Happy Giniversary to me! – Four years since my first post!

Four years ago today, I posted my first post on this blog, and what a wonderful four years it has been!

Although it feels peculiar, and maybe a little self indulgent, to write about me rather than someone else, it feels right to take a moment of reflection and to size up my progress. Reading my first ever post, a brief introduction to the blog and how I was at that point just falling into love with gin, is actually quite emotional. Initially I spoke to distillers that came into the bar I worked in. One of the first pieces I wrote on a distiller and their gin was Paul Bower of Twisted Nose. Although I was lucky to have the access to distillers that I did through my job, I was keen to get further afield to visit some distilleries. In those early days I would contact distillers through Twitter and ask if I could visit. Sometimes I would hear back, sometimes I wouldn’t. Of those that let me arrange a visit, some would treat me like royalty, others would give me ten minutes and seemed suspicious that I was only in it for the booze, quite certain that they were never going to hear from me again. And no, I won’t divulge who.

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A rather happy girl. This is when I received the semi finalist for remote tasting in the World Gin Awards 18. 

Now, I absolutely understood that it would be this way until I built a reputation and I tried very hard to build a good one. I am a conscientious writer. Despite my cheeky nature, I try to be fair and respectful in what I say, both in my posts and my social media. I like to encourage and motivate others to do well in their gins and their blogs too. It was important to me to be reliable and early on, writing those first few reviews, I actually sent them off to the distiller to look over, as I was concerned that perhaps I had made a mistake with a detail and was terrified of putting up something that was ‘incorrect’. I know, I know. I lacked confidence back then. That all changed when I met Alfie Amayo, who at the time, was working as a Brand Ambassador of COLD. I had an amazing night in the distillery talking shop with him. At the end I asked if I could send him my article to check. He looked at me, saying nothing for a short while. Eventually he said “No. I don’t want you to send it to me. It’s your work, it’s your thoughts. You shouldn’t ever send it to anyone. You put it up for you.” That really resonated with me. In the early days you feel that you were doing it for others, but really, you’re doing it for you. That moment changed everything for me. That’s when I really started to feel like Under the Ginfluence was mine.

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Alfie Amayo of COLD and myself after a long night of talking shop, as you can tell from my eyes!

Blogging is very much a labour of love. You do it because you love it. Not because you’re trying to make anything from it. I think that if you did, you would lose patience. It took time toiling over posts to get a like, perhaps a share. There were points when I would feel disheartened. But, I somehow found myself seeking out the next gin to write about. I had a compelling curiosity to find out the information for me. And, I just love to write so sharing came naturally. I found I revelled in storytelling, in sharing my rather infectious enthusiasm with others.

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Gin of the Year at Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Left is Ginadingding, myself, Whatskatiedoing and Steph from Boutigue-y Gin

The first brand to contact me to write on their gin was Batch, and in June 2015 they sent me a bottle of their Premium Gin. I still remember how excited I was, how my hands clumsily unwrapped the package and cradled the bottle as if some sort of trophy. I had the most fabulous day trying it with different mixers to see which worked best. I was so proud of the fact that I’d been contacted, rather than contacting other people. It was a sign that things were starting to grow.

And grow they did. Especially when I met David T Smith, Gin Expert and Historian, on the deck of HMS Victory, for the opening ceremony of HMS Victory Cask Aged Gin. I was fascinated with his knowledge and we met up to talk about gin. I was hoping to write a feature on him for my blog, but as it happens we never got to that. He was more interested in what projects I could help him with. He has been intrinsic to a lot of opportunity for me, especially the judging. I owe you a big thank you, David.

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On HMS Victory for the opening ceremony for the first cask on HMS Victory Cask Aged Gin. Some of the staves were wood from the Victory herself. A very special gin.

The judging has been an incredible development. David picked up on my ability to taste and asked me to help out at Gin of the Year, held at Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Visiting the distillery alone was a joy and I felt really privileged to be a judge. I found I really enjoyed getting stuck into the differences in flavour, and how the gin worked. I loved sussing out the quality and seeing how the gin alludes to what it claims to be. It really was the start of something special. I still do Gin of the Year, and now also the World Gin Awards, have recently judged at the American Distilling Institutes Judging of Craft Spirits in San Francisco (there are nine posts on my blog, one for each day of the trip and you can find the first one here). And, in July I’ll be at the IWSC for all four days of the gin judging, which is a big box tick for me. Judging has become a key part of what I do. It has allowed me to taste such a huge variety of gin and really pay attention to each one. It’s also been fantastic for networking. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, the gin industry is incredibly friendly. I now have a little gin family spread far and wide and bumping into any of them at an event is a delight.

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Judging for the American Distilling Institute in San Francisco. Definitely one of the best adventures that I’ve had.

Networking opportunities also grew during my time working for GinFestival.com. Almost every week I’d be in a different city, with different brands on stalls. I made the most of that to talk to them all, try all the gin and look to arrange write ups. One of my favourites from this period was Cotswolds Distillery. Written in June 2017, the article hardly seems relevant now, but I still love it. Since that was posted they’ve released their whisky to great acclaim and have finished building their visitor centre. I’ve got a lot of love for their distillery and they know it. As well as Networking, GinFestival.com taught me the valuable skill of the masterclass. A few years ago I was scared to get on stage and read my poetry. At GFs height, I was holding masterclasses for almost 200 people a time.

