Horseradish sauce, I find, is a perfect accompaniment to the roast beef of England. As with many things we associate with quintessential Englishness – Brexiters take note – it was introduced to us by some foreign Johnnies, this time the Germans. The 16th century herbalist, John Gerard, wrote that as well as having medicinal properties “the horse radish stamped thereto with a little vinegar put thereto, is commonly used among the Germans for sauce to eat with fish and such like meats as we do mustard”.
Horseradish was also known as red cole and red cole is the secret ingredient in the latest gin that I have sampled in my exploration of the ginaissance, Thomas Dakin Small Batch Gin, another from the G&J Distillers of Warrington. As you might anticipate the presence of horseradish gives the hooch a distinctive, very dry, peppery and spicy aftertaste, far from unpleasant but in my view spicier than Opihr which up until now I had put at the far end of the spicy gin spectrum. The aftertaste lingers for a long time in the mouth.
To the nose it has a pungent almost musky smell to it and in the mouth is very dry with the spices taking centre stage, their effect softened to an extent by the presence of fruits. There are eleven botanicals featured in the mix including red cole, of course, juniper, orange peel, English coriander seeds, grapefruit peel, angelica, cubeb pepper and liquorice root. It is distilled in small batches – my bottle is marked Batch No 02/15 – in a baby copper pot still.
The bottle is square in shape with a very distinctive red label whose typeset emulates the sort of type that would have been in use in 1761 when it was first made. That part of the bottle that is not covered by the label is embossed with the legends, “small batch gin”, “estd 1761” and “Thomas Dakin”. The stopper is natural cork and the top of the cap features a Thomas Dakin monogram. You feel you have a good quality product in your hands and although doubtless not for everyone, I found it a very pleasing drink, although perhaps with too powerful a taste to open a drinking session.
So who was Thomas Dakin? He is said to be the forefather of modern gin, taking up distilling at the age of 25 in 1761 in Bridge Street in Warrington in what was the first major English distillery outside of London. He put his efforts in to produce a quality gin rather than replicate the rather rough and ready concoctions that were supplied to the capital.
When Dakin started out gin had a poor reputation both in terms of quality and the social disruption that drinking it caused and he started operations before the likes of Tanqueray, Beefeater and Gordon’s got going. At the time Warrington was a bustling and thriving town, maximising its geographical advantages brought to it by the canals and its proximity to two developing commercial and industrial centres, Manchester and Liverpool. Dakin marketed his spirit to wealthy travellers journeying back and forth to the north-west – you can imagine the spicy concoction would pep up the jaded traveller – as well as to local residents of taste who wanted to adopt London fashions. And the business thrived.
You learn a lot by drinking! Cheers!