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Empress 1908 Gin Review!

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Since quarantine, Ive been making lots of cocktails and sharing them on . My favorite spirit of choice lately is Empress 1908 Gin. I discovered Empress 1908 Gin a few months ago when my friend Katie invited me to take a charcuterie board class. That was so much fun! They provided cocktails at the event and all the cocktails were made with Empress 1908 Gin only. I was immediately blow away. It is a hand-crafted spirit from Victoria distillers in British Columbia, Canada. This is a botanical infused gin, and it has a natural purple hue. I love the color! In my opinion, it just makes your drink look a little bit more fun!

This gin is inspired by the renowned tea and cocktail programs of the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. Doesnt it sound so regal?! And sometimes the color changes depending on what is being put into the drink.

This gin is unique because of its flavor. As I mentioned earlier, it is botanical infused. It includes butterfly pea blossom, fairmont empress tea, juniper, grapefruit peel, coriander seed, cinnamon bark, rose petal, and ginger root. Trust me, it is delicious! You should be able to find Empress 1908 Gin at your local liquor store. If youre in Chicago, they definitely have it at Binnys! You can also purchase it online.

Empress 1908 Gin Review

Beautiful purple in color with tea as a key botanical.

Review Empress 1908 Gin

Made in: British Columbia, Canada, by Victoria Distillers.

Base: Corn

Method: Copper Pot still.

42.5% alcohol/85 proof

Botanicals 8 : Juniper, grapefruit peel, coriander, Empress Black tea blend, rose petal, cinnamon, ginger, butterfly pea blossoms.

Style: Modern gin

Designed to celebrate the Canadian city of Victoria the gin is named after the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, which was built in 1908, as the name on the label says. The gin uses the hotels signature Empress black tea blend as one the key botanicals in the gin, and sports a regal blue-purple color which is imparted by the butterfly pea blossoms with which its distilled.

And that indigo color is perhaps the most defining characteristic of the gin. It makes for some very pretty cocktails without adding sweetness. The color is however transient, and the darker the color, likely the fresher the bottle is, as the blue fades with time.

Tasting notes

Sipped on ice this gin has a very astringent nature. There is just a little too much heat, even after a couple of minutes on ice to recommend this as a sipping gin.

The nose is loaded with floral notes from the tea, rose petal, and maybe the pea blossoms with an essence of citrus and juniper mixed in. You can also smell some underlying dark berries and a touch of spice – with just faint traces of ginger, coriander, and cinnamon.

The oral texture of the gin is thin, and sharp.

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The Colour Is Actually A Happy Accident

The Empress Hotel is really famous for doing Afternoon Tea every day. Its not that expensive, only $82.00 forTEA.

Locally, its well-known that if you get a chance to serve Afternoon Tea at the Empress, youre easily clearing 6 figures a year. Thats right, there are folks earning more than $100,000.00 a year by just serving tea. Its amazing.

Given that Afternoon Tea is such a long-standing and luxurious tradition, Empress Gin wanted to capture some of that in their bottle. They did this by experimenting with a number of signature tea blends from the Empress Hotel, and they ended up with two: Blue Suede Shoes, featuring butterfly pea blossom, and the Empress Blend Tea made by the Metropolitan Tea Company .

It was while they were testing different teas, in particular the Blue Suede Shoes blend, that they discovered that the butterfly pea blossom imparted an indigo hue to the gin.

BTW this is kind of proof that they didnt set out to just create a gimmicky colourful gin.

Theres A Subtle Nod To India Heres Why

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There are two very uncommon ingredients in Empress Gin and thats 1) cinnamon and 2) ginger. WTF? Cinnamon and ginger in a gin!

Between the years 1876 and 1948, British queens and kings were called Empress and Emperor of India, respectively. Queen Victoria was the first Empress of India, and so Victoria Distillers wanted to include a subtle nod with popular Indian spices, ginger and cinnamon.

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The Fairmont Empress Q Bar

The Fairmont was so pleased with the signature gin that they created a signature gin sour called the Q 1908 Cocktail.

This is not to be confused with the regular 1908 cocktail that commemorated the centennial anniversary of the hotel.

Alas that cocktail uses a different, non-indigo, gin.

Normally a general word of food and drink advice for Victoria is that only tourist spots are on Government St.

I had more than a few people tell me not to bother going anywhere there.

But as always there are a few exceptions like Garricks Head Pub to drink craft beer in Victoria and the Empress Hotel.

Aside from the gin, the hotel bar is worth a visit.

The bartenders have been working there for decades and have a familiar charm about them.


For that reason I saw locals stopping in for a drink, including one lovely 80-year old regular who insisted on giving me a kiss on the cheek before I left.

