On The Shelf – Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

By The Gentleman

After a short hiatus The Lady and I are back and boy have we come back in a big way with the Kaiju! Beer Double IPA another shining example from the growing Australian craft beer scene.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

During our time away from The Cocktail Challenge we kind of got a little bit obsessed with the instant restaurant portion of My Kitchen Rules. The show is just so trashy and awkward, but it’s also quite unintentionally funny. We love Pete and Manu’s serious eating faces where they kind of just stare off into the distance while they are eating the contestants dish and then they turn and look each other longingly in the eye. It’s riveting stuff. When you’ve sat through a few weeks of My Kitchen Rules all the buzzwords and sappy stories about food start to blend into one. One of our favourites is the contestants promise of “big, bold flavours”. A close second is “hero of the dish”. I’m pretty sure you would get rather drunk if you played the My Kitchen Rules drinking game where you had to take a shot every time someone said “big, bold flavours” or some other incredibly cliched food saying. It’s ridiculous. Drinking Kaiju! Beer’s Double IPA we couldn’t help but think that if the beer appeared on My Kitchen Rules the contestants and judges would trundle out the “big, bold flavours” claim. Funnily enough, in this case it would actually be a pretty damn accurate claim.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

Kaiju! Beer, who used to be called Monster Mash until a certain energy drink company made them stop, have crafted a monster of a beer. The Double IPA clocks in at a ridiculous 9.1% ABV and 140 IBU and comes in a 500ml bottle. It’s big and it’s damn well bold. The Kaiju on the bottle reminds me of some sort of hop monster, which is really fitting for the beer. It’s a fun and eye catching label that really makes a statement on the shelf. The beer itself pours with an attractive and thick creamy white head and the body is a dark cloudy amber colour. Taking the first mouthful the beer really wallops you right in the back of the throat with flavour. You get some malty caramel flavour and a bit of a bready taste. Really though the beer is all about the hops. They are the ‘hero of the dish’ and they’re big, they’re bold, and they’re bitter. Your whole mouth just gets swallowed up in bitterness that really pushed me to the edge of my tolerance for bitter beer. I was sure this wasn’t going to be The Lady’s cup of tea (or pint of beer), but after getting knocked about on that first sip she settled into it like I did. There is a touch of sweetness in the lingering bitterness to just help things tone down a little. It also makes you feel damn warm from the alcohol content. I’ve had a few high strength beers that didn’t feel too heavy and boozy, but the Kaiju! Beer Double IPA is a pretty heavy and boozy beer.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

Now it’s time to crack open another Kaiju! Beer Double IPA and experience some of those “big, bold flavours” while laughing at the latest awkwardness of My Kitchen Rules. Don’t forget to take a shot on every cliche.

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On The Shelf – Koerner Wine Vermentino ‘Rolle’

By The Gentleman

Koerner Wine Vermentino Rolle

The other day, we introduced you to one of South Australia’s new breed of small winemakers, Koerner Wine. We really enjoyed their Shiraz Mourvèdre, but then again that didn’t really surprise us as we have a pretty much obsessive love of red wine. What neither of us have really had as much experience with is white wine. Koerner produce two types of white, both variations of the Vermentino, and the reviews had been mighty positive so we thought it was our duty to educate ourselves and expand our white wine repertoire. We sampled the Vermentino ‘Rolle’ and we’d have to say with quality this good, we may have to put a few more whites into our wine drinking rotation.

Koerner Wine Vermentino Rolle

The Vermentino ‘Rolle’ had a sweet, inviting citrusy aroma. Tasting it, you almost get overwhelmed, in the best possible sense, by the tangyness. It is really pleasant, your whole mouth feels it, and it leaves you doing a fair bit of lip-smacking. There was also something akin to melon fruits, like taking a bite of honeydew or rock melon, in the flavour but also the sensation and texture. What surprised us, mostly because of our limited white experience, was how easy it was to drink. It was fresh and smooth with a bit of dryness. The flavours were just so crisp and fresh. After almost finishing the glass I also worked out the last little surprise, a delicious lingering aftertaste of sweet pineapple. Damn son.

Koerner Wine Vermentino Rolle

This is far and away the best white wine I have drunk. Admittedly it is a small sample, but quality always shines through. This is damn good and if you’re a white fan, or someone looking to branch out like us, then you should really hunt down a bottle or hope your local might have it by the glass (I hear Africola and Clever Little Tailor have it).

Koerner Wine Vermentino Rolle

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On The Shelf – Koerner Wine Shiraz Mourvèdre

By The Lady

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We believe that summer is the perfect time to be lapping up some delicious wines … well, any time of the year is a good time. Who are we kidding? But seriously, summer Down Under is great as the evenings are warm, light, and lend themselves for sipping down a glass or two of vino to wash away the day. Our most recent venture is with local winemakers Koerner Wines.

