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REVIEW: Empress 1908

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With its delightful colour transformation and royal aesthetic, Empress 1908 is a unique treat for lovers of violet gin

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A little bit of background

Created by Victoria Distillers from Canada, Empress 1908 takes inspiration from the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel’s blend of tea to create a unique and magical gin. Further enhanced by the all-natural butterfly pea flower, the gin is said to move from a lush indigo blue colour to soft pink at the addition of citrus or tonic.

The packaging

Fortunately, Empress 1908 doesn’t just have a regal name; it looks like a special addition to any gin collection. The indigo blue-purple colouring looks striking in the tall, glass bottle but it’s the rose gold lid that really gives it a royal, feminine touch.

Interestingly, the hotel which inspired Empress once hosted Prince Charles and Camilla. You could easily imagine the Duchess of Cambridge sipping on this.


  • Fairmont Empress Blend Tea
  • Juniper
  • Grapefruit Peel
  • Coriander Seed
  • Rose Petal
  • Butterfly Pea Blossom
  • Ginger Root
  • Cinnamon Bark

The Perfect Serve

Create an Empress & Tonic with 2 oz Empress 1908, 3 oz tonic water and a slice of grapefruit. For more Empress 1908 cocktail inspiration discover how to make your own purple cocktails with our step-by-step guide.

On the Nose

Don’t be fooled by the gin’s pretty appearance; one waft and you’re given a strong hit of juniper. Rose petal and tea from the Fairmont Empress Hotel may conjure up an expectation of delicate, floral notes but the gin actually builds into a pretty powerful finale.


The colour of the gin in the glass is hard to define. It’s certainly not as permanently indigo blue as you’d imagine; in good light it can look deep purple.

At first sip, Empress gives off a surprising velvety sweetness followed by that big hit of juniper again.  

With Tonic

Pour your tonic into the glass to watch the gin transform. It’s deeply satisfying watching your gin go from a deep indigo blue-purple to a soft purple-pink.

It’s not as clear cut as you might expect, some may simply see the gin moving from a darker to a lighter purple, but look closely as you pour. The gin definitely moves through a series of subtle colour changes before arriving at its final hue.

The taste is wonderfully soft and sherbet-like. The immediate juniper hit is not as powerful here and you’re left with a sweet, fizzy G&T.

Lasting impressions

If you’ve ever tried a violet gin, then drinking Empress 1908 might feel a bit strange. That’s because Empress isn’t a flavoured gin like, say, Boë’s purple offering is.

Having sipped on a few violet gins, I almost expect it by default to have a flavour. The fact that it doesn’t feels initially surprising but not unwelcome.

Those who love the idea of a purple G&T but with the taste of a good honest traditional gin, you must try this.

Empress 1908 is available from ClicknDrink now for £37.99. 

From Opihr to Darnley’s, find more gin reviews with The Gin Kin.