Tag Archives: Elemental Cornish Gin

Gin O’Clock – Part One Hundred

Who would have thought that when I bought a bottle of Elemental Cornish Gin in St Ives and decided to write about it, I would be penning my 100th ginaissance inspired piece? Not me, certainly.

Over time, my taste has crystallised around gins which are juniper-forward, a gin is not a gin without a heavy hit of juniper; enough additional botanicals to make the taste interesting but not too many to overload it, less is often more; a neutral base spirit rather than one made from wine or apple which bring their own, distracting and often brings its own astringency; a bottle that gives a clue as to the botanicals used; and an ABV in excess of 40% to give it a bit of a kick. As for tonics, if you are spending a lot of money on your gin, it is foolhardy to mix them with anything other than a tonic that is going to accentuate the flavours without taking over.

Much of what I have prescribed does not apply to this week’s featured gin, Crawshay’s Welsh Dry Gin, but more of that as we proceed. As the name suggests, it is made in Wales, more precisely in the cellars of the 17th century Hensol Castle which nestles in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan countryside, just outside of Cardiff. The distillers are the appropriately named Hensol Castle Distillery and the name of the gin bears tribute to the London iron merchant and South Wales ironmaster, Thomas Crayshaw (1739 – 1810).

In 1786 he took over the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil, developing it into one of the most important ironworks in South Wales. Nicknamed The Tyrant by some because of his imperious manner, he left an estate worth £1.5m and the ironworks to his son, William. And his connection with gin? None, other than he was a lad of 12 when the Gin Act of 1751 was passed. Still, you have to have a backstory, no matter how tenuous.

The bottle, though, is a thing of beauty, tall, slim and elegant, rather like an elongated wine bottle, green in colour with black labelling. The band at the side tells me that it is “distilled with 15 botanicals and crammed with fresh fruit from a secret family recipe”. The lettering is mainly silver although, to make it stand out, Crawshay is in white. To press the Welsh provenance, the labelling is bi-lingual and on the neck, there is to be found the Welsh dragon. It took a little digging to find out what the botanicals are but it seems that the following go into the mix: Juniper, Cilantro, Angelica, Lemon Grass, Green Cardamom, Star anise, hibiscus, Laos, Jamaican pepper, Ginger, Rosehip, Paradise seed, Strawberry, Raspberry and Blueberry.

The top of the bottle is grey in colour with a cork stopper. On removing it, the aroma that greeted me was a pleasant mix of juniper, the first sensation, and the crisper notes of citrus. In the mouth, again the juniper made itself known but then the citrus and floral elements came into play before a more spicy, peppery sensation made its appearance, lingering into the aftertaste. With an ABV of 37.5% it is a little undercooked for my taste and while it is a well-balanced drink, it is hard to discern what many of the botanicals are contributing.

In summary, I found it a light, refreshing drink, ideal as a sharpener on a languid summer’s evening before hitting the harder stuff. For the record, they also do a range of flavoured gins, strawberry, orange, and rhubarb and vanilla, don’t get me started on those, as well as a range of liqueurs and a vodka.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin o’Clock – Part Thirty Three

The next Cornish gin I purchased from the Aladdin’s cave that is Constantine Stores was a bottle of Caspyn Cornish Dry Gin which, according to its rather prosaic label is distilled with passion. There was me hoping that it would have a base spirit and some botanicals but I think I may have misunderstood the intent of the advertising message.

The spirit comes in a bell shaped bottle with an artificial cork stopper. The front label which is fixed at a jaunty angle is a mix of dark blue and gold on a white background. There is a rather off-putting image of a shark with its mouth wide open and a red seal but get past that and you will find much of the information you need. It is handcrafted, a product of Cornwall made in West Penwith in the west of Cornwall and my particular bottle was distilled on 8th July 2017, the seventy-third bottle from batch 18. The hooch has an ABV of 40%.

