Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Eight

Is it cause or effect? The ginaissance has firmly established gin as the trendy drink du jour. More people are drinking it and more distillers and brands are entering the market. Is this fuelling the demand or simply a market-led response? Who knows? But what is becoming crystal clear is that gin makers are having to become ever more innovative and resourceful to carve out even a small space in the gin market.

If there was a prize for the most beautiful and impressively designed gin bottle, and for all I know there may well be one, Generous Gin would be up there amongst the leading contenders. It is a stunning, white vase-shaped bottle covered with the images of botanicals in black – the organic version of the gin uses green. In the centre of the front of a bottle is a black label with white script, informing the prospective purchaser that it is called Generous Gin and that it is “delightfully fresh and aromatic.” The label at the rear gives more information about the product.

Generous is a French gin which, rather like G-Vine Floraisson, comes from the Cognac region, and bottled by Odevie SAS, who are to be found in La Rochefoucauld. The bottle proudly proclaims its French provenance. According to the manufacturers, it is their attempt to create a “simple gin” which highlights the “best of what French tradition can offer: great natural ingredients, combined with a high precision of distillation in small pot-stills” and one which can give “the best Gin and Tonic.” Their aim, they state, is to produce “a smooth and aromatic gin which combines fruity, floral and spicy scents with an extraordinary freshness.” No lack of ambition there, then.

From what I can establish, there are six botanicals which make up the gin – juniper, citrus, red pepper, jasmine and elder flower – some of which are macerated and others distilled. The process is not quite clear but then it’s the product rather than the process that we should concern ourselves with.

The bottle is a delight to touch and feel and opening the screwcap top unleashes a heady aroma of pine, citrus and flowers, quite delightful and somewhat intoxicating. If you get the impression that this is going to be a floral gin with the dial set at eleven, you would not be wrong when you take your first sip. The spirit, wonderfully crystal clear, has a very fresh taste to it with floral elements and spices to the fore. The juniper takes very much a backseat in this gin. The aftertaste is clean, fresh with a lingering sensation of dryness and at 44% ABV it packs a punch.

I could imagine myself sitting in a shady bower, seeking refuge from the harsh sun, breathing in the aromas and fragrances of the flowers which surround me, sipping a glass of Generous. The match between the floral notes of the gin and my surroundings would be perfect. But for everyday drinking, I miss the juniper lead and I found that if you were not careful with the mixer you used, you could seriously destabilise the fragile balance of the spirit. A very neutral tonic seems to work best for me, at least.

If you like a floral led gin, then this is definitely one to explore. For me, it will certainly feature on my summer gin-drinking menu. For the meantime the bottle will take pride of place on my gin shelf, standing like a Ming vase, until the sun starts to shine.

Until the next time, cheers!

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Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Seven

 

Whether you like it or not, 2018 was the year of flavoured gins, jostling for attention in the crowded marketplace created by the ginaissance. For me, though, it seems nothing more than a fad, one unlikely to stand the test of time. I have commented more than once that what really floats my boat is a gin that is firmly in the London Dry Gin camp, juniper led and uncomplicated, without too many botanicals jostling for attention.

One gin that firmly ticks all my requirements is the rather delicious and moreish Foxdenton 48 London Dry Gin, a welcome gift from Santa. It comes in a clear, rather squat, cylindrical bottle with a large, beige-coloured label with silver and black script. The bottom part of the label has a tableau of the botanicals that make up the mix and at the top a line drawing of Foxdenton Hall. There is a potted history of the estate on the left-hand side of the label, as you look at the bottle. The neck is covered in black foil with the Foxdenton logo, a bull and crown, embossed in silver. It oozes class and elegance.

Disappointingly, the cork stopper is artificial, you can’t have everything, I suppose, but any momentary disappointment is soon dissipated by the satisfying sound that the cork makes when removed. The aroma released is heavily juniper led, the classic gin smell, with more than a hint of spice. To the taste it is thick and creamy with the juniper making way, but still remaining in situ, for the coriander and a citrusy after note, introducing a refreshing element to what might otherwise have been a little spice heavy. The aftertaste, which is predominantly juniper, lingers and invites you to sample some more.

At 48% ABV it is at the heavy end of the gin spectrum but you wouldn’t guess it when drinking the spirit. There are just six botanicals in the mix, less is certainly more in this case – juniper berries, orris root, coriander seeds, angelica root, lemon peel and lime flower oil. The result is a smooth, rich, well-balanced gin, almost luxurious to the taste. In my book it is just what a gin should be.