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Masterclass at Gin Festival Portsmouth. Photo courtesy of Tom Marshall photography. http://www.hobotomphotography.com

I should add as well, that GF brought me my Gin Festival family who were the most amazing set of people to work with. We worked hard and played hard. The year I had touring around with them will always have a massive place in my heart. I love you team.

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Pack down of a GinFestival was often followed by a great after party, normally held in the lobby of a hotel.

Blogging is a beast. Always there begging for attention and for nurturing. My life has become more and more about gin. Anything I was doing, could it go on the blog? Sitting down to a meal with a gin, I’m asking if should I take a photo to upload? Will it help my social media? I find it hard to leave things alone, even to my detriment and it all became a little obsessive. In the years since I started blogging, my life has become much more busy. I’ve studied and completed a BA in English and Creative Writing, I’m now half way through an MA in CW, and I’m now a self employed writer, as well as working at the University. So, I’ve had to lay a few rules to myself as otherwise it could all get a little too much. Sometimes the social media goes quiet for a few days. It’s ok, I’m just doing other life things. I used to stress myself out trying to turnaround a review in a matter of days. Now if someone contacts me, I give them an idea of lead time and give myself plenty of time to do it. I’ve learnt to relax in what I’m doing. It’s my ship. I’m in control. I’ll tell people how I work, rather than try and work like them. Taking these steps have been hugely beneficial to my mental well being and my productivity.

So, if you made it to the end of this, thank you! Here we are. I had other work to do today. Yet, I’ve just spent the last four hours sat here, writing this. It is a compulsion. I am compelled to write. I do it because I love it. I do it because I love gin.

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Bringing it Home – The Gin Sessions, Hayling Island, Saturday 1st June 2019

I’m very pleased to say I’ll be dusting off my masterclass hat to make a special appearance at a great event lined up for Hayling Island on Saturday 1st June.

Now you may have read my previous post on The Gin Sessions, if not then I recommend you get the background on The Gin Sessions and it’s importance to me here. Unfortunately I was unable to attend last year as I was at a family event. But now, my time has come and I’m thoroughly looking forward to teaching a little gin history.

As well as the gin bars, Brockmans will have a stand for you to indulge in their trademark decadent spirit. And, there will also be an appearance from the recently launched Portsmouth Distillery and their gin. Based in Fort Cumberland, Eastney, this is a great opportunity to meet them and get to know their spirit, Fort gin, and what else they are up to.

I had a quick catch up with Gin Sessions herself, Naomi Good:

I’m really looking forward to returning to Hayling Island, and sharing my love of gin. We will have all the usual antics, live music, street food, over sixty gins, a cocktail bar, masterclasses, and industry experts.

For those of you who don’t know, Hayling Island is a gorgeous little retreat on the South Coast. The picturesque backdrop for parts of both Naomi and my childhoods, it has a special sentimental value to me and I’m going to take great pleasure in bring some of my knowledge to the party. It’ll be a great day, for sure.

You can get tickets for the event through Eventbrite. Hope to see you there!

Thunderflower Gin – Mystic Elixir

I’ve had Thunderflower Gin on my radar ever since I saw discerning gin drinker and ‘fellow blogger Sarah of Gin A Ding Ding singing it’s praises online. So, I’ve been patiently whispering words, waiting for the day to come when some would appear for me and behold, my quiet incantations have come good.

And, what a lovely little thing it is. Made in a nano distillery in Teignmouth, Devon, it was originally created by Dominic and Annica O’Nions, a husband and wife team. The original inspiration was a gin for their own personal drinking pleasure. Good on them! They have created something really special! For two whole years they kept this treasure to themselves before releasing it for sale in 2018. They upgraded to a 200L still and now distil proudly using the one-shot method. All the botanicals are infused in a vapour basket and only spring water to dilute the spirit down to 42%. Marvellous.

Even the name had a certain ‘mystical’ pull to it. Thunderflowers are small white flowers that grow on cottage roofs down Devon way. It’s said that they can ward of both Thunder and witchcraft. They sound like rather handy things to have around and they’re rather pretty too. They are slightly illusive online but that could be my researching skills. If anyone does have any further information on where these early fables come from please do let me know. I’d love to learn the story behind that.

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So what does it taste like? Well, firstly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s floral. There’s so much more to it than that. There is a wonderful kick of spice with botanicals like pink peppercorn and cardamom. And, sage and heather give a fantastic herbal quality that makes it a bold expression of the countryside. There’s a strength residing under such tranquillity. There’s something magical about it too. Something almost ancient. I can imagine it contained in bulbous glass bottles. An elixir, held on the shelves of witches or warlocks. A potion to cure all ills, and to lift the spirits of the ailed.

