What’s a damson plum? Well, if you’ve ever had sloe gin, you’re on the right track. Damsons and sloes are cousins, both found in the hedgerows of Britain, and both have been used to make booze for centuries, because the fruits are too tart and astringent to eat on their own.
In this spin on a sloe gin, Tamworth Distilling uses damson plums along with juniper, bitter orange, anise hyssop, and hops to create a unique yet familiar category designed for cocktailing — and making cocktails of a particular shade of ruddy orange.
On the nose, the gin offers a curious mix of fruit and herbaceous notes; those used to uber-sweet sloe gins will find this perhaps a bit heavier on the “gin” side of the equation than expected. Earthy with a juniper chaser, it’s the hops that tend to dominate, pairing fitfully with the tart damson plum element — which comes across with notes of underripe raspberry mixed with plum.
Things come together with more balance on the palate, which features sweet berry notes melding with juniper and an herbal character that comes across like black tea leaves. There’s a Tawny Port quality here that gives the gin a slightly oxidized feeling — and that added element helps this drink better solo than you get with a typical sloe gin. Those hops inform a slightly rustic but not disagreeable finish, again evoking a younger, sharper, and more aggressive Tawny.
Tamworth’s Damson Plum expression isn’t dramatically better than any of the high-end sloe gins out there, such as those from Sipsmith or Plymouth, but it the use of damson plum does at least make for an interesting point of differentiation. If you like your sloe gin on the more savory side — and don’t mind paying a premium — it’s worth a look as a potential new member of your back bar.
B+ / $55 / tamworthdistilling.com