Tag Archives: drinkfinder.co.uk

Sir Robin of Locksley Gin

The ginaissance has spawned so many gins that it is inevitable that some of the age-old categories of gin, London Dry, Old Tom, flavoured, contemporary and the like, are under strain. One gin that is certainly category-fluid is one that I picked up on my recent visit to Constantine Stores, the unprepossessing headquarters of Drinkfinder.co.uk, Sir Robin of Locksley Gin.  

The gin is named Robin of Locksley after the outlaw, Robin Hood, who made his name, so legends and film industry tell us, by robbing the rich to give to the poor. I assume that there is no irony intended in the name by producing an artisan gin that costs well in excess of £30. Robin Hood operated around Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, but the gin that bears his name is distilled in Portland Works, a co-operative in Sheffield.

By ginaissance standards the gin has been around for ages, first launched in 2014. The botanicals that go into the mix are the classic five of juniper, coriander, cassia, angelica, and liquorice, supplemented with dandelion picked in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire elderflower with the citrus element provided by pink grapefruit. The distiller, John Cherry, uses a neutral grain base spirit in which the botanicals are soaked ensemble for around 18 hours, before distilling them in a stainless teel hybrid still. My bottle is marked is marked number 1,380 from UK batch 68. When blended and bottled the end product has a very acceptable ABV of 40.5%.

The bottle is rather squat with rounded shoulders, a red cap with an artificial stopper and the back of the labelling gives the bottle and spirit a light green hue, a clever touch. The logo is a very distinctive “R”, made up from a still, a feather and botanicals and appears both on the top of the bottle and on the front label. The light green colour scheme is continued on the front labelling which informs me that it is “distilled artisan gin” and that it is from recipe number 61.

The rear of the bottle informs me that the distillers “lovingly blend traditional botanicals with more delicate infusions of elderflower, dandelion, and pink grapefruit, which make for a uniquely distinctive gin”. It is commendable that they go some way towards answering the perennial question: what is in the gin? The bottle is embossed with Locksley at the top of the neck and has further embossing encircling the lower part of the bottle. It has an elegant look, but I do wonder whether the look is strong enough to stand out on a crowded shelf. Perhaps it is aimed at those who are on the look out for it rather than the opportunist buyer?

Looks and ingredients are all very well, but what does it taste like? To the nose the dominant aroma is one of citrus from the grapefruit and coriander coupled with a herbier tone from the dandelion. It has the sweet sensation of an Old Tom. In the glass the juniper initially makes its presence felt in the clear spirit before giving way to first the elderflower and then more sweeter notes before a more bitter but sweet sensation, presumably from the grapefruit, takes over. The addition of a tonic had a transformative effect, enhancing the sweetness within the botanicals before producing a crisp, dry aftertaste.

In style the gin seemed to be a cross between an Old Tom with its distinctive sweetness and a more conventional juniper-led London Dry. I enjoyed it, but you need to be careful with your choice of tonic as an unduly sweet mixer could tip the whole thing into a sickly mess.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin Nirvana

It is always a pleasure to visit the Constantine Stores, the home of Drinkfinders, and gaze at the huge variety of gins spawned by the ginaissance. This is the quartet I chose on my latest trip to Cornwall. I look forward to sampling them and reviewing them.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock (107)

We live in strange times. In a world where the spirit of the times seems to be to want to reinterpret history from the point of view of the oppressed, and no bad thing too, it seems strange to come across people who want to celebrate, or at least acknowledge, the role of the oppressors in the history of their area. That is at least what Karen and Mick Skerratt seem to be doing with their Exeter Gin, a bottle of which I purchased through the excellent on-line service offered by Drinkfinder.co.uk.

Isca Dumnoniorum, modern day Exeter, was the principal stronghold of the Romans in the southwest and home, initially, to the 5,000 strong Second Augustan Legion from around 55CE. Isca became an important trading centre but seems to have suffered a rapid decline from around 380CE, when Roman influence waned and the garrisons withdrew. The Skerratt’s idea was to incorporate some of the botanicals that tickled the palates of the Romans into their gin.

