ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 2: Literature and Protest

I’ve been so very excited for today. The ADI Judging of Craft Spirits schedule begins tomorrow. Today was a day for pursuing my other passions and boy, did I pursue them!

First on the agenda was City Lights Bookstore. I’m a bookworm. I’ve always been a bookworm. I’ve got an overactive mind that needs to be occupied and books just do it for me. This led on to my love of writing, and reading and writing are one of my true passions. So, as you can imagine, this was quite the pilgrimage. City Lights Bookstore was founded in in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D Martin. They were revolutionary. They launched their own publishing house to give opportunity to the aspiring writers that they felt had that spark. That spark burst into vivacious light during the obscenity trial for publishing Allen Ginsbergs Howl and Other Poems in 1956. ‘Howl’ was renowned as one of the principle works of the Beat Generation and once the judge ruled not guilty, 5000 more copies were in demand and the store became home to the Beatnik generation. Just entering the place felt electric. The atmosphere was palpable. 3 floors of shelves create a snaking maze of anything you can dream of discovering. All sorts of incredible reads! On their leaflet they explain how they’ve grown in size but retain the original and anarchic feel. Their staff are heavily involved in picking what they sell, with staff picks dotted all over the place. I spent a little time nosing through the Philosophy, Science Fiction and Fantasy sections. With titles such as Octavias Brood, Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements and Bikes Not Rockets, Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories, I could have spent hours in there. It’s a must for any reader. Go there, feel alive!


Next up I moved just across Jack Kerouac Alley to Versuvio Cafe. Again, this is a long standing feature of the city, and you can feel it. Frequented by the likes of Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan, the walls are smothered with photos, paintings, newspaper pages and gig posters. It really doesn’t take much for the imagination to put you right back in that eruptive era. The magic of that time still whispers quiet sweet nothing’s in the ears of visitors. There were many people that stuck their head in with a camera. I sat down and had a couple of beers while I read. It felt like that right thing to do. I am quite certain that I left there a better person than when I entered.


I could have stayed there all day, but there was something I wanted to do. It was the annual Woman’s March, the third since it began, the day after Donald Trumps inauguration. The march is for a wide variety of values and I felt honoured to cheer the thousands of them on as they went past, so much so that I wept. The singing of the indigenous, the holla of the righteous. The sense of unity was overwhelming. All sexes and races, people from all backgrounds, marching together for mutual values that they believe in. People are so powerful when they come together. You can feel it, it feels like static in the air and the hair on your arms stands on end. I felt it must to be akin to the that flame that flared so fierce in the 60s, when the civil rights movement fought for so much of what we take for granted now. From that brief glimpse, I can’t quite grasp the magnitude of what it must have felt like to be there in that time and I wish I could. It was an eye opening, overwhelming, sad and joyous experience.


There really is a wonderful sense of unity here. After a few hours of leaving the hostel and in just a short time pottering around the city, I started to feel comfortable, dare I say at home? It’s diverse nature flickers, yet everyone I’ve spoken to is friendly. Almost all smiles I have given have been returned. It feels good, wholesome. Diversity in culture is celebrated here. There’s compassion between people, a mutual appreciation of each other, no matter who they are. I’m going to be bold and say it makes home seem segregated, sad. We have much work to do to become this cohesive, and the result will be that we function better. There was a magic today. Capitalism may have triumphed over the heady wave of the sixties, but the civil rights movement has certainly left it’s mark on society. There is a residual essence of community and of rebellion against anything that comes between it’s multifaceted glory. My heart and my mind feel strengthened. But, that’s enough of my other pursuits. Today I travel to Tiburon to meet the incredible collection of people judging for the ADI. Today, the gin begins.

6.35PST, 14.35GMT. Almost time for breakfast.

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ADI San Francisco Trip Travel Diary – Day 1: The Journey

It’s 4.57am PST.

Yesterday at 7.00am GMT, I set out on my journey. On the train, I scoffed a prepared breakfast of cheap sandwich and yogurt drink. Anticipating train delays, I left early and still made it to the airport for the obligatory pre-flight drink. I felt rather savvy until I realised I’d left my travel pillow in my checked luggage. 1 sandwich and 2 pints down, we boarded the plane and set off for Kerflavik.

