“Dry January” is long since over… and Since it’s over, I decided it’s time to post a short tasting on an alcohol-free gin alternative. I’d have posted it earlier but I didn’t want to risk persuading anyone to think about going sober in that long, dark, miserable, month.. you know, the one during which you could really use a gin. Having a month off the alcohol is never a bad thing for your body to recover…I just can’t bear to do it in January with the post-Christmas funk going on! I will be starting on a low carb diet shortly to trim some of the Christmas excesses so this will be sating my need for a juniper hit.

If I’m watching the alcohol, and the calories, The Duchess, makes abstaining for a period much more bearable and is generally my goto. I discovered The Duchess when we ran across the guys who came up with it at Junipalooza in 2017, and then again at the 2018 event when they’d reworked their recipe. It comes to us courtesy of two gents in South Africa, Johannes Le Roux and Inus Smuts.

At its heart, The Duchess is a combination of re-distilled juniper berries, and tonic water infused with various botanicals including orange peel, allspice and star anise. The fact this is basically re-distilled juniper and tonic is what I think really makes it able to hit that gin spot if you’re not drinking. When you smell it, that juniper comes through on the nose, and the spices in the tonic really hit you as well, but with less citrus hanging around than you’d expect to more usually find in a Gin. Tasting is much the same, you start off with that Juniper flavour at the fore, and then the spices hit you. There’s nothing subtle about the spice in this, they’re full on and follow the juniper up immediately which could possibly be a little overpowering for some, but for me is pleasantly warming. I do find a big wedge of Orange or a good bit of zest just gives it an edge more citrus to cut through the spice a little. For those watching the waistline, or those that are a little bit anal with counting their calories etc like me, there’s a bonus to this as well. At just 38 calories and 6.6g of carbs a bottle, you can feel fairly guilt free about having a drink, and thanks to the fact it’s partly sweetened with cane sugar, and party with stevia, you don’t get that artificial sacharine taste.

If of course, you’re not abstaining from alcohol, and you have a gin that you’re not terribly impressed with on the juniper front, the joy of this is that you could quite happily use it as a mixer as well! (Rather defeating the object, but there we are.) It’s got too much going on to go with most gins, but I think if you had a fairly sub-par gin that was lacking, it could do something just to bring it up a notch.

While the Duchess isn’t terribly easy to get hold of in the shops, it’s getting easier and easier to find online at the usual places, Gin Kiosk, 31 Dover, Master of Malt etc. Now, to make the most of the day before the low carb horror begins tomorrow….


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