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Koerner Wines is based in the Watervale area of the Clare Valley and run by SA brothers Damon and Jonathan Koerner. While they have both spent time gaining valuable experience around the nation and the globe, they both grew up in the Clare Valley and I suspect they have a nostalgic urge to keep it local. Thus, most of the grapes used in their wine comes from the local surrounds and from a vineyard owned by their own father! Koerner specialise in super-low production runs, think batches of only 10 cases, so when you come across one make sure you snap it up quick like we did. We managed to acquire a few of their delicious treats, and decided to start with the Shiraz Mourvèdre.

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The Shiraz Mourvèdre was a perfect blend of the rich Shiraz and the bold Mourvèdre. It had a bright colour, attractive colour that really caught the eye.  The wine also had the perfect amount of weight and oomph to it for a summer’s eve. You can definitely drink this now, there was almost a juicy freshness to it, but if cellaring is your thang then we could see this developing some deeper, richer and smoother flavour. Additionally, the spiciness and fruity aromas were rather prominent in this lovely beauty and translated into a delicious drop of wine with a nice balance between dark berries and spice. We also really love the design of their labels. Each bottle proudly dons the same filigree style grapevine in a rainbow of wine inspired colours. Let me tell you, I am certain their is a pot of gold at the end of the Koerner rainbow!

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On The Shelf – Matso’s Mango and Desert Lime Cider

By The Lady

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As the weather here is getting hotter and hotter (it happens when you are in the driest state in the driest country!) we here at Cocktail Challenge HQ are feeling more in the mood for drinks that keep us cool. Well, cooler than we already are if that is possible! So, we find ourselves being drawn to cider these days when we are looking to a evening beverage to accompany the balmy nights. Hence, after trying out Matso’s products in our Mango Beer Bellini, we were intrigued by their Mango and Desert Lime Cider. Honestly, we felt out lives would not be complete if we had not tried it out.

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Matso’s Broome Brewery is a microbrewery based in the Kimberly Region in Western Australia. They produce an impressive range of award winning beers and ciders that all have something new to add to the world of Australian liquor. Some of their unique flavours include a Chilli Beer, a Lychee Beer as well as the Desert Lime & Wild Ginger Cider to name a few. The Mango and Desert Lime Cider that we sampled is extremely refreshing and surprisingly not overly sweet. We were expecting that with the mango and desert lime flavour that the cider would be ultra sugary, however this drink had a lovely subtly to its fruity flavour. The cider also had some very enthusiastic bubbles which gave the drink a very fresh and energising character. While we sampled this one on its own, we feel it would go quite well with a variety of dishes and would not clash with savoury meals.

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Also, I feel we must mention the packaging and design of this liquor. Really, what’s not to love about an old school diver man surrounded by flying mangoes? Honestly! We feel like the Matso diver is in some sort of boozy, fruity heaven where one can drink as much cider as you want. If this is what heaven is, we want to go to there. We also respect a company who spin a good yarn about their product and the Mango Cider With Desert Lime has a fun little story about pearl divers off the Kimberley Coast helping save a shipwrecked crew and their cargo, including lots of fresh produce that soon ended up in some unique brews. We love how it captures the rascal spirit of Australia and provides some context to Matso’s diver man.  They also get bonus points for having a fun website!

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We can really see ourselves sipping down many more of Matso’s Mango and Desert Lime Cider in the coming months, in part because we love the flying mangoes and diver man on the label, but mainly because it is just so gosh darn refreshingly delicious!

 

 

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On the Shelf – Lobo Cyser

By The Gentleman

 

By now it is pretty obvious that we pretty much cleaned out the Lobo Cider display at the Adelaide Farmer’s Market. They just had so many interesting and tasty things on offer that we could not resist. Lucky for you we have left the best for last, the very unusual Lobo Cyser.

Lobo Cyser

Cyser, if you didn’t know (and boy we did not know), is the traditional name for mead that has been made with apple juice and fermented honey. The Lobo Cyser is made with apple juice, quince juice and fermented honey from their neighbours honey bees and it’s also blended with some herbs and spices. It’s safe to say that this is the first Cyser we have tasted and it’s not something we would normally drink, but we just could not get over the label.

