The Gin Act of 1751 was a rather draconian and effective response to the social evils that the excessive consumption of bootlegged alcoholic spirits was responsible for. So effective was it that outlawed small scale gin distilleries for over 250 years. The law was eventually challenged by Messrs Sam Galsworthy, Fairfax Hall and Jared Brown, the founders of Sipsmiths, and in 2009 the law was changed allowing small-batch distillers to operate once more. Fittingly, the first copper-pot distillery to take advantage of the law change was Sipsmith.
The floodgates were opened and the ginaissance has gone from strength to strength. Interestingly, if you survey the market it has split into three very broad categories. The first is the truly small-scale distiller, often started by a gin enthusiast whose passion for the spirit encourages them to experiment with a blend of botanicals that eventually becomes something vaguely potable or to resurrect an old gin recipe that has existed in the family or is associated with the area in which they operate. Often these brands start out as a statement of love and commitment before encountering and sometimes adapting to the realities of commercial life.
Often the problem with many of these gins is that there is insufficient information on the labelling to allow the potential consumer to make an informed choice as to the likely taste and so paying in excess of £30 for a bottle seems rather a punt unless you have tasted it before or are adventurous in your taste of spirits.
Then there are the large gin manufacturers who have risen to the challenge of the burgeoning number of small, independent gin distillers by upping their game and launching a wider range of styles, while leveraging their existing market reputation. They also have snapped up some of the more successful independents. Ironically, Sipsmith, who could fairly claim to have started the 21st century gin craze off, were bought by Beam Suntory in December 2016 for £50m.
The third strand is the supermarket chains who have jumped on the bandwagon offering botanical infused gins to their shoppers at often less than half the price that a similar product would cost from an independent. Aldi have perfected this approach to a tee and, in all fairness, their gins are impressive, often scooping awards in gin competitions and festivals. Aldi’s MO seems to be to label their spirits with cod names that sound to the uninitiated as though they have come from a small distiller. One such is Haysmith’s.
The gin to fall under the spotlight this week is Haysmith’s Spiced Apple and Ginger Flavour Gin, which comes in a stumpy bottle with a broad shoulder, a small neck ad topped with a cork stopper. The labelling at the front has an artist’s impression of a spray of botanicals with apples and ginger roots to the fore, in case you don’t get the idea. The back of the label, in white print which gets successively more difficult to read as the contents reduce, tells me that the spirit provides “an elegantly smooth and complex taste…best described as mouthwatering notes of juicy red apple, complex hints of fiery ginger spice finishing with the classic flavour of juniper”.
The spirit is pale brown in colour, reminiscent of apple juice and to the nose it has a very distinctive aroma of apple and ginger. In the mouth it is very appley and the ginger is pronounced, although not unpleasantly so. It is well balanced with a strong spicey aftertaste but the juniper is not as pronounced as I would have liked. If you like flavoured gins and looking for a winter warmer that will not burn a hole in your pocket, you could do worse than this.
Until the next time, cheers!