And, what is the recommended serve with this gin? I’m going to put it out there that for me, this gin is just so complex and it’s balanced, but busy.  This has made me a little particular on serves. Sipping this on it’s own is absolutely amazing and with a slight, light tonic, or even sparkling water just to pull the flavour out ever so slightly, it really is beautiful. My preferred garnish with with a slender wedge of lime to compliment it’s balance.

For cocktails, I would prefer to keep it simple, you don’t want that beautiful flavour to get too lost amongst any other elements. Maybe something like a gimlet, but with a hint of honey, as opposed to sugar, to respect the wild and natural concept of the spirit. You could try something with just a hint of lemon and thyme, to accent it’s herbacious qualities. That said, I think there is room to experiment a little in alchemy and create an amazing cocktail. But, you’d need to be very conscious not to overpower it with what you put in. I made a martini with this and Sacred English Dry Vermouth and I found that it works really rather well, with Sacred having a similar natural and wholesome essence to their vermouths. Lime is served as a perfect twist here. Please excuse my lack of martini glasses! I’ve collected a lot of little port and brandy style night cap glasses but need to work on martini and coupe glasses post haste.

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So as an overall opinion? I love it! Every aspect of this is a great gin to me. It’s flavour profile is spectacular, being wonderfully balanced yet complex and humble to the local terroir, including the ode to a local plant inspiring it’s identity. The genuine nature of the story of it’s conception and evolution from home hobby to business. It’s a wonderful example of modern gin in all it’s glory, yet strangely evocative of ancient times. It’s spectacularly done. Now then, I’m off to fix myself another martini.

You can buy Thunderflower from their online shop, along with other products such as Thunderflower granola. You can follow their Twitter here, and their Facebook here.

 

 

News – Hussingtree Gin – Asparagus Edition

Pleased to receive an email from Hussingtree Gin today with some news on a new release. Always happy to share new releases so do feel free to email me with news! Not sure how I feel about Asparagus gin, although I’m very curious as to how it could be used in cocktails:

We’re really excited to announce that the new addition to our range is Asparagus Dry Gin. A truly unique premium dry gin using Worcestershire asparagus as a main botanical.

Numerous distillers in the past have attempted to incorporate asparagus into their gins, but with varied success. We have spent over six months experimenting with distilling processes and botanical blends, to understand the best way to unlock the vegetable’s flavour. And we’re thrilled with the result.
Distilled using the one shot method in a traditional alembic copper still, the result is an incredibly smooth, distinctive dry gin.
Through distillation the asparagus delivers an earthy, nutty-sweetness on the palate. Our blend of botanicals, enhanced by local brine salt that’s added during the distillation process, complements its characteristics wonderfully.

Garnish your Hussingtree Asparagus G&T with a couple of fresh mint leaves. Perfect for springtime.

We’ll be launching our Asparagus Dry Gin to coincide with the British Asparagus Festival, which kicks off on 23rd April at The Fleece Inn, Bretforton. We’ll then be at a number of events during the subsequent weeks, including The Worcester Gin Festival and The Three Counties Spring Show. Visit the events page on our website by clicking here to find out more. A few new dates will be added shortly.

Bottles of our Asparagus Gin will be on the shelves at a select number of bars, hotels, venues and retailers. And of course, you can purchase a bottle (available as both 350ml and 700ml) from our website when it’s available later in the month. We’ll drop you an email to let you know when it’s online for purchase.

You may also notice in the pic above that our labels have evolved. 

These are being launched at the same time as our Asparagus Gin. The new labels provide greater stand out on shelf and improved differentiation between the variants in our growing gin range.

Enjoy your next tipple!
The Hussingtree Team

Gin Live 2019 – Here’s to the first of many!

What a beautiful day for the first ever Gin Live! I do a little writing for Gin Magazine so I was keen to get along and see what one of their events was like. Held at the exquisite venue, the Royal Artillery Company, it was a wonderful addition to the already known Whisky Live. I have been twitching with anticipation the last few weeks.

The sun was out. Beautiful blue skies and a marvellous day for a jolly into London. I was overwhelmed by the building, which is essentially a castle and felt like Royalty as I entered the marquee to collect my glass.

There were several gins on show that I had not tried previously. and it very much felt like everything had been handpicked for me. The standard of everything was really high. There are so many gins to write about, so I’m going to give a quick run down of the ones I tried and leave it open for me to write a full review down line, if possible.

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I started off with Brighton Gin, a firm favourite with it’s milk thistle. It was really good to see a friendly face in John of Brockmans, who I know from the Gin Festival.com days. Crafty Distillery was there with their Hill to Harbour Gin. Their beach glass style bottle is beautiful and it holds a really very stunning gin. Proudly grain to glass, they have gone to great lengths to create a very high quality spirit. After months of distilling 100s of recipes, they brought sea, forest and earth together in a truly wholesome spirit and sent samples of it to a hundred of the general public to get their opinion too. They have been very conscious about every step of producing this gin and they definitely deserve a lot of recognition for their process.

Next up Gothic Gin. Beautifully soft and named after the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, I was delighted with it’s smoothness. It was ever such a soft gin and featuring your staple botanicals, and some more unusual ones such as eucalyptus, it was a really unusual offering.

