Gin of the month: December

Ableforth’s Bathtub Sloe Gin

This month’s festive tipple comes from the Kent based Ableforth distillers, which originated back in 2011 – and that means in this day and age, they are veterans in the fast paced gin market. They’ve amassed a tasty selection over the past few years but since it’s Christmas, this month we’ve got their Bathtub Sloe Gin to review. Ableforth spirits have a distinctive packaging: all wrapped in brown paper, sealed with twine and wax at the neck, all done by hand. This quirky but stylish design gives a very prohibition, Boardwalk Empire feel. This aligns with the origins of the homemade amateur spirits movement in 1920s America when spirits were illegally made in people's bathtubs - to varying degrees of success - more on this later. Ableforth have six gins: an original, cask aged, navy strength, cask aged navy strength, Old Tom, and today’s taster: the sloe. The company have won a few awards recently and have a diverse range of spirits including rums, brandy, absinthe and fruit cups liqueurs. They all seem as unique and quirky, worth going on our “to try” list. 

On the nose, you can get cinnamon, clove, mulled wine, amaretto: it reminds us of walking through Edinburgh Christmas market - it’s very festive; like Christmas in a bottle. The sweet sloe berries also kick through - with over half a pound of them in each bottle - providing a very fruity smell and the distinctive dark red colour. As this is distilled as a liqueur (33.8% ABV) it can be enjoyed neat, with a cube of ice: it’s very smooth with no typical alcohol burn in the throat. Imagine sitting by a crackling fire (or the Fireplace video on Netflix…) when it’s dark, cold and windy outside and you’re sipping on your lovely warming drink, slowly getting merrier. Bliss! If you do want to add something and not get too merry too quick, it does work well with a good tonic water (we chose Fever Tree Original) but bear in mind, less is more. Don’t drown out the flavours with tonic. A slice of lemon in there balances all the sweet flavours; we did try the Fever Tree Sicilian Lemon Tonic but it was too overpowering and drowned out all the flavours. So we recommend sticking to an original or light tonic. Alternatively, if you’re not too keen on tonic, you could add a splash to your prosecco.

We really enjoyed Ableforth’s Bathtub Sloe Gin, which quite surprised us. After trying a few sloe gins before, we weren’t completely convinced. The versatility of this gin makes it an ideal addition to any festive get-together.

Our suggested serve: a hint of Michael Buble (other Christmas albums are available), neat or with a splash of tonic, or even in an alternative hot toddy for those cold winter nights.  


A little extra from us:

We did also sample the Original Bathtub Gin which has all the same botanicals without the sloe berries, but with an extra little sweet vanilla smell coming through. Traditionally, it was seen to be a cheap and easy way to make gin, by throwing all the botanicals in your still or ‘bathtub’ whilst distilling. This is a less common practice today, but it is good to see some distilliers sticking to tried and tested methods.

The one thing about this process is that it leaves the gin with a slightly cloudier appearance - it doesn’t affect the taste, just adds a further quirk to the gin. On tasting the Original, there is an initial burn in your mouth, as you may expect from a 43.3% ABV spirit, but as the flavours come through it smooths out nicely with a definite spiced orange vibe.