Inevitably, there is a story behind the gin. The current owner of the Foxdenton Estate Company, Nicholas Radclyffe started to turn his hand at making fruit liqueurs for his shooting party guests. His concoctions went down well and so he set about producing them, on a relatively small scale. Each of his liqueurs used gin as a base and were made using traditional recipes.

It was perhaps no surprise that Radclyffe should turn his attention to the spirit that underpinned his liqueurs, gin. In collaboration with business partner, John Simpson, and the head of Thames Distillers, Charles Maxwell, whose family has been producing gin since 1700, he set about creating a new gin. After six months of experimenting they produced a gin that met their exacting standards and in July 2009 it was launched on the world. Naturally, it forms the base for their liqueurs, of which I have sampled the delicious Damson.

If you are looking to buy only one gin this year, the superb Foxdenton should be at the top of your list.

Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Six

Well, Father Christmas didn’t disappoint me on the gin stakes. The first bottle I unwrapped was a rather splendid affair, a rather squat, hexagonal shaped bottle, whose label, printed on Japanese washi paper, told me that it was Roku Gin.

Marketing is everything, at least when it comes to gin in order to get an edge in the crowded market spawned by the ginaissance. Roku is Japanese for six and the spirit uses six botanicals which are representative of the Land of the Rising Sun. But the name is a tad misleading as there are another eight botanicals which go into the mix. Perhaps it should be called Ju Yon, not as catchy perhaps, but more representative of what is actually in the drink.

The label has an elegant and distinctive design featuring the number six in Kanji script. The hexagon bottle is rather sensual to the touch, it oozes elegance and class, and each facet of the bottle features one of the traditional Japanese botanicals.

What might be described as the rhythm section of the gin is made up of eight botanicals which this writer, at least, is delighted to find in the mix – the old favourites, juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and seed, cardamom, cinnamon, bitter orange and lemon peel. The base spirit is neutral grain-based, rather than anything fancy like sake.

And now to the Japanese botanicals.

I suppose most occidentals’ stereotypical view of Japan is a land of cherry blossom and this gin does nothing to recalibrate conceptions. Roku takes the flower and the leaf of the Sakura, that beautiful and rather delicate ornamental cherry which are a delight to even Western gardens. They bloom in late winter and early spring and represent renewal, rebirth, the start of another cycle of life.

Another traditional image of Japan is a land of elaborate tea ceremonies and two forms of green tea are added to the hooch. We have sencha which means new tea and, as its name suggests, is the first crop of the year and considered to be the most tasty. It is supposed to have health-giving properties. We will see. The other variant of green tea in the mix is gyokuro which appears later in the year and is grown under shade rather than the full sun.

The next flavour of the Orient added to the mix is Sansho pepper. They consist of little green, unripened pods from the Japanese prickly ash and have a citrus taste with a bit of a fierce peppery kick. To complete the sextet we have yuzu peel form, unsurprisingly, a fruit called yuzu which is a cross between a grapefruit and a mandarin. The peel is used particularly in miso soup.

So, what is it like?

The scewcap top releases an exotic aroma infused with cherry and green tea. To the taste the spirit is rich and oily, it louched when I added tonic, with the traditional gin notes soon giving way, briefly, to the cherry blossom, before the tea with its tannic overtones takes over. It becomes quite bitter and peppery with hints of citrus in the aftertaste.

At 43% ABV, the Roku for the Japanese domestic market weighs in at 47%, it struck me as an elegant, well-balanced and interesting gin, one to savour and a welcome addition to my groaning gin shelf. Suntory, who launched the gin internationally in 2017, have come up with a winner here.

Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Five

Sitting here writing this post, summer seems so far away. It is the time of year that TOWT and I flee cold, misty, and frosty Blighty for warmer climes for a bit of winter sun.

There is a school of thought that gin is a summer drink, best enjoyed sitting outside when the sun is setting. That may be so and there are certain gins, generally with more of a floral overload, that seem best suited for quaffing al fresco but for the true aficionado gin is surely an all around the year drink. Such is the wide variety of the gins available, courtesy of the ginaissance, that it is possible to find one whose attributes either fit in perfectly with the prevailing weather conditions – perhaps one with a high spice content for those winter evenings – or help you recapture the mood of a balmy summer evening.

I have already commented that one of the trends in the gin world in 2018 is the production of coloured and flavoured gins. Pink, particularly strawberry, and orange seem very much on trend this year and you can tell something is stirring in the undergrowth when one of the undoubted big boys join in.

For me, Tanqueray, owned by Diageo, can do nothing wrong. Their No 10 is to die for and their London Dry Gin is always a reliable companion. I always ensure that I have one or the other (or both) on my shelf for those times when I want to return to the arms of a faithful companion. In April 2018 they added another to their range, Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla.

