Gin Botanical: Dried Elderberries
I have an Elder tree in my garden – unfortunately, it’s in a state of ill-health due to other trees blocking most of its light. However, the trees proliferate in my locale and making elderberry wine and elderflower cordial is a real mark of summer.
- Only one species of elder produces berries that are not considered poisonous (Sambucus nigra); all other varieties should be cooked to eliminate the toxins. All species have toxic leaves, twigs and branches. The toxin is a glucoside which produces cyanide when metabolised by the body. The bark also contains calcium oxalate, which can cause swelling of the throat as well as liver and kidney failure.
- The branches of the Elder tree are hollow (although the void is typically filled with a soft foam-like substance) and are used to make flutes in parts of Eastern Europe. The hollow twigs are also used to tap sap and water from other trees.
- Elderberries have been used in folk medicine for centuries, but the has been some recent scientific research which shows that elderberries might have efficacy in hastening recovery from flu, alleviate allergies and improving respiratory health.
On the nose, elderberry presents a dry, sharp fruity odour reminiscent of cranberry.
What a ride of contradictions!
Elderberry seems to sweeten and dry the gin in equal measure. The attack it sweet, the mid-palate is sweet but develops a swell of tartness and plenty of a dry citrus-like burn (which travels up into the nose), and a developing berry-fruit undertone comes almost late to the party. The finish is a dry, burning fruitiness with odd echoes of sweetness.