Southwold is situated on the mouth of the River Blyth on what is known as the Suffolk Heritage coast. From memory it is full of beach huts and has a prominent lighthouse and pier. Frustratingly at busy times there is only one road in and out.
For the drinker the name Southwold is synonymous with Adnams. The tradition of brewing in Southwold dates back to at least 1345 when Johanna de Corby and 17 other so-called ale wives of Southwold were charged by the manorial court for breaking the assize of ale, a law regulating the price and quality of beer. The brothers, George and Ernest Adnams – George was tragically eaten by a crocodile in South Africa, but that is another story – with the help of their father bought the Sole Bay Brewery in 1872 and the business has been there ever since. Their ales have always been worth seeking out.
More germane to this series, however, is their decision in 2010 to build and open a copper still distillery for the distillation of vodka and, as a logical follow on, gin. This month’s featured gin, Adnams Copper House Dry Gin, comes in a squat round bottle with a bluish label which gives the bottle a blue hue. The label at the front has a picture of a copper still, seagulls and botanicals and the top has foil which protects a natural cork stopper. The stopper makes a very satisfying sound as it is removed from the bottle. To the nose the dominant flavours are juniper and orange. In the mouth it has an oily texture and the juniper is to the fore making it perfect for those who like a classic London dry gin. In the aftertaste orange and floral sensations predominate giving way to a lingering, almost peppery finale.
Mixed with Fever-Tree tonic it produces a very aromatic drink. After my first tasting I followed it up with Williams Extra Dry Gin and the orange and apple oriented aftertastes of the two made for a nice contrast. Adnams use just six botanicals in producing this gin but the mix seems just right giving the drinker the opportunity to savour a complexity of flavours without being overwhelmed by a multiplicity of flavours jostling for attention.
As well as juniper berries, orris root and coriander seeds, cardamom pod, sweet orange peel and hibiscus flower are used. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world, apparently, and adds a spicy note to the spirit, although too much can make it seem bitter. Its essential oils and aromatics are very volatile and degrade quickly, something the humble orris root is there to prevent.
In very simplistic terms oranges can be classed as sweet, used for orange juice, or bitter, used for marmalade. Distillers use either and Adnams have chosen the former to give a very zesty edge to the gin. Having been very conventional in their choice of botanicals Adnams tip their hat to modern tastes by introducing hibiscus which gives the floral tastes in the aftertaste . These plants have large, trumpet-shaped flowers with five or more petals and their bitter, floral flavour gives a quite unusual and attractive taste.
Aside from using hibiscus what sets this gin out from many of its rivals is that the whole distillation process is undertaken in-house. The base spirit is made with East Anglian malted barley, fermented using Adnams’ eighty year old yeast before being transferred to their copper pot still where it is reduced to around 50% alcohol by volume at which point the botanicals are added, allowed to soak overnight and then distilled.
A very satisfying addition to my collection. Cheers!