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Category Archives: Gin

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!

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty One

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I have been chronicling my exploration of the ginaissance over the last couple of years and during that time have learned a lot about the history of my favourite spirit and the botanicals that give it its varied taste, ranging from the ultra-sweet to the spicy and all points in between. As there are over 200 gins available, there is no risk of me running out of new experiences for a while, particularly if I want to protect my liver. Everything in moderation, including moderation, as Oscar Wilde once said.

When I was younger, in the 1970s, and the beer and wine available in pubs and supermarkets were almost universally dreadful, there was a spell when every man and his dog was brewing their own. Shops like Boot’s would have row upon row of all the impedimenta you would require to brew a hooch of your choice in the privacy of your home – demi-johns, siphons, thermometers and the all-important home-brew ingredients, usually in round tins, if I recall. Wherever you went, airing cupboards were full of liquid fermenting away and occasionally friends and colleagues would sheepishly confess to an unexpected explosion which deposited the contents of the demi-john on the floor and surrounding walls. That was fine but the words that always filled me with dread were, “I have just bottled my fresh batch of nettle and bramble wine. Why don’t you come over and sample some?

In the age of JAMs we need to look after every penny and for a while, I have been mulling over the idea of making my own gin. This is what retirement does for you. The kick up the demi-john that made me translate idle fancy to practical reality was a thoughtful present given to me at Christmas, a gin making kit. It came with a glass jar with artificial stopper, a sieve, a funnel, some labels and chalk and 100 grams of juniper berries. The instructions were somewhat rudimentary but one of the joys of the internet is that you can easily find more extensive and coherent recipes at the press of a few keys.

Of course, the starting point is the creation of the base spirit which adds a greater degree of complexity to the whole process and elongates the timescales. As a beginner, I decided that the sensible course was to miss out this step and concentrate on masceration, by buying a commercial vodka – triple distilled French grain vodka, available at all reputable branches of Asda. It being early January when I conducted this experiment, there were no flowers in the garden or the hedgerows for me to pluck and the weather was unconducive to foraging in the garden for roots, I took the easy way out by buying a pack of botanical gin blend from the admirably efficient Drinkstuff website. The pack consisted of coriander, angelica, orange peel, cassia and cubeb peppers.

The process was remarkably simple. I weighed out 25 grams of juniper berries and 17.5 grams of the botanical blend and poured them into the 500 ml glass jar. A note of caution – juniper berries are tricky customers and if you are not too careful or attempt the exercise with the early morning DTs, you can find you spend some time chasing the varmints around the kitchen floor. I then added some vodka up to the start of the neck of the jar. Some of the botanicals sank to the bottom while the majority floated near the top and I could discern bubbles appearing in the spirit. Only time will tell whether this is anything to worry about.

I then put the jar in a dark, cool place, our utility room, where it will do its magic for 24 hours. Then the fun part will start, sampling and adjusting to taste. If I survive the experience, I will report on how I got on next time. Cheers.

Gin o’Clock – Part Twenty

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One of the joys of writing about my exploration of the ever burgeoning ginaissance is that it has encouraged others to share their experiences and discoveries with me. Two dear friends, both loyal followers of this blog, both separately visited Belfast, a city I have only been to once, and raved about a local hooch, Jawbox Classic Dry Gin. Had I tried it? No was my response but I will certainly look out for it.

Wandering around the spirits section of Marks & Spencer I spotted it, competitively priced and as I was getting low on gin, I decided to buy a bottle. The gin comes in a rather dumpy, squat bottle with an artificial cork stopper. The labelling has a solid Victorian feel about it with white and gold lettering on a black background. It boasts that it is Ireland’s first single estate gin – it is distilled at Echinville Distillery, the first such to be licensed to distil spirits in Northern Ireland for 130 years. The neck bears the signature of its creator, Gerry White, together with the legend, “harvested, distilled and bottled by hand on one estate”.