Lobo Cyser

We love that Lobo are quite dedicated to their wolf-men packaging, but the Cyser represents quite a departure from the Norman Cloudy Apple and Dry Pear Ciders. These guys were dapper, sophisticated wolves about town. The Cyser wolf, instead, is some tripped out version of the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. Oh Cyser wolf, you so crazy. He’s a little bit dapper, but like someone who’s got addicted and is just trying to keep it together. Those bees make some powerful stuff. We love the way he’s salivating over the honey bee hive looking for that next hit of sweet, sweet honey gold.

Lobo Cyser

A sweet, sweet honey hit it has. Damn son. This thing is basically a dessert wine for cider, or cyser. You need to have committed to not eating any more food before cracking it open because it will need all of your attention. That honey sweetness demands that you sit down and sip it as the sweetness level has been taken to the very edge. The sourness of the apple and quince do enough to stop it going over the edge. I think the sweetness also hides the fact that this is quite potent little beverage, weighing in at 10.4%, although is that high or low for fermented apple & honey mead? We don’t even know, but for something that comes in this small a bottle it seems high, but the sweetness masks any overly boozy flavour. Underneath the sweet and sour we can definitely detect some of the mystery herbs and spices, possibly cinnamon, but we would probably need to have a few more to really work it out (it’s a hard life we know).

Lobo Cyser

Well that’s the end of our Lobo Cider and Cyser adventure. Those crazy wolves at Lobo certainly know what they are doing, crafting some good looking and fine tasting beverages and hey, now we can say we’ve tasted fermented apple and honey mead, can you?

Lobo Cyser

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On The Shelf – Lobo Dry Pear Cider

By The Gentleman

Lobo Cloudy Pear

While we were quite enamored with Norman, the dapper Cloudy Apple Cider wolf, he was not the only one to catch our eye at the Adelaide Farmer’s Market as we were also introduced to the Lobo Dry Pear Cider.

 

Norman was quite a fun dapper wolf with his bike and glasses, but the wolf on the Dry Pear looks all business. He’s dressed for success in his fine suit and he’s got that confident, almost cocky look to match. That’s necessary because you need that confidence and assurance to go a long with Lobo’s slogan ‘Evolving Tradition’ on the Dry Pear Cider.

Lobo Cloudy Pear

The Dry Pear Cider is another of Lobo’s small batch ciders and is made with Lemon Bergamot pears that are a specialist variety from South Australia (that’s right we’re special). It was another quite dark cider, but it’s not as dark as the Lobo Cloudy Apple Cider. That thing was like the mist from Stephen King’s The Mist, whereas this is more like a regular light morning mist. There’s definitely dryness to the cider, but it’s not overwhelmingly dry. It’s still got a quite crisp, refreshing flavour with enough bubbles going on that it gives you that ‘take your breath away’ sensation. There’s more of an aroma in the Dry Pear than the Cloudy Apple, a bit sour and floral, and flavourwise there was a touch more sweetness to it bordering on sour. The pear, the star of the show, is surprisingly subtle and the cider is a bit lighter as it only comes in at 5.6%. Usually The Lady and I don’t go for pear cider, but this was something we definitely liked.

Lobo Cloudy Pear

The Dry Pear, like the Cloudy Apple, is really nothing like the commercial stuff you find on the market these days, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider these are special small batch ciders that are evolving tradition. The Dry Pear means business with a very interesting flavour that has a lot of depth and a dapper suited wolf to match.

Lobo Cloudy Pear

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On The Shelf – Lobo Norman – Cloudy Apple Brut Cider

By The Lady

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Recently, The Gentleman and I visited the Adelaide Farmers’ Market and splurged a little (read : a lot). For all you Adelaidians, I highly recommend checking these markets out. There are so many stalls with lots of different and delicious goodies to take home.

 

Firstly, we had some delicious breakfast from Abbots & Kinney including ice coffees and mind blowing pastries. All I can say is … oh my! Do yourself a favour and get some of these pastries in you. You really haven’t lived otherwise.

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After buying many delicious treats, we came across a stall for Lobo Cider, brewed right here in Lobethal, SA. Previously, we have had their cider and loved it. This time, there were new varieties that we had never seen in our favourite liquor stores or local bars. So, we’re feeling pretty special that we were able to pick up a few different bottles of cider that are super exclusive and a little bit special!

 

Our first cider we decided to sample was the Norman Cloudy Apple Cider. The Norman is a special little cider that Lobo make in small batches once a year. We were surprised at the deep, rich colour of the drink which looked almost the colour of some beers you might see. The cider was a lovely dry and crisp flavour and not overly sweet, which we appreciate! We think this would be great to drink while eating, but we’re biased really because we love eating. The scent is very subtle with a very clean taste to follow, despite the fact that this cider packs a bit of a wallop at 8.1%. Also, the drink has a lovely aftertaste and we can really see ourselves enjoying many of these in the upcoming summer.

