I always experience a frisson of excitement when I approach the gin section of my local Waitrose store and find that the buyer has added a new line to its extensive range plucked from the bewildering store of plenitude spawned by the ginaissance. We all have our go-to favourites but for the adventurous in spirit, there is always an added pleasure in trying something new. Ramsbury Single Estate London Dry Gin has long on my list of must-tries and I could not resist putting a bottle into my shopping trolley.
It is the product of the Ramsbury Brewery, based in Wiltshire, which began its operations in 2004 with the idea of turning their wheat and barley grown on the estate into a range of premium beers. It took a further eleven for them to realise their dream of producing a range of spirits in an ecologically friendly and sustainable manner. The bottle design went through a bit of a revamp in January 2021 and features a picture of the Ramsbury farm on the inside of the back label and the precise coordinates of the field in which the wheat which is used to make the base spirit is grown. You cannot help feeling the pride with which they present their gin.
The bottle itself is a highly tactile, a slightly slimmer version of a Plymouth gin bottle made from a pale green glass with Ramsbury embossed on the front shoulder which leads to a short neck with a grey cap featuring the head of a ram and a cork stopper. The labelling is crisp and distinctive with the ram’s head featuring prominently. It completes an elegant and impressive look.
The starting point for the gin is the base spirit which is made from a traditional baker’s wheat known as Horatio wheat which is milled into a rough flour, placed into a mash tun together with yeast and warm locally sourced water and allowed to ferment for between three and five days. Spent grain is fed to the pigs and cattle while the wastewater is filtered through a reed bed system. The mash is distilled, diluted and heated in a pot-still before being transferred to a 43-plate copper column still where it reaches an ABV of 96.5%.
Nine botanicals – juniper, orris root, cinnamon, liquorice, orange peel, angelica, coriander, lemon, and homegrown fresh quince – are added to the resultant neutral grain spirit in a 140-litre gin still, where it is heated, condensed, and collected. After dilution with water to its final fighting weight of 40% ABV it is filtered and bottled and ready to go. I have encountered quince as a gin botanical once before, in Warner Edwards Harrington Botanical Garden Honeybee Gin, but there it was one of 26 botanicals and its distinctive taste was rather drowned by the honey.
There is always a risk, I feel, adding a botanical from leftfield to what is otherwise a classic line-up for a London Dry Gin. It can either get lost in the mix becoming little more than a marketing ploy or the distillers are tempted to enhance its contribution at the risk of unbalancing the whole. I was interested to see how the Ramsbury Gin distillers handled the conundrum.
On the nose the initial hit was of juniper and citrus but almost as if arriving late to the party the quince made its presence known, not a noisy gate crasher but interesting enough to attract attention. In the mouth this beautifully clear spirit has a smooth, almost oily texture, with juniper, citrus and peppers to the fore. Rolling the spirit around my mouth I then began to become aware of more floral hints and the quince. The aftertaste is long and pronounced, a pleasing melange of spice, pepper and quince, rounding off a very elegant and satisfying drink. Adding a premium tonic seemed to bring forward the quince, not to the detriment of the spirit but sufficient to enhance its presence.
I found it a very enjoyable experience and interesting twist to the London Dry style.
Until the next time, cheers!