If the events of 2016 have told us anything it is that we live in a post-truth world. Looking at the list of eleven botanicals that form the recipe – juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, grains of paradise, liquorice roots, cubebs, cardamom, cassia quills, black mountain heather and lemon peel – this can hardly be the case. True enough, the base spirit is made from barley grown on the Echinville estate, as is the water used, but most, if not all of the botanicals, cannot have a local provenance. There is a certain economy with the actualite in the claim, I feel.

The label sheds some light on the gin’s unusual name. The sink in many a Northern Irish household was the focal point of the house, where stories and experiences, gripes and groans were freely exchanged. It was colloquially known as the Jawbox and the gin, so Neill explains, is supposed to be the lubricant to promote conversation in the bar.

So what’s it like? To the nose it has a spicy aroma with a hint of citrus. To the taste it is firmly in the classic gin corner with citrus and spice providing a solid base allowing the juniper to come to the fore and then follows a sweet, slightly oily sensation. The aftertaste is prolonged and pleasant, with juniper in the ascendancy again. At 43% ABV it packs a punch but worked well with a judiciously selected tonic. If you like your classic gins, which I do, you cannot go wrong with this. They just need to get their marketing message straight.

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On the same shopping trip to M&S I picked up a bottle of Jensen’s Old Tom Gin which comes in a very elegant, rectangular bottle with frosted glass, a rather trendy and minimalist label, a small gold image of London’s Tower Bridge near where it is distilled and a screwcap. It uses a handwritten recipe dating back to the 1840s and the botanicals used give it its natural sweetness. Unlike many Old Toms available now, there is no added sugar. Jensen’s are coy as to the exact component of their spirit but its aroma contains hints of pepper and citrus. To the taste, liquorice is initially to the fore and the aftertaste is prolonged and slightly bitter but the complexity of the spirit is such that it stands up well to a strong tonic or as the base for a cocktail. This is already a firm favourite and at 43% ABV provides a solid start to an evening’s drinking.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Nineteen

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The ginaissance has spawned a phenomenal number of new, independent distillers, all jostling for attention and your hard-earned cash. It is hard to even make modest inroads into what is available. And that is not counting those distillers who were ploughing a furrow before the latest gin craze took off, those you might call the Martin Peters of the gin world, some ten years ahead of their time.

One of the gins in the vanguard of the ginaissance is our featured gin, Bulldog London Dry Gin which is branded as an independent gin for the independent thinker. Personally I find that after a few gins the ability to think independently or at all rapidly diminishes but I think I understand what they mean. The brain child of a former J P Morgan banker, Anshuman Vohra, it is distilled on contract by our old friends, G & J Distillers of Warrington, and has been on the market since October 2006.

It has a very distinctive bottle, squat and dark grey, if not black in colour. The neck is wide and is studded in the manner of a dog collar. The labelling is white and strikes a rather defiant tone, “Bulldog guards the time-honoured tradition of distilling, meeting all opposition with brilliant character and a palatable disposition. Respect its spirit and it will remain forever loyal”. The marketeers seem to be linking the hooch to the mythical bulldog spirit of Churchill and World War Two. I can see the link with independence but we seem to be straying too close to Brexit for my liking. It is a gin, after all, not a philosophical or political manifesto.

The stopper is a screw cap, large and clunky, masking a conventionally sized neck to the bottle. To the nose the crystal clear spirit has a pronounced juniper smell with a hint of lime. Make no mistake, this is a classic London dry gin. To the taste it is smooth, well balanced and slightly spicy leaving a pleasant and satisfying warm aftertaste. At 40% ABV it is just right and smooth enough to be the base for a cocktail or to host a tonic.