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The Gael was a wonderful find. Made in Scotland, it is essentially a genever (location aside), as it’s made with malted barley. The wholesome warmth of malt cradles the juniper in such a delightful way. The lass I spoke to was a star, really passionate and delighted to be involved, which was a testament to her Father, Nigel, the owner at Gael and a really lovely chap too. I’m hoping to do a full write up on this one soon.

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Next up, Greater Than. Heralded as India’s “first craft gin”, there is a marvellous freshness, with ginger and lemongrass and a wonderful softness of chamomile, such softness as I could use it as a pillow. I was also very lucky to try a fabulous Indian export that is very difficult to source, but is imminently due, hopefully. Hapusa Gin. Absolutely gorgeous. Sublime. The purple glass of the bottle, the elegant complexity of mango and spices, of it’s a really incredible gin and fingers crossed they get it here soon as it is going to go down a storm. Thanks for bringing me in that sample What’s Katie Doing, much appreciated!

Glasgow Distillery were there showing off their Makar Gin in classic, oak aged, old tom, mulberry aged and cherry. The mulberry aged caught my eye, I’ve not seen mulberry wood being used to age gin before so I was keen to give it a try and it was delightful! It works beautifully with ginger beer and makes what tastes rather like a dark and stormy. Which doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the power of ageing gins and that’s exactly why I love them.

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I had a great find when I came across Columbo 7 Gin. What a gin! Distilled using an old Sri Lankan recipe, it’s a wonderful twist on gin and a beautiful nod to history, which is what enthralled me with gin in the first place. Made with botanicals that were sourced during the Second World War, when the trade routes were closed, the recipe uses cinnamon bark, curry leaves, ginger root and coriander seeds.

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Edinburgh Gin were there and I was discussing with friend and fellow blogger Gin a Ding DingGin a Ding Ding, sometimes brands get so big that you overlook them at events and tend to go for the more niche stuff. But, they have got some good stuff going on. I finally got to try the seaside gin. Coming from Portsmouth I obviously have a soft spot for the sea, and high expectations as this was one of the earlier seaside expressions from a gin. It was exactly what I hoped for. Also, the Cannonball Navy Strength is wonderful! I myself, haven’t heard navy strength gin made for sipping. What a bold move indeed! It delivered what it said. It was a wonderful drink and was just right for me as I drink a lot of neat gin, and always appreciate a navy strength, especially one that can be drunk on it’s own. Plus, a little birdy told me to keep my ears to the ground as they are releasing some new gin in the next few months. Edinburgh Gin, I’m ready!

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I was getting pretty heady by now, as you can imagine! So, I went to have some food. The eating experience was really quite wonderful. A hot buffet serving beef stroganoff. Although I was on my own at this point I found some nice people to sit with and talk to. And, sitting in rows like that in such an elegant room was really quite magical.

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Before I left I thought it only fair to try some whisky. I slipped into the whisky room and Oohlala, what a great experience! I do not know enough about whisky. I need to know more. There were some fantastic spirits there. Ben Nevis Distillery offering some fine tipples and That Boutique-y Whisky Company blowing me away with a Single Malt Irish Whisky, the label nodding to Father Ted’s ‘My Lovely Horse’.

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I considered staying for one more, until I caught my glass and it fell and broke on the floor. Within moments 3 staff where there cleaning it and I suddenly felt rather embarrassed. My time had come. I was woozy and had to get off to visit a friend. So, I scurried out of there quick sharp and into London like the giddy rat I was. What a great day. Bring on next year!

Batch Innovation – March and Garam Masala

And I almost missed it.

Have you ever tried Batch Gin? It’s quite wonderful. Their classic gin was actually the first gin I was ever sent to review . Which you can if you so fancy, read here. So naturally, it remains rather close to my heart. And yes, I do still have the bottle, despite it having been empty for rather a long time. I remember first tasting the classic, being stunned by the unusual flavour profile. Frankincense and Myrrh. Fabulous earthy notes and the warm spice of cardamom really brought out it’s exotic nature. Batch have always been innovative and look to push the boundaries with flavour profiles.

So, it makes sense that they’ve recently launched Batch Innovations, a monthly special available on subscription. Creative and collectable, they’ve made a great space for going wild with their creations. They recently sent me out a bottle of March’s offering Garam Masala. Packed with savoury and sweet spices, it’s a popping expression, inspired by India.

Now, we all know someone who loves a spicy gin. You’d better give that person a nudge to get their hands on a bottle. March means March, so it’s almost gone. It may even be too late to get this one! I feel partly to blame for this short notice as I’m choka with gin at the moment (which is fabulous), and I’ve been working through them in order of them being received. Now in most instances that would be fine. But, when you’re working with a March edition, it’s only right that I say my piece in March whilst it’s still valid. So, I must apologise, Batch. I wanted to write a follow up from my previous review. I wanted to update everyone on what’s been happening for the last 3 odd years. However, time is lacking. I have not long returned home from Gin Live and a busy weekend and it’s important that I get this up now.