As Paulo Coelho says,

Frequent bars. Unlike museums, this is where the life of the city can be found. Bars are not discotheques, but places where the people gather to have a drink, pass the time, and are always willing to chat.

This was definitely true here.

Shop Empress Buy Empress Online

Empress 1908 Gin delights the senses with its balanced citrus-and-spice palette, brilliant colour, light floral fragrance and soft texture. Handcrafted in small batch copper-pot stills, Empress 1908 uses eight signature botanicals, including juniper, grapefruit peel, rose petal, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and a bespoke blend of tea.

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The Master Distillers Favourite Empress 1908 Gin Cocktails Are Dead Simple

Windsor Garden

2 oz of Empress Gin, 0.5 oz simple, 0.75 oz lemon juice, muddled thyme, mint, basil, rosemary

Glass: Collins

Method: Build all ingredients in the Collins class, muddle herbs, and add ice

Garnish: Sprig of rosemary

2 oz Empress 1908 Gin, 0.75 oz Giffard Pamplemousse, 0.5 oz dry vermouth

Glass: small cocktail coupe

Method: stir ingredients, and strain neat in the coupe

Garnish: Grapefruit twist

Kyle Guilfoyle

Let us know what you think!

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An Iconic Victoria Hotel + The Year It Was Built = Where The Name Comes From

Nestled in the southern part of Vancouver Island, just outside of Victoria, this indigo gin celebrates the heritage of the island on which it was born.

In 1908, the famous Empress Hotel was built in Victoria, British Columbia. An iconic part of the downtown Victoria skyline, the Empress Hotel is a regal building that stands at the foot of the Inner Harbour.

The reason the Empress Hotel and Victoria Distillers are such good friends?

When Victoria Gin launched in 2007, they did so straight from the Empress Hotels lobby, and theyve been a fixture in the Empress Hotels bar program ever since.

So it seemed fitting that a decade after Victoria Gins launch, the distillery was looking to expand its portfolio while the Empress Hotel was going through a huge $60M restoration. Naturally it was the perfect time for the two to join forces and create a badass gin.

How To Make A Lavender Empress Gin And Tonic

In a cocktail shaker or measuring glass, combine the Empress 1908 gin and the lavender simple syrup. Add a handful of ice and stir to both combine and chill. Strain into a lowball glass filled with ice. Top off the rest of the glass with tonic water & watch the color change before your eyes. Add a small splash or squeeze of grapefruit juice. Stir again before enjoying.

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What Is Empress 1908 Gin

One of the most impressive of these new gin distillers comes from Victoria, BC, Canada. Empress 1908 Gin is a distinctive deep indigo blue in the bottle a natural colorant derived from butterfly pea flower. It started out as a a collaboration between Victoria Distillers and the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, quickly taking the cocktail scene by storm.

Combined with traditional botanicals like juniper and citrus, as well as some unusual additions like ginger, grapefruit peel and tea, Empress is lovely and smooth on its own. But the magic really happens when you blend it with some acid like tonic, or a squeeze of fresh citrus: the indigo color shifts from blue to pinks, creating a gorgeous palette perfect for spring cocktails.

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  • Muddle 2-3 blackberries in the bottom of the glass. I love to use a whiskey glass for this cocktail.
  • In a cocktail shaker, combine the Empress 1908 Gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake for 30 seconds.
  • Fill the glass with ice. If you want to garnish with lemon slice, I recommend first filling the glass halfway with ice, add the lemon slices and then fill the rest with ice. That way the lemon slices can easily stand up around the glass and stay put.
  • Pour the drink mix into the glass. Top it off with sparkling water.
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    Empress 1908 Gin And Tonic Wins The Award For Best Looking G& t

    Empress Gin will make the most beautiful G& T you will ever have. Especially if you pair it with grapefruit to compliment the grapefruit peel botanicals in the gin itself, and a great quality tonic. President and Master Distiller, Peter Hunt, recommends Fever Tree Elderflower or Fever Tree Premium Indian.

    The Colour Can Change To Blue Or Pink Heres How

    Butterfly pea blossoms have these little molecules called anthocyanins pigments that change colour depending on their PH levels. Theyre red when theyre acidic, purple when theyre neutral, and blue when theyre basic.

    So if you add acid, say lemon juice, to Empress Gin, it will become a beautiful red-pink colour. And if you add something basic to it, like cucumber, it will turn blue.

    President and Master Distiller, Peter Hunt, recounts bringing the new gin to market at Victorias 2017 Art of the Cocktail. His team was experimenting mixing up new drinks, and when they lined up all their creations, they realized that some were purple, some were pink, and some were blue.

