The ginaissance continues apace and in a crowded market place it takes something special to create a buzz and to set yourself apart from the rest of the field. So why not use bees?
That seems to be the idea of the brains behind the successful Warner Edwards gin range, founded in 2012 by Tom Warner and Sion Edwards and operating out of the delightful Northamptonshire village of Harrington. Sitting in the garden, doubtless with a glass of the nation’s favourite spirit in hand, they watched the bees going about their business, pollinating the flowers in their borders. The genesis of an idea developed; how about creating a gin using local honey and botanicals from, amongst other places, the garden?
The result – Warner Edwards Harrington Botanical Garden Honeybee Gin. A bit of a mouthful, for sure.
Astonishingly, along with the mandatory juniper and honey, the latter coming from the eleven hives that they now have on their farm, there are 26 other botanicals in the mix, including the obligatory secret ingredient. I could name them all but it would be a bit of a tiresome read. The ones I don’t believe I have come across in a gin before are fresh quince and blue cornflower petals.
Philosophically, I’m always a bit sceptical about gins which are overloaded with lots of botanicals. The risk is that there is too much going on as each flavour fights for dominance or that they all just cancel themselves out. But, hey ho, this seems to be the way with contemporary gins. The botanicals are not macerated ahead of the distillation process and the honey is added post-distillation.
The dumpy, bell-shaped bottle is yellow in colour with a wax seal and a synthetic cork. My bottle was marked “year 2018, bottle 2677”. Come in number 2677, your time is up, I said, as I spotted it on the Waitrose shelf. The label at the back tells me “we lovingly distil 28 carefully selected botanicals and infuse with locally sourced honey and a dollop of golden nectar from our very own hives ion Falls Farm.” At £40 a pop, I would have been pissed if love and care didn’t go into the process. It also bears the imprimatur of the Royal Horticultural Society.
The spirit is clear and at 43% ABV packs a punch. On opening the bottle, the aroma hits you instantly and seems to be a mix of floral, citrus and, perhaps, a touch of herb. To the taste it is a testament to the distiller’s skill. Yes, there are a lot of sensations going on, the honey in particular leaving a delicious hint of sweetness on the back of the throat but the floral notes, citrus and spices make an appearance in a way that complements rather than detracting from the overall sensation. It is also incredibly smooth and, dare I say it, moreish. Despite my reservations, it is definitely a hit.
Bees are tricky things and down tools when temperatures drop below 12C. Honey is only collected in May and September and a distillation run produces 840 bottles a time so there are some natural inhibitors to the amount of the gin that is available. Also the quality and taste of the honey, a key ingredient, will presumably vary.
Oh, and the bottle comes with a packet of wild cornflower seeds. I assume you are meant to plant them rather than sprinkle them in your gin as a sort of garnish.
All in all, a welcome and refreshing addition to my gin stock which is rapidly diminishing. All my Cornish gins have gone so another trip down there is in the offing.
Until the next time, cheers!