This article is a particularly special one for me.
I’m an avid reader. I’m sorry if I’ve told you that before. George Orwell’s 1984 is one of my favourite books. I was born in 1984 and I’m fascinated with the various distopian futures we could be heading towards. When I first read it, I felt like it gave some substance to my concerns with society. I felt the same overwhelming connection and understanding than I did when I read Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. It equally gave me the same cold shiver as did Auldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It’s a very special piece of work indeed.
I love some of the stories that I find in gins. Many gins in recent years have been intrinsically linked to a local story or some sort of history and this is one of the things that has kept gin so close to my heart. Imagine my delight when I first saw Victory gin, a gin taken straight out of the pages of my beloved 1984. A gin that had be handled with the clever amount of creativity and consideration required to take it from a proletariat symbol of totalitarianism, to a class act, totally becoming in cosmopolitan London.
Husband and wife team Max and Máire have not missed a trick. Their processes are focused on conserving energy and reducing waste. Their simplistic, modern labelling is a bold statement. The convenient, recyclable eco pouches, which are available in two sizes, from the 2.1L to 20 litres in size (count me in). Everything about their presentation has been exact for survival out there in the heavily populated gin society. I’ve been intrigued from the get go and finally I’ve got my grubby prole mitts on some.
And, I’ve been very lucky as I was sent a collection of the pouches, including the vodka, gin, bitter and Negroni. They arrived in a cardboard box, with a faint stamp saying ‘Take Victory’. Everything about the presentation is spot on. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”
It was important to try the vodka first. Being the base of the other drinks, it gives a good ground level understanding of the foundation of flavours. The vodka was clean and strong. I was amazed to discover that the vodka base is a little different to most. Victory have set up a partnership with a chap called Rob Dunne, who is the Director of coffee at Old Spike Roastery and Co-Founder of Dunnefrankowski Creative Coffee Consultancy. Rob ethically sources seasonal, unroasted green coffee beans, which form the base of this fantastic spirit. Now, don’t fall into the trap of thinking this vodka will taste like coffee. The flavour really is very fresh, with a savoury nature. I had a simple serving of soda water and lemon. I rarely drink vodka and soda, but I found the flavour incredibly palatable and this simple serving let the vodka do the work. It was really rather lovely.
The gin is naturally made with the vodka base and kept to a classic recipe, other than the addition of Chestnut, which is a delightfully thoughtful nod to the book. You get an extra 10 points if you know where. “Under the spreading Chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me.” It’s fresh and confident and really, everything that I had hoped it would be. There’s a beautiful play between the woody notes of the chestnut and the warm spice of cardamon. They sit just behind a fantastically sturdy level of juniper and are a beautiful accent. It’s a subtle yet ingenious twist on a classic, well built gin. A classic gin is something to be respected. I’m partial to a bit of experimentation, but we live in times where gin is in a battle to reclaim it’s identity. Gins like this are such a good example of how you can put your unique twist on it whilst still respecting the spirit.
It wasn’t long before I had a craving for the Negroni. I’m quite partial to a Negroni. It’s a solid, stand on your own two legs kind of cocktail and it has to be done right. All those strong flavours battling it out in a glass need precise levels to reach the harmonious taste of a good Negroni. The Victory Negroni was wonderful. There was a great balance of flavour, a sharp woody edge and a certain volume to the flavour that brings an indulgence to the simplistic nature of the branding.
The bitters are a lovely little counterpart allowing a bit of creativity at home. Aperitvio culture, which was based in Italy, has for many years been providing a wide range of tart, red wine or spirit based aperitifs, originally drank to help stimulate the appetite. From my experience, I see these being mostly used as a valuable ingredient in many cocktails, such as the Negroni, although the Victory literature also suggests a serving of ice, tonic and lemon. I tried it and I may now be drinking bitter with tonic from now on.
I love this gin. I love every detail of it’s conception, manufacture, marketing and of course the products themselves. I find myself weeping “gin scented tears”. But, thankfully, not as Winston weeps. I love what Max and Máire have done with Victory gin. It was an ambitious project to take on. They’ve very conscientiously created something with real sentimentality and I think they’ve achieved something really quite exquisite. Well done and more importantly, from a fellow Orwell fan, thank you.