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Also, I think it is necessary to address the dapper bike riding wolf Norman, who in my opinion, is probably the most stylish wolf known to man. The oversized bottle provides Lobo with a big canvas and they certainly haven’t wasted it. As some of you may already know, we are huge fans of great design, and we think that Lobo’s Norman is a fine example of dapper design on a liquor label. If a dapper bike riding wolf isn’t going to make you pick up a bottle of cider then we don’t know what will.

 

Overall, we are very happy with our sampling of Lobo’s Norman Cloudy Apple Cider. Not only is Norman a style god, the contents of his bottle have proven themselves to be a damn fine cider.

 

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On The Shelf – Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin

By The Lady

Four Pillars Gunpowder Gin

A few weeks back, we were lucky enough to attend the Adelaide launch of Four Pillars Gin and were one of a few to sample, prior to the release date, the great and powerful Gunpowder Proof Gin. At the launch, we were all told the story behind the name of the gin which we found rather interesting. Back “in the olden days”, sailors in the navy were provided with a supply of gin and those clever sailors suspected that perhaps their beloved liquor was being watered down. In order to test this hypothesis, they mixed a sample of their gin with gunpowder and set it alight. If the gin fired up, then it got the sailor seal of approval. However if it did not catch on fire, those sailors were not happy chaps! Hence, gunpowder gin offers us “proof” that it is a big deal, highly boozy, super tasty gin!

Four Pillars Gunpowder

Four Pillars have emulated their classic, timeless label design and incorporated a “navy” feel by replacing the copper and black for royal blue and crisp white. We already love the Rare Dry Gin as well as the Barrel Aged Gin, so it is no surprise that we are falling for the dapper design and smooth flavours of the navy strength Gunpowder Proof Gin that continues to rock native Australian flavours, this time in the shape of finger limes.

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Dapper Design in all its glory! (L) Rare Dry Gin (R) Gunpowder Proof Gin

Clearly, it was a given that we were going to have to add this one to our liquor cabinet! After receiving our very own bottle in the mail, we decided to put it in a glass and have ourselves a good time. We opted for a variation on a classic gin and tonic, which we must say was refreshingly tasty. We’ve decided to call it the Gunpowder G&T.

 

In the Gunpowder G&T, we used :

45ml Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof Gin

Juice of half a grapefruit

3 sprigs of fresh coriander

2 wedges of lime. Squeeze in juice of one and one for garnish

Ice

Schweppes Indian Tonic Water

 

In a cocktail shaker, mix the gin, leaves from two sprigs of coriander and grapefruit juice with ice. Strain into a tall glass. Top with tonic water and the lime juice. Add a few coriander leaves on the top to decorate.

Gunpowder G&T

The resulting drink was very delicious and the perfect accompaniment for a warm evening. The gin and tonic was very herbal with the coriander providing a very different flavour for a G&T. We think that all the extra ingredients pair well with the big flavour of the Gunpowder Proof Gin, which does a nice job of standing up to the coriander and grapefruit and making its presence felt. The new gin uses turmeric for an added earthy character and we think the coriander played nicely with those notes in the gin. Also speaking of grapefruit, it gives a really nice bitterness and a touch of sweetness that the lime picks up on as well so you’re treated to a whole host of wonderful flavours. Additionally, our Gunpowder G&T had a gorgeous colour and fragrant scent.

Gunpowder G&T

Similar to the Barrel Aged Gin, this one has a limited release due to the seasonal ingredients (mainly finger limes!) that are used. So, we recommend snapping up a bottle quickly if you want one in your life. Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t need quality Australian made navy strength liquor in their life?

Gunpowder G&T

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On The Shelf – McCashin’s Brewery Stoke Bomber Kiwi Pale Ale

By The Gentleman

Stoke Bomber

Nelson’s McCashin’s Brewery is one of New Zealand’s oldest craft brewers, but I only stumbled across it after one of my recent searches for beers with interesting design and flavours. The prospect of trying a Kiwi Pale Ale in a simple yet effectively designed package was just too good to pass up.

Stoke Bomber

The Bomber range of McCashin’s Stoke Beer represents the breweries experimental and crazy side. It’s the sort of flexibility that make craft brewers so fun, they can throw together flavours that interest them and see what happens while we get to drink the often tasty and always different results. The Kiwi Pale Ale is one of five current beers in the Bomber range. The beer gets its name from the local Wai-iti hops that are used, making it a truly local brew. Impressively, the brewery also sources its water from a 14,000 year old Paleo water source that is 350m below where the brewery stands. I never thought I’d write that sentence, but there you go. At least you know the water is up to the task.

