Gin liqueurs don’t always get the attention they deserve in this juniper-crazy market. Given the number of new gins coming to the market every week, perhaps it isn’t surprising that gin liqueurs can get overlooked, but they offer something just as special as their more alcoholic counterparts. A good fruit liqueur drunk neat makes a wonderful warming winter tipple, or can be lengthened into a refreshing summer spritzer, added to a G&T, a cocktail or a glass of prosecco. The possibilities are endless.
The best fruit liqueurs also tend to have a good dose of heritage thrown in to the mix. In a story not dissimilar to that of Bramley & Gage, Sovereign Spirits is a family-run enterprise founded by fourth-generation farmer Luke Shaw-Browne. Sovereign Spirits is run from the family farm in the heart of Clipstone Park, an area steeped in Plantagenet history which, from the 11th century onwards, was the royal hunting estate and playground for a long line of monarchs. Centuries later, the estate was sold to Royal supporters, most notably the Dukes of Portland and the Countess of Oxford, who ran it as a farmed estate and their own sporting retreat. Then, in 1945, the land was auctioned off to local tenants and farmers. Luke’s great-grandfather, the premier tenant within the park at the time, bought the farm at the centre of the estate which continues to be farmed and managed by his descendants. Following years of passionate experimentation with homemade fruit liqueurs, made using any abundant fruits the farm hedgerows had to offer, Sovereign Spirits was born.
Sovereign Spirits currently produce two fruit gin liqueurs, as well as blending and bottling a variety of liqueur products for third parties. The first, appropriately named No. 1, is an Elderflower and Gooseberry liqueur while No. 2 features Apple and Blackberry. Both are blended with a premium British gin distillate and use the finest fruits available to ensure they live up to their royal heritage.
The bottles, available in both 35cl and 50cl sizes, are simply stunning. In fact they are some of the most beautiful bottles I’ve come across. The spherical wooden stopper is both aesthetically pleasing and tactile. The labels also catch the light with their silver highlights and feature wonderfully detailed illustrations of elderflower and gooseberries on No. 1 and apples and blackberries on No. 2. The deep, rich colours of each liqueur really radiate in the clear bottles too.
There is a lot of elderflower on the nose of No. 1 alongside some peppery notes. To taste neat, the elderflower is more subtle alongside the sharp gooseberries and a distinctive peppery taste that is reminiscent of rocket, or even nettles. The liqueur is not too viscous or syrupy either and certainly not as sickly sweet as some versions. Sovereign Spirits recommend No.1 poured over ice, with a splash of soda water and a slice of lemon. I, however, couldn’t resist adding it to a glass of extra-dry prosecco! The liqueur proved robust enough to hold its own although it gave way a bit to the fizz and lost some of the pepperiness it had when neat. It added a beautiful colour to the prosecco too and really lifted it up; it would make a lovely drink to serve at a summer party or wedding.
No. 2 has a lot more alcohol on the nose and is a more robust, less complex beverage when consumed neat. It is full of sharp, juicy blackberries with a slightly sweeter apple on the finish. Although both liqueurs are 20% ABV, No. 2 definitely tastes slightly boozier and is much more warming and autumnal than its summer counterpart. Perhaps for that reason, No. 2 didn’t complement the prosecco as well as No. 1, proving a little heavy for the bubbles. Instead, I tried No. 2 poured over ice with a measure of Franklin & Sons’ Sicilian Lemonade and English Elderflower with crushed Juniper and garnished with a slice of apple. It is, perhaps, a little sweet for me (next time I will try this with a sharper lemon tonic) but the combination does add a lovely complexity to the liqueur which still retains some sharpness from the blackberries. It is both refreshing and entirely quaffable! I also look forward to using No. 2 as a wonderful adults-only addition to a crumble or trifle.
Both liqueurs are, clearly, quality products made with real, fresh fruit and without unnecessary sweeteners. My preference is for No. 1, but both would make a wonderful addition to any gin, or cocktail, collection, offering an endless number of ways to add a fruity kick to your drinks. And with Sovereign Spirits looking at producing a No. 3 liqueur, and their own cold-compounded gin, they are well worth keeping an eye on too!
No. 1 and No. 2 are available direct from Sovereign Spirits at £13.99 for 35cl or £17.99 for 50cl. At the moment you can also buy 2 x 35cl bottles for £24.99 or 2 x 50cl bottles for £31.99. Sovereign Spirits are also available from Gin Festival and Master of Malt.
With thanks to Sovereign Spirits for sending me two bottles of liqueur to sample.