Sir Edmond Vanilla Gin: A Rebellious Spirit
Words Oisin Fogarty Graveson
The gentlemanly chap emblazoned on the label of this Vanilla Gin? That’s Sir Edmond. He’s a flamingo. Generally, flamingos do not migrate, wear monocles or produce spirits – but Sir Edmond is a rebellious bird who works hard. He regularly makes the flight from The Netherlands to a little island in the Indian Ocean called Réunion – the vanilla capital of the world – where the ingredients for his new premium gin are grown. It’s a flavour which demands attention.
An accomplished mixologist originally from Zimbabwe, Andrew Nicholls is one of the founders of Sir Edmond Gin. Andrew spent much of his youth in South Africa learning about taste. “My mother is a wonderful cook and I would spend hours, sitting on the kitchen counter, watching and tasting” remembers Andrew. He even brewed his own fermented ginger beer at the age of eight. “On one occasion, I forgot about a plastic bottle I had left to ferment and after two weeks in the South African sun, it made one hell of a bang!”
At the age of 20, he decided to move onto something a little stronger. Andrew travelled to The Netherlands where he joined the hotel school in The Hague, became a member of The Fabulous Shaker Boys cocktail catering company and cultivating a mental library of over 500 cocktail recipes.
Under the pink feathered cloak and top hat of Sir Edmond Vanilla Gin is an homage to Edmond Albius, a plantation worker in St. Suzanne, Réunion in the 1800s who discovered a way to quickly pollinate the vanilla orchid with the simple flick of his thumb and a blade of grass. Andrew calls Edmond Albius a ‘rebellious spirit’. And true to that description, Sir Edmond likewise goes against expectations.
“Vanilla is—arguably—the world’s most accepted flavour profile,
yet it isn’t really used as a gin botanical.”
“We’re used to adding sugar to vanilla, but in reality it’s quite bitter” says Nichols. “In order to get that beautiful, clean Vanilla note you find in Sir Edmond, we had to take fresh Madagascan Vanilla, cut it all by hand and macerate for a few weeks in cool temperatures. This is why Sir Edmond has a very slight tint of Vanilla colouring to it”
The result: a strong, very sweet flavour. On the nose, the vanilla very much owns the Sir Edmond Vanilla Gin. Smelling with eyes closed, it could pass unnoticed as gin at all. Our first response to a simple G+T: Ouch! It’s necessary, if drinking with tonic, to add something to counteract the sweetness of the vanilla. Andrew suggests Sir Edmond with tonic and a garnish of orange, topped with a cinnamon stick.
But when served straight, the natural botanical flavour of the juniper balances the sweeter end of the flavour well on its own, creating a smooth and fragrant gin. Or for adventurous birds, the Pink Flamingo cocktail includes a measure of sweet red vermouth to two measures of Sir Edmond, topped with orange zest – we decided to go for it in the office, and putting in that extra attention paid off with a sherry-like bite to follow the initial vanilla smoothness. It requires a little more work to coax out Sir Edmond’s full potential.