A question for regular topers – when is it acceptable to have the first snifter of the day? There is a delicate balance to be struck, to be sure – too early and you run the risk of appearing to be in the thrall of the demon drink and too late and you have let valuable drinking hours slip you by, requiring you to create the impression that you have a real thirst on to make up for lost time.
For me the bewitching hour is midday. That twelve hour stretch between midnight and noon gives the body enough time to clear out the excess of the previous day, leaving half a day to enjoy a drink or three at a leisurely pace. After all, the wide array of drinks that the ginaissance has spawned requires that they be appreciated in all their glory. Some, though, take a different approach. Edward Kain, a Victorian engineer, inventor and gentleman was in the habit of retiring at six o’clock in the evening to his favourite armchair with a gin and tonic in hand, his first of the day, to allow his mind to mull over some thorny engineering problem. His restraint was commendable.
His great-grandson, Michael Kain, director of Bramley & Gage, based in Thornbury just outside of Bristol, has produced this month’s featured gin, 6 o’clock Gin, to celebrate this diurnal habit. It comes in a stout, dumpy, domed, dark blue bottle with a glass stopper. The front of the bottle has a strikingly simple design with mechanical cogs inside the number six and the legend “strikingly simple”. On the back of the bottle there is some verbiage explaining that the hooch is distilled in their custom-built copper pot still, funded through peer-to-peer lending incidentally, with its unique double sphere head. My bottle is marked lot number 618108 , bottle number 0654, coming in at a respectable 43% ABV.
However, they are remarkably coy as to what is in the gin. As well as the obligatory juniper, there are six botanicals but to date I have only been able to identify for certain coriander, orris, angelica, orange peel and elderflower. From my tasting there seems to be a hint of liquorice. To the nose this crystal clear spirit is full of juniper and orange. To the taste it is smooth but for me the juniper is overpowering at the expense of the other botanicals and the aftertaste is of tannin. It is a very refreshing drink and is perfect for supping on a hot summer day, alas long since gone now. I found it less satisfying when mixed with an aggressive tonic like Fever-Tree and was better with a milder, sweeter tonic.
As a botanical liquorice contains a natural sweetener called glycyrrhizinic acid which is over twenty times sweeter than ordinary sugar. Distillers used it for these properties and it is thought that liquorice was a popular substitute for sugar in the making of Old Tom gin. Liquorice also contains anethole which gives it its characteristic anise flavouring. Anethole is less soluble in water than it is in ethanol and so when water is added to the spirit to reduce the strength, the spirit can take a cloudy appearance. Distillers who want to use liquorice but maintain a pure spirit have to chill filter it.
Until the next time, whatever hour it may be, cheers!