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Monday 16 December 2013

Drink & Do Good: Elephant Gin

Christmas: a time of charity and drinking. Wouldn't it be great if we could partake of both at once? Well, now we can. Elephant Gin neatly combines the two activities in one beautiful bottle, and, as a pre-Crimbo treat, they sent me a sample, along with loads and loads of informational postcards adorned with photos of elephants, which helped alleviate my fears that this may be a gin made from elephant sweat. SPOILER: it's not. 

I think it's time for a picture of a mummy elephant with her baby elephant before we get down to the Elephant Gin story. 

All together now: aaaaah. Right, so here's the 101 on this new gin on the block. 15% of all profits from the sale of Elephant Gin go to two African elephant foundations - Big Life Foundation (an anti-poaching organisation) and Space For Elephants (working to give elephants in Africa the freedom to range across the continent - something that was destroyed when game reserves were fenced and old migratory routes were lost). Why? Because one African elephant dies every 15 minutes as a result of uncontrolled ivory poaching. That's more than 35,000 elephants a year. 

The founders of Elephant Gin - Robin, Tessa and Henry - were inspired to create the gin following their own travels around Africa, where their passion for wildlife conservation began. They wanted to create a product that would raise awareness of the cause, as well as generating much-needed funds to protect the future of elephants. 

So why gin? Isn't it Dutch? What's that got to do with African elephants? I wondered the same. However, reading through the list of 14 (14!) botanicals used in each batch of Elephant Gin, it all makes sense. This is no ordinary gin. It includes rare African ingredients sourced from all over the continent - Baobab, a superfruit (and a favourite food of the elephants! Don't worry, there's plenty left for them); the Buchu plant; the African Wormwood; and the wonderfully-named Devil's Claw and Lion's Tail. These unusual flavours give the gin a distinctive taste (more of which later), setting it very far apart from the stuff you get in your double G&T down the local pub. 

The bottles themselves explain the thinking behind Elephant Gin a little more: the logo is designed as a stamp, echoing the letters that explorers of old would send home from Africa, detailing their botanical discoveries within. Each small batch of gin is hand-numbered, and named after past great elephants and tuskers. The attention to detail is really wonderful - I mean, just look at it. A cork! A seal! Maps! Crests! Bits of string! This is a bottle to keep on show, rather than hide away in your drinks cabinet. 

On to the important stuff now - how does it taste? Well, sweet reader, believe me when I say this is my new favourite gin. I've tasted - and loved - a lot of different gins in my time, and this one is a keeper.

At first taste, this is a slightly sweeter gin than you may be used to - it contains apple and elderflower, which lend an almost honey-like flavour to the drink. The taste of juniper is there - of course it is - but it's not overpowering and, combined with mountain pine and African Wormwood, it gives the gin just the right amount of bitterness to temper everything else that's going on. There's fruitiness from Spanish oranges and those apples; a pleasant peppery flavour from allspice and ginger; and some herby goodness from the African, um, herbs. It's worth noting that Baobab, that African superfruit I mentioned earlier, contains three times more vitamin C than an orange. Drink gin, save elephants, ward off that pesky cold that's doing the rounds of your office. Better than minging Lemsip, that's for sure. 

I started off with a simple G&T, but the tasting notes included with my sample suggested it would be as delicious neat as it is mixed. I was dubious. Neat gin invokes the same shudder in me as tales of Lord Byron, Kingsley Amis, and countless Fleet Street journalists of yore, who all enjoyed (not in one another's company, OBVIOUSLY. They may have been pissed, but they couldn't travel through time) gin and plain water. Boakarama. No. Neat gin is too much for me, even as a fully paid-up member of Gin Drinkers R Us. But, y'know, I thought I should try it, in the interests of fair and comprehensive research. VERDICT: amazing. I could - and did - actually sip a neat Elephant Gin quite happily, and may choose to do just that over the festive season. ON REPEAT. 

I imagine this would be a fantastic gin to use in cocktails, particularly gingery ones. Happily, there are a number of specially-created cocktail recipes on Elephant Gin's blog - or try out a few of our Nick's gin concoctions.

This is similar to the sample bottle I was sent. All you really need to know is that mine is now empty. I'm very taken with Elephant Gin - both its divine taste, and its good cause. The recipe, design and concept are all so well-thought-out, and the founders' passion for wildlife conservation is inspiring. We all love elephants, we all love gin - so raise your glass to the future of African elephants, and buy a trunk-load of it. Find it on sale at Master of Malt or The Whisky Exchange, priced at £29.49. You can also seek it out in a number of bars - follow Elephant Gin on Twitter for updates. 

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