This is the second time that I’ve travelled to the states via Iceland. Initially it was due to the low cost, but after missing the connection last time and spending 24 hours there waiting for the next flight, I fell in love with the place and love the opportunity to catch a glimpse of it, even if it’s briefly, and from the air. Kerflavik airport has improved so much since my last visit a couple of years ago, growing in architectural design, size, and facilities. They’ve gone from a basic food shop to several food outlets, duty free and a mini supermarket. Also, their sandwich fillings are really interesting.

I should note that if you’re travelling through Iceland. Please, please don’t travel with Wow. They are remarkably terrible. 4 months after they cancelled my flights, I am still locked in a dispute with them to try and get some money back. Their service is basic. No entertainment, drinks or food included. Travel with Icelandair. They were the same price, complimentary drinks and free entertainment and Wi-Fi too. Not bad for a budget flight.

Travelling is strangely tiring. 3 sandwiches deep and we’re lifting off from Kerflavik, embarking on a 9 hour flight to San Francisco. I’ve got one of those seats in-between windows. I managed to get some great glimpses of the sky and the earth. The sun was setting as we lifted off and through the journey it didn’t quite dip beneath the horizon, but instead lifted back up into the sky like Atlas heaving the world up on his shoulders. The sun set again shortly after touch down. It was beautiful.

Equally, the scenery was wonderful, and humbling. The mysterious black shores of Iceland disappeared into the clouds as we flew over the North Atlantic. The sea gave way to the rugged, snowy peaks of Greenland. They transformed into Canada. As we flew further south, the white hills softened. Huge expanses of desolate white became a tapestry of icy, winding rivers. The earth was snaking with cracks, as the snow coated the gully and canyons, in similar formations to electrified wood.

An hour before landing and I’m getting excited. I’ve been looking forward to this visit for so long. In the approach the flight soars across the North of the city and curls around from west to east, which gave me the most beautiful view of the North in all its glory, including the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz. The landing was amazing! I didn’t realise how close to the sea the runway is and as the plan dropped down over the water, parallel to the beach, looking out the window it felt like we were going to touch down on the ocean itself.

After a fair and prompt check in through customs, and several questions about gin, naturally, I’m the BART system heading for Powell Street. A cab brings me to the colourful district of Tenderloin and I’ve checked into the hostel HI City Centre Hostel San Francisco. It’s a fab place. Very bohemian in appearance, lots of character and very laid back. Part of Hostels International, they are a non profit organisation and room fees help support the hostels and programs to keep them open for other travellers.

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After dropping my stuff I sat quietly in the bar, sinking a couple of dark beers and contemplating the 19 hour journey, which really was a thing in itself. After a few hours sleep I’m up and about at 4AM and feel the compulsion to write this first entry in the travel diary. No gin yet, I’m afraid people. But that will change today.

I took a quick break from writing this, had a nap and got some breakfast. Cream cheese bagels, donuts, orange and plenty of good coffee for a great start. Now. Lets see what today has in store!

Gin of the Year 2018 – The results are in!!

A few months ago I attended the wonderful Bombay Sapphire Distillery to judge for the Gin of the Year Award 18.

The results are in! I’ve just received the press release and I’m delighted to share it with your good selves.

“The Craft Distilling Expo are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Gin of the Year Competition. Entries came from around the world and were all launched in the past year or, if older, had never been judged at the competition before.

The judging panel consisted of distillers, professional gin judges, drinks writers, and gin connoisseurs.

The event was kindly hosted at Laverstoke Mill, home of Bombay Sapphire and special thanks go to Sam Carter and Dr Anne Brock, as well as the judges and the custodian of the competition’s score system, Sara Smith.

All gins were tasted blind and scored from 0-100. The Three top-scoring Classic, Contemporary, and Signature Botanical gins were then judged in a second round with tonic water to determine the winner of each category.”

So, let’s see who won!!!

Best Classic Gin 2018
Dartmouth English Gin, Dartmouth Distillery Company

Classic Gin – Highly Commended
Henstone Gin, Henstone Distillery
Domestique Gin, Puddingstone Distillery

Best Contemporary Gin 2018
Gin EVA Mallorca, Winterling Maier CB

Contemporary Gin – Highly Commended
Bathtub Gin Explorer’s Edition, Ableforth’s
Gata Gin, Colonel’s Microbrewery & Distillery
Procera Gin, Procera Distillery

Best Flavoured Gin 2018
Makar Cherry Gin, Glasgow Distillery Co.

