Produced by one of the oldest bottlers of single-malt Scotch in Aberdeen, Cadenhead’s Old Raj is a complex gin, infused with a large amount of saffron.
Derived from the crocus flower the saffron gives Old Raj its characteristic pale yellow colour. The powder itself is made from small threads present in each flower, which must be carefully picked by hand, and then dried quickly but gently to preserve the intense floral flavor and aroma. The process is extremely labour intensive with up to 14,000 threads needed to make just one ounce of saffron, justifying the large price tag this unusual commodity now commands.
Old Raj is made by steeping each of the botanicals in a mixture of alcohol and water, then distilling them separately in a small pot still. The saffon is added personally by the Company Chairman to each batch of Old Raj in order to maintain consistency of this unique flavor and hue.
The gin is distinctive because it maintains its complex flavour balance despite having a high alcohol content (bottled at 55% ABV) and the presence of saffron. Other than merely giving the spirit a yellow tint, it compliments an aroma that is packed with juniper, citrus zest, nuts and spices. Other botanicals such as coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, cassia bark, and almond powder also add to a vibrant and nuanced spirit.
Old Raj gin isn’t for everyone and may not be completely worth its price tag, however it will attract those who like their gins strong and won’t disappoint. With Saffron Gin now also available on the market, their key botanical is no longer unique to them and Old Raj’s position in what can only be described as a very niche corner of the category means that they will have to fight to create demand for each batch. Nevertheless, while Cadenhead don’t spend much time nor budget on advertising, they don’t necessarily have to create new demand as they have already grown a loyal following who champion the brand with pride and the gin itself holds it’s ground when compared to others.
Small batches and unique infusions are to be applauded, especially when it’s backed with sincerity and quality production like it is here. Already there are two versions of Old Raj Gin available, with the red label (above) bottled at 46% ABV, providing a slightly more accessible spirit for those put off by the high volume in the blue labeled version but who are still interested in trying new infusions. Both are worthy of a taste, but we would recommend the blue 55% ABV Old Raj for its full more rounded taste. The British colonial military figure is a nice historical touch and adds to the saffron USP but it must also be said that this may actually be holding them back (as Victoriana often struggles to appeal to a wider audience without the marketing and PR campaigns to bringing it to life).
The producers William Cadenhead was founded in Aberdeen in 1842 and became incorporated as a Limited Company in 1972. Initially they began in the drinks business as importers, bottlers and wholesalers of Scotch Malt Whisky and Demerara Rum. However, over the years William Cadenhead has expanded its product portfolio and since 1972, produced bottles of gin under its own brand name, Old Raj.