Empress Gin

By Timo Torner / Last updated on April 6, 2023

Empress 1908 Gin is a deep purple Gin made by Victoria distillers. Its color-changing properties made it an instant success -not least thanks to Social Media.
Empress Gin

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.

Since the 1920s, the Fairmont Empress Hotel has been famous for its afternoon tea, with the hero of this event being the hotel's black tea, created specifically for their tea room.

Inspired by the cocktail and tea offering of the hotel, Empress Gin incorporates a signature blend of black tea and butterfly pea flower.

It's the Gin's indigo blue color that catches your attention immediately. And the deep blue color changing into a vibrant pink when mixed with the right ingredients made it such a massive success on social media.

What is Empress Gin?

Empress 1908 Gin bottle

Released: 2017
Alcohol: 42.5% ABV, 85 proof
Botanicals: Black tea, butterfly pea flower, cinnamon bark, coriander seeds, ginger, grapefruit peel, juniper berries, and rose petals.
Price: $39

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? The deep purple color of the Gin already is a real eye-catcher. But the real winner is the color shift when the PH value.

What makes Empress Gin purple?

The dark purple color of Empress Gin comes from Butterfly peas. These little, deep blue colors have been popular in Northern Thailand for ages. Traditionally, people use them to make tea which they then mix with lemon juice and a little honey.

Butterfly pea flowers

You could use dried butterfly pea flowers to color any sort of spirit or other liquids, like in this butterfly pea flower infused Gin recipe. Or, if you want something you can use in all kinds of cocktails, Butterfly pea flower syrup is a great idea. 

You can use it instead of regular simple syrup in almost every recipe calling for a sweetener. Or you can add a few drops to your G&T to tint it slightly pinkish.

Why does Empress Gin change its color?

The addition of, for instance, citrus juice or tonic water will change the deep purple color to light pink. You could do that with any mixer, liquid of any kind, or even powder that have the required level of acidity.

That occurs because Butterfly pea flowers work as a pH indicator, with their natural pH level ranging from 6.0 to 8.0. 7.0 would be neutral, so neither acidic nor alkaline. 

You could use Empress Gin to create, for instance, a pink Gin Sour cocktail or a colorful serve of Gin and Tonic. For some, these properties make Empress Gin more of a gimmick than anything else. Yet, Empress also tastes the part.

The taste of Empress 1908 Gin

At first glance, the purple spirit doesn't look like a regular type of Gin. But poured into a glass, you immediately smell the piney, citrusy, and floral aromas of Empress Gin.

Flavorwise, this creation is more traditional than one might assume from its looks. 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. Yet, if you are looking for a floral gin, it is not the right bottle. Instead, Empress works great in cocktails due to its rather classic flavor profile.

The only slightly floral notes are paired with grapefruit and more juniper, so they are not the leading actor in Empress 1908.

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 may describe it as floral, but 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.

Empress 1908 FAQs

Is Empress Gin a London Dry Gin?

Empress Gin is a modern interpretation called contemporary Gin. Other reviewers often named this category "contemporary London Dry Gin".

Best tonic water for Empress Gin?

Empress Gin is best mixed with a premium Indian Tonic. For instance, Fever-tree Indian tonic water or Fentiman's Indian Tonic water.

Does Empress Gin change color?

Empress Gin changes color when adding ingredients that change the ph value. Adding citrus juice or tonic water will change the color to pink.

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