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Gin Royal (Compass Distillers)

Review: Gin Royal (Compass Distillers)    85/100
Reviewed by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 26, 2020

Compass Distillers is located in Halifax Nova Scotia, where Graham, Josh, and David began their distilling journey with a belief that they could create world-class spirits locally. Their artisan Craft Spirits are not imported, they are not blended with generic ingredients, nor are they pumped out of a factory; rather, they are made from scratch, with locally sourced ingredients.

Compass Distillers Gin Royal gives recognition to the to the bees who are required to pollinate more than half of the botanicals used in gin. They make the point that without bees, there in fact would be no gin. Their royal blue spirit is distilled from Nova Scotian wheat with both classic and contemporary gin botanicals. The spirit derives its deep blue colour from an infusion of butterfly pea blossom. Before the gin is finished, it is given a light sweetness with local honey and royal jelly. Botanicals used to produce Gin Wild include juniper, orange, lemon, coriander, pepper, angelica root, orris root, cassia, local honey, royal jelly and butterfly pea blossom.

In order to protect the bees that make their gin possible, Compass Distillers promises that one dollar from every bottle sold will be donated to the Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association to assist in their efforts to promote bee health and sustainable beekeeping.

According to the Compass Distillers Website Gin Royal is sold at 44% abv.. I note that the bottle given to me for this review is bottled at 45 % abv, which implies the bottling strength may vary slightly such that the flavour profile and characteristics of each bottling remain consistent.

In The Bottle  4/5

Compass Distillers sell most of their products in the squat cylindrical bottle shown to the left. The bottle follows the bartender’s creed of being easy to store (the stubbly bottle is stable with a round shape that rests easily on any bartender’s shelf); easy to hold (the round cylindrical bottle is not too wide for the average person’s hand); and easy to pour (the glass stopper comes out easily and the long neck helps us avoid spilling).

The image on the front label depicts the Queen Bee and the Butterfly Pea Blossom and pays homage to the bees which make gin possible. The side label (not shown) lets the consumer know that one dollar from every bottle is given to the Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association.

In the Glass 9/10

The gin derives its lovely blue colour from the infusion of butterfly pea blossom which is more commonly known as Blue Tea (a caffeine-free herbal tea, or tisane). Interestingly, the colour of the butterfly tea blossom infusion will change color as the pH balance changes. The deep blue colour will turn purple with the addition of acidic lemon or lime juice, conversely if fuchsia (roselle hibiscus) is added the colour moves to a bright red. This has interesting applications with respect to colourful cocktails which can be created with Gin Royal.

When I pour the gin into my glass I notice a piny juniper aroma chased by somewhat peppery spices as well as coriander and citrus zest. There are hints of orange liqueur, lemon and honey in the air as well as very lightly perfumed florals (blue iris and violets). I am happy that the perfumed quality is kept in check, so as not to overpower the other botanicals. The overall aroma is pleasant displaying balance and structure.

In the Mouth 51/60

When I take a sip I notice a nice firm juniper combined with peppery spice leading out with citrus zest and coriander trailing behind. The gin is more peppery than I anticipated; but it is a well balanced spiciness that bodes well for cocktails. There is also a mildly sweet accent of honey which acts as a counterbalance to the peppery spice. The juniper is softened slightly by earthy angelica, hints of blue tea (slightly woody), and just a touch of licorice and cinnamon. Running underneath it all is a gentle sweep of orange liqueur and lemon flavour. I am noticing just a touch of perfumey florals and am reminded of blue iris.

I am very happy the perfumed quality as well as the dab of honey have been kept in check. Both flavour impressions can be intense and overpowering; but the gin maker has done well to make sure they serve as accents and not as the main attraction.

Cocktails seem to be a wide open book. I took a nod from the Compass Distillers website and mixed the Gin with Elderberry Tonic. Then I constructed my Lady of the Empire cocktail. Interestingly, the Blue Tea botanical (butterfly pea blossom) is much more noticeable in the cocktails than it was when I was sipping the spirit neat. This has the impact of giving the servings a somewhat dry lightly bitter finish.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The exit brings juniper softened by angelica though the swallow with pepper and coriander spice heating the palate which in turn is softened by a light taste of honey. The spiciness of pepper and coriander bodes well for cocktails. The light bitterness of the Blue Tea botanical adds to the dryness of the finish.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Compass Distiller’s Gin Royal is very nice.  Although there is a slightly hardened edge to the juniper, I found the spirit smooth with a nice melding of botanicals which works well in cocktails (as does the deep blue hue which changes colour depending upon the acidity of the cocktail chosen). For those who prefer to sip their gin neat or on the rocks, Gin Royal is more than acceptable as well.

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


Suggested Servings:

The Royal Lady

1 1/2 oz Compass Distillers Gin Royal
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Sugar Syrup
Lemon Coil


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 Lemon Coil

Enjoy Responsibly!


Gin and Elderflower Tonic

1 1/2 oz Compass Distillers Gin Royal
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3/8 oz Sugar Syrup (or to taste)
3 oz Lixir Elderflower and Lime Tonic Water
Cucumber Chunks (optional)

Add the first three ingredients into a rocks glass
Stir and add ice
Fill with Q-Tonic
Garnish with cucumber (optional)

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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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