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Elderflower & Elderberries

Written by Gin Foundry

The Elderberry is a small bush, peppered with delicate white flowers (i.e. elderflower) that flourishes widely in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, spreading in hedgerows across many of its fields.

The bush produces small, dark berries that are commonly used in juices and jams. The flowers are sweet, honey-scented clusters of white that, when used fresh, make deliciously sweet cordials and liqueur – the famous and globally known of which is probably  St Germain’s.

The berries are known to be rich in antioxidants and are also said to reduce the time in which one suffers from the flu. They’re also used in the treatment of conjunctivitis and for relieving the pain of arthritis – the latter medicinal property discovered by a sailor, who (when elderberries were used to disguise the quality of terribly made wine) found that cheap port relieved his symptoms… Unfortunately, these properties do not distil over.

Once distilled, Elderberries keep much of their tarty nature. Deep jam-like tones are created and as a botanical, they are perfect to add a rich depth to the heart of a gin. They pair particularly well with resinous types of juniper (typically from Macedonia) as when combined, can give a booming forest fruit flavour to the mix.

Elderflower on the other hand, is as one might expect, more floral and lighter to taste. In the context of gin, it is more apparent on the nose but they also serve as a useful floral botanical to add soft freshness to a gin, as opposed to using flowers like rose or honeysuckle, that can sometimes veer into more perfumed territory.

Gins in which elderflower is noticeable to taste:

Warner Edwards have an elderflower infused gin, while Shortcross Gin use the flower to add a levity in their gin. Hendrick’s Gin makes good use of the soft sent of elderflower in the mix, although the rose and cucumber dominate so it’s not easy to discern it as an individual botanical. Silent Pool makes fantastic use of the flowers, where it is particularly apparent on the nose, adding an inviting bouquet to their gin.

Gins in which elderberries are noticeable to taste:

Burleighs London Dry Gin and Shortcross Gin make good use of elderberries – (the latter involving the flower in its botanical line up as mentioned above as well). Dorothy Parker has a delicious jammy tone as a result of the berries.

Best used:

…in a cocktail. Eldeflower liqueur and gin make great bedmates, but elderflower cordial could also jazz up a French 75 and the flowers themselves would make for very pretty little garnishes. If you like a ripe fruity flavour in your Sloe Gins, add elderberries into the mix during the infusion process.