Gin O’Clock (106)

I have never been to the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of islands around 25 miles off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. I have considered a visit occasionally, but it just seemed too much effort to get there. Perhaps with staycations in vogue, now is the time to take the plunge. Remote as the islands may be, they are not too remote to be unaffected by the ginaissance. Yes, they have their own offering, Scilly Spirit Island Gin, a bottle of which I got my hands on, thanks to the Drinkfinder.co.uk mail order service.

Regular readers will have realised by now that I am a sucker for a beautiful or unusual bottle design. Island Gin’s bottle is up there with the finest. Bell shaped, it looks like a lighthouse stuck on top of a rock and the glass is that pale greeny blue that you associate with a clear patch of sea. The labelling at the front shows a perspective of the islands and the name of the gin in white and tells me that it is “beautifully crafted on the Isles of Scilly”. If I had one criticism it is that the writing does not really stand out from the background colour of the glass, leaving the bottle’s shape to do all the work in attracting a purchaser’s interest.

The neck is long, it is representing a lighthouse after all, leading to a wide wooden stopper with an artificial cork inside. My bottle came from Batch No 14 and was crafted by Art & Al, if I have deciphered the hieroglyphics on the label correctly.

The bottle then goes on to tell of the gin’s backstory – every self-respecting gin must have a back story. In 1665 a ship carrying a cargo of Javan pepper was shipwrecked off Bishop Rock. The crew were rescued by the crews of the Pilot Gig boats, six oarsmen and a cox in each boat, which set out from St Mary’s. Based in Old Town on the island of St Mary’s the distillers decided to commemorate the rescue in a gin which features pepper and uses, as well as the natural waters of the island, a total of six botanicals to represent the crews. The bottle promises a taste of the Isles of Scilly with every sip.

In the Scilly Spirit distillery in Old Town they have two stills and, yes, they do have names – Bishop and Daisy. Into the mix, as well as pepper, there is juniper, cardamom, orange for the citrus notes, lime leaf, and cassia. Oddly, you would normally expect coriander to be there, but they reckon that the lime leaf is more than up to the job of supplementing the citrus kick. With an ABV of 44% it is punchy enough without being too overpowering.      

It was with some eager anticipation that I opened the bottle. To the nose it smelt well-balanced, each of the principal elements, the pine of the juniper, the sharpness of the cardamom, the citrus, and the warmth of the cassia detectable but combining to make an inviting drink. In the glass the spirit is clear and the juniper and citrus immediately make their presence felt before allowing the subtlety of the peppers and spices and the herbs their moment in the sun. The aftertaste is warm and lingers in the throat, serving as a reminder of what you have just experienced and an invitation to have some more.

It is a wonderful gin, well-balanced with well chosen botanicals, each allowed to play their part in making for a very distinctive and enjoyable taste. If you like your gin juniper-led and appreciate a drink that plays on the contrasts between spice and citrus, then this is a gin for you. I have a feeling I may be buying another bottle soon.

Until the next time, cheers!

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