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Garam Masala Gin is wonderfully warm. There are so many rich spices coming through. The heat of tumeric and cumin amongst many. Sweet mango and cool mint. The complexity of the spices are a real triumph and a wonderful testament to how Batch takes an idea and turn it into a genuine, well thought out product. The spice is huge in flavour, but it doesn’t stop this from being a gin. The juniper is still forward and dances amongst the clouds of spice, spinning and twirling and throwing colours in all directions. Colours, that group together in rich yellows, oranges and reds, mingling in a haze illuminated by a golden, setting sun. This gin would be an absolute delight to those who like their spice, those who like Ophir, Monkey 64, and Poetic License’s liberal use of cardamom.

So, I do hope you excuse a slightly shorter review than normal, Batch. And please keep me updated as to what other expressions you do. Now, I must dash. Tonight I’m playing catch up.

Quaker Gin – Quintessentially Craft

I recently discovered, shock horror, that I was running particularly low on gins to write about do I did a shout out on Twitter. One of the first ones to get in touch were Little Quaker Distillery. I must confess, they had not be on my radar previously. And, with the humble bottle design for Quaker Gin showing an old fashioned photo of Darlington being all I had to go on, I said yes, but didn’t really know what to expect.

The bottle arrived within a few days. There was a printed cover letter addressed to me, and the transcript of a recent interview which gave lots of extra information. It’s a really helpful thing for bloggers like me, who love to tell the story of a distillery, as well as the drink.

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And, their story is an endearing one. On a first flick through the interview, there were a couple of details that initially caught my attention. Most notably that the distillery is one of the smallest in the country at 2.1m x 1.6m sq and also that amongst some local botanicals are petals from a rose bush once owned by Paul’s dearly departed Grandma. It’s a lovely notion. And, these small details were just the beginning.

Paul and and Leanne Colman, the husband and wife team, do everything from distilling to bottling to marketing and selling; the whole kit and caboodle. The project is quite simply the quintessence of craft distilling, which has been a hot topic of recent. What exactly is ‘craft’? There are varying definitions and rather blurred lines. I would suggest, humbly, that operations like this are about as close as you can get. 70 bottles a batch, though it’s not always the size that matters, but the process, which in this case is transparent and genuine. There is a very personal and eclectic mix of ideas forming this gins identity. It’s very different to the well planned cohesion of a gin created by companies that focus on a brand. Admittedly, this confused me a little at first. Nowadays we are so used to gins that deliver exactly what they suggest from the name, the bottle design and the sales pitch. However, what they have created here is quite the triumph, and it has an extra element. Because, no one else was ever going to think this up, this haphazard collection of name, of style and idea. It’s absolutely original, it’s a little bit of them in a bottle.

Factory Manager Paul and Account Manager Leanne were inspired after being members of the Craft Gin Club. They decide they wanted to make a gin. After various courses, research and product development, they had a product that they were happy with and found that they had reached a point of no return. After some discussion, they decided to “take a step into the unknown”, registering the business.

They needed a name. Proud of their Darlington heritage, of “a market town that was vibrant on on the front of the industrial revolution”, they wanted something close to home. “Darlington”, Paul explains, “is the birthplace of the railways and its forefathers were pioneers and entrepreneurs. That said, the townsfolk of Darlington are typical of a North East town, warm and friendly.” To represent this, Paul used the nickname of the local football team, to create Quaker Gin. Leanne added the ‘Little’ to the Distillery name to represent the size of the operation. And there’s a notable element of community spirit in it’s reception too, with kt being stocked in many bars and restaurants in the local area, including 5 star Rockliffe Hall. “We could not have had any more support  from the local council, the police, the businesses and the general public”.

We started out raising funds through crowdfunding so people are on the journey with us and we keep our overheads low whilst maintaining out full time jobs with the hope that over the next year at least one of us can run the business full time as we set out to show people that dreams can come true if you work at it.

On the nose the gin is sweet, almost buttery. Folded into this biscuit sweetness is a tang of citrus and subtle hints of floral notes, lavender and rose.

The palette is truly spectacular. first thing that hits is it’s creaminess. For the last few years, creamy is an adjective that’s been creeping in to describe gin that’s smooth, with little harshness to the flavour and a generous mouthfeel. I think those who try this gin are going to rethink that use. This gin is thick with a silky, smooth creaminess that far outweighs most other gins I’ve tried. It’s become a solid characteristic, rather than an adjective. The smoothness dissipates into the a zing of fresh fruit and the juniper keeps rolling along, the vast wave carrying this incredibly generous offering of botanical complexity. The finish leaves notes of spice mingle with the florals.

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Despite having a very definite flavour, the gin works with many serves. In a G&T, it’s natural sweetness makes it incredibly palatable. It works with tonic, although Paul suggests Mediterranean. Garnish wise there is a wide variety, although grapefruit works and strawberries and raspberries are the recommended serve and they work so beautifully with the floral and creamy elements. Another suggestion is an elderflower tonic to pull out the fruits and tone down the citrus. But, as Paul suggests “It’s personal choice and we wanted a gin that would allow people to be able to experiment.”

