Tag Archives: 22 Islay botanicals

Gin o’Clock – Part Seven

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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.

Cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Five

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Those nice people at 31Dover.com, in return for my complimentary review of their excellent service gave me a 10% discount on my next order. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I did my research and selected two very different but excellent Scottish gins.

The island of Islay, the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides, is best known for its whiskies, including one of my favourites, the incredibly peaty Laphroaig, and so it was a bit of surprise to me that the Bruichladdich distillery has turned its hand to producing a contemporary premium gin, the Botanist. I was a little wary of ordering it as it uses 31 botanicals in its distillation process – a case of going overboard if there ever was one – but, astonishingly, the result is almost perfection.

The hooch is distilled in Ugly Betty, an over-sized upside down dustbin made of copper and the process takes some 17 hours. Naturally the wonderful Islay spring water is used in the process sourced from Dirty Dottie’s spring on Octomore farm. There are nine botanicals used which are not sourced locally – angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon bark, coriander seed, juniper berries, lemon peel, liquorice root, orange peel and our old friend orris root. The gin is then passed through what might be termed a basket of botanical delights, twenty two botanicals foraged from the island itself – apple mint, birch leaves, bog myrtle leaves, sweet chamomile, creeping thistle flowers, the flowers of elder, gorse, heather and hawthorn, prostrate juniper berries, Lady’s bedstraw flowers, lemon balm, meadow sweet, the leaves of peppermint, mugwort, red clover, sweet cicely, thyme, water mint and wood sage and not forgetting tansy and white clover. Phew – you can see what I mean.

The bottle is squat and round with an artificial stopper and the Latin names of the Islay botanicals dimpled into the glass. At 46 per cent proof it packs a punch, is clear and to the smell is pungent and floral. The initial sensation when in the mouth is of the bitterness of the juniper but then the spices come into play and then a wonderful, complex and delicate fusion of tastes and sensations. The aftertaste is again dominated by the juniper but there is a faint taste of pepper and liquorice. I found it very acceptable, an excellent opener to an evening’s drinking and one not to be drowned by an overpowering tonic.

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My other choice was the classic Tanqueray No Ten, distilled at Cameronbridge Gin Distillery in Windygates. It is 47 per cent proof and comes in an ornate green bottle which can only be described as a fluted dustbin with a conical lid and a red seal bearing the letter T just below the screw cap. It takes its name from the 500 litre pot, known as Tiny Ten, in which it is distilled.

A citrus flavour dominates, unsurprisingly as the whole fruit of grapefruit, lemon and lime feature among the ingredients, rather than just the peel, as well as botanicals such as fresh chamomile flowers, juniper, angelica, coriander and liquorice.The gin is clear but has a very silky, rich texture in the mouth and the flavours are kept in the aftertaste with an almost buttery finish. Very different from the Botanist it comes across as a more rounded, balanced, elegant and  dare I say, sophisticated drink and would be wonderful in something like a martini.

Until the next time, cheers!