There are nineteen botanicals that go into the mix, including tarragon, cardamom, basil, cinnamon, and marigold, but having made such a big thing about the Roman influence in their marketing puff, it is a tad frustrating to find that there is no definitive listing of the botanicals on their website. Citrus elements, in part, are provided by the peels of oranges and grapefruit which have been dried in an oven. More traditional (in a gin rather than Roman sense) botanicals such as all spice, angelica root and cubeb seem to be used and for a touch of the exotic, Goji berries. It is quite a list and it is not difficult to sense that the initial concept of a Roman-influenced gin has been overtaken by an enthusiastic determination to throw the botanical kitchen sink into the mix and see what comes out.

Developing the gin did not come without its moments of drama. An early batch was so lively that the corks popped out. Such is the rich oily content of the botanicals in the neutral base spirit that the gin louches when a mixer is added. Initially, the Skerratts thought that this was a problem and tried to engineer it out, until they realised that it was a natural phenomenon.

The bottle is made from clear glass, rounded and domed with a black top and artificial stopper. The labelling is in black and features a spear and shield with the words Exeter Gin in that ever so trendy and incredibly naff three letter per row arrangement. Assorted Roman legionaires, some standing to attention and two driving chariots, circle the bottom of the bottle, looking like classical Attic figurines. The design and feel of the bottle exude a sense of class, although the choice of light black lettering on a clear background makes it difficult to read. My bottle was number 178 from batch number 49.

The proof of the gin, though, is in the tasting. On the nose it was remarkably complex with a lot going on, juniper, citrus and spices. In the mouth, the immediate hit I got from the smooth spirit was of orange and grapefruit, and then the spices and peppers got to work before allowing the juniper and some of the more floral and herbal botanicals, lavender perhaps and blueberry, a seat at the table. The aftertaste was long, deep, slightly spicy and enticing.

With an ABV of 44% this is a robust, smooth gin and provides an interesting, delicious addition to the premium gin scene that the ginaissance has generated. I enjoyed it.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock (106)

I have never been to the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of islands around 25 miles off the southwestern tip of Cornwall. I have considered a visit occasionally, but it just seemed too much effort to get there. Perhaps with staycations in vogue, now is the time to take the plunge. Remote as the islands may be, they are not too remote to be unaffected by the ginaissance. Yes, they have their own offering, Scilly Spirit Island Gin, a bottle of which I got my hands on, thanks to the Drinkfinder.co.uk mail order service.

Regular readers will have realised by now that I am a sucker for a beautiful or unusual bottle design. Island Gin’s bottle is up there with the finest. Bell shaped, it looks like a lighthouse stuck on top of a rock and the glass is that pale greeny blue that you associate with a clear patch of sea. The labelling at the front shows a perspective of the islands and the name of the gin in white and tells me that it is “beautifully crafted on the Isles of Scilly”. If I had one criticism it is that the writing does not really stand out from the background colour of the glass, leaving the bottle’s shape to do all the work in attracting a purchaser’s interest.

The neck is long, it is representing a lighthouse after all, leading to a wide wooden stopper with an artificial cork inside. My bottle came from Batch No 14 and was crafted by Art & Al, if I have deciphered the hieroglyphics on the label correctly.

The bottle then goes on to tell of the gin’s backstory – every self-respecting gin must have a back story. In 1665 a ship carrying a cargo of Javan pepper was shipwrecked off Bishop Rock. The crew were rescued by the crews of the Pilot Gig boats, six oarsmen and a cox in each boat, which set out from St Mary’s. Based in Old Town on the island of St Mary’s the distillers decided to commemorate the rescue in a gin which features pepper and uses, as well as the natural waters of the island, a total of six botanicals to represent the crews. The bottle promises a taste of the Isles of Scilly with every sip.