    Thats when we had this aha moment that the gin actually changed colour as the PH changed. And we were like okay, thats pretty cool. It was one more layer in the creation of this product, says Peter.

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    Its named after the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, which opened in 1908. A historical landmark within the inner harbour.


    The gin is a collaboration with the hotel. It incorporates Canadian water, 7 organic botanical and the hotels signature tea blend.

    It is a nod to the importance of afternoon tea in Victoria and tea service at the hotel.

    The first thing you notice is the vibrant indigo colour, and its naturally that hue as it uses the butterfly pea blossom.

    We sampled it on its own and its very good, similar to a London Dry.

    And then Peter said hed like to pour a gin and tonic, but I needed to watch him make it.

    As the drink changes from a vibrant indigo to a soft pink you cant help but be impressed.

    They did not intend to create a novelty drink, but its a chemical reaction with the butterfly pea flower.

    Think of it as an adult science experiment, remember PH tests? In this case the butterfly pea flower changes colour with acid in this case the tonic.

    I wished I wasnt traveling carry on so I could bring a bottle home. But Peter urged me to visit the newly renovated Q Bar at the Fairmont Empress.

    The hotel renovated the bar before the distillery revealed its colour changing gin.

    And yet the new decor with vibrant indigo and pink is completely appropriate.

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    Uniquely Fresh And Vibrant Empress Gin Cocktail Recipes

    After the grey days of winter, nothing feels quite as fresh as a palette of beautiful pastels: from clothes, to flowers, bright colors bloom everywhere. Why not expand that rainbow right on into cocktail hour and celebrate spring with a bright array of floral flavors using Empress gin?

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  • Empress 1908 Gin 750ml


    Micro-distilled in small batch copper-pot stills, Empress 1908 is hand-crafted using eight signature botanicals: tea, juniper, rose, coriander seed, grapefruit peel, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and butterfly pea blossom

    In stock

    Empress 1908 Gin

    Since 1908, travelers from around the world have fallen in love with the Fairmont Empress Hotel for its majestic grandeur, picturesque vistas, and incomparable afternoon tea service. Overlooking the Inner Harbour in Victoria, British Columbia, this iconic destination has hosted royalty, dignitaries, and discerning explorers for over a century. Today, as the Empress moves into a new era, it exemplifies a perfect balance of traditional elegance and modern sophistication.

    Empress 1908 Gin Eight Natural Botanicals

    Micro-distilled in small batch copper-pot stills, Empress 1908 is hand-crafted using eight signature botanicals: tea, juniper, rose, coriander seed, grapefruit peel, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and butterfly pea blossom. Its the pea blossom, which we discovered in one of the Empress tea blends, that imbues the gin with a distinctive earthy note, as well as its vivid hue with a stunning secret to reveal by adding citrus or tonic, Empress 1908 is transformed from breathtaking indigo to a beautiful soft pink.

    Shop All Empress 1908 Products

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    Give The Gift Of Cocktails This Holiday Season

    Introducing Empress 1908s 2021 Gift Guide for cocktail enthusiasts, mixology experts, foodie friends & more, weve pulled together a selection of our very favourite products to make gifting easy this year!

    Start by picking up a bottle of Empress 1908 Gin, the perfect present for your loved ones, or to treat yourself. Discover retail locations near you using our store finder, or click here to shop online, and read on for more ideas that pair perfectly with Empress 1908!

    For the home bartender


    Did your loved one take up home bartending this year? The first step to delicious drinks is making sure youve got the right tools in hand. Shop our premium copper barware here and learn more about the purpose of each piece in our barware blog post!


    Give the gift of a cocktail book that looks just as good as the recipes inside taste. From the spectacular layered Setting Sail for Victoria to the elegant & understated Fly Away with Me, Natalie Migliarini and James Stevensons book, Beautiful Booze has a cocktail for every palate. To get a sneak peek of what youre in for, visit their stunning recipe blog, or check out Natalies !


    The easiest way to dress up a drink? Elevated glassware! Discover our glassware essentials here, or shop unique & classic styles from our friends at Viski Craft. Were big fans of their Amaro Spritz glasses, perfect for Empress & Tonics and our Winterberry Soda.


    For the foodie

    local fare

    Gin Sour The Empress Q1908

    Empress 1908 Gin 750ml

    The squeezed lemon juice in this gin sour changes the drink from a vibrant indigo to a lovely soft lavender colour.

    DONT BE AFRAID OF RECIPES WITH SIMPLE SYRUP: Making a syrup just for cocktails sounds complicated but its really simple. Over medium-low heat put equal parts of water and white sugar into a saucepan and stir. Once the sugar has dissolved into the water remove from the heat and let cool. Voila!

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