The gin itself is something really special. And I could leave this here, but I really do have to touch upon Paul and Leanne. They exude a genuine love of what they do. They also have a good knowledge of what gin needs to be,

“We have lots of people asking us about flavoured gins and that’s another conversation for another day on when a gin is nothing more than a flavoured vodka. For The Little Quaker Distillery our gin should be heavy on juniper which is important.”

This is such an important thing in today’s times and it makes a very important point. There are some people out there that believe there’s not much room left for new gins. It’s a saturated market and that aside, the surge of gin liqueurs have really made their mark. Quaker Gin, is a solid beacon to new gins and anyone who has the fire in them to start up and make a new spirit in the current climate. It is completely it’s own, born by the love of it’s creators. The industry has been calling for transparency in process and integrity in idea, respecting the nature of true gin. All of these elements are fast becoming essential to the discerning drinker. And, Little Quaker Distillery, a tiny operation run by a couple in Darlington, has it all.

For information on events and to buy, visit their website. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook

 

 

Brentingby – Surprise! It’s the Black Edition!

Surprise! Brentingby gin released a new gin: the black edition.

It’s probably one of the finest perks of doing what I do, the opportunity to try gin that is special, rare, or in this case top secret and unreleased. It really is quite the thrill when a distiller sends you something with the specific request “Shhshhsh, not yet”. Laying my eyes on the design for the first time, it’s sleek, matt black bottle with trademark Brentingby font in metallic rose gold, is for want of a better word, somewhat of a luxury. The first two releases have gone down very well with gin fans and fellow bloggers who’s opinions I very much respect. So, when they got in touch to ask me if I’d like to try their new top secret launch, I jumped at the chance.

The third release is described as ‘stunning’ by Brentingby and I couldn’t wait to try it. Lime, ginger and meadow sweet are the key botanicals here. It’s a fantastically zingy combination. At 45%, it’s quite strong to try on it’s own, but this is something that will surely please the traditionalist and this is part of Brentingby’s style. “Combining contemporary with traditional”, their aim is to produce gin with just the smallest twist of elegant modernity. The black edition is certainly modern, with the bottle displaying the statement “True gins are like diamonds precious and rare”. The diamond idea seems to have a little mystery behind it so I’m curious to see what that turns into. But more importantly, how does it taste?

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Neat on the nose, the warmth of the ginger mingles with the freshness of the lime and this combination is smoothed over by the meadow sweet which gives the sweetness from it’s name, a hint of almond tone and a delicate floral element. At it’s abv, it naturally carries a certain heaviness to which the lime gives a certain sharpness, an accuracy, if you like. The flavours work really very well together, neither one outshines the other, rather creating a very specific flavour. The sweetness comes through really nicely on the palate and with the lime it gives a desert type element to the flavour with the ginger burning brightly towards the finish, muddled with notes of liquorice. It’s very much in a dry style. True to traditional gins.

I spoke to Bruce about Brentingby and the new release.

Our mission is simple: to bring uncompromising London dry gin back to the forefront and adhere to the way it was always made, we are continually striving to influence how people enjoy drinking gin while continuing to craft our gins with passion for your enjoyment in our distillery.

With today’s focus on the issue of gin that’s not gin, this is a very noble cause and Brentingby do it well. And naturally, they’ve been building a loyal following in the process.

Tom Nichol and I discussed the market and to try cover a broad pallet range wanted to change it up a little, also design gins that can be garnished with most back bars garnishes and that would combine well together, black edition is to keep in line with our branding and relating to the diamond mystery coming.

I’m very intrigued by the diamond mystery! What could it be? Answers on a postcode, or maybe in the comments? I also asked him what the biggest challenges with producing the gin were.

The biggest challenges are getting the balance right and in effect doing everything perfectly or as close to as possible; temperature control, speed at which it comes off to ensure we get the right amount of botanicals through.

There are 10 botanicals in total, listed on Difford’s Guide as juniper, coriander, angelica, birch orange peel,  meadow sweet, lime, ginger, liquorice root and hibiscus, which is starting to become quite a popular botanical in gin. It is a gin for a G&T I think, and will certainly lend itself well to certain cocktails, making a striking Gimlet. I tried it in a G&T with a standard tonic and a slice of lime to bring out that fresh element of the gin. It was really lovely and gave me a similar lime satisfaction of Tanquery Rangpur. The flavour profile of the three key botanicals is really well constructed. They all bubble through in a multilayered harmony. They work really well together and in that sense a describable drinker can really pick up on the craftmanship of this distillation. Brentingby’s Twitter announcement this morning points towards 31 Dover for purchases but I’ve had a little look through and it doesn’t seem to be up there just yet. So I say keep your eye out for it, after all, it really is very new.

Sloemotion Hedgerow Gin with Rhubarb and Raspberry – Modern Pink Gin Done Right

I first discovered Sloemotion at a Gin Festival. The stand was manned by the lovely Adam Cook, who had previously worked for Masons. I was immediately intrigued. One of the many gin companies to explode out of Yorkshire in the last few years, their essence is not just whimsical, it’s really rather charming.

