Cambridge Dry Gin

Ah, Grantchester Meadows. When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, I used to, with apologies to Pink Floyd’s ode to that tranquil, bucolic space there, lay me down in the lazy water meadow. I was there much too early to take myself down to 20, High Street in Grantchester, now the home of the Cambridge Distillery. The brains behind the enterprise are William and Lucy Lowe, not forgetting Darcy the distillery dog.  

Innovation is very much the buzzword in the environs of Cambridge. Spurred on by a desire to create a space for themselves in the crowded marketplace created by the ginaissance, the Lowes have imbibed long and deep from the well of innovation. Their first foray into the world was a Japanese Gin launched in around 2014 but their take on a dry gin that is Cambridge Dry Gin draws its inspiration from the hedgerows and pastures of the Meadows as well as their garden. With the exception of Macedonian juniper, the other botanicals which go into the mix, including blackcurrant leaf, basil, rosemary, lemon verbena, rose and violet petals and Angelica seed, are either foraged during their walks or grown in their own garden.

The botanicals which represent all four seasons of a Granchester year are individually distilled in volumes of less than two litres, under vacuum to ensure that they remain at their freshest. The technique used has been devised by the Lowes themselves, a sign of their commitment to put their own stamp on their gin. Traditional distillation techniques such as using a copper still can destroy the flavours of all but the most robust botanicals, the reason why the base botanicals of most London Dry gins are remarkably similar. To create a gin which uses more delicate, less robust botanicals without resorting to adding them afterwards artificially required a different approach.

If further evidence was required that the Lowes were committed to producing a first-class product, then you need to look no further than the elegant, stylish bottle. Rectangular in shape with a flat shoulder leading to a short neck and a glass stopper, it makes good use of the famous Cambridge light blue on its labelling with fresh, clear print and an illustration of botanicals on the back of the label at the rear of the bottle, which rather like a piece of Laura Ashley wallpaper, can be seen through the front of the bottle. The label on the neck of the bottle I bought from my local Waitrose store which has now begun to stock it tells me that it is bottle 532 from 600 from batch 149.

This care mixed with no little skill is reflected in the price. It is not a cheap gin, even by so-called premium artisanal standards, and is unlikely to be an impulse buy. More reason, then, for it to produce a distinctive and satisfying drink. This the Lowes have achieved.

On the nose it has a very floral and fruity aroma, not overpowering but enough to put the juniper into the shade. It is a crystal-clear spirit, and, in the glass, the floral and fruit botanicals continue to hog the limelight, the earthier, spicier elements emerging as you swill the drink around your mouth and the aftertaste is prolonged and surprisingly spicy. The addition of a premium tonic seemed to enhance the floral elements. I was surprised by the citrus I detected, presumably from the lemon verbena, given the absence of traditional citrus elements.

Although I far prefer my gins to be distinctly juniper led, I found this a very refreshing and moreish drink, ideal for those warm late spring and summer evenings and with an ABV of 42% it packs a bit of a punch. The Lowes have achieved their objective of developing a distinctive gin, one which sits more comfortably in the contemporary gin space and deserve to succeed in their endeavours.

Until the next time, cheers!

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