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Category Archives: Gin

Gin o’Clock – Part Thirty One

The ginaissance shows no sign of running out of fizz. For those of us who cannot get enough of the hooch, there is, mystifyingly in my view, a whole range of products on the supermarket shelves that are trying to cadge a lift on the gin bandwagon. How about having a gin-flavoured yoghurt, containing 0.25% alcohol, for your breakfast or, perhaps, gin-infused salmon for lunch or gin-flavoured popcorn and sweets whilst slumped in front of the telly? Is there no end to this madness?

That said, there is something vaguely appealing about taking a perfectly acceptable product and making it into something somewhat inferior. With this in mind I decided to have a go at making my own rhubarb gin. It all started with TOWT buying a few sticks of rhubarb which I found lurking in the back of the fridge. As she was showing no intention of making good on her original promise of a tasty rhubarb crumble, I negotiated the deployment of said sticks for my gin making.

Recipes are easy to find on the internet and boil down to three components – gin, caster sugar and rhubarb. The secret, of course, is in the ratios. The two constraining factors are the amount of rhubarb you have at your disposal and the amount of gin – I used cheap supermarket gin – you are prepared to sacrifice. Chop your rhubarb, after washing it and getting rid of the harsh exterior string – into segments of around 2 to 3 centimetres long. Weigh them and put them in a jar, adding 62.5 grams of caster sugar for every 100 gram of the vegetable. Seal the jar, shake vigorously and leave for 24 to 48 hours, stirring the mix  from time to time.

What you should find is that the sugar gets to work on the rhubarb and extracts the juice. By the end of 48 hours you will be surprised by how much juice you have in your jar. Then you add the gin – the ratio I used was 175 millilitres of gin for every 100 grams of rhubarb. Seal the jar, shake vigorously and leave for 4 to 5 weeks, agitating the liquid occasionally. The resultant liquid has a distinctive rhubarb smell. You then need to remove the pieces of rhubarb, strain the hooch a few times to get rid of those bits of the rhubarb that have broken off and pour the remaining liquid into a bottle.  My gin was distinctly cloudy but absolutely delicious.

There are two types of bar staff in my experience. There are those whose grasp of the basics of addition and subtraction are so tenuous that the time taken to complete any transaction defeats what urge to engage in conversation  you may have had and those who are the fount of all local knowledge. Fortunately, Emily at the Trengilly Wartha in Cornwall, a fellow gin enthusiast, was definitely in the latter camp. On learning that I was on the hunt for Cornish gin she recommended that I went to the Constantine Stores in the rural hamlet that is Constantine, near Falmouth.

Never judge a book by its cover. I parked up at an unprepossessing village shop, the type you might be lucky to get your papers, fags and a bottle of chateau grog in. But I was astonished to find upon entering the establishment that it had a stack of shelves groaning under the weight of upwards of seventy or so different gins. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The boot of my car was laden with a wide range of gins which will give me enough material to review for the foreseeable. It is also the headquarters of drinkfinder.co.uk, an online wholesaler that ships around the world. It is well worth a look.

Until the next time, cheers.

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Gin o’Clock – Part Thirty

My exploration of the ginaissance has exposed my taste buds to a wide array of sensations. I am beginning to get a bit choosy, eschewing those which have gone overboard with presenting the toper with a smorgasbord of sensations for those which add botanicals to enhance rather than overwhelm the basic taste of juniper berries. Perhaps I’m a bit old school in that respect. This week’s featured gin, Langley’s No 8 Distilled London Dry Gin, launched in 2013, is very much in the style that I enjoy.

The gin comes in what can best be described as a medicine bottle with a screw cap. The labelling is rather fetching, being silver-embossed against a black background. The foil at the neck of the bottle proudly proclaims that the hooch is made in England. The front label informs us that it is hand crafted in small batches and that the base is a 100% English grain spirit. The label at the back of the bottle provides a little more information, principally that it is distilled in a copper pot still and that what has been produced is perfectly balanced. I should hope so.

