I discovered Iron Balls Gin in 2017 while living in Bangkok for a few months. I was familiar with the name Ashley Sutton because he designed dozens of bars there and in other parts of Southeast Asia.
So, I had to try his Gin. Now, a few years later, all my friends and friends of friends know and love Iron Balls.
YOU ALWAYS HAVE OPTIONS IF YOU HAVE BALLS - This is one of the slogans Iron Balls works with, and it fits perfectly.
The unusual shape of the bottle, forming half a cannonball, the hand-written batch numbers, the copper elements on the bottle, every part of this product packaging, and marketing so well thought-out.
And there is more that makes Iron Balls Gin exceptional, starting with where it is distilled. So here's my review:
Iron Balls Bangkok
Iron Balls Gin is distilled in the heart of Bangkok, making it one of only a few Gins produced in Thailand.
And the distillery is not somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It is located right in one of the most exclusive and popular areas of the city, inside the associated bar called the Iron Balls Distillery.
The Ingredients of Iron Balls Gin
When joining the distillery tour, you will learn that, instead of regular grain spirit, Iron Balls uses a concoction of fermented Pineapple and Coconut to create a kind of wine. This base then gets distilled into a pineapple-coconut Vodka.
Details about the ingredients or botanicals used in the Iron Balls Gin are kept secret from the public. Only a few - juniper, hillside ginger, and lemongrass- can be found on the iron balls homepage.
Besides that, there is not much information on the contents. So I will make a guess based on its taste. But regarding the base spirit, no guesswork is needed.
Tasting and nosing the spirit, there are some hints that the following ingredients could play a role in the Iron Balls Gin:
- Hillside ginger
- Coriander seeds
- Orange peel
Do keep in mind that I base this on speculation. The actual ingredients are not confirmed.
Tasting Notes of Iron Balls
The production numbers are limited due to the small distillery. But the quality of the end product shows how much love went into this artisan spirit.
The Gin reflects its strong southeast Asian heritage with fruity notes and spices.
When you first smell the Gin, you get a lot of fruity notes. The pronounced sweetness of Pineapples mixes with lemongrass, citrus notes, and ginger.
While this is certainly not common, there are a few other, less traditional, Gins with similar nosing profiles.
Tasting Iron Balls neat is a pleasant experience. It is mild and has lots of fruity notes. Pineapple, Mango, and citrus together with a spicy finish of ginger and lemongrass.
It goes down really well, even though it is a little on the Vodka side. A spirit I definitely would not turn down.
What is missing are strong notes of juniper. They do exist but are not as dominant as you would expect from a Gin.
So if you are a fond believer in traditional Gins, this one might not be for you. But having said that, Iron Balls Gin is one of my most frequent recommendations when someone asks me for an unusual Gin.
Gin & Tonic
An Iron Balls Gin and Tonic is something special. It does not taste very much like a Gin when tasting neat, and it is a category of its own when tried as a G&T.
It is fresh, vibrant, fruity, and refreshing like no other Gin and Tonic I tried before.
The tropical vibes immediately take me back to the beaches of Thailand. The mix of fruit and spice is gorgeous, and you need to remind yourself that this thing is still an alcoholic drink that you should not drown in one big sip.
Now, let's see what you need to create the perfect serve with this Gin.
Iron Balls Gin and Tonic - Perfect Serve
As recommended on their website, Iron Balls Gin and Tonic goes perfectly with a slice of pineapple, Thai Basil leaves, and a wedge of lime.
That may sound a little odd, but it works, trust me. During my first visit to the distillery, I also asked about a tonic recommendation and was offered to taste different versions.
It turns out the recommended tonic is also my overall favorite - Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic Water.
If you can't get your hands on Thai basil leaves, conventional basil leaves do work, too. I also do use those when I am not in Thailand.
Use in Cocktails
Used in cocktails, the Gin can work fine. However, its subtle are easily overpowered by other ingredients.
Still, the "Spitcock" cocktail at the Iron Balls distillery is brilliant. It's a concoction made with passion fruit and roselle. And I also like to use Iron Balls in a tropical version of a Negroni:
Combine the Gin with Antica Formula, Campari, and Mahiki to create a complex and delicious Coconut Negroni.
The fruity notes work surprisingly well. Also, the balance between sweet and bitter is just right, making Iron Balls an excellent choice for a Martini.
Iron Balls Distillery & Bar
When you first walk into this small and cozy place, you instantly recognize Ashley Sutton's influence. All his bars have this unique vibe, antique decor, eccentric details, and most importantly, a small but exquisite cocktail selection.
The place has two sections. One is the bar and seating area, and the other is the distillery where they distill Iron Balls Gin. It takes less than ten steps to get from one to the other.
If you are lucky, the staff gives a spontaneous tour of the distillery. But usually, you have to pre-book.
If you visit the Iron Balls Distillery, I recommend the signature serve of an Iron Balls Gin and Tonic or one of their beautiful cocktails.
My personal favorites are the "Charred Sandalwood Negroni" and the "Spitcock". The cocktails are around $12 on average, a fair price for quality bars in Bangkok.
Iron Balls Gin Parlour & Saloon
Next to the Sing Sing Theater -another Ashley Sutton creation- is the second location of the Iron Balls Gin distillery: the Iron Balls Gin Parlour & Saloon.
But keep your eyes open, or you will miss its entrance. It is worth to be searched and found.
The ceiling is full of empty Iron Balls bottles, and the marine theme makes you feel like sitting in a cozy cabin on a ship. This place is more spacious and offers more possibilities to sit or stand together.
The bar is suitable for every occasion, from pre-party drinks to after-dinner sips. You will always feel like you have come to the right place.
Still, if you have to decide between visiting the distillery or the Parlour, I would always opt for the distillery.
There is no denying it. I am totally in love with this Gin. But from a more objective point of view, this is a great and unique product you definitely should try.
It pushes the limits of the Gin definition and delivers on taste and design. The price usually is around $60 - in liquor stores and when buying it directly in the distillery.
It is still a little complicated to get in the US and not the cheapest option, but it is worth it.