When I tell people  that our distillery produces SLOE GIN the next question is most often; What's that?" In short Sloe Gin can be summed up as  - a triumph of ingenuity, and a forgotten cocktail classic that deserves to be rediscovered. But first things first - Just what is a Sloe"? The sloe is the tiny blue-purple fruit of the Blackthorn Tree (ok, the serious scientific bit - Prunus spinosa) and is closely related to the damson and cherry.

A Sloe is very astringent and with only a couple of mm of flesh around the seed. When SLOE Gin was first made is still a mystery but it appears to have become popular following the passing of the Inclosure Acts in the U.K. in the 16th and 17th centuries. These Acts saw huge areas of what had previously been considered common land “enclosed” thereby creating legal property rights to wealthy landowners. This “enclosing” was largely achieved using blackthorn as a hedge plant due to its vigorous growth and long, sharp thorns.  Those vicious thorns were good (and still are) at keeping stock in and people out! More Blackthorn meant more sloes, and those enterprising country folk who wasted little but who knew the sloe was too bitter to eat, determined the only solution was to soak it in alcohol and sugar.  As the drink of the time was gin the Sloe Gin came into being.  Thankfully the early colonists in Tasmania also wanted to enclose their farms and had Blackthorn sent out which they duly planted into hedgerows like the ones back in the Mother Country. These old trees now provide the Nonesuch Distillery with the unique ingredient to make our Tasmanian Sloe Gin.  As far as we know Blackthorn does not grow in any quantity anywhere else in Australia. Because the Blackthorn is not generally cultivated the supply of sloes is always limited. The sloes are at their best after they have been subjected to a frost.  So while most Tasmanians are not looking forward to those bone-chilling mornings we get pretty excited about the coming days of picking this astringent treasure. The sloes delivered to us are then sorted and any leaves, stalks or loitering insects are removed along with any less than perfect Sloes. The fruit is then rinsed and allowed to dry before being added to our specially created gin. Nonesuch Sloe Gin is made in the way the cottage folk made it centuries ago.  In small batches that allow us to gently agitate the sloes in the gin to ensure a gradual release of juice and colour.

Sloe Gin of quality is not quick to make and Nonesuch Distillery is where time is allowed to work its magic.  We bottle our Sloe Gin according to nature’s dictate and not that of the clock or bean-counters. It will be bottled when it is ready (colour, taste, aroma are all in balance) and not before. 

It is a drink for the lucky few.  Because of the rarity of Sloes only around 3,000 bottles can be produced in any year. A recent review of our Sloe Gin –

Nose + Appearance: It has a bright ruby colour, with an appealing hint of maraschino cherry on the nose that lingers well.

Tasting (slightly chilled served neat): the flavours are very forward on the palette, not overly sweet with a quite clean + dry finish. Not a rich liqueur experience such as you get from a fortified spirit, rather this is one of complex spices, with yes, blackberry and sour cherries notes in a spirit that isn’t heavy.

It’s not like a Kirsch liqueur if that’s what you’re thinking, it’s much more lighter and delicate than that without the alcoholic kick.

The Take Home
A delicious and well crafted debut gin from one of our newest distilleries.

Read the whole review here

August 10, 2015 — Rex Burdon
Tags: Gin Sloe Gin

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.