I love Elephant Gin, I’m going to make no secret of that… not that I could make a secret of it considering how many people I tell to get the stuff. I also love a Navy Strength gin as I enjoy the bigger kick you tend to get out of the botanicals and the depth of flavours. Finally, I love Elephants… so that’s pretty much the trifecta.
Elephant Gin, despite the name, is distilled in Germany, about an hour outside the wonderful city of Hamburg. While it’s distilled in Germany, the heart of the gin and its origins are found, more appropriately, in South Africa where some of their botanicals originate from. 14 botanicals are used to distil the gin, including the more unusual South African ones of Buchu, Baobab, Lion’s Tail and Devil’s Claw. The other South African link that the gin has is, of course, the elephants themselves. Elephant is one of a number of gins with a charity element to their business and 15% of the profits from their sales are donated directly to charities that work at elephant conservation. If you’re interested in their wonderful conservation work, you can find more information about it HERE.
Now, as much as I may love elephants, 15% of your profit isn’t much use if the gin is no good and nobody buys it. Thankfully, that’s not the case here, and I’ve chosen to take a look at the Elephant Strength (Navy Strength) variant as fewer people seem to have tried it than the London dry. Nothing to do with the fact I love a navy strength gin and it’s always nice to have an excuse for another! The Elephant Strength uses the same recipe as the London Dry but with a few tweaks. Firstly the ABV is, of course, cranked up to 57% and they’ve used twice the quantity of botanicals with a focus on the buchu, orange peel and pine.
I think identifying some of the flavours in Elephant is a bit tricky since I have no frame of reference for Buchu or Baobab etc, but we’re going to give it a shot anyway. One really nice touch before moving onto the contents is that each bottle bears the name of an Elephant. To quote the distillery, “The Elephant Strength labels carry the names of the so-called Magnificent Seven: the strongest and most impressive elephants known to Kruger National Park, South Africa, these precious bull elephants all bore tusks weighing more than 50kg each.” In the case of my bottle, that’s “Ndlulamithi”, which apparently is a traditional Tsonga word meaning “taller than the trees”.
The gin itself is slightly oilier and more viscous than the London Dry, you can see it’s movement and it clings to the glass slightly more than usual which is always a pleasant sign for me. On the nose, you get that initial hit of alcohol that you’d expect at this ABV, but it’s not as overpowering as some. Once the alcohol has passed you get the piney juniper up front, but it’s, for me, strongly joined by a lovely citrus note which I assume is part in thanks to the baobab. Tasting, it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the mouthfeel, it is indeed as oily and viscous as it looked from the glass. As you’d expect, it packs a punch, but not in an unpleasant manner as some navy strength gins have a tendency to do. The juniper comes up first and is soon followed by that citrus edge hinted at by the smell, before leading you into something a bit more herbal and fruity. Finally, once you think it’s done, it suddenly finishes with a really warm, spicy peppery note that lingers. Adding a splash of tonic really brings the herbal flavours out to the fore to join the juniper, but does seem to mute the spicy peppercorns somewhat. This leaves you with a less intense taste at the end, still with that spice, but softened by more herbal notes.
Having tried it with a few different tonics, for me it’s a light tonic that really works with it. I light my gins more on the dry side, and Elephant Strength is actually surprisingly sweet for a navy gin. The light tonic takes the edge off the sweetness to balance it perfectly for me, whereas an Indian tonic wound up with a drink just a little too sweet. Overall though, I’m a big fan of both the London Dry and the Elephant Strength. As a lot of good Navy gins do, this one still maintains the spirit of the original, but just cranks some of the flavours up and delivers a complex but enjoyable, and worryingly easy to finish, drink.
I shall leave you with a picture of the rather cool little map that sits on the back of the rear label. Very “Here be dragons!” adding to the navy theme!