Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

Irony is a well that is deep and never stops giving. Methodism, especially in the 19th century and really until very recently, has been associated with a commitment to total abstinence from drinking alcohol. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that the Methodist chapel in the north Devon village of Brendon by the banks of the River Lyn on Exmoor had fallen into disuse and is now the site of the distillery that celebrates a different kind of spirit, Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin.

The gin is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Pat Patel and Julie Heap who, after two years perfecting their perfect mix, launched the gin onto the crowded marketplace that the ginaissance has spawned in September 2015. There are eleven botanicals which go into the mix, each of which is prepared by hand, infused and distilled separately to produce eleven separate distillates which are then blended and distilled in a copper alembic still. The alembic still has three parts, the cucurbit where the liquid is heated or boiled, the anbik into which the vapour rises and then cools by contact with the walls and condenses before running down the spout into the receiver.

The process allows the distillers to put the exact amount of each botanical’s distillate into the mix leaving no room for a heavy hand or chance to upset the balance. At each stage of the process the gin to produce the finished article. The spirit which has an ABV of 42% is then bottled and labelled by hand in 100-litre batches.

The botanicals Wicked Wolf use are juniper, angelica, cardamom, coriander, cubeb, grains of paradise, hibiscus, Kaffir lime leaves, orange peel, lemon peel, and lemongrass. Their particular twist is to add some Asian notes and by replacing the usual liquorice with hibiscus they have introduced a honey-like sweetness to the drink.

The bottle is dumpy, made of clear, unembossed glass, with a medium sized neck and an artificial stopper. The labelling is rather subdued with a greenish-blue background, a wolf in full flight in white and wording in black. The labelling at the rear of the bottle tells me that it is “the Spirit of Exmoor”, a tag they have trademarked, and that the combination of botanicals used “balance fresh citrus and spicy pepper notes with the unique flavours of juniper and cardamom to produce a classic, premium gin”. If I had one criticism of the bottle, it is that it doesn’t stand out and looks a little shy on a crowded shelf.

The proof of the pudding, though, is in the eating so has this careful thought and preparation paid off? On removing the stopper, the aroma has that distinctive smell of juniper, with citrus notes and hint of floral elements. In the glass the clear spirit the principal notes are of fresh citrus and hibiscus with the earthier and spicier elements content to lurk deep in the background, only to emerge in the aftertaste.  

I much prefer my juniper to be at the fore but Wicked Wolf accentuates the more floral and exotic elements to produce a drink that is decidedly more to the contemporary side of the gin spectrum than a traditional London Dry. It makes for a refreshing, well-balanced drink, one that is smooth and undemanding and enhanced by the addition of a premium tonic. Rather like the bottle it comes in, it is a little reserved, almost self-conscious and there are punchier gins around. If, though, you like a more restrained drink, you will not go too far wrong with this.

Until the next time, cheers!

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