You may remember our recent experiences with Knockeen Hills. They distill a mighty fine Irish poteen at a whopping 180 proof as well as an easy-drinking heather gin. Well, it turns out they also make a less-fiery 120 proof poteen (some bitters are steeping as we speak), plus the subject of this post: Knockeen Hill Elderflower Gin.
A little research confirmed my suspicion — the five-times distilled “Irish Spirit” is indeed a whey distillate. For the uninitiated (or the un-Irish), that means it’s a cow product. In this case, it’s the thin liquid that remains after curds are removed during the production of cheese. It’s said the Irish began distilling whey during the centuries when poteen was illegal. The government hotly pursued stills, but whey wasn’t quite as risky or obvious as a malted barley-covered floor; and I’ve heard some say that it produces less smoke when distilled, thus making it harder to track. Any cheese burners among us? Please weigh in.
Where were we… oh yes. Whey is a potentially exciting spirit to base a gin on, mainly because of how naturally sweet and floral the aroma and flavor of poteen is. Whey aside, this is a true London cut, London dry gin. So how does it hold up? On the nose, well… on the nose I’m giddy. Because bold alpine and floral notes dominate, with a hint of melon and orange flower water, and I’m salivating at the thought of this slowly mixing together with dry vermouth over ice. But take a sip and the dynamic subtly changes. It’s not that I get different flavors. In fact, it’s almost more interesting that I don’t. Instead, the performers have just played a round of musical chairs. The melon and citrus leap to the front to join the floral notes, while the alpine hangs back. Gin sippers and martini swillers alike, take note.
I also mixed with it, choosing something I thought it would fall naturally in line with, and found that it holds up quite well in a cocktail. Meet one of my favorite cocktails, the Blue Moon. I have a special affection for daisies, and this gin-based daisy tops the list. No muddled habanero peppers or mezcal rinses here, dear comrades behind the stick. Simple, elegant, and refreshing, this is what I want to drink after a long shift. Ted Haigh’s recipe uses Rothman & Winters Creme de Violette, but I’ll also provide my edit, which favors Creme Yvette. The latter shies away from the syrupy sweetness of the Violette while still offering the same flavor and nuance.
Ted Haigh’s Blue Moon
2 oz gin
1/2 oz Creme de Violette
1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Cocktail Enthusiast’s Blue Moon
2 oz Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin
3/4 oz Creme Yvette
1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
– 47.3% Alcohol by Volume