There are two reasons why it is called No 8. The distillers were experimenting on various strengths and blends of gin and it was their eighth incarnation which passed muster. It also contains eight botanicals, the identity of which is somewhat shrouded in mystery. What is for certain is that there is juniper, coriander seeds, sweet lemon and orange peel, cassia bark and ground nutmeg. The final two botanicals are unnamed but are said to be staples of classic gin.

The gin is crystal clear and weighs in at 41.7% ABV, putting it around the middle of the gin strength spectrum. To the nose the juniper is pronounced but there is a hint of the citrus coming through. To the taste it is quite dry with juniper to the fore but with spice and, perhaps, liquorice making their presence felt as you roll it in your mouth. There is a strong after taste in which liquorice and black pepper can be detected. It is a strong, old-school style, heavy gin which goes well with a good mixer and is none the worse for that.

The distillery is based in Langley Green which is just outside Oldbury in the West Midlands which has been a centre of the brewing and distilling industry since the early 19th century. Crosswells was the original brewery which was built atop an ancient underground water source. It was not until 1920 that gin production started there, after it was realised that the purity of the water upon which the distillery was sitting made it ideal for producing top quality spirits.

There are six stills in the distillery including what is claimed to be the oldest working copper still in the UK, dating back to the early 1800s. Our gin is macerated in a 4,000 copper pot still called Constance which, in the scheme of things, is a bit of a youngster, having been built as recently as 1917 by John-Dore. Once the gin concentrate is removed from the still it has an ABV of between 77 and 80 per cent. It is then transported to the Burlington Bottling plant in Witham in Essex where the strength is diluted to commercially acceptable levels and put in bottles which are hand labelled.

It’s a complicated old business!

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Nine

When in Rome, do as the Romans do – a piece of advice that dates back to at least 390CE and St Augustine. So, naturally, when I was in Spain a little while back, in order to extend my exploration of the ginaissance, I drank Larios, a local hooch, but part of the Beam Suntory stable. I tried two – Larios London Dry Gin and Larios 12 Premium Gin.

Whether it is the Brexit effect, I know not, but the London Gin has been rebranded and now goes under the sobriquet of Larios Ginebra Mediterranea, a welcome indicator of its land of origin. The bottle boasts a rather splendid label which is a riot of yellow and orange colours, informing us that Larios was established in 1866 and that the hooch was double distilled. The label at the back of the stubby, rectangular bottle confirms that it is London Dry Gin. The cap is a rather incongruous purple screwcap. At 37.5% ABV it as the weaker end of the gin spectrum but as I picked up a bottle for a very acceptable €8 at the local Aldi in Benijofar, I couldn’t complain.

As you might suspect from the labelling, citrus plays a key part in the flavour, the six botanicals used being juniper, lemon, bitter oranges, coriander, cinnamon and almonds. To the smell it is rather disappointing with the aroma of alcohol overpowering what hints of juniper and citrus can be detected. The clear spirit is quite harsh and the juniper has to fight hard to establish its presence, dominated by the citrus. Adding a tonic to it just provokes the citrus to overwhelm the drink to such an extent that it is difficult to consider it a London Dry Gin where juniper should take the lead. Perhaps that is why it has been rebranded and the spices may as well not have been there as they made little impact on my palate.

It wasn’t an unpleasant drink and one of the better budget gins I have tasted. But I suppose you get what you pay for.

Larios 12 comes in a tall blue bottle with an orange screwcap. The labelling is more subdued, using a white script with orange highlights. At least at the back the botanicals are listed, twelve in all which go through five distillations – orange, mandarin, coriander, tangerine, lemon, angelica root, lime, orange blossom, grapefruit, nutmeg, clementine and, oh yes, juniper. This gin has no pretensions to being a London Dry Gin and is firmly in the contemporary gin camp, where the juniper takes a very definite back seat.

