Gin O’Clock – Part Fifty Nine

Am I beginning to detect a bit of a kick-back in what hitherto seemed to be the unstoppable wave of the ginaissance?

We have gone through phases of gins boasting many weird and wonderful mixes of botanicals, often losing that unmistakable flavour of the juniper berry along the way, selected as much to give the marketing lads and lasses a good story to spin as to enhance the flavour. Then we have had that godawful trend of 2018, the flavoured gin craze. And then there is the presumption that because a few herbs have been thrown together and poured into an attractive bottle, the gin can justify a price tag well in excess of £30.

Perhaps it is time to have a rethink and go back to first principles. What gin drinkers want, OK this one at least, is a well-made, well-balanced gin, preferably where juniper is to the fore or at least has a fighting chance of making its presence felt, attractively packaged and reasonably priced.

Like them or hate them, budget supermarkets are here to stay and Aldi, at least, are trying to cut through much of the bullshit that seems to surround the ginaissance and provide a range of no-nonsense, sensibly priced gins which might appeal to the more adventurous toper of the nation’s favourite tipple. On my last trip to our local store, I usually get dragged there kicking and screaming so I need to find some solace somewhere, I filled my trolley with four gins that piqued my interest and all of which were priced under £20.

The first is Boyle’s Gin, an Irish gin produced exclusively for the supermarket by the Blackwater Distillery, based in Waterford. It won, in a blind tasting competition, a gold medal in the 2018 The Gin Masters competition. It comes in a stumpy glass jar, rather like the ones you would see on the shelves of a chemist, with a light brown label and copper plate writing in a darker brown ink. My bottle informed me that it was from batch 01.16 and recipe 32a was used. Quite what that means is anybody’s guess.

It takes its name from the chemist, Robert Boyle, perhaps Waterford’s most famous son. The label bears an image of the equipment he used to develop his law which, if I recall my schoolboy science, demonstrated that in a constant temperature the volume and pressure of a gas are inversely proportionate. Or was it drinking gin and sobriety? I can’t remember.

The gin has that tried and tested base provided by juniper, coriander and angelica. Top notes are provided by blackcurrants from Wexford, apples from Cork and elderflower from Waterford. My senses also tell me that there is a citrus element in the mix too – a nice blend of botanicals, I must say.

On removing the artificial cork stopper, the first smell to hit me was the reassuring one of juniper and then hints of citrus and apple. The aroma indicated that the hooch would be well-balance with juniper to the fore. This impression was confirmed when I took my first sip, juniper to the fore, then citrus followed by apple before the other fruits came into play. It seemed incredibly smooth, finishing off with a warm aftertaste. It reminded vaguely of William’s Great British Extra Dry Gin, and none the worse for that.

A fighting weight of 40% ABV means that it will not blow your socks off and at a penny shy of a score it is not too heavy on the pocket. It is well worth a try.

Until the next time, cheers!

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There Ain’t ‘Alf Some Clever Bastards – Part Twenty Eight

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Denis Papin (1647 – 1712)

The latest inductee into our illustrious Hall of Fame, Denis Papin, is proof positive that being a genius isn’t necessarily a key to fame and fortune. Sometimes life deals you a hand of cards which dooms you from the start.

Papin was born in France in Chitenay a protestant and, more importantly and disastrously, a Huguenot. His childhood was fairly conventional and from around 1661 he studied medicine at the University of Angers, graduating with a degree in medicine in 1669. Whilst working with Christiaan Huygens and Gottfried Liebniz in Paris four years later he became interested in the idea of using a vacuum to generate motive power.

Working with Robert Boyle between 1676 and 1679 in London he developed a steam digester which was an early form of pressure cooker with a safety valve, giving a talk to the Royal Society about his invention in 1679. During the 1680s it was dangerous for a Huguenot to remain in France and so he joined his fellow religionists in Germany. The threat of persecution if anything heightened his creative talents and in 1689 he came up with another brain wave – using a force pump or a pair of bellows to maintain the pressure of and supply of fresh air in a diving bell. John Smeaton went on to incorporate this design in his diving bell in 1789.

Our hero’s observations on the mechanical power of atmospheric pressure on his digester led him in 1690 to build the first ever model of a piston steam engine. Papin continued to experiment with pressure and steam as a means of locomotion and in 1705, in conjunction with Liebniz, developed a second steam engine which employed steam pressure. Details of the invention were published in 1707.

Whilst in Kassel in 1704 Papin constructed a ship powered by his steam engine, using paddles as its method of propulsion – the first steam-powered vessel and, indeed, vehicle, ever to be produced.

Papin was on the move again, returning to London in 1707, although it seems that he left Madame Papin in Germany. A number of his ideas and papers were read to and published by the Royal Society over the next five years but poor Papin neither received credit nor, more importantly, remuneration for his brilliance and ingenuity. Some effectively stole his ideas and used them to find their fame and fortune. The most notorious example was that of Thomas Newcomen who used Papin’s 1690 description of his atmospheric steam engine to develop the first practical steam engine for pumping out water. We remember Newcomen, not Papin.

The last definitive mention of our hero was in January 1712. He was on his uppers and bemoaning his fate. He died, it is thought, later that year and was buried unceremoniously in an unmarked pauper’s pit.

Denis Papin, as a pioneer of steam locomotion, you are a worthy inductee to our Hall of Fame.

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If you enjoyed this, why not try Fifty Clever Bastards by Martin Fone which is now available on Amazon in Kindle format and paperback. For details follow the link https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fifty+clever+bastards