It comes in the familiar, Tanqueray-shaped bottle, fluted with an indentation near the neck in which is the Tanqueray seal. But instead of bottle-green the glass is clear, the better to show off the coloured spirit, which looks a bit like Lucozade. The label is colourful featuring segments of oranges and the legend advises that it is made with bittersweet Seville oranges.

On opening the screwcap, the aroma is a heady mix of oranges and juniper and despite my scepticism about flavoured gins, I found it inviting. To the taste it was not as sickly as I had anticipated, the zesty taste of the oranges complemented by the traditional botanicals of Tanqueray’s London Dry Gin. With an ABV of 41.3% it makes for a very satisfying, smooth drink, fruity and full of flavour, leaving a nice sensation of orange and spice as an aftertaste.

The inspiration for this gin, apart from jumping on a bandwagon, is apparently a recipe concocted by Charles Tanqueray himself whilst he was traipsing around the orange groves of Spain. The cynic in me thinks that it is London Dry Gin with oranges added but I’m sure there is more to it than that.

If flavoured gins are your bag, then you can do no worse than go for the one produced by one of the acknowledged market leaders. Did it transport me to the sun-soaked orange groves of Spain? I’m not sure. I will have to drink a bit more of it to be able to give you a definitive answer.

There will be no more gin reviews until Father Christmas has been. So, until 2019, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Four

There must be some consolations to be had for pushing a rather battered trolley around the grubby aisles of an Aldi supermarket. Well, on my last trip to our local outlet, I found one at least. They are bringing their fetching approach of stack them untidily, sell ‘em cheap to the ginaissance and have a rather intriguing selection of gins available.

The one that particularly caught my eye was a rather squat, rectangular-shaped bottle with a rather unobtrusive, if not apologetic, label. Picking it up, I saw that it was Beckett’s London Dry Gin, the brain child of the eponymous Neil Beckett and which has been around since 2014. It is distilled at Kingston Distillers. The label, white with a pale green surround of branches and juniper berries, was unusually informative, always a bonus I find when browsing through gins. Intrigued by the write-up in Ginventory, I decided to give it a go and what a find it was.

As often is the case with gins, there is a back story to the gin, usually a desperate attempt to find that ever elusive marketing edge. But at least with Beckett’s there is a conservationist angle, if that is your bag. The junipers are hand-picked from Box Hill in the rolling Surrey Downs. They claim, and I have no reason to doubt them, that it is the only the gin, to date, that uses juniper grown and picked in England. The cynic in me says that there is usually a very good reason something is not used but the proof of the botanical is in the drinking.

What is laudable about using English juniper is that it is an attempt to reverse the lamentable decline in the fortunes of the berry here in Blighty. A combination of poor seed quality, disease and, until recently, the decline in interest in gin has meant that juniper has almost been eradicated from large parts of the country. As a quid pro quo for using the junipers, Beckett’s gin is being used as a flagship for the juniper conservation effort. If more distillers follow Beckett’s lead, then there may be a chance that juniper will re-establish itself here.

Along with the juniper, five other botanicals are added to the neutral grain spirit to produce the hooch – mint grown in Kingston upon Thames, lime and coriander from Morocco, orris root from Italy, and orange peel from Spain. You will probably have gathered by now, if you read these posts on a regular basis, that I am a fan of relatively simple gins using a small number of botanicals which allow the juniper to take the lead. This gin certainly ticks that box.

The label informed me that it was from Batch no LDG17 and was bottle number 5018. Come in No 5018, your time is up. Removing the grey foil from the neck of the bottle and the artificial stopper, the aroma that greeted me was one heavily influenced by juniper with hints of citrus and, perhaps, mint. To the taste it presented as a well-balanced gin with the juniper blending well with the citrus elements and the mint giving it a rather bittersweet taste and a long, cool, refreshing aftertaste.

It made for a very satisfying drink and at 40% ABV is one that is going to encourage you to have another one.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Three

For those of us who surf the ginaissance and like to stock our drinks cabinet with hitherto untried gins, sourcing the stuff can be a bit of a problem. For sure, there are a plethora of on-line wholesalers but by the time you have added postage and packing into the equation, what seemed like a bit of a bargain can turn into an expensive acquisition. Trips to Cornwall have to be rationed and so I’m left with the local supermarkets and offies.

I was getting a bit fed up with our local branch of Waitrose. They have an extensive range of gins, to be sure, but by now I had sampled all of their buyer’s selections. On a recent visit, though, I spotted a bottle of Cotswold Dry Gin which I seized with the alacrity that a cobra does an unfortunate rat.