Sloemotion are a family business, run by Brothers  Joff and Jules Curtoys. Based at Greens Farm, Barton-le-Willows in North Yorkshire, the Yorkshire countryside is the fertile soil in which their ideas are grown, as well as the sloes and hedgerow fruit that embody the concept of their gins. Beginning with liqueurs over a decade ago, in 2017 they put this idyllic thought into a gin, utilising local botanicals such as rosehips, crab apples and sloe stones to give a rich fruit and elderflower, nettle leaf and wildflower, to add a floral element to the classic London Dry ingredients. Hedgerow Gin was born.

I love their integrity and the romanticism in the inspiration. I could liken it to Cotswolds Distillery. I visited them a couple of years ago and fell for them rather heavy indeed. You can read about that here, although I will add they have done an extraordinary amount in the last couple of years that was still a glimmer in their eyes when I visited.

Sloemotion have a lot to boast. They’ve won 11 Great Taste gold stars, one for each year in business, which is a great achievement. There are also medals from World Gin Awards, Yorkshire’s White Rose Awards and the International Spirits Challenge. So, now I’ve laid that out, I’m sure you can appreciate my excitement at receiving their latest creation and second gin in their collection of products. Now, please remain calm, quiet at the back. It’s pink. It’s 40%. It’s Sloemotion Hedgerow Gin with Rhubarb and Raspberries.

We were keen to champion this iconic Yorkshire product; so a gin with rhubarb was an obvious step forward following the success of our Hedgerow Gin” said Joff Curtoys – “We have been careful not to overshadow the gentle flavours of our Hedgerow Gin with the rhubarb; the result is a delightfully light taste, with a pleasant  fruitiness – just perfect with an elderflower tonic.”

The design of the bottle is exquisite, drawing a lovely response when posted on my Instagram. Designed by Leeds based team Zeppo Creative, it comprises a hand drawn sketch of the Blackthorn blossom that lines the lanes and fields in early April and a 6 pointed label that reflects the original 6 hedgerow botanicals in the Hedgerow Gin.

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I have high hopes for this. Everything that comprises a good gin to me is singing from their page. Integrity of concept, transparency of process, and gosh, the appeal. The boom in pink gin has been troublesome to some. Originally pink gin was gin (often Navy Strength), with bitters, which gave it the pink hue. So, this newly evolved sweet and colourful cousin that has been flying off the shelves to all those that love a bit of pink, has seemed a cheap idea based around profit to some of the more traditionalist drinkers. This gin, to me, has real potential to take this and turn it into something real, something sincere. As I write this, my fingers tremble at the thought of the industry turning away and narrowly avoiding the iceberg of gimmick that it was heading towards. They may also be trembling because I’m excited about trying what could be a wonderful gin.

I always start neat. As a spirits judge that’s my go to, to get to the heart of the spirit before anything else is added. Pouring it out into the glass I am really rather taken aback by the colour. It’s very delicate, loyal to the flavour. On the nose there is the gentlest whisper on the breeze, a suggestion of the flavours that exist under the surface. Subtle juniper notes, sweet fruit and delicate floral. On the palate the flavour pops open in the mouth. A budding flower unfolds it’s petals to reveal fresh rhubarb moving into a tart raspberry, playing footsie with juniper as it lingers on the tongue. The deliciousness eventually dissipates away with the gentle fizz of sherbert.

So lets try it with some tonic. The recommended serve is with elderflower tonic, raspberry and mint. Lordy. I would probably suggest adding the tonic slowly and testing it to make sure you get the right balance. When a gin is this delicate it can be lost if not careful. I went with apple garnish and it worked great. I can see this in a big pitcher with apple, raspberry, mint, topped up with sparkling water. Bring on the summer.

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This is a very specific gin. The clever thing, is that this is a very specific gin that will appeal to a wide audience. The juniper is present, and holds its weight amongst the fruit. However, it is subtle. We must address that. There’s no big slap of pine that some gin drinkers twitch for a hit of. However, if there was, then this rather gorgeous creation wouldn’t work. The whole thing is in harmony, the levels of the flavour buzzing around like the birds and bees pottering around the flowers in a lazy sun. Everything is as it should be, subtle, gentle and natural. Those gin drinkers out there that are being led wayward into the realm of brash colours, flavours and sugar have something beautiful here that can return them to the quiet country lanes and to a place of earnest gin. In the new world of pink gin, this gin has shown what is possible. It’s set the bar. It’s a landmark for it’s style.

Sloemotion obviously knew I was going to like this before I tried it, as they’ve organised something a little special for you lovely readers, a discount code ‘GINFLUENCE10’ that gets you 10% off an entire order from their site www.sloemotion.com. The offer is running from today until 28th February. Obviously Valentine’s Day is around the corner and the pink colour would make this a great gift for any gin fan, the gin itself, more so. Bravo. Sloemotion. Bravo.

 

Hubbards Casino Blend – Stylish Simplicity, Cocktail AND Gin

I was very pleased to receive a bottle of the new Hubbards Casino Blend gin through the post last week.