So what is in it? There are twelve botanicals in all used in its quadruple distillation process. There are nine we have encountered before  – juniper (natch), lemon peel, almond, cassia, lavender, orris, liquorice, angelica and coriander. What gives it its unusual twist and a hint of the orient are the three other botanicals dragon eye, poppy and lotus leaves. For the uninitiated (me included) dragon eye is a literal translation of the Chinese pinyin or longan, an edible fruit akin to the lychee. It gets its name because when shelled the fruit resembles an eyeball. it is sweet, juicy and succulent and is often used in Chinese cuisine. Its taste differs from that of the lychee in that its sweetness has a much drier flavour.

My sense is that these exotic flavourings whilst blending perfectly to give a balanced gin don’t stand out. Still, it is a very welcome addition to my collection and is an ideal opener to an evening’s session.

The Feast of Mammon has come and gone and Santa Claus has brought me some new gins to add to my collection and to explore. I will report on them in due course. Cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Eighteen

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The Scots may be losing out in the whisky stakes to the Japanese but they are putting in a spirited performance with their premium gins. In my exploration of the ginaissance some of my favourites to date have been distilled north of the border. Perhaps this is not too surprising because in the mid to late 18th century the city of Edinburgh was a hub of distilling expertise. In 1777 there were eight licensed distilleries in the city and Port Leith area as well as upwards of 400 illegal stills.

In the early 19th century John Haig took over Leith’s first legal distillery, the Leith distillery, and the port area was soon established as a centre for rectifying and distilling as well as exporting rectified grain spirit to the distillers in the English capital. In 1823 duties on Scottish spirit were halved which meant that better quality spirit in larger volumes could be sent south of the border. The English distillers were soon up in arms and Parliament rescinded the tax break. This ostensible set back only fuelled Scottish ingenuity. By 1826 Robert Stein had invented  a new method of continuous distillation – a process further improved by the Irish distiller, Aeneas Coffey – which speeded up the process and allowed the use of cheaper grains rather than the more expensive malt barley.

The result was that inexpensive, lighter, neutral grain spirit was available to the London distillers by the gallon, leading many of them to move away from the sweeter Old Tom gin and to develop the London Dry. London Dry as a style has ruled the roost pretty much ever since.

With this heritage it is perhaps surprising to discover that there is only one gin distillery currently operating in the centre of Edinburgh, in Rutland Place in EH1 to be precise, and then only since 2014, a claim that The Spencerfield Spirit Company went to court to prove when Pickering’s Gin made a counter claim on their website. A prickly lot are the Scottish gin distillers, for sure.

Our featured gin this month, Edinburgh Gin, supplied by the ever reliable 31Dover.com, comes from the Spencerfield stable. Ironically, it started life out in 2010 in England at the Langley Distillery in Birmingham, although a 200 year old Scottish copper pot boasting the sobriquet of Jenny was used in the process. Using finest Scottish grain spirit together with juniper, coriander, citrus peel, angelica and orris root the spirit was then shipped up to Edinburgh where locally sourced botanicals such as heather, milk thistle, pine and juniper berries were added. It was only in 2014 that the whole process was migrated up to Edinburgh.

The bottle has an art deco feel about it using black and grey shades against a white background on the labelling. Edinburgh Gin is embossed in the glass and the stopper is synthetic. To the nose the gin which has an ABV of 43% has a piney and spicey aroma. To the taste the crystal clear spirit is very junipery with spices coming through with a creamy texture. The aftertaste is predominantly one of pepper and pine. Tasted neat and with the obligatory Fever-Tree mixed it had a very pleasing warm and smooth feel to it. A definite hit.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Seventeen

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One of the hardest things about exploring the ginaissance is striking a balance between returning time and again to gins that you like and taking a risk with something new. Now that there are many more premium gins on sale in pubs and bars you can mitigate the risk of trying something new by ordering a double of what you fancy while you are out on your travels. The problem with this approach is that your palate may not be fresh when you sample it and anyway the sheer pretentiousness that goes with tasting a gin is best done in the privacy of your own four walls.