Stoke Bomber

The whole Bomber range has a really clean and simple design that is highly effective. The bold white and yellow text on the big 650ml amber bottle invokes a bygone era. You could imagine bottles of Stoke Bomber waiting in the Officer’s Tent after the latest mission. It doesn’t need to be flashy or edgy to stand out that’s the job for what’s in the bottle. It’s a real testament to the power of damn good typography. I’m also disappointed that I only ordered one bottle because the carton for a case of six beers is really cool with a picture of two members of a bomber crew decked out in full kit looking rather intense.

Stoke Bomber

The Kiwi Pale Ale is said to have strong caramel, biscuit and marmalade notes. The caramel and biscuit are definitely there and give the beer quite a thick mouthfeel, but not too thick to be cloying. The marmalade is there also, giving a little bit of fruitiness and sweetness. The caramel and malt dominate the aroma. The beer pours with a reasonable head and lacing and the colour is quite a dark, almost murky, amber brown. It’s not overly bitter with the caramel providing a creaminess and softness to the finish. It’s a slow drinking beer that is quite still, with low carbonation, and gave me a more than expected buzz despite being a reasonable 5.5% ABV. I did notice a bit of sediment in the head and I wasn’t sure if that was intentional, like the Cooper’s Pale Ale.

Stoke Bomber

The Stoke Bomber Kiwi Pale Ale was an enjoyable beer. The bottle is great and the beer has enough flavour from that really nice caramel that sipping it throughout the evening is a pleasant experience. Plus, in a 650ml bottle there is a lot of it so you can sit back, relax and forget that it’s the start of a new week.

Stoke Bomber

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On The Shelf – Kangaroo Island Spirits Old Tom Aged Gin

By The Lady

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“Hello everybody, my name is The Lady and I am a Crazy Cat Lady.” This would be my opening line if I were to enter cataholics anonymous rehabilitation, but luckily for me there is no such thing. I’ll admit, way back in May when we checked out Tasting Australia, I set my eyes upon Kangaroo Island Spirits Old Tom Aged Gin and fell in love. Created especially for Tasting Australia 2014 means that this gin is pretty gosh darn special. This limited release liquor combined my two greatest loves – gin and cats. Oh my. Unfortunately, at the time I left it too late to order a bottle and it all sold out (there were tears). Luckily, I happened upon the Kangaroo Island Spirits website and noticed that it was again available for a second time so I immediately snapped up a bottle for myself.

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Firstly, the label is pretty impressive with an old world feel completed (of course) with a cat gazing back. The earthy, rich colours featured on the label reflect the heritage of the Old Tom style of gin. By being a limited run, each bottle is individually labelled which adds an extra special touch. The gin itself has held onto a slight yellowish tone through the aging process, which is refreshingly different from a lot of other gins on the market.

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Over the weekend, The Gentleman and I visited a lovely little cafe in Semaphore, South Australia called The Corner Store. Not only did we eat a delicious brunch, we were able to browse their wares. After our epic meal, we picked up a four pack of Bottlegreen Elderflower Tonic Water. Best decision ever. That night, we combined these two new finds and we’re pretty smitten. Hence, we’d like to present you with the Smitten Kitten.

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In the Smitten Kitten, we used :

60mL KIS Old Tom Aged Gin

90mL Nudie Cloudy Apple Juice  (our favourite!)

175 ml Bottlegreen Elderflower Tonic Water

One slice of dehydrated apple (you could probably use some fresh apple, but we had these preprepared so voilà!)

 

Start by pouring the gin into a glass, then follow with the apple juice. Top the drink with the tonic water and add your apple slice to finish.

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The Smitten Kitten is a deliciously refreshing drink, courtesy of the bubbliness of the tonic water, that we will definitely be putting into regular rotation at The Cocktail Challenge HQ. This cocktail has a lovely balance of sweetness and tartness, neither of which are too overwhelming. In our opinion, it was just the right balance of flavours. The drink was also extremely fragrant, with a delicious floral scent wafting from the glass. At first, the dominant flavour was definitely the floral taste of the elderflower tonic and KIS gin. However, as we were sipping away at the Smitten Kitten, the flavours from the apple juice and dehydrated apple really shone through. Drinkers beware, even though the Smitten Kitten has two shots of gin in it, it does not taste overly alcoholic at all. We could quite happily drink this smooth cocktail for breakfast, but unfortunately it’s not really socially acceptable!

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All in all, we are very happy with our new feline gin which we can add to the collection. Also, we are very excited to use it again very soon for some more #ginlove times! Personally, I will jump at the chance to create cocktails with delicious liquor and name them after cats.

 

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