To the smell there is a very distinctive orange feel to it with, perhaps, a hint of spice. The clear spirit, which is 40% ABV, provides a refreshing taste of citrus to the mouth but as I played with it in my mouth I began to detect the juniper struggling to make its presence felt, only to be overwhelmed by the more tart grapefruit in the aftertaste. On the whole I was a tad disappointed because the taste was a bit one-dimensional – not unsurprising given the heady cocktail of citrus. It is a perfectly acceptable gin but I think if you are looking for a contemporary gin, there are much better, even if they are more than twice the price.

Often I find that booze that was acceptable to swill when on holiday tastes awful when you get it home. I have to say that was not the case with either of the Larios hooches. If you are interested, they also seem to do a Rose gin, although a drop has not passed my lips (yet!).

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Eight

The ginaissance keeps rolling on. In 2016 the Treasury received £3.4 billion in tax revenue from the sale of gin, up 7 per cent from 2015, and exceeding the £3.2 billion levied from beer. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association reckoned that 43 million bottles of gin were sold in 2016 and that there are now more than 80 brands on sale. And Charles Rolls, who founded Fever-Tree, cashed in some of his shares in May and trousered £73 million. Where will it all end?

I had a useful insight the other day into the power of branding to attract or deter a consumer. I had noticed the bottles of Daffy’s Small Batch Premium Gin on the shelves of our local Waitrose for some time and always found a reason to pass them over. Thinking about it, it was the image on the front of the bottle – a tousle-haired blond above a cocktail glass. It seemed a bit – well, girly. This time, though, as I was anxious to replenish my depleted stocks and this was the only one I hadn’t tried, I swallowed my male chauvinism and bought a bottle.

The bottle is a slightly dumpy one with a natural cork stopper and the hooch, which is crystal clear, weighs in at an acceptable an pedantically precise 43.4% ABV. Leaving the imaging aside on the bottle, it has a helpful strip to the right hand side identifying the botanicals. Pride of place is given to a salad mint from the Bequaa valley in Lebanon – something I had not experienced before in a gin. The rear of the bottle states that this is “the finest copper pot single-batch distilled gin” – no probably here – and “the adventure started with our discovery of what Lebanese mint can bring to the finest gin.

The other six botanicals listed are juniper (natch), coriander, angelica, lemon peel, cassia and orris. The bottle states that the Lebanese mint is mixed with eight other carefully chosen botanicals; so we are missing a couple. I suspect one is orange peel but as to the other, who knows? The botanicals are steeped in a neutral grain spirit from northern France for four days, distilled in the Midlands and then sent to Edinburgh where it is blended with Scottish water, minus minerals, until the desired ABV is reached.

Having made a great play about the mint, I was going to be fascinated to see what it did to the taste. To the nose the aroma is fresh and floral and in the mouth the liquid tastes rich and slightly oily. There is a hint of mint but it doesn’t overpower the other botanicals, rather adding some freshness to the overall taste. The after taste is warm and nutty and stays long in the throat. My fears that the mint would take over in the way that the horseradish does in Thomas Dakin Small Batch Gin but my fears were unfounded.

It is a lovely gin and one to sip and savour rather than to swill. The moral of the story is never judge a book by its cover.

And if you were wondering, Daffy was the name of an elixir given to children in Victorian times, often mixed with gin or, if there was none available, replaced by gin. As Mrs Mann explained to Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist, “’why, it’s what I’m obliged to keep a little of in the house, to put into the blessed infants’ daffy when they ain’t well’..as she opened a corner cupboard, and took down a bottle and glass. ‘It’s gin, I’ll deceive you not, it’s gin’.

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Seven

Perhaps it is my inner Brexit spirit buried deep within me but with so many British gins to sample during my extensive investigation of the ginaissance, I have fought shy of any distilled abroad. A staple on the shelves of our local Waitrose is Gin Mare which comes from Spain. Having run through all the other gins in their section and noticing that it was available at a heavily discounted price which with an eight pound voucher, it seemed that now was the time to put my prejudices to one side.

