Swill: Elephant Gin does London Dry with a Unique African Twist
Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — Swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan moonshine made from bananas. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.
For those of you who might be out of the loop, gin has been experiencing a sort of renaissance over the past decade or so. Slowly but surely, distillers have broken free from the categorical boundaries of “London dry gin,” and have greatly expanded what the spirit can be.
In other words, the spectrum of flavors you can find in gin has absolutely exploded, and it’s not just about juniper anymore. There are thousands of strange new gins on the shelf these days, with flavor profiles that are floral, citrusy, spicy, and a whole lot more. It’s insane. I’ve sampled hundreds of different bottles at this point, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
I could honestly write about gin until my fingers fall off — but I try really hard to stay reserved and wait until I’ve found one that’s truly special before I write about it and share it with you guys. Last week, I found one that fits the bill.
Elephant Gin is a bit of an oddity. It’s a London Dry gin that’s made in Germany with a bunch of African ingredients — and it’s probably one of the most interesting gins I’ve ever tasted. It’s made from a mixture of fourteen different botanicals and fruits, including:
- African wormwood (a bitter, floral herb sometimes used in absinthe and vermouth)
- Devils claw (a naitve African plant in the sesame family)
- Lion’s tail (a member of the mint family)
- Baobab (a citrusy “superfruit” native to South Africa)
- Pimento (aka allspice)
- Orange peel
- Mountain pine
This blend creates an incredibly complex mixture of flavors. There’s a bold fruity/citrusy/sweet note from the baobab, orange peel, and apples; a zing of fresh spice from the ginger and pimento; and a lovely floral/botanical underdone from the juniper, pine, and wormwood. It’s perfectly rounded, and extremely smooth.
The only problem is that getting your hands on a bottle isn’t particularly easy if you live here in the States. You won’t be able to find this stuff at your local liquor store, but it’s available online from various online retailers. It’s well worth the hunt though!