Cornish Dry Gin is the first gin to have been produced by Pocketful of Stones Distillery and is supposed to have been inspired by the crisp Cornish spring mornings. The base of the gin is an organic (natch) grain spirit to which the botanicals are added. They seem to consist of juniper, orris, lemon and orange peel, lemon verbena, Japanese tea, hibiscus flowers and some locally foraged ingredients including gorse. The mix is allowed to mascerate overnight and then put into a copper pot still for six hours. The spirit is then reduced to the 40% ABV by the introduction of Cornish water before it is left to settle for a few days. The gin is then bottled, labelled and numbered by hand.

So what is it like? On taking the cork out of the bottle there was an immediate sensation of juniper, floral notes and a hint of tea. I tried it neat first and the Japanese tea was to the fore before a rather pleasing spicy, warm feeling hit my mouth in the aftertaste. Perhaps it is my taste buds but I was surprised that the floral components were not so prominent but the addition of a dash of Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water seemed to enhance the floral elements and tone down the tea. Overall, I was a bit disappointed. It will grow on me, I’m sure.

Near the distillery is to be found a Neolithic stone circle called the Merry Maidens, nineteen of whom were turned into stone for having the audacity to dance on the Sabbath. Two megaliths to the north-east of the circle are known as the Pipers and they are said to have been the musicians who accompanied the girls. The name of the gin, Caspyn, is a variant of the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network, the y added to make the name more mellifluous. I hope I’m not petrified for being sniffy about the product.

What started me off on this long exploration of the ginaissance was a bottle of Elemental Gin I bought in St Ives. I couldn’t mark my return to Cornwall without buying another bottle. I have reviewed it elsewhere but suffice to say it didn’t disappoint, being a well-balanced gin with a pleasant mix of sweetness at the start leading on to a more bitter aftertaste. It is very smooth and it takes an iron will not to pour another glass.

Until the next time, cheers!

A New Day Yesterday – Part Nine


As I inch ever closer to retirement and adjust to the idea of staying at home, I am starting to realise what a psychological comfort blanket dressing for work is. My ritual is the night before I select my suit, shirt, matching tie, pair of shoes, socks and they are all hanging there for me to put on when I get up.

But on my non-working days I’m all at sea. I have my shower and then realise I haven’t pre-selected what to wear. And then there is a desperate search through the drawers for something suitable and the realisation dawns on me that there is a major imbalance in my wardrobe in favour of formal attire rather than leisure wear and the majority of what leisure wear I have is holiday attire suitable for 30 degrees Celsius rather than 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Some serious shopping in store, methinks.

You will have noted that I included a tie in my list of work attire. I have never subscribed to the business casual look and I profoundly disagree with the Robert Peston view of wearing ties. There is something that transforms your mental outlook and approach, I find, through wearing a tie. The results of a financial institution I worked for went to hell in a handcart shortly after the introduction of a business casual regime. Coincidence or cause and effect? Peston and I will be on opposite sides in that debate!

What I find even more ludicrous is the sight of colleagues who feel the need not to wear a tie in the office but wear one when they are meeting clients. They are forever taking their tie off, putting it back, on, off again. It is one or the other, surely?

Regular readers will have observed that I managed to grow some passable pumpkins and achieved my first year objective of handing over one to the BoJ for his Halloween celebrations. There was a touching scene of a proud granddad handing over the pumpkin to a slightly bemused grandson. I was even prouder when I read that it was a poor season for pumpkin growers. Next year, my serious assault on some horticultural silverware!

What do you buy someone who has everything? If he has announced a new hobby this is the cue the anxious present buyers have been waiting for, So, following my recent birthday my collection of premium gins has grown. Hendrick’s dry gin comes in an unusual dumpy bottle with two grooves running along its side, making it easy to handle. It looks like a bottle you might have spotted on an apothecary’s shelf years ago. Made by whisky distillers, William Grant, it has a distinctive fresh, floral taste with rose petals and cucumber to the fore. It is very refreshing and at the lighter end of the spectrum of gins I have sampled.

