Empress 1908 Gin is the result of a collaboration between Victoria distillers and the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. The name suffix 1908 refers to the year the hotel opened its doors. Inspired by the cocktail and tea offering of the hotel, Empress Gin contains a signature blend of black tea and butterfly pea flower in it.
Since the 1920s, the Fairmont Empress Hotel has been famous for its afternoon tea. The actual hero of this event is the hotel's black tea, created specifically for their tea room. But it's the Gin's indigo blue color that catches your attention at first. And this deep blue color that changes into a vibrant pink made it such a success in social media.
What is Empress Gin?
Alcohol: 42.5% ABV, 85 proof
Botanicals: Black tea, butterfly pea flower, cinnamon bark, coriander seeds, ginger, grapefruit peel, juniper berries, and rose petals.
Victoria Distillers released Empress Gin in 2017. And within its first year, the indigo blue Gin based on a corn spirit won a gold medal at New York's World Wine & Spirits Awards. After that, it didn't take long until the images were all over Instagram. Why? No wonder, as it's focussed on the visual. The deep purple to an indigo shade of the Gin is beautiful for the eye. But obviously, the real winner is the color shift when the PH value of the drink changes.
The addition of citrus juice or tonic water will change the deep purple color to light pink. Mixing these elements creates a bright pink Gin Sour cocktail or a pinkish serve of Gin and Tonic. Of course, depending on your perspective, this either makes this spirit even more fun or too gimmicky.
Don't get fooled by the distinctive and bright color. Taste and flavorwise Empress 1908 is a rather classic type of Gin. Strong notes of juniper and citrus dominate the overall floral Gin.
The taste of Empress 1908 Gin
When poured in a glass, the purple spirit doesn't look like a Gin at first. But once you smell the piney, citrusy, and floral aromas of Empress, you'll realize that this creation might be more traditional than you thought at first. That impression is reinforced when you try the first sip.
The taste of Empress Gin is dry and citrusy with intense notes of juniper. It also offers floral hints coming from rose petals. However, if you are looking for a floral gin, this is not the one. The only slightly floral notes are paired with grapefruit and more juniper, so they are not the leading actor in Empress.
The finish is dominated by coriander, green tea, black tea, and cinnamon. You can also feel a slight heat coming from the spirit. This warmth also lingers after the Gin is gone.
Overall, Empress Gin has a rather traditional flavor profile. Some tasting reviews still may describe it as floral, but honestly, to me, the Gin is far from that. What you get is a color-changing Gin with a juniper-forward taste. Notes of black tea, grapefruit, and cinnamon round off the flavor profile.
What makes Empress Gin purple?
The dark purple color of Empress Gin comes from the Butterfly pea flower. This botanical is popular in northern Thailand. Traditionally the flower is used to make a tea you mix with lemon juice and a little honey.
Technically, you can use dried butterfly pea flowers to color any type of spirit. Another way to bring the color-changing properties into a drink is by making a dark blue Butterfly pea flower syrup. The syrup can be used instead of regular simple syrup in almost every cocktail recipe. And you can also add a few drops to your G&T to tint it slightly pinkish.
Empress 1908 FAQs
Empress Gin is a modern interpretation called contemporary Gin. Other reviewers often named this category "contemporary London Dry Gin".
Empress Gin is best mixed with a premium Indian Tonic. For instance, Fever-tree Indian tonic water or Fentiman's Indian Tonic water.
Empress Gin changes color when adding ingredients that change the ph value. Adding citrus juice or tonic water will change the color to pink.