Review: The World’s First Naturally Black Gin Just Arrived in the US

Scapegrace Black changes color in your cocktail — but how will it change your mind about gin?

September 30, 2021 6:59 am
Scapegrace Black Gin, poured neat and in a cocktail, where it changes color
The science is cool, but is Scapegrace Black a worthy gin?

What we’re drinking: Scapegrace Black Gin, the world’s first naturally black, color-changing gin

Where it’s from: Brothers-in-law Mark Neal and Daniel McLaughlin launched Scapegrace Distillery in 2014 just outside of Auckland, New Zealand (Scapegrace is literally just the brand’s way of saying “escaping grace,” or presenting something unique). In the brand’s short existence, they’ve been named World’s Best London Dry Gin at the International Wine & Spirits Competition.

While not the gin that won the award, their Black Gin, originally released in 2018 in New Zealand, sold out in a day after launch. This month marks its U.S. debut. 

Why we’re drinking this: Besides being a black gin that changes color and the award pedigree? 

Well, for science. If you’re wondering how the gin starts out as black, it’s natural and based on the gin’s botanicals (aronia berry, saffron, pineapple, butterfly pea, sweet potato, etc.). It changes colors when it encounters citrus at different pH levels.

“This was probably the most complicated project I have been a part of,” Scapegrace co-founder Mark Neal tells us. “We wanted to create something 100 percent natural using botanicals purely from nature. As this is a multi-dimensional product, which focuses on both color and also taste, it was extremely hard to find that equilibrium of visual appeal and unique flavor, also that perfect pH level where the product changed color from black to shades of pink/purple when mixed.”  

While black gin is a new concept, the bottle shape is purposely a modern take on the original Genever bottles from 200 years ago.

How it tastes:

Not quite black as midnight — it’s almost like the darkest purple in the world — Scapegrace Black is juniper-forward with citrus, licorice and menthol notes. 

If you’re not a gin fan, obviously, this is where you’d stop. However, once combined with tonic and a bit of lemon, some of the earthier notes disappear and the citrus takes over. A G&T with Blackscape, now closer to a pink in hue, is juicy and bright. This seems built for fruitier or more tropical gin drinks, not negronis. 

Scapegrace Black Gin on its own and in a G&T
Scapegrace Black Gin, on its own and in a G&T
Kirk Miller

Neal’s favorite way of drinking it? Simply with a premium tonic water and a slice of green apple. “A fresh green apple is high in malic and doesn’t compete with the flavors of the gin — and it cleanses the palate if you eat it after the cocktail. Gorgeous.” (The recipe is about a 3.5 to 1 ratio of tonic water to gin).

Fun fact: Scapegrace also makes a single malt whisky and a vodka, the latter of which is, unusually, only distilled once. 

Where to buy it: Scapegrace Black Gin is available directly from the distillery for $47.


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