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Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin

Review: Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin    (85.5/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra
Posted May 19, 2023

Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin is a British Columbia gin produced by the team at Victoria Distilling. Their spirit is inspired by the City of Victoria, British Columbia (also known as ‘The City of Gardens’) where flowers blossom almost year-round. (Due to its location on the southern tip Vancouver Island, the warm pacific waters keep even the harsh Canadian winters at bay).

The gin is a follow-up so to speak to Victoria Distilling’s best selling premium gin, Empress 1908 Indigo Gin. (At some point I will have to try that spirit as well.) It is distilled in small batches with nine botanicals: juniper berries, rose petals, elderflower, lavender, orange peel, orris root, cinnamon, coriander and black carrot.

Whereas their Indigo Gin has a lovely blue colour, the Elderflower and Rose Gin carries a beautiful reddish-violet hue.

According to the folks at Victoria Distilling:

” We use a unique combination of red rose petals and black carrots to achieve its stunning ruby hue. Roses are a traditional gin botanical with a beautiful floral note and a delicate aroma. The black carrot adds a touch of sweetness and enhances and maintains our rich ruby colour.”

Empress Elderflower Rose Gin is bottled at 42.5 % alcohol by volume and sold as a all-natural, gluten free, and certified Kosher premium gin.

In The Bottle 4.5/5

Empress 1908 Elderberry and Rose Gin has a very nice bottle display. Its not overly fancy, but little details like the spiral wrapped label and the longer than usual neck give the bottle just a touch of feminine charm which augments the normally masculine look of this style of bottle. The cork closure implies status, and the only thing I would change is the clear plastic wrap over the closure. A wrap with a solid colour (reddish violet coloured perhaps) would add just that last small touch of class that might have garnered the presentation a perfect score.

In The Glass 8.5/10

The gin has a rosy/violet hue in the glass. My understanding is that this colour will fade over time especially if the spirit is exposed to sunlight. For this reason, the makers of Empress 1908 Gin encourage you to consume a purchased bottle within one year so as to enjoy the lovely colour of the gin every time a glass is poured.

When I bring the glass to my nose, I notice opening notes of juniper and heated coriander with cinnamon adding a light spicy twist. Fruity notes come though reminding me of red berries and orange peel, and then I notice the floral bouquet. The floral notes become more prominent as the glass sits, however they remain comfortable and inviting rather than heavy and perfumed.

This is a really nice beginning!

In the Mouth 51/60

Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin carries an underlying earthiness which I did not expect. Juniper and coriander speak to me weaving their flavour and spice through the  floral botanicals of Red Rose Petal, Orris Root, Lavender and Elderflower. A light bitterness runs gently through as well and that is perhaps what gaves me initial impression of earthiness. There is a berry-like flavour which is probably the red rose petals speaking, and a mild sweetness which counter-balances that gentle bitterness. As I sip, the floral bouquet becomes firmer and more defined with blushes of lavender, violets and hints of blue iris perfume.

I am impressed. The botanical influences seem to be in harmony, and the floral bouquet never grows to the point where it begins to overwhelm the senses.

I decided to try a few cocktails beginning with a gin and tonic, and then moving to a gimlet serving I found on the Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose website called the Garden Gimlet (see recipe below). I preferred the gimlet as I felt lime paired better with the floral qualities of the gin than did tonic water (I would not be surprised if others disagreed). I also mixed one of my own recipes called Lady of the Empire (see recipe below) which mixes gin with lemon juice and orange liqueur. This was actually my favourite pairing as I felt the strong flavour of Lemon was a very nice foil for the light floral perfume within the Elderflower Rose Gin.

In The Throat 13/15

The finish is dry and spicy as juniper is chased by spicy coriander though the exit. A light punch of the floral banquet gives us a blush of perfume in the finale. Although the gin tends gently towards dry bitterness, this change of pace in gin profile certainly has its charm.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Victoria Distilling has created a really nice, unique gin.  The rose/violet colour which is provided by the natural botanicals draws your interest; but it is the outstanding floral bouquet which invites you to stay awhile. This is a floral gin with Red Rose Petal, Orris Root, Lavender and Elderflower playing starring roles; however these elements are restrained just enough such that traditional botanicals like Juniper, Orange Peel, and Coriander play there parts as well. The result is a nuanced gin which will please and perhaps even delight a wide variety of gin palates.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Recommended Servings:

Garden Gimlet

2 oz Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Sprig of Rosemary

Place the first three ingredients in a metal cocktail shaker with ice
Shake vigorously with ice until the outside of the metal begins to frost
Strain into a chilled wine or cocktail glass
Garnish with a sprig of Rosemary
Of course, Enjoy Responsibly


Rose and Violet Lady of the Empire

1 1/2 oz Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Simple Syrup (1:1 ratio)

Place the first four ingredients in a metal cocktail shaker
Shake vigorously with ice until the outside of the metal is frosted
Strain into a chilled wine or cocktail glass

Garnish with a slice of Lemon or Lime



My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing spirit.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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