The gin I am featuring this time is a local one, Silent Pool, whose distillers are to be found on the Albury Estate in the Surrey Hills near Guildford. Legend has it that Prince John came across the daughter of a woodcutter bathing in the altogether in the spring-fed lake known as Silent Pool. Instead of wooing her as he had intended the lusty prince startled her and she swam off to the centre of the lake, got into difficulties and promptly drowned. Her screams, they say, can still be heard around midnight.

Whether there is any truth in this I know not or what the frightened maid has added to the waters of Silent Pool is unclear but Silent Pool Distillers use the spring water, filtered I’m pleased to say, in the process of making their hooch. Their aim, according to their publicity, is to make a spirit which resonates with the area and utilises as many local botanicals as possible.

The gin comes in a beautiful turquoise tinted bottle with the 24 botanicals used pictured in a coppery colour. The top has a copper coloured seal and the stopper is made of glass. The front of the bottle bears the legend in white “Silent Pool – intricately realised gin – distilled from grain”. It is 43% ABV and there is no batch number, at least on my bottle supplied with their normal efficiency by those nice people at 31Dover.com.

The gin is crystal clear and to the nose is quite fresh and floral with a hint of honey. It is a surprise when to the taste it appears much more peppery and spicy than the aroma might indicate. The juniper is there but is quite subdued and there are a variety of flavours and sensations to enjoy as the botanicals jostle for attention. The aftertaste is citrusy and then spicy with a hint of lavender. I would put it at the more floral end of the gin tasting spectrum and, perhaps, there are too many botanicals in play to make it a truly exceptional gin.

The base spirit is made from grain and to that is added the first tranche of botanicals including angelica, bergamot, bitter orange, cardamom, cassia, coriander, cubeb, grains of paradise, locally sourced honey juniper, liquorice and orris. These are allowed to soak in the base spirit for 24 hours before being transferred into a 250 litre copper pot still. Alongside, chamomile, elderflower, kaffir lime leaves, linden flowers and rose petals are soaked in a higher proof spirit, filtered and then added to the mix already in the still.

Within the still is a gin basket in which the remaining botanicals – lavender, lime, orange and pear – are added together with additional angelica, bitter orange, coriander, grains of paradise and juniper. By the time the alcohol has travelled up the rectification column it has attained an ABV of 90% and then is blended with the spring water to ensure that socks are not knocked off by the first sip.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Sixteen

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With so many independent distillers surfing the wave that is the ginaissance it is easy to get sniffy about the attempts of the big supermarket chains to enter the premium gin market. Their obvious advantages is reach – regrettably, no one these days is too far from any of the majors – and price – they are able to occupy a price range considerably below those that the independents can or deign to charge. Tempting as they may be, are they any good?

Our first featured gin is to be found at Lidl – my bottle cost £9.99 for 70 centilitres – Castelgy London Dry Gin. It comes in a squat green bottle with a screw cap, the label at the front bearing a rather Teutonic coat of arms and boasting a 100% pure grain spirit. Perusing the label at the back of the bottle I find that it is produced in Germany – no surprise there – by Eckerts Wacholder Brennerei GmbH. They have been in the business for 125 years and produce a wide range of spirits and  liqueurs. Castelgy doesn’t appear on their website so, presumably, it is distilled on licence for Lidl. The rear label on my bottle came with a helpful recipe for gin and tonic.

At just 37.5% ABV it is a little undercooked for my taste but made up for its lack of punch with a more intense the morning-after headache than I normally experience. Apart from the pure grain spirit base, mentioned twice on the labelling, it is a little vague as to the botanicals, mentioning only juniper (natch) and coriander. There is certainly some citrus component in there, probably orange peel, and my taste buds seemed to detect ginger. To the nose it has a rather antiseptic odour with juniper dominating and a schnapps style smell coming through. It is clear and to the taste it seemed quite bland with a surprisingly perfumed sensation coming through. The aftertaste was stronger than I had anticipated and this is where the spices, probably ginger, come to the fore. As my first gin of the evening I had to wait for the aftertaste to dissipate before moving on to my next one.

