- Jonathan Winters
Cruxland Gin Review
A South African gin made with truffles, rooibos, honeybush, and other local botanicals.
Cruxland Gin Review
Made in: Paarl, South Africa by KWV.
Base: Grape Spirit
43% alcohol/86 proof
Botanicals (9): Juniper, Cardamom, Lemon, Rooibos, Honeybush, Aniseed, Coriander, Almond, and Kalahari Truffles.
Style: Modern gin.
Like most gins this one sells itself with a story. In this case it’s about rare Kalahari truffles, and the N’abba hunters, a nomadic people of the desert. They seek out these rare truffles and detect them by recognizing cracks in the otherwise parched earth where the rain swollen truffles sit following the very infrequent rains in the desert environment. That rare truffle is the treasure of the Kalahari. Cruxland uses this rare ingredient in their signature gin, along with seven other South African botanicals including Rooibos, Honeybush, and more botanicals which can only be found in South Africa.
The bottle is unique in that it comes with a leather hood, the distillers, or their advertising people say is meant to resemble the cracked Kalahari earth, and the N’abba hunters (who supposedly are the ones who can hunt for and find the desert truffle), but in truth it looks more like something one might find in an adult shop. Ah well, to each their own, so let’s move on to the contents of the bottle.
Sipped on the rocks it’s a bit bitter and slightly astringent, at least until it opens up and the astringent and bitter nature of the gin mellows. Then it becomes a sipping gin, but a bit of a rough one, but that’s not atypical of South African gin.
Scentwise juniper is the dominant note, but there is some menthol, spice, and even just a hint of floral on the nose.
The resinous-piney taste of the juniper is in the forefront of the gin, but after that spice really takes over with cardamom, coriander, and a strong taste of anise, which is slightly too powerful, making up the middle of the body along with an unexpected bit of menthol. It's balanced with lemon, earthy tones and sweetness from the more tea like rooibos, and honeybush. It’s nicely balanced, but the one caveat here is that nowhere in the gin was there any distinctive note of truffle.
The mouthfeel is cool and lingers with a hint of menthol at the end.
As a sipping gin the flavors are good and it’s well balanced, but it’s a bit on the rougher edge spiritwise, but that’s in character with most of the South African gins I’ve tasted. That said with this flavor profile it should mix quite well.
In the martini, Cruxland wasn’t bad, but I missed the crispness that I normally associate with a great martini. That’s not to say this wasn’t pleasant, but it’s rather on the mild side. This might be best with a very dry martini.
The makers of this gin suggest that it’s ideal for a gin and tonic, the traditional sundowner end of the workday cocktail. And in that I certainly can’t fault them. Paired with elderflower tonic it did make for a truly lovely drink with spice, particularly the bitterness of anise shining through to balance the sweeter nature of the tonic. This is one I really enjoyed, but it’s far from classic and might not work for everyone.
With the brash, bush notes of Cruxland, the heavy juniper, and spice, this gin should do well in some heavier drinks. So I took it to a Perfect Negroni, where that spice and juniper poked through nicely. Based on the flavor profile I think this would be very good in more intense drinks like a Tom Collins, Corpse Reviver #2, or Southside.
This is going to be a love or hate type of gin. Those who love it will celebrate the bold brash tastes, but it’s foreign enough that those who like more traditional gins, may decide this one is definitely not the right one for them.
There is a rawness to this gin that certainly harkens to the South African spirit - and Cruxland is a celebration of that. It’s unique - and for that reason it’s well worth trying.
Overall rating: 84 Bold, brash, and very much from the bush It’s a good gin, which will be a love or hate gin. It’s well worth trying.
What you need to know about reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.