It comes in a rather distinctive, and dare I say it, elegant dark-green bottle, almost like a premium wine, with a dark, wine bottle-like label at the front, silver edged bearing the name of the spirit, the logo of a pheasant fanning its tail and date that the gin was established, 2014. My bottle was the first of 7,500 from the 19th batch produced in 2017, or so a signed second label stuck on at a jaunty diagonal angle tells me. It is stunning and can be purchased in a gift box if you are foolhardy enough, and generous enough, to part with it.

A neutral, pure wheat spirit used as the base in a 500-litre copper pot still, to which is added some water. The base botanicals – juniper, coriander seeds and angelica – are added and left to mascerate overnight for around 15 hours. The rest of the nine botanicals used are then added – lavender, grapefruit, bay leaf, lime, black pepper, and cardamom – and the mix is then slowly boiled. The first and last third of the resultant mix are discarded, and then allowed to rest for five days before being diluted down to its very feisty fighting weight of 46% ABV.

One thing to note is that a large amount of the botanicals is used in the process, the result of which is that the eventual gin is somewhat on the oily side and when ice and/or a mixer is added, it can cloud, a phenomenon known as louching. Just think of what happens when you add water to ouzo. If a crystal-clear gin is your thing, either drink it neat or steer clear.

Upon removing the artificial stopper protected by a foil a la wine, the aroma is one of citrus and, perhaps, lavender with the heavy tones of juniper lurking in the background. To the taste the gin is initially rather sweet but eventually the pepper fights its way through and then the juniper and lavender make an appearance. In the mouth it has a rather oily texture but not in an unpleasant way. The aftertaste is a well-balanced blend of sweet and spice. I found it very refreshing and a nice twist on a juniper-led gin.

The story behind the gin is one that is by now very familiar. Master mind Daniel Szor, a former hedge fund investor, established a distillery in the beautiful village of Stourton, near Shipston-on-Stour, deep in the heart of the Cotswolds, in 2012, the first distillery in the area. The plan was to distil whisky, a long and time-consuming affair, and one which can have a significant impact on cash-flow when there are significant fixed costs to absorb.

The answer, of course, was to introduce a product range that was available and ready to sell in a much shorter time frame – gin. And so this rather intriguing and high-quality gin was born.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Two

My wife and I are regular visitors to our local garden centre, she on the hunt for bargain-basement plants and I in search of unusual gins. Such is the power of the ginaissance that anywhere that attracts the middle classes with a chunk of disposable income jangling in their pocket seems to want to cash in on this particular gravy train.

To give Longacres their due, they do avoid the common or garden varieties and I have found there, on occasion, something that piques my interest. On a recent visit I stumbled across a bottle of Aber Falls Small Batch Welsh Dry Gin or as we bilinguists like to call it, Rheadr Faer Jin Sych Cymru.

It comes in a very distinctive light blue bottle with a convex neck and a wax covering over a synthetic cork stopper. The front of the bottle has one of those Celtic designs which were once all the rage amongst those who sported tattoos and the double lls in the Anglicised version of the hooch’s name are elongated to represent the eponymous waterfalls.

Mercifully, the spirit is clear and uncoloured and once the tightly fitting stopper is removed accompanied by an inviting and satisfying sound, the aroma that assails one’s nostrils is primarily one of juniper with notes of citrus coming through. To the taste it presents itself as a well-balanced mix between the spicy elements in the mix and the citrus with juniper to the fore. The aftertaste is a subtle and pleasing mix of sweet and spice. With an ABV of 41.3% it makes for a moreish and satisfying drink and for someone who loves variations on the more traditional London Dry Gin model this is certainly right down my stryd.

As to what is in the gin, it is hard to be certain but my educated guess would put juniper, liquorice, angelica and coriander seeds in there with grapefruit, lemon and orange. There may be more, who knows? What is certain is that it is distilled in a small copper still using the pure waters from the Aber Falls which gush down from the Snowdonia mountain range. For the more adventurous Aber Falls Distillery offers a Rhubarb and Ginger Gin and an Orange Marmalade Gin.

You may have realised by now that the Aber Falls distillery is Welsh. More accurately, it is to be found in North Wales in the village of Abergwyngregyn, at the foot of the waterfall. It is one of only four distilleries (currently) in Wales and the only one in the northern half of the country – indeed, there hasn’t been one there for over a century – occupying what was originally a slate works and then a margarine factory.

The original objective in establishing the distillery was, and is, to distill whisky but, as we have noted before, it takes such a long time. With time on their hands, the equipment and space, James Wright and his team noticed the boom in gin and decided to get a slice of the action. This they have done with some aplomb and their Welsh Dry Gin is a very welcome addition to my gin shelf.

The first batch of whisky should be available in the autumn of 2020.

Until the next time, lloniannau!