All in all, it was much better than I had feared and would make an acceptable – and cheap – base for a cocktail. You need to choose your tonic with some care to neutralise, if that is possible, the strong after burn.

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The other gin featured this time is Asda’s Triple Distilled Premium Gin, retailing for about £15. The bottle is a dumpy bell-shaped affair with a screw cap. The labelling is elegantly minimalist but at least the botanicals are disclosed – juniper, lemon peel, liquorice root, orange peel, coriander, orris and angelica, staple ingredients all. There is no indication who distilled it for them other than it was in the UK. To the nose the juniper was to the fore and the citrus elements were detectable. A clear spirit it was pleasing to the taste, slightly oily and the coriander and citrus was in evidence. The aftertaste was strong but not unpleasant with a hint of spice and liquorice. It was a well-balanced spirit, particularly in comparison with Castelgy, and whilst it is stronger at 41% ABV it did not give me the kind of headache that makes you consider, albeit fleetingly, giving up drinking.

I suppose you pays your money and you makes your choice. I’m not sure I would recommend either as starting points for exploring the ginaissance but if you are watching your pennies, there are worse places to start.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Fifteen

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A question for regular topers – when is it acceptable to have the first snifter of the day? There is a delicate balance to be struck, to be sure – too early and you run the risk of appearing to be in the thrall of the demon drink and too late and you have let valuable drinking hours slip you by, requiring you to create the impression that you have a real thirst on to make up for lost time.

For me the bewitching hour is midday. That twelve hour stretch between midnight and noon gives the body enough time to clear out the excess of the previous day, leaving half a day to enjoy a drink or three at a leisurely pace. After all, the wide array of drinks that the ginaissance has spawned requires that they be appreciated in all their glory. Some, though, take a different approach. Edward Kain, a Victorian engineer, inventor and gentleman was in the habit of retiring at six o’clock in the evening to his favourite armchair with a gin and tonic in hand, his first of the day, to allow his mind to mull over some thorny engineering problem. His restraint was commendable.

His great-grandson, Michael Kain, director of Bramley & Gage, based in Thornbury just outside of Bristol, has produced this month’s featured gin, 6 o’clock Gin, to celebrate this diurnal habit. It comes in a stout, dumpy, domed, dark blue bottle with a glass stopper. The front of the bottle has a strikingly simple design with mechanical cogs inside the number six and the legend “strikingly simple”. On the back of the bottle there is some verbiage explaining that the hooch is distilled in their custom-built copper pot still, funded through peer-to-peer lending incidentally, with its unique double sphere head. My bottle is marked lot number 618108 , bottle number 0654, coming in at a respectable 43% ABV.

However, they are remarkably coy as to what is in the gin. As well as the obligatory juniper, there are six botanicals but to date I have only been able to identify for certain coriander, orris, angelica, orange peel and elderflower. From my tasting there seems to be a hint of liquorice. To the nose this crystal clear spirit is full of juniper and orange. To the taste it is smooth but for me the juniper is overpowering at the expense of the other botanicals and the aftertaste is of tannin. It is a very refreshing drink and is perfect for supping on a hot summer day, alas long since gone now. I found it less satisfying when mixed with an aggressive tonic like Fever-Tree and was better with a milder, sweeter tonic.

As a botanical liquorice contains a natural sweetener called glycyrrhizinic acid which is over twenty times sweeter than ordinary sugar. Distillers used it for these properties and it is thought that liquorice was a popular substitute for sugar in the making of Old Tom gin. Liquorice also contains anethole which gives it its characteristic anise flavouring. Anethole is less soluble in water than it is in ethanol and so when water is added to the spirit to reduce the strength, the spirit can take a cloudy appearance. Distillers who want to use liquorice but maintain a pure spirit have to chill filter it.

Until the next time, whatever hour it may be, cheers!