Flavoured Gin – Highly Commended
Double-Sloe Gin, Whittaker’s Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Best Signature Botanical Gin 2018
Finger Lime Gin, That Boutique-y Gin Company

Signature Botanical Gin – Highly Commended
Pink Grapefruit Gin, Haven Gin
Mojito Gin, Conker Spirit (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Best Aged Gin 2018
Greensand Ridge Rye Cask Gin, Greensand Ridge Distillery

Aged Gin – Highly Commended
Aged Perry’s Tot, New York Distilling (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

“The Craft Distilling Expo brings together the world’s pre-eminent distillers, still makers, packagers, marketers, professionals, and connoisseurs – all participants in this newly expanding industry – in an Expo and Conference offering talks, workshops and displays, and including the annual Gin of the Year competition. This year’s Expo was held on Wednesday 26th – Thursday 27th September at the Boiler House, Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane.”

For more information, please visit http://www.distillingexpo.com.

 

Calling all distillers! – Registration opens for ADI Judging of Craft Spirits Awards

Calling all distillers!

As you may know, I’m heading out to San Francisco to judge in the American Distilling Institutes, Judging of Craft Spirits Awards in January. Excited doesn’t quite cover it.

As their website states, “The American Distilling Institute (ADI) is the oldest and largest organization of small-batch, independently-owned distillers in the United States. Founded in 2003 by Bill Owens, the organization has grown from a few dozen distillers to more than 1,000 paid members. In 2015, more than 1,500 people attended ADI’s 12th Annual Distilling Conference and Vendor Expo, in Louisville.”

Their mission is an admirable one, “To promote and defend the art and enterprise of craft distilling. Through our programs of economic development, academic research and education, ADI generates greater public awareness and appreciation for the quality and variety of artisan spirits and brings greater benefits to the larger society in which we live.”

Have you thought of entering your spirit? Or do you know someone who makes spirits?

Well, I’ve had word that registration is open! The competition is not just open to gin, but lots of other spirits too. In fact, I’ve been given a selection of codes to give a discount on entry for some other spirits. So, if you know of anyone producing Armagnac, Cognac, Cachaca, Pisco and Mexican Spirits then please don’t hesitate to share this with them and do ask them to get in touch. The codes reduce entry fees for non ADI members by $100. Plus, if you enter your spirit by November 19th you get a further $50 off too. Further more, if you are a member of the Gin Guild then you are only charged the price of an ADI member.

I’ve had a little look at the entry notes:

“ADI accepts US and International entries in all classes and categories of distilled spirits, RTDs, cocktail bitters, aperitif & fortified wines from small and medium-scale producers (with maximum annual sales of 750,000 Proof Gallons).”

“All spirits entered will receive written feedback from our expert judges, be considered for awards both for the spirit and the packaging, and be evaluated to see if they if they meet the standards for ADI’s. Certification of Craft Spirits at no additional cost or paperwork. Award winners will receive physical awards as well as digital renderings of all applicable medals, awards and certifications.”

So, for those of you award hunters out there who love blinging up your gin, find out all you need to know and start the registration process here.

 

 

Carrying the Torch – The Gin Sessions

Recently I wrote an article on By Ginvitation Only, a new gin experience started by two of my friends who used to work in the Events team for Gin Festival Ltd. And, two of the staff of the twenty seven that found themselves out of work when Gin Festival Ltd announced it was going into administration.

Since the sad collapse of the company, I’ve taken great comfort in seeing the team blossoming into life post Gin Festival Ltd. They’re such an incredibly talented and hard working bunch and with their rich experience, morals and work ethic, they’ve got a lot to bring to the table.

Many of the people that I’ve spoken to since the festivals finished, have said how sad they are as they were such a good event. Well, I’ve got some very good news for you, someone has picked up that torch and is making a run with it.

Naomi Good, another Gin Festival team mate has started ‘The Gin Sessions’. In her words it’s “a much more scaled down version of Gin Festival Ltd”. Naomi wants to focus on putting on good events, working with excellent brands and continuing to share the love of all things gin.

“Over the last four years I have worked endlessly to manage our events program but sadly couldn’t control the commercial decisions that were being made so I saw a slow collapse of a business and community