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Review

Hotel Chocolat
Cocoa Gin

Distillery

Made for Hotel Chocolat Ltd., Royston, Hertfordshire, by the English Spirit Distillery, The Old Salt Depot, Dullingham, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, UK.

Website

Hotel Chocolat, and the English Spirit Company or the English Vodka Company

History

Hotel Chocolat, although it has gone through several name changes across the years, was started in 1987 by Brits Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris. They began making chocolate mints before moving into bespoke boxes of chocolate, becoming one of the first online businesses in 1993 and setting up a Chocolate Tasting Club in 1998. With this growing success they opened their first retail shop in 2004 and now have over 75 outlets across the UK and are preparing to go global.

In 2006 they bought Rabot Estate a 250-year old Cocoa plantation on St. Lucia in the West Indies building a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa called “Boucan” on the site in 2011 and launching a range of Cocoa based beauty products. Other venues include a Café in London’s Borough Market, two restaurants (Rabot 1745 in London and Roast + Conch in Leeds) and The School of Chocolate in London’s Covent Garden.

This Gin was released in summer 2013, made by the English Spirit Company on behalf of Hotel Chocolat. Established at the start of 2011, originally producing Vodka only, they were known as the English Vodka Company. Today, as they produce other spirits than just Vodka, the company has rebranded accordingly.

Production

The English Spirits Company make their own vodka from scratch and this is used as the base to make their Gin. The Gin is made in small batches using a copper pot still and includes botanicals from Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot Estate in St. Lucia. Although few details are provided the Gin is said to be “infused with Cocoa shells” and believe this is undertaken post distillation, imparting a slight coloration to the spirit.

The faintly yellow colored Gin is presented in small squat round bottles with sloping shoulders. It has a large grey colored square label with a white border and text with the Hotel Chocolat logo at the top in a small box with black background, matching the black wax cap.

Category

New Western Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

42% (84 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$$$$. Only available within the UK from Hotel Chocolat direct, no international shipping. 

Botanicals

Uses at least 7 botanicals including: angelica, cocoa shells (roasted), coriander, juniper berries, lemon peel, macadamia nuts and tangelo (minneola).

A Tangelo (also called a honeybell) is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo (an orange tasting grapefruit). The Minneola is the name given to a Tangelo which is a cross between two specific fruits: a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit.

Name

Named after the retailers who commissioned the bespoke Gin and one of the key botanicals used in its production.

Tasting Notes

On the nose is citrus (lemon and orange) with light chocolate (cocoa) notes. On the palate this creamy floral-like spirit has strong citrus with light chocolate plus faint nuttiness and herbal notes. These flavors continue on the close with a hint of pepper and spicy coriander in the mellow finish.

With no knowledge of the Gin prior to tasting it, we expected it to be a chocolate flavored spirit but were surprised at the citrus hit with the more subtle notes of chocolate. This Gin can be drunk neat (with an orange garnish and ice), it does lack in the juniper department and so may disappoint traditional Gin drinkers but it should delight contemporary Gin drinkers. It was strongly citrus in a Gin and Tonic and not what people may expect but could prove to be a summery choice for some. It was pleasant and refreshing in a Martini albeit lacking in dry juniper bite. Where it started to shine for us was when matched with citrus drinks, particularly enjoying it in a Gimlet, Tom Collins or Gin and Orange. However, orange is not the only drink that pairs well with chocolate: Try matching this with a dark berry flavored Gin (e.g. Sloe Gin, Damson Gin, Bramble Gin etc.) and make a Sloe Gin Fizz, replacing up to half of the Sloe Gin with this Cocoa Gin – this was our out right favorite cocktail with this Gin.

Overall we can’t help but have some opposing views about this Gin. On one hand we wanted it to display a greater intensity of chocolate but pleased it didn’t over do it, making it more Gin-like than a novelty Gin. We also wanted it to have more of a juniper presence but the citrus and chocolate provided something different instead. What we can be clear about is: this is a nice citrus forward Gin, with a terrific mouth feel and is certainly well made. It plays hard to get and this is all part of its seductive charm…try it for your self and see.

Awards & Accolades

3 Gold Stars, Great Taste Awards, 2014.

Cigar Pairing

As a Gin that may be sipped neat, this can be pairing with a cigar, although this may be considered a little offbeat. Ideally the cigar should be medium flavored so as not to overpower the Gin and preferably display characteristics to match the orange citrus flavor profile of the Gin. We suggest looking for a cigar with chocolate and spice notes to amplify these trace flavors already present in the Gin. Hoyo de Monterrey is a good overall brand to try (from Cuba) but many brands made in Nicaragua or from Nicaraguan tobacco leaf (with light rather than the usual dark Maduro wrappers) are good choices. The difficulty lies in not going full-bodied but keeping the flavor medium-bodied and we suggest the following cigars to try:

A.J. Fernandez Enclave

Alec Bradley Black Market

Asylum 13

Davidoff Puro D’Oro

Gurkha Spec. Ops. Maduro

J.C. Newman Brickhouse Mighty Maduro

La Duena

One 13 Maduro Prelude

Southern Draw Kudzu

Music

Suggested music to listen to while sipping this Gin: "The Chocolate Song" by Buddy Wasisname And The Other Fellers.

Read or Watch


What else could you read or watch while sipping this Gin but "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl. It may technically be for children but who really wants to grow up when we're talking chocolate. 



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