In the Scilly Spirit distillery in Old Town they have two stills and, yes, they do have names – Bishop and Daisy. Into the mix, as well as pepper, there is juniper, cardamom, orange for the citrus notes, lime leaf, and cassia. Oddly, you would normally expect coriander to be there, but they reckon that the lime leaf is more than up to the job of supplementing the citrus kick. With an ABV of 44% it is punchy enough without being too overpowering.      

It was with some eager anticipation that I opened the bottle. To the nose it smelt well-balanced, each of the principal elements, the pine of the juniper, the sharpness of the cardamom, the citrus, and the warmth of the cassia detectable but combining to make an inviting drink. In the glass the spirit is clear and the juniper and citrus immediately make their presence felt before allowing the subtlety of the peppers and spices and the herbs their moment in the sun. The aftertaste is warm and lingers in the throat, serving as a reminder of what you have just experienced and an invitation to have some more.

It is a wonderful gin, well-balanced with well chosen botanicals, each allowed to play their part in making for a very distinctive and enjoyable taste. If you like your gin juniper-led and appreciate a drink that plays on the contrasts between spice and citrus, then this is a gin for you. I have a feeling I may be buying another bottle soon.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Eighty Two

If Lantic Gin has the feel of a gin made by an enthusiast, then today’s gin, Monterey Helford Gin, has much loftier pretensions. Such are the variations in approaches that the ginaissance has spawned. It comes in a wonderfully ornate, tall, octagonal bottle, four short sides at the corners and four longer faces, with a glass stopper. The label, a dark green background with predominantly gold lettering, has a profusion of art deco style geometric shapes. It tells me that it is “gin for the discerning”, I would expect nothing less, and that its ABV is 43%.

I bought my bottle, number 62 from batch one, from the Constantine Stores on a recent visit and it came in a splendid white presentation box, resplendent with the art deco Monterey logo in gold. It is an impressive object and stands out on my crowded gin display.

The name of the gin, distilled in Helford, near Falmouth, in Cornwall ties in nicely with the art deco feel of the bottle. Monterey pines, which stand tall and proud along the banks of the Helford river, overshadowing the indigenous oaks, were introduced in the 1920s and 30s from California. They found the area to their liking and have not looked back. The brains behind Monterey gin wanted to create a gin that resonated with the days of speakeasy bars, flappers and when cocktails were de rigueur, a gin that would be equally at home as a component of an extravagant cocktail as the companion to a tonic.

There are eleven botanicals in the mix. Frustratingly, they do not reveal what they are save that you will find Gentian Root, it is the main ingredient in Angostura bitters so you get the idea, Mate, a form of tea from Argentina, and Sea Buckthorn. The starting point is an organic grain spirit into which the eleven botanicals are steeped in a copper still named Shirley. As the still heats up, the infusion is allowed to evaporate and then is cooled and condensed. Once the Heads and Tails of the batch are disposed of, the Hearts are diluted down to its fighting weight using de-mineralised water.

What this process, known as “one shot” distillation, means is that other than the water dilution, the spirit isn’t changed – what goes in is what comes out and all the oils and flavours resident in the botanicals are retained – but it is also a time-consuming process and means that the number of bottles obtained from any one batch is on the lower end of the production spectrum.      

The key question, though, is; is it all fur coat and no knickers? Does it live up to its image and hype?

I don’t know why but I was expecting a bit of a let down but my endemic pessimism was misplaced. The aroma told me that this gin was going to be juniper-led and that spice, peppers and some citrus elements were going to be in the mix. To the taste it was a smooth, complex drink with all the elements coming into play once the initial juniper hit had passed. The aftertaste was long and slightly spicy.

It went well with Navas tonic, the lightness of the tonic emphasising some of the subtler flavours in the gin. Not only does Monterey gin look good, it tastes good and you can’t ask for better than that.

Until the next time, cheers!