Almost at the opposite end of the scale is Opihr (pronounced opeer, so the bottle says) which has a very distinctive taste of spices, bearing testimony to the mix of cubeb berries from Indonesia, black pepper from India and coriander from Morocco. Rather like taking mild cheeses before you move on to the stonger blues, I find the strength of the after taste means that a glass of Opihr should follow some of the other more mellow gins rather than the other way round.

A replacement bottle of Sipsmiths, still my favourite, means that I do not have to eke out the remaining drops in my original bottle. Alas, though, the Elemental Cornish bottle is exhausted and I have not seen anywhere near me that sells it and the bottle of Portobello Road No 171 has only one double left. Still it will give me an excuse to experiment with some other gins.

I am really enjoying this voyage of discovery!

A New Day Yesterday – Part Six


I am well into the next phase of my pre-tirement plan – down to three days a week and, I must say, it is working well. When I am at work I find that a good portion of my time is filled not with the normal power lunches in which we lay plans for the world domination of the financial services industry but rather by ambling down the pleasant byways in the direction of nostalgia. Many of my contemporaries, unsurprisingly, are laying their plans for escaping the rat-race and it is instructive to compare notes.

And then there are the retirement gatherings. These are events that hitherto, rather like school reunions, I would have run a mile from but as my own retirement becomes every day more imminent there is a grim appeal to them. I know the attendees of these events are self-selecting – after all, you would only trouble to haul your carcass up to the City if you were fit and able – but the over-arching impression of those assembled is that they represent the epitome of rude health. A common theme of their conversation is that in their desire to keep busy and active in retirement they find that they have over committed and after a year of or so find that they have to wind down some of their post-retirement activities. The concept of retiring from retirement is an intriguing one.

A man must have a hobby, they say, and one of the benefits of having a leisurely approach to retirement is that it gives me time to determine how I will spend my leisure time. Drinking has always been a feature of my life, mainly bitters, and with a bit more time on my hands I have decided to broaden my experience and educate my palette. I’m not much of a spirits drinker – I have dabbled with whisky and whilst I like it, it doesn’t like me – I think you need a greater body mass index reading than I have to combat the effect on your innards – and a G&T is usually my tipple of choice.

Having previously only drunk the bog-standard gins produced by Gordon and the like I decided to see what all the fuss about so-called premium gins is all about. Rather like the suffix organic the first thing to note is that any gin with premium attached to its label retails at about twice the price of the ordinary stuff. Whilst in St Ives I found a delightful wine shop called Johns and after some deliberation decided on a bottle of Elemental Cornish Gin.

One evening I decided to sample (ie two stiff doubles) the hooch. The bottle has an appealingly stubby appearance and the top was sealed with wax and had a stopper, plastic rather than cork. Pouring the liquid into a glass with a couple of large ice cubes I took in the aromas and I must say that it smelt very different from the industrial gins I’m used to – a sort of peppery aroma. Adding a splash of tonic – it doesn’t do to drown the spirit – I took my first sip and, wow, what a difference. There was a subtle blend of tastes with more than a hint of citrus to the fore at the beginning but turning to a more bitter but immensely pleasurable aftertaste. The more I drank the more pronounced were the bitter flavours and, frankly, it took all of my iron will to limit myself to the two doubles I had allowed myself.

Organic English grain alcohol and up to 12 different botanicals are used in the mix which is then watered down with Cornish spring water to an acceptable 42% proof. Only 80 bottles are made per batch. I suppose I should go the whole hog and buy premium tonics – Fever-Tree seems to be the trendy one at the moment – make my ice cubes out of spring mineral water and use only organically grown lemons but, even for me, that may be a tad excessive.

Anyway, I am now on the hunt for other premium gins to try. Cheers!