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!

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Gin o’Clock – Part Forty Six

Although my taste is firmly rooted in the more traditional style London dry gin, I have not given up on the more contemporary styles and am more than willing to give those that catch my eye a go. One that I regularly see on the gin lists of pubs that are trying to catch the ginaissance wave by going beyond Beefeater and Gordon’s is Brockmans Intensely Smooth Premium Gin which is distilled on behalf of its owners in a copper still in Warrington by our old friends, G & J Greenall’s Distillery.

The name has a lot to live up and the marketing strap chosen by owners , Neil Everitt and Bob Fowkes and their two unnamed friends, “Like No Other” seems a bit too much like a hostage to fortune in waiting for my liking. The bottle is certainly striking, being dark, shaped like a decanter or a port bottle, and has a screw cap. The label is classy with Brockmans in white, Intensely Smooth in silver lettering and Premium Gin and a sprig of botanicals in red. It may be my eye sight but the red seemed to have got a bit lost. There is an indented B in the bottle just below the neck.

The gin was launched in 2008 and has become one of the fastest growing gin brands in the world and available now in over 30 countries. It must have something going for it.

The base of the gin is a 100% neutral grain spirit to which is added eleven botanicals – juniper, blueberries, almonds, blackberries, liquorice, lemon peel, coriander, angelica, orange peel, orris root and cassia bark. As you can readily detect from the list of ingredients, what makes this drink stand out from the crowd are the blackberries and the blueberries. And therein lies the rub.

It would be no understatement to say that Brockmans has split the gin drinking community down the middle, leading some to question whether it really is gin. The problem, if you consider it to be so, is that the traditional flavours that we unquestionably associate with a gin, the heady hit of juniper with its piney taste and the traditional spice and peppery notes are usurped by the smell and taste of the berries. As soon as you unscrew the top, your nostrils are assaulted by the smell of the fruits, making it seem more like a cordial than a gin.

It is a very, nay intensely, smooth spirit, easy to drink and the berries make it refreshing but, for my taste, they are overpowering. The juniper and traditional gin notes do put up a valiant fight to make their presence known as you roll the liquid in the mouth but eventually give up the ghost, leaving the berries to linger in the prolonged aftertaste. It is far from unpleasant and on a warm summer’s day when you want something on the fruity side to pep up your taste buds rather than the more spicy, acerbic hit of the more traditional juniper heavy gin, then this may well be one to go for.

But for the dyed in the wool traditional gin lover, this is just a step too far. It would seem to me to be a gin for those who don’t like gin. It is certainly like no other.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Thirty Nine

The ginaissance continues apace and in a crowded market place it takes something special to create a buzz and to set yourself apart from the rest of the field. So why not use bees?

That seems to be the idea of the brains behind the successful Warner Edwards gin range, founded in 2012 by Tom Warner and Sion Edwards and operating out of the delightful Northamptonshire village of Harrington. Sitting in the garden, doubtless with a glass of the nation’s favourite spirit in hand, they watched the bees going about their business, pollinating the flowers in their borders. The genesis of an idea developed; how about creating a gin using local honey and botanicals from, amongst other places, the garden?

The result – Warner Edwards Harrington Botanical Garden Honeybee Gin. A bit of a mouthful, for sure.

Astonishingly, along with the mandatory juniper and honey, the latter coming from the eleven hives that they now have on their farm, there are 26 other botanicals in the mix, including the obligatory secret ingredient. I could name them all but it would be a bit of a tiresome read. The ones I don’t believe I have come across in a gin before are fresh quince and blue cornflower petals.

Philosophically, I’m always a bit sceptical about gins which are overloaded with lots of botanicals. The risk is that there is too much going on as each flavour fights for dominance or that they all just cancel themselves out. But, hey ho, this seems to be the way with contemporary gins. The botanicals are not macerated ahead of the distillation process and the honey is added post-distillation.

The dumpy, bell-shaped bottle is yellow in colour with a wax seal and a synthetic cork. My bottle was marked “year 2018, bottle 2677”. Come in number 2677, your time is up, I said, as I spotted it on the Waitrose shelf. The label at the back tells me “we lovingly distil 28 carefully selected botanicals and infuse with locally sourced honey and a dollop of golden nectar from our very own hives ion Falls Farm.” At £40 a pop, I would have been pissed if love and care didn’t go into the process. It also bears the imprimatur of the Royal Horticultural Society.

The spirit is clear and at 43% ABV packs a punch. On opening the bottle, the aroma hits you instantly and seems to be a mix of floral, citrus and, perhaps, a touch of herb. To the taste it is a testament to the distiller’s skill. Yes, there are a lot of sensations going on, the honey in particular leaving a delicious hint of sweetness on the back of the throat but the floral notes, citrus and spices make an appearance in a way that complements rather than detracting from the overall sensation. It is also incredibly smooth and, dare I say it, moreish. Despite my reservations, it is definitely a hit.

Bees are tricky things and down tools when temperatures drop below 12C. Honey is only collected in May and September and a distillation run produces 840 bottles a time so there are some natural inhibitors to the amount of the gin that is available. Also the quality and taste of the honey, a key ingredient, will presumably vary.

Oh, and the bottle comes with a packet of wild cornflower seeds. I assume you are meant to plant them rather than sprinkle them in your gin as a sort of garnish.

All in all, a welcome and refreshing addition to my gin stock which is rapidly diminishing. All my Cornish gins have gone so another trip down there is in the offing.

Until the next time, cheers!