Review: Empress 1908 Gin / by Jason Hambrey

Empress Gin 2.jpg
Distiller Victoria Distillery (Sidney, British Columbia)

Victoria Distillery has developed a very unique product which has achieved great success in British Columbia (becoming the number 2 premium gin sold in BC only 5 weeks after launch) and has been made available in the US and the UK. It was developed by Leon Webb, now a distiller at Shelter Point, along with the other Victoria distillers Phil Lecours and Dave Clarke. Peter Hunt, now the master distiller at Victoria distillers, also provided input. It also won best in class at the Canadian artisinal spirits competition.

Now, it’s coming to Ontario. It’s a follow up on Victoria gin, and is named after the Fairmont Empress hotel which opened in 1908 and featured Victoria’s first cocktail bar.

As for the name - Empress Hotel in Victoria offers a very impressive high tea, which inspired part of the gin – the hotel’s Empress Blend Tea is one of the ingredients in the gin, along with the pea flowers which give the gin light earthy notes and the indigo colour.

And yes, the colour is natural. The deep purple hue of the gin comes from the infusion of pea flowers, which pack a surprise: the colour changes depending on the acidity of the cocktail it is in! So if you add lemon juice to this gin, it turns pink!

Review (2018)

  • Batch: 37

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose offers juniper, coriander, orange peel, himalayan black tea, and a touch of sweetness and white pepper. The tea notes are distinct, and they set apart the gin quite nicely. The palate leads with coriander, then morphs to light juniper, licorice, cacao, rosehip, prune, and finally bean sprouts and light tannins on the finish. Cinnamon comes through very nicely on the finish, giving a nice sweet and spicy interplay with the light tannin. Terrific, and the colour is amazing. Also, really nice mouthfeel.

It’s much rounder and richer than its sibling, Victoria gin. Also, significant props for the colour changing properties – this makes mixing fun, which is part of what it is about.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.