Gin Mare is made in the small fishing village of Vilanova i la Geltru near Barcelona on the Costa Dorada. The distillers are a family firm, Destilerias MG, who have been making aromatic cordials and dealing with wines since 1835, although to obtain global reach it has been part of the Global Premium Brands group since 2007 when this incarnation of the hooch was developed. As you might expect, it has a very distinctive Mediterranean feel about it as most of the botanicals are sourced from the region.

There are of course the traditional botanicals that you would expect to find such as juniper – the berries are hand-picked from the owners’ estate in Teruel and have a very soft skin – coriander seed, cardamom and citrus. The citrus is a custom blend of oranges, sweet from Seville and bitter from Valencia,  and lemons from Lleida, which are macerated for a year in a neutral spirit in clay jars before use. But the Mediterranean flavour is provided by rosemary from Turkey, thyme from Greece, basil from Italy and Arbequina olives which are local to the area.

Other than the citrus, each of the other botanicals are macerated separately for 36 hours and then distilled individually in a 250 litre Florentine still for around 4.5 hours. The separate distillations are then blended with a neutral spirit and water to produce the hooch which comes in a distinctive pale blue, rounded, pyramid-shaped, heavy bottle with a grey screw cap. The hooch weighs in at an acceptable 42.7% ABV and the label has a picture of herbs and towards the top of the bottle is the legend “Mediterranean gin, coleccion de autor.

So what is it like? To the smell it is distinctly herby with juniper and thyme to the fore. The clear spirit has a bold taste, initially of juniper and then the herbs give it a drier consistency, marking it out as a gin the like of which I have not tasted before. The aftertaste is dry and the spices come into play. It is a very flavoursome gin and with such a high herbal content could even be used as an accompaniment to a meal, Mediterranean style of course. My prejudices have been dispelled.

With so much care taken by the distillers, not just of Gin Mare, to create a distinctive taste, it behoves the toper to take some care over which tonic to pour in. I came across a new one on me the other week when I was browsing through the supermarket mixer section, Qcumber.  As its rather contrived name suggests – the marketeers have worked overtime – it has a predominant cucumber flavour, although it also has beet sugar and citrus, and is manufactured using spring water from the Welsh hills in Radnorshire. It is light with a very fresh taste and not so overpowering that it ruins the carefully crafted flavours of some of the more complex gins. My preference would be to use it with more floral gins.

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Six

Boodle’s Club, still going, was founded in 1765 and it moved to its current premises on St James’ Street in London in 1782. It took its name from its head waiter, Edward Boodle. The gin which bears the name of this famous London institution was first created in 1845 and went on to shape what is now known as the modern London style of gin. Reputedly it was Winston Churchill’s favourite gin.

Truth be told, this gin has had a rather chequered history. It was originally produced by Cock Russell & Co and then fell into the hands of James Burroughs Ltd whose most well-known gin in its stable is Beefeater. It then ended up being owned by Seagrams in 2000 but in the following year its assets, were sold to a number of companies with Pernod-Ricard taking over Boodles. There was another change of ownership in 2012 when Proximo Spirits of New Jersey. By this time the gin had disappeared from the UK market, although it has always been distilled here.

Fortunately for British gin drinkers, Proximo struck up a deal with our old friends, G & J Greenall of Warrington to continue distilling the hooch and to return it to the shelves of UK retailers. And so since 2013 we have been able to discover it again and enjoy its unique taste.

The British version of Boodles’ British Gin London Dry – there is a stronger version at 45.2% ABV available in other parts of the world – comes in a squat dumpy bottle with a silver screw cap and weighs in at an acceptable 40% ABV. The label at the front is navy blue in colour, bears the original distillers name of Cock Russell and Company and proclaims the fact that it was established in 1845. The label at the back has a pale blue colour with black lettering and advises that it consists of “100% grain neutral spirits” and that it is “fashioned with a proper balance of traditional herbs and botanicals without the addition of citrus.” It also comes with the rather strange advice that to appreciate its fine flavour, it should be used sparingly. That’s hardly likely to happen!