First impressions? It looks stylish. It sounds stylish too, Casino Blend. The mind immediately conjures panning shots of a busy casino floor. The whirring clicks of the roulette table, the rattle of coins in the slots. In the heat of the action, a suited player on the brink of winning or losing everything. It’s the place where dreams can be made or broken.

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The design is really well put together and perfectly reflective of the concept, a gin inspired by the Casino cocktail. And, a cocktail that featured in Harry Craddock’s infamous Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. The Casino cocktail is stylish simplicity, with gin, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters and lemon juice. Served the same fashion as a Martini, it demands a certain standard. I was very keen to see how Hubbards had translated this idea into their gin. So often you see a creative idea get lost in translation and suddenly, the gin is not a gin anymore.

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The colour is beautiful. A rich, translucent cherry red. In the glass it looks classy, not faux. On the nose the juniper bursts through in a wonderful fashion. There’s a gentle mingle of citrus and woodland floor, with just the gentlest temptation of cherry fruit in the distance. The juniper persists as we move onto the palate, dancing with the rich flavour of maraschino and more subtle almond marzipan notes. It develops into the brightness of the citrus and on the finish the maraschino comes back in, along with that juniper and back into that musky sense of woodland. It is as if we’re dreaming and have been lifted off that floor, for just a moment, and up into a tree, bulging with the fruit that once hung there, befoe it was plucked, sweetened and preserved. Juniper through and through, this is one for people looking for a legitimate, yet inventive gin. It’s a difficult balance to strike.

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The information Phil sent me is certainly true to the idea of a genuine gin. He was inspired when out for a meal with friends. On settling on an inventive gin, he noticed that “[He] could certainly smell the main fruit ingredient but someone had forgotten to add the gin!!! [He] decided there and then that [he] was going to create [his] own flavoured gin which actually tasted of gin”.

And I feel the need to address an ‘elephant in the room’ that’s been growing more and more amongst gin fanatics. I feel the need to do this as more and more people will be asking the questions and I like things to be clear. Not only is Phil straightforward about his inspiration, he is honest about it’s production, and that it is made by a third party. As a lot of us know, the gin industry has been hijacked in recently years by people looking to make a quick turnaround from a booming market. This has led to some gins lacking in being a genuine product, crafted with love by a distiller. People are waking up to this and are becoming more discerning when looking for gins. I personally think there is room for a third party, if it’s done right. Phil explained that the gin is made by Union Distillers. However, his passion for creating this drink shines through in the research, how he involved himself with the distillery and the process to develop the gin.

“So the journey began and what a journey we have been on. We experimented with so many recipes over a 6 month period but that special recipe kept eluding us. We wanted to be different so that we would stand out from the crowd. Following further internet research of the history of gin I stumbled across the 1935 Savoy Hotel cocktail list which included hundreds of classic cocktails. This was my eureka moment. Why not create a gin which was inspired by a classic cocktail. I came across the Casino cocktail which used an Old Tom Gin, Maraschino liquor and Orange bitters. I deconstructed the orange bitters to reveal the main botanicals being quassia chips, cinchona bark and gentian. I had already decided on my London Dry gin recipe using 9 botanicals. What I needed to do now was to bring in the professionals to see if this recipe had legs. I worked closely with Union Distillers who are an award winning distiller in Market Harborough. They started experimenting with my botanical list and firstly developed my London Dry Gin and then blended it with the remaining botanicals including cherry to create the Casino Blend. Once I had my samples I carried out various tasting tests with friends and family and several local pubs and wine bars. Everyone loved the Casino Blend so much that I immediately engaged Union Distillers to start production.”

Phil talks about the process with such warmth, and with pride. I think he has a right to be proud of this gin. It’s a wonderful ode to a classic cocktail, but it doesn’t at all step away from what it really is, gin. Learning the story of Hubbards Casino Blend has given me some more hope for the industry. Phil has proved, to me at least, that even if you don’t distill it yourself, you can be passionate about your idea. And, you can involve yourself with the process. I think, personally, if someone is having it made, rather than setting up their own distillery, this is the only legitimate way to do it. Bravo Phil.

Now I’ve said my piece, lets get back the to gin. I confessed a short while ago that with the amount of tasting I do, I’ve grown rather found of drinking gin neat. For a neat gin, this is a real doozy. There’s a sweetness there that will appeal to a lot of people, but it’s offset nicely with the juniper and earthy notes. If that sweetness does prove a little too much for you, a twist of lemon will cut through that. Yes, it works great with tonic, if that’s your bag. And, it would be great in a number of cocktails simply because it’s got so much character and would be able to hold it’s own with other spirits and allow you to make some really creative drinks, although I would probably suggest that it’s character could limit the cocktails it’s put in. On the whole though, for me it’s simply about ice and citrus. I’ve gone with lemon in this instance but will certainly be trying it with orange next.

Phil’s clearly ambitious and wants get things moving, including Hubbards growing on social media. Do give him a follow, it would mean a lot to him, I’m sure.

Hubbards Gin Twitter Page

Hubbards Gin Facebook Page