In these politically correct nanny-state days it is infra-dig to go rattling on about the wonders of alcohol but someone has to do it. There is no getting away from it that alcohol is a drug and that it can be addictive. For those who consume too much in one go it can be, amongst other things, a depressant and long-term addiction can cause social and health problems. But for the vast majority it is a stimulant and a relaxant, something to be enjoyed and savoured and I, for one, will continue to explore the wonders of gin as long as I am able. And, I was heartened to learn, I am consuming fewer calories than if I was eating bananas.
Christmas, as I hoped, added to my supply of gins. I received a welcome second bottle of the Scottish gin, Caorunn (pronounced ka-roon as the wonderful pentagonal bottle proclaims). From Balmenach in Speyside the gin contains a blend of traditional botanicals along with the likes of rowan berry – caorunn being the Gaelic for rowan – heather and dandelion and the distilling process uses the spring waters of the Spey beloved of whisky connoisseurs.
When I first tasted it I was unsure – there was a profusion of fruity tastes as the gin first entered my mouth but the aftertaste was strong, dry and mellow. There seemed to be too many sensations going on at once and perhaps its more distinctive taste struck me as unusual. Unlike most London gins Caorunn uses a unique vapour infusion method in its distilling process and the base of the drink is a pure neutral grain spirit. Having got used to it, I can now appreciate the subtlety and complexity of the taste sensations, so much so that I understand why it is so highly rated. it has become one of my favourite gins.
Just to show that gin production isn’t confined to these islands I received a bottle of Macaronesian gin from the Santa Cruz de Tenerife SL distillery which comes in a lovely ceramic white bottle. It has a distinctive well balanced but fruity taste which is unsurprising as its main flavourings come from, as well as juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and cardamom. It is fresh and smooth to the taste and is a welcome opener to an evening’s drinking.
For those hours when sobriety allows me to focus on the printed page I received Gin, Glorious Gin by Olivia Williams which is an entertaining account of gin through the ages – each chapter starts with a recipe for a gin concoction – ending up with an interesting and helpful account of today’s Ginaissance. The rather more glossy Gin by Aaron Knoll focuses in on the art and craft of the gin revival through 300 distillations and contains a very handy guide to many of the varieties available from around the world with useful tasting notes. I shall enjoy exploring its recommendations.
Alas, for every new arrival there are dead soldiers on my gin shelves. My Hendrick’s, Sipsmith’s and my first bottle of Opihr now stand empty and beckon to me to be replaced. I will in time but there are so many more I want to try before I settle on a favoured few.
And to finish my Christmas bonanza TOWT and I have a ticket to explore the City of London gin distillery which is in Bride’s Lane, off Fleet street. I am really looking forward to that and, naturally, will report in full in due course.