Boodles’ has carved out a unique position amongst London Dry Gins by not having any citrus flavouring specifically added to the distillation process. If you like your gins with a touch of citrus, then this is not one for you. You could add it by slipping a slice of lemon or lime into your glass or use a citrusy based mixer but that sort of defeats the purpose.

It uses nutmeg, rosemary and sage amongst the nine botanicals that give the grain spirit its flavour – no other gin, to my knowledge, does this but with so many coming on to the market it is difficult to be categorical on the point. The other botanicals are juniper (natch), coriander seed, angelica root, angelica seed and caraway seed. The gin is made in a vacuum still which allows the spirit to retain more of the texture and taste of the botanicals.

So what is it like? It is a clear spirit and to the nose the smells of juniper and coriander are to the fore. In the mouth it is smooth and surprisingly sweet with a clean, long and slightly peppery aftertaste. It makes for a very smooth drink and, dare I say it, quite moreish. After all, warnings are to be disregarded. If you like your gins to be juniper prominent and for the other botanicals to complement and allow the juniper to shine, then this may well be one for you. As an added bonus, it is reasonably priced. I picked up my bottle for just £20.

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Five

I have been steadily working my way through my stock of gins so that I have space to carry on my explorations of the ginaissance. It is almost an impossible task to keep up with all the craft gins that keep appearing. I was reading the other week that as well as UK sales of gin breaking the £1 billion barrier in 2016, 25% more distilleries opened in England and an astonishing 18 in Scotland during the course of last year. You see my problem!

What is interesting is that the really successful independent distillers are being made offers they cannot refuse by the big brewers. Sipsmith, one of my particular favourites, were bought up in December by the Japanese company, Beam Suntory. The Spencerfield Spirit Company, who distils the Edinburgh gin, has been taken over by Ian Macloed Distillers. Good news for the owners, for sure, but in my experience with real ales there is usually a diminution in the quality and taste of a drink when it gets into the hands of the big boys. It will be a shame if it happens to these two fine gins.

One of the delights of being a ginophile – is there such a word? If not, I’ve just invented it – is that you learn an awful lot about herbs and fruits. Take the Rangpur, a tree of which I had been blissfully ignorant for all these years. It originates, funnily enough, from the Rangpur region of Bangladesh but is now cultivated widely around the world. It is a hybrid between a lime and an orange. The tree itself is not dissimilar to a lime tree but the fruit that it bears is round and orange. It is very acidic and to the taste is very similar to a lime but the fruit is as packed with juice as an orange.

I have a soft spot for Tanqueray gins – the Number ten is divine and the Tanqueray Dry London Gin is an excellent opener for an evening’s bacchanalian revel – and so I was keen to try Tanqueray Rangpur Gin which, as you might expect from the name, features heavily the fruit of the Rangpur tree. It comes in the traditional fluted Tanqueray bottle with the embossed red seal at the front and the silver screw cap. However, the green of the bottle is slightly lighter than its stable mates – a sort of lime green.

Upon opening the screw cap for the very first time my nose was hit by a very powerful but fresh and mellow whiff of lime which seemed to take precedence over the juniper. The spirit is crystal clear and to the taste the first sensation is of sweetness and citrus before the juniper puts up a fight with a wonderfully peppery glow. The aftertaste reverts to a citrusy flavour. It is not unpleasantly sweet and I found it surprisingly refreshing, perhaps one like Bloom to savour in the garden on a hot summer’s day.

Its ABV is a respectable 41.3% and as for the botanicals we can be sure that there is juniper, Rangpur, bay leaves, ginger and coriander in the mix. These are added during the distillation process but there is a suspicion that there is some form of sweetener added afterwards which, rather like Martin Miller, means that it disqualifies itself from being classed as a London dry gin. If I had to categorise it, I would say that it was a contemporary gin because the citrus certainly gives the juniper a run for its money.

