My exploration of the ginaissance continues, buoyed by the news that I am surfing an ever-increasing wave. According to figures released by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, sales of gin from supermarkets and off-licences topped £400m in 2015 here in Blighty and sales in restaurants, pubs and bars exceeded £500m. They anticipate that sales in 2016 will top the £1 billion mark, fuelled by a further 49 distilleries opening up in 2015. It is hard to keep up with it all.
Without accelerating the inevitable damage to my liver, I am gradually working my way through my stock. There is always a touch of sadness when you realise that the latest double you have poured from one of your favourites has exhausted your supply. Over the last month I have had to say a heartfelt farewell to my bottles of Plymouth, Tanqueray, Opihr and Hendrick’s. Bottle levels of Caorunn and Berkeley Square are getting close to the plimsoll line.
Still, when one runs out there is always the opportunity to replace it. While I want to expand my tasting experience my newly developed strategy is to buy one that I have had before and enjoyed and to buy one that is totally unknown to me. Those kind people at 31dover.com with their exemplary next day delivery service do the rest.
The first of this month’s duo is an old friend, Portobello Road No 171, one of the first premium gins I sampled and high up on my list of favourites. It is a reassuring sight to see a fullish bottle on my shelf, rather than the empty one which served only to remind me what I was missing.
The second is Broker’s Premium London Gin, which comes in a distinctive bottle with a plastic bowler hat as a cap with a metal screw cap rather than plastic or cork and a pin-stripe and bowler wearing and umbrella bearing city gent on the label. The image is one of conservatism, reinforced by the approach to distilling and the botanicals used in producing the hooch. The men behind Broker’s claim to have eschewed the modern trend of throwing a kitchen sink of botanicals at the spirit a la the Botanist or going for an oddball taste a la Thomas Dakin and stick to a recipe that has existed for some 200 years.
Distilled in what was once a brewery just outside Birmingham using a copper still called Constance, the base of the spirit is a quadruple-distilled spirit made from English wheat. Ten botanicals – juniper berries, coriander seed, orris root, nutmeg, cassia bark, cinnamon, liquorice, orange peel, lemon peel and angelica root – are soaked in the base spirit for 24 hours and then the still is fired up for a fifth and final distillation.
So what is it like? To the nose the spirit has a pronounced juniper based aroma with a hint of citrus. In the mouth it feels very clean with a hint of spiciness and with juniper and citrus to the fore. As for aftertaste it has a spicy warmth which rounds off what is an exquisitely tasty gin. It is easy to see why this fine example of a classic London dry gin has won so many prizes. A definite hit.