezed juices:
1 oz. Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Three Chilies
3 drops Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters 
Dash of freshly drawn seltzer
Fleur du sel

To a Boston Shaker- fill ¾ with ice and pour over the liquid ingredients
Cover and Shake
Pour into a Coupe
Dash a bit of seltzer over the top
Dot with Angostura Bitters
Sprinkle a bit of fleur du sel on top

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Martin Price, the owner and creator of SW4 London Dry Gin.  Enjoy!

Why London Gin?  Why not Botanical Gin?
1. All gins are made with botanicals or botanical flavourings, even if it is only one - juniper. Therefore, all gins are "botanical" gins. As you know SW4 is made with 12 botanicals.

SW4 is a "London" Gin, because it has been made in accordance with the European Union law governing the production of gin, which lays down specific guidance on production methods, use of flavourings, sweeteners, colouring and other additives, and levels of methanol which may be present in the finished product. The following wikipedia extract covers the key points quite well:

"Although several different styles of gin have evolved, it is legally differentiated into four categories in the European Union, which are described as follows:[1]

Juniper-flavoured spirit drinks - This includes the earliest class of gin, which is produced by pot distilling a fermented grain mash to moderate strength (e.g. 68% ABV), and then redistilling it with botanicals to extract the aromatic compounds. It must be bottled at a minimum of 30% ABV. Juniper-Flavoured Spirit Drinks may also be sold under the names Wacholder or Genebra.

Gin - This is a juniper flavoured spirit made not via the redistillation of botanicals, but by simply adding approved natural flavouring substances to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin. The predominant flavour must be juniper.

Distilled gin - Distilled gin is produced exclusively by redistilling ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with an initial strength of 96% ABV (the azeotrope of water and ethanol) in stills traditionally used for gin, in the presence of juniper berries and of other natural botanicals, provided that the juniper taste is predominant. Gin obtained simply by adding essences or flavourings to ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin is not distilled gin. [MP - the "distilled gin" definition accommodates gins which have flavourings and colourings added after the main distillation has occurred; hence Hendricks is a distilled gin, not a "London Gin"]

London gin - London gin is obtained exclusively from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with a maximum methanol content of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100% ABV equivalent, whose flavour is introduced exclusively through the re-distillation in traditional stills of ethyl alcohol in the presence of all the natural plant materials used, the resultant distillate of which is at least 70% ABV. London gin may not contain added sweetening exceeding 0.1 gram of sugars per litre of the final product, nor colorants, nor any added ingredients other than water. The term London gin may be supplemented by the term "dry".

In the EU, the minimum bottled alcoholic strength for gin, distilled gin, and London gin is 37.5% ABV.

In the United States, gin is defined as an alcoholic beverage of no less than 40% ABV (80 proof) that possesses the characteristic flavour of juniper berries. Gin produced only through distillation or redistillation of aromatics with an alcoholic wash can be further distinguished and marketed as "distilled gin".[2]

Some legal classifications define gin as only originating from specific geographical areas without any further restrictions (e.g. Plymouth gin, Ostfriesischer Korngenever, Slovenská borovička, Kraški Brinjevec, etc.), while other common descriptors refer to classic styles that are culturally recognized, but not legally defined (e.g., sloe gin, Wacholder and Old Tom gin)."

Where do your ingredients come from?  The water source?
2.Water - SW4 London Dry Gin is made with London mains water, which has been double reverse osmosis filtered (de-ionized) for exceptional purity.

Our neutral grain spirit is all UK sourced and is derived mainly from wheat, but also some barley (roughly 80/20).

The two most important components of the botanical recipe for most gins are juniper and coriander; together they make up to 90% by volume of the botanicals used in a gin.

Juniper - The EU defines that only one type of juniper berry - from the juniperis communis variant, may be used in the production of gin. We source ours from Macedonia and northern Italy, but juniper grows all over the northern hemisphere, often best in upland alpine type regions where the plants are somewhat stressed by the growing conditions, but are not troubled by shade, to which they are intolerant.

Coriander is the second most important botanical. Coriander is seen as the second most important botanical and is used both as a herb (leaf) and a spice (seed). Key growing areas are South and East Europe, South-west Asia, India and North Africa. We source our coriander from Russia and Bulgaria. In 2013, the best coriander came from Bulgaria. The reason? Bulbarian coriander has a higher content of essential oils.

Angelica - There are 60 types, but Angelica Archangelica is the type used in gin production. It thrives in damp conditions and is harvested after its second year, once it has flowered and then died back. The seed provides fragrance, whereas the root has some juniper and earthy flavours and aromas. Angelica is imported from Russia, Korea and North America for processing and use in distilling.

Native to the Eastern Mediterranean region, they are now cultivated in Northern India, North Africa, and Southern Europe.Read more at

Orris - made from the root of the Iris Germanica and the Iris Pallida these plants were native to the Eastern Mediterranean region, but they are now cultivated in Northern India, North Africa, and Southern Europe.

Cinnamon - True Cinnamon is grown in Sri Lanka.

Cassia - Closely related to True Cinnamon, cassia ia the bark of the Cassia tree, which is grown commercially all over Indonesia and SE Asia.

Savory - is an old English herb.

Licorice - is grown commercially in central Asia, mainly in China, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey.

Orange peel - we use sweet orange peel from Europe, mainly Spain and Italy.

Lemon - We use lemon peel from Turkey, Spain and Italy.

Nutmeg - from Indonesia

Almonds - from Spain

Do you like to pare gin with food?  What kind of foods goes well with your gin?
3. Food Matching:

Asian Cuisine
Gin and tonic sharpens and refreshes your palate, making it the perfect drink to enjoy with Thai food and other Asian cuisine. The spicy, dry flavors found in many of these dishes are the perfect complement to the spicy, dry flavors in an SW4 G&T.

Smoked Salmon
The next time you prepare or order a smoked salmon dish, try adding an SW4 Gin Martini with a lemon twist to the occasion. It's a food/drink pair that's like a marriage made in heaven. The citrus and spice notes found in SW4 Gin complement the aromatic smoke flavours of the salmon perfectly.

SW4 Gin with Game Terrine
If you are already a game fan, try a strong pate such as hare, or if you are new to game, may be a lighter one such as guinea fowl and pheasant. Since juniper is often used as a culinary ingredient with game (especially in Scandinavian cuisine), so pairing with a traditional juniper-led London dry gin such as SW4 is best. Contemporary style gins often favour other botanicals, and this does not work so well. A game/SW4 pairing works best when the gin is served cold in a martini or as a frozen shot. You could try the same pairing with a cold game pie, or any venison dish - the possibilities are endless!

SW4 Gin Bramble cocktail with Goats Cheese
The tart blackberry and citrus sweetness in an SW4 Bramble is the perfect match for French Chevre cheese. French for "goat," chevre is a pure white goat's milk cheese with a delightfully tang and tart flavor that easily distinguishes it from other cheeses. Some of the better-known chevres include BANON, BOUCHERON and MONTRACHET. "Pur chevre" on the label ensures that the cheese is made entirely from goat's milk; others may have the addition of cow's milk. Chevres can range in texture from moist and creamy to dry and semi firm - choose the former varieties for gin matching!

How do you feel about tonic water?  Should it be made with corn syrup or cane sugar?  Editor’s note: Well said- to include both!
4. Tonics
My favourite tonics are Fevertree and Schweppes - I believe that one uses corn syrup and one does not!

Social Media brought us together?  What would be a good way to follow the success of your company?  Facebook?  Twitter?
5. Social Media  Facebook  Twitter

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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