* This gin was given to me as a sample by Panda Gin. All opinions though are definitely my own.
The Belgians may well argue that it was they who ‘invented’ gin. Modern gin does have its roots in the influx of Belgian refugees who introduced distilling juniper as genever to Holland, so when I was offered the chance to try a new Belgian Gin how could I refuse?
There are quite a few Belgian gins now in the category. Panda Gin is a 100% organic gin and properly called Panda Bio Gin. It is the first gin to use lychee or litchi as its signature botanical with a base spirit of organic wheat grain alcohol. Distilled 6 times in a 1200L pot still the distillation comes out at a pretty respectable 96%. The water they use to dilute the gin down to 40% comes from Hautes Fagnes, or the High Fens, the oldest nature reserve in Belgium and considered one of the purest water sources in Europe.
Why the name Panda Gin? Well, lychee is the key botanical and lychee-based spirits are as rare as Pandas!
The original bottle was clear with a black and white label but the new bottle: white with black lettering and cute panda design is so much more high end. It gives the gin a premium feel and looks appealing on the gin shelf.
Juniper, lychee, cherry, rosemary, basil, Chinese star anise, orange peel
On the nose Panda Gin is sweet and fruity with a faint hint of juniper.
To taste the gin is not as sweet or fruity as the aroma would have you believe. This is not a sickly-sweet-fruity gin of the kind that is popular at the moment. There is enough juniper to give the fruity tones backbone, far more than the aroma presupposes.
The list of botanicals is an interesting combination and reads like a discordant symphony of flavours. How could perfumed lychee combine well with basil and star anise? Or rosemary for that matter, such a strong tasting herb?
Well, the answer is that they just do.
The perfumed lychee tastes quite similar to violet. If you are a fan of violet gins you will like this one, albeit the lychee is much more complex and subtle. The rosemary remains in the background, as does star anise and basil ~ surprisingly on all three counts.
The finish is medium, herby and fruity.
This is a sophisticated gin and I’m glad I tried it.
Plain premium tonic tarts this gin up quite literally with the bitterness of the tonic counteracting the sweetness. It works rather well.
The first cocktail that sprang to mind with this gin was the Lotus which uses lychee or litchi syrup among its ingredients. To find out how to make this fabulously coloured cocktail click here.
Panda Gin also have plenty of suggestions for their gin.
I’m quite partial to a gin sour so the Panda Gin Sour was the first one tried.
Highball or similar
60ml / 2oz Panda Gin
25ml/ 0.75oz freshly squeezed lime juice
15ml / 0.5oz homemade lime syrup (see recipe for how to make this easy and deliciously zingy syrup from fresh limes)
80ml / 2.66oz pineapple juice
(I also added 15ml / 0.5oz simple syrup as I was feeling in a sweet mood and the homemade lime syrup is quite tart)
Shake all the ingredients in a shaker with ice.
Fine strain into a highball filled with crushed ice.
Top with soda water.
Next up was the Panda Fashioned. I just love the flavour of cherries so a cocktail that features maraschino liqueur was a no brainer.
50ml / 1.75oz Panda Gin
10ml / 0.45oz maraschino liqueur
Rim an old fashioned glass with lemon juice and light brown sugar.
Add large chunks of clear ice.
Pour in the gin and liqueur.
Top with soda water.
A sprinkling of light brown sugar
To buy a bottle click here:-