Empress 1908 Cucumber Lemon Gin Review

Drink Reviews gin
Empress 1908 Cucumber Lemon Gin Review

Chances are very good that if a consumer is familiar with the brand name of “Empress Gin,” they’re going to be picturing a signature, royal purple hue at the same time. This is a case of branding that has been particularly effective in cementing a certain visual to go along with a name: The flagship product of the Empress 1908 gin lineup is actually called Indigo Gin, but I doubt nearly as many gin fans and cocktail wonks would be able to name that particular information off hand. What matters is that color, achieved through the use of butterfly pea flowers/blossoms, a natural ingredient that has been used to chase that particularly exotic hue throughout the food industry in recent years. Does it contribute much flavor of its own? No, not exactly, but when paired with a perfectly solid, classic-style gin, you can’t deny it makes for one eye-catching bottle.

But the Empress 1908 line is more than just gimmicks; it’s also an evolving brand that can situate itself around flavor rather than simply appearance. Last year saw the first line expansion in the form of the pink-shaded Elderflower Rose Gin, while the brand new Empress 1908 Cucumber Lemon Gin is likewise exactly what it sounds like … while also being the first perfectly clear and colorless expression in the line. Here, there’s no visual gimmickry to help move units.

This gin has, as the name would imply, been infused with a heavy dose of garden cucumber and lemon peel, with those botanicals joined by the ubiquitous juniper, orange peel, jasmine, cardamom and others. It weighs in at a subtly elevated 42.5% ABV (85 proof), with an MSRP of $40, the same as the base Empress expression–but a bit higher than most other gin expressions on the shelf regardless.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting this new cucumber creation.

On the nose, Empress 1908 Cucumber Lemon Gin immediately registers as very bright and fresh, though it doesn’t immediately scream “cucumber” the first pass you make over it. The “cuke” character is more on the subtle side here initially, or perhaps it’s just that the bright pop of juniper and especially citrus means you can’t immediately access the part of your brain that registers the cucumber. Instead this is quite zesty up front, with a solidly resinous juniper base and flecks of pink peppercorn and lemon/orange oil. Once the brain has time to process those, however, the cucumber starts emerging in earnest, with an increased fresh vegetal presence that gets stronger and stronger.

On the palate, this is far more dramatically cucumber centric right away, being brightly vegetal and herbal, but equally citrusy as well. There is tons of semi-sharp lemon and rounder, juicier orange, held in check by resinous juniper and slightly hop-like bitterness or impressions of citrus pith. Subtle red berries rounds out the profile, while the cucumber character is very fresh, as if you had just muddled some partially peeled slices at the bottom of your glass. All told, the profile is pretty much exactly what you would be expecting from the name, no more and no less.

This is a perfectly solid modern gin that favors the citrus side of the equation without veering off into overly sweet or juniper-deficient territory. It makes perfect sense that it’s being released now in the spring/summer window, as it’s hard to imagine any marketing campaign positioning cucumber-centric gin as a fall or winter beverage. But for the next few months, it’s hard to imagine something more appropriate for a patio cocktail on a warm evening.

Distillery: Empress Gin
City: Sidney, British Columbia
Style: Gin
ABV: 42.5% (85 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $40 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident craft beer and spirits geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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