Gin O’Clock – Part Twenty Four

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We have come across London’s oldest wine merchants, Berry Brothers and Rudd, before as we were tramping the vicinity of Pickering Place. They occupy number 3 St James’s Street and it is appropriate, therefore, that their address is enshrined in their addition to the ginaissance, No 3 London Dry Gin. For such a long established company with a fine tradition, the addition of an in-house gin to their stable is a recent event with the hooch launched only on 21st July 2010.

Since the phenomenal growth in the popularity of gin in recent years, what is available now spans the whole spectrum of tastes. Some distillers seem to relish the opportunity to throw as many botanicals as they possibly can into the mix – some successfully, others less so – whilst others believe that simplicity is the key to consumer satisfaction. Perhaps it is not surprising that such a venerable firm as Berry Brothers has chosen the latter route. Their gin follows an old Dutch recipe and uses just six botanicals – juniper berries (natch) with orange peel and grapefruit peel adding the citrus components and three spicy botanicals – angelica root, coriander seed and cardamom pods. These are steeped overnight before the spirit is distilled in traditional copper stills.

Before we investigate the spirit it is worth lingering a while over the bottle. It is a masterpiece of design. The glass is emerald green and the shape, tall and square with slightly indented side panels to aid grip and facilitate pouring – always thoughtful additions after a few glasses – apes the open pontil gin bottles that were the norm, because of deficiencies in glass blowing techniques until the mid 19th century. The left-hand side panel is embossed with the legend No 3 London Dry Gin and the right-hand side with No 3 Berry Bros & Rudd.

The front of the bottle has a silver key two-thirds of the way up the bottle – it represents the key to the Parlour, the oldest room in their premises and symbolic of the tradition and reliability of the firm – and the label contains sky blue and white lettering. The stopper is made of natural cork held in place by alloy foil which, unlike many others I have tried, came away very easily. Whilst removing the cork my ears were greeted with a delightfully full plop sound. There is no getting away from it – this gin is presenting itself as a luxury product, a cut above the rest, perhaps gratifyingly so as it retails at a price beginning with a three.

Once the cork is opened, the first sensation is that of juniper, first and foremost, with a hint of sweetness. A clear spirit which packs a punch at 46% ABV, it is remarkably subtle in the mouth. The benefit of limiting the number of botanicals in play is that each has the opportunity to play its part – the citrus sweetening the juniper and the spicy botanicals giving a peppery spiciness. Although the juniper dominates the aroma and initial tasting, there is a rich, dry, peppery feel to the aftertaste. It is a wonderfully subtle and well-balanced drink and is testament to the wisdom of keeping things simple but doing the simple things well. If you can afford it and like a straightforward, no nonsense London Dry Gin then you cannot go wrong with this. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Three

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As anticipated, Santa obliged by bringing me a couple of gins to continue my exploration of the ginaissance. Both, in their different ways, reflect the trend to find diverse and unusual botanicals to give their hooch that extra bit of pizazz.

First up is Whitley Neill, a London Dry Gin which is described, according to the label, as “a handcrafted gin of exceptional quality, inspired by the captivating flavours of Africa”. The bottle is dumpy using a rather austere frosted black glass with a red image of a baobab tree in the centre and the legend, “Whitley Neill, handcrafted dry gin” underneath. It is so distinctive that you will not miss it on the supermarket shelf – a marketing coup, if there ever was one. About seven-eighths of the way down the bottle is a light brown label giving some guff about the hooch together with the all-important ABV – 43% which gives it a kick –the batch number – 20 in my case – and the signature of the creator, Johnny Neil.

Neill is from the fourth generation of the Greenall distilling family and the inspiration for this gin – the only one that comes out of the Whitley Neill stable – is his African-born wife. The African exotica is provided by the use of baobab fruit – supposed to be very good for you – and cape gooseberries to the more traditional botanical line up of juniper, coriander, lemon and orange peel, angelica root, cassia bark and orris root. The base spirit is 100% grain into which the botanicals are steeped before being distilled in an antique copper pot, using the purest of water (natch).

On removing the natural cork stopper the aroma is a delicate mix of pine and citrus, giving the sense immediately that this is going to be a classic and restrained hooch. The spirit is clear and to the taste the mix between the juniper and the other botanicals is well-balanced. Surprisingly, it seemed a little sweet and the aftertaste was prolonged and slightly peppery. The whole experience made for an extremely smooth, sophisticated and satisfying taste. It may be my taste buds but I didn’t detect any overt influence from the baobab and gooseberries – a tad disappointing – but they may have contributed to the prominent citrus and fruity effect. Mixed with a good tonic, it made a great G&T.

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My second gin comes from the Greenall’s stable and is their Wild Berry Gin. Available since September 2014 it is exactly what it says on the tin, or perhaps I should say what is on the bottle – Greenall’s London Dry Gin to which has been added raspberry and blackcurrant. The fruits are added after distillation to give a fruity berry-flavoured twist to the hooch. It comes in a standard Greenall’s bottle – tall and octagonal – but the labelling is a pinky purple, giving the spirit in the bottle a pinkish hue. When poured out, though, it is clear.

The bottle comes with a screw cap and the immediate sensation to the nose is of fruit. To the taste it is rather sweet and has for me more than a hint of Ribena and whilst in the aftertaste you can sense the juniper and peppers, the overwhelming sensation is that of fruit. But then, that is what you should expect. At 37.5% ABV it is at the lower end of the strength spectrum and makes a very satisfying opener for the evening. When the weather warms up, I might consider having it with some strawberries and cream. It is that kind of gin and is distinctively different. A welcome addition to the gin family.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty Two

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It was the great Athenian tragedian, Aeschylus, who wrote in Agamemnon that wisdom comes through suffering. Rather like Icarus I chose to reach for the sun and instead came crashing down to earth. No, I’ve not been overdoing it with the gin. What I’m talking about is my early experiments with making my own gin.

The hooch was a brackish brown colour, not the bright piss colour of Ungava but a colouration that is suggestive of some urinary complaint. Some diligent enquiries on the internet reassured me that this was not a problem. This is exactly what many commercial gins look like before they are distilled for a final time. As I don’t have a still, then I’m going to have to lump it, although sieving the contents will get rid of the floating sediment.

The major problems, though, were taste and aroma. The aroma was heavily peppered and to the taste it was like firewater with a very heavily pronounced spicy aftertaste. The problem, clearly, was that I had overdone it with the mix and that the ratio between juniper berries was out of kilter with the amount of other botanicals I had used. And, of course, whilst you can relatively easily add, what you can’t do is extract. So, other than dilute, I’m rather saddled with my first batch.

The only thing to do was to pick myself up, brush myself down, massage my by now heavily bruised ego and start again. This time I was going to play it safe. I had about 20 centilitres of triple distilled French grain vodka left to which I added 20 grams of juniper berries. This I left to mascerate. Originally it was going to be for 24 hours but some unavoidable family matters made me rather take my eye off the ball so that it was some 48 hours later that I was able to give the mix my full attention. There was a slight discolouration and the majority of the juniper berries were floating on the top but the smell and taste was much more like a gin.

It was at this point that I added some of the botanical mix – coriander, angelica, orange peel, cassia and cubeb peppers as beforebut this time, a much more conservative 5 grams – and after agitating vigorously – that is the distiller’s term for stirring – I allowed it to mascerate for a few days, checking and agitating daily. After a week I judged that enough was enough as the mix had a recognisably ginny smell to it and whilst it was spicy, it was not unpleasantly so.

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The next stage is to strain the mixture through some muslin or cheesecloth to capture the by now heavily marinated berries and other jetsam. I did this half a dozen times using fabrics with increasingly smaller mesh and, amazingly, the spirit started to clear. It still had a bit of a hue but was not as off putting as the original. Alternatively, you can use a water filter jug such as Brita make. I then bottled the spirit, put a label on naming it Hooch #2 and sampled it with some Fever Tree Premium Tonic. Not bad, if I say so myself, although the 200 or so distillers surfing the ginaissance have nothing to worry about – yet!