Gin O’Clock – Part Sixty Four

You will be pleased to know that I have got off my soap box, had a lie down, consumed a few stiff G&Ts and am now ready to continue my exploration of the ginaissance.

The budget supermarket, Aldi, is continuing to make inroads into what was once the preserve of the four or five big supermarket chains. What they lack in choice and comfort, they more than make up for in price and when times are hard, every penny counts. They have made a concerted attempt to grab a slice of the growing gin market and one of their range that took my eye and found its way into my shopping trolley was Topaz Blue London Dry Gin. At £13.99 for a 70 cl bottle, it is a snip.

 

The first thing to say is that the bottle bears some resemblance to that of the more expensive Bombay Sapphire. Surely the use of the name of a precious stone is just too much of a coincidence? The script on the label and the shape of the image at the front of the bottle also look very similar from afar. And then there is the bluish hue to the bottle, given by the blue backing of the labelling in the Aldi product’s case rather than the colour of its glass. But, to be fair, that is where the similarities end.

The bottle is tall and slim and quite tactile. For those of us who are all fingers and thumbs, it is easy to manoeuvre with one hand, something you often cannot say about the fatter, more elaborate bottles used by the more expensive gin makers. The cap is a rather flimsy, foil affair in dark blue.

The labelling is quite informative as to what the gin is all about, boasting that it is the result of “superior small batch distillation.” Comforting to know, I’m sure. It goes on to proclaim that “this superior gin is a testament to the passion and artistry of our distiller, infusing wild botanicals and select fruits for an earthy, spicy, fruit driven, full bodied flavour.” Having blown smoke up the distiller’s posterior, the bottle omits to tell us who it might be. We must rest in the knowledge they know who they are.

The reverse of the bottle helpfully lists the botanicals to be found within, together with a little pictogram of each so you can see what they look like in their natural state. They are juniper, coriander, angelica, almond, lemon peel, cassia, orange peel, liquorice, orris and cinnamon. A solid selection which holds out the promise of a juniper-led, conventional London dry gin.

Unscrewing the top, the aroma is initially of juniper and coriander with spice and citrus elements coming through. Compared with some gins the nose is not as strong as I would have expected. That feeling is compounded when I took a sip. It seemed rather light-bodied, as though something was missing. The initial sensation was of juniper, quite spicy and slightly sour, and then the spices and citrus elements broke through, ending with a spicy aftertaste. Perhaps this is where the liquorice came in to play.

I just felt that it was a little undercooked, promising more than it could actually deliver and one that would probably not be suitable to drink neat. With a decent tonic, I found it much more palatable and at 40% ABV, it made for a pleasant early evening drink.

Of course, that is only my opinion. Better judges than I awarded it a gold medal at the Spirits Business Gin Masters last year, after a blind tasting. Try for yourself.

Until the next time, cheers!

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Gin O’Clock – Part Sixty Two

Is Camberley in Scotland?

I only ask the question because I thought that Aldi’s tie up with Eden Mill distillery was limited to Scottish stores. But, lo and behold, there nestling in the spirits section of our local store is a bottle of Eden Mill Botanical Project Traditional Batch Gin. Perhaps the ginaissance has played havoc with the traditional concepts of geography.

And a lovely bottle it is too. It is a stoneware bottle with one of those weird metal swing top contraptions, similar to those found on a Grolsch lager bottle, that force the cap down and which you have to lift up to open. A word of caution, mine fell apart after the second time I used it. If you like those fiendish Japanese metal puzzles, you will easily put it back together again.

The labelling is in green, presumably to emphasise the botanicals in the mix. Unusually for a gin to be found in Aldi, the rear of the bottle is quite helpful in describing what you might encounter inside. Although it only comes in a 50cl bottle, so it is relatively expensive, at £19.99, on an Aldi gin price spectrum when compared to its 70cl rivals, any disappointment on that score is more than made up by its ABV of 43%.

Eden Mill operates out of St Andrew’s in Fife, better known for being the spiritual home of golf than the producer of spirits. But the team are setting out to change that. Originally a brewery, it branched out to produce gins and whisky in 2014. They use pot stills for distilling their gin, bringing in the neutral grain spirit which makes up the base.

There are a number of gins that have come from The Eden Mill distillery, principally Original, Oak Gin, Sea Buckthorn Gin, Love Gin and Golf Gin. The Botanical Project Gins that can be found in Aldi include Chilli and Ginger and Blueberry and Vanilla, as well as the Original which, given my dislike of weirdly flavoured gins, I considered the safest to try.

The botanical of note in the mix is caraway seed. This is not the first time I have encountered it in a gin, it is one of the botanicals in Boodles’ British Gin London Dry. Used extensively in European and Mediterranean cooking, the caraway seeds, when roasted gently under a low flame and then ground, provide a warm, sweet, and slightly peppery flavour. Tradition has it that it was used to ward off witches as well as freshening your breath, perhaps one and the same function, and others swear by its medicinal properties to counter digestive problems. I’m always looking for an excuse to drink gin and perhaps I’ve found another one.

The mix in this gin also includes lavender, mint and liquorice. To the nose the juniper is less prominent than I would have liked but the spices and pepper come through loud and clear. To the taste it is smoother and better balanced than I had anticipated with the liquorice and peppers coming to the fore and creating a lingering aftertaste. Despite not being able to abide liquorice in its raw state I found it fine as an ingredient in this gin. And I haven’t had indigestion since.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Sixty One

Continuing my exploration of Aldi’s take on the ginaissance, the next gin I put in my trolley was Mason’s G12 Gin. Retailing at £24.99 it is at the premium end of the gins on the supermarket’s shelves but the price is still attractive enough to warrant me taking a punt on it.

In 2013 Karl and Cathy Mason established what was then, and may be now for all I know, the first gin distillery in North Yorkshire in the beautiful town of Bedale. Their established brands are Mason’s Yorkshire Dry Gin and two variants, one flavoured with tea and the other with lavender. I tasted the former on New Year’s Eve when I was, shall we say, one over the eight and so I need to a more sober, considered view of their main product.

G12 is a more recent addition to their range and, as far as I can deduce, it is not tied exclusively to Aldi. It takes its name from the fact that it is the product of the twelfth recipe that the distillers tried. They are, after all, a very prosaic lot up in Yorkshire. The blurb suggests that they consider it to be a contemporary gin rather than one from a traditional gin stable. I started to shudder at this point but providing it was juniper led, that would be fine.

Aesthetically, the bottle sticks out like a sore thumb on the shelf, with its vibrant green colour. Think lime and you will get the picture. The white lettering on the front of the bottle tells me that it is a “botanically rich dry gin with bursts of citrus fruit and hints of fresh Mediterranean herbs.” The Mason’s logo is towards the bottom and the Yorkshire rose is embossed in the glass towards the neck.

The stopper, artificial cork, fits tightly to the neck of the bottle and makes a satisfying plopping noise when it is removed. I do like a good plop. The aroma released is complex and pleasing, with the piny smell of juniper to the fore before the more effervescent lime comes into play. There is a distinct freshness to the smell which presumably comes from the herbs.

To the taste the first hit is from the juniper and that stays in the mouth before it is joined by zesty citrus notes and a little sharpness. Then the citrus elements seem to subside and a more refreshing, herbal taste can be detected. The aftertaste is warm and peppery and lingers. With a mixer the gin seemed to louche and for me it was not as smooth or balanced as I had expected. It seems to operate in distinct phases rather than being one complete complex taste. But, pleasingly for a contemporary style gin, it has a solid and detectable juniper base.

I did try to detect precisely what was in the mix and my best guess is; juniper, coriander, basil, lemon and lime peels, cinnamon and black pepper. There may be more botanicals in the mix, the distillers are rather coy on that point, but they do admit to sweet basil.

For me, this is a gin for a warm summer evening. It is pleasant, refreshing and at the right time and place could be moreish. A cold February day in England, when I first sampled it, is probably not the ideal time to try it.

Until the next time, cheers!

Food Of The Week

shreddedwheat

Food seems to have been dominating the news this week.

First of all, our glorious leader (until May 7th at any rate) went all existentialist on us by asking us to ponder on just how many Shredded Wheats are enough. He opined that two were sufficient and three were overkill. I think we have found the topic that will decide the fate of the next election.

Wherever you stand on the great Shredded Wheat question, I think we are on safe ground to expect to find more than one crisp in a packet of crisps, even if we have bought them from the bargain-priced supermarket chain, Aldi. Richard Bootman from Mildenhall bought a packet of Snackrite steak and onion crisps and was somewhat surprised when he ripped open the packet to find it contained just one, solid round object. Displaying the low standards of expectations that Aldi customers are used to exhibiting, he thought it was just a ball of soggy crisps. On closer inspection he found it was one perfectly formed potato. Magnanimously, the German supermarket has offered him a full refund.

And, finally, sources tell me that the tipping point for the late unlamented Jeremy Clarkson was being told that he was going to be served a cold meal rather than his customary steak and chips. Such outrageous treatment is enough to make anyone’s blood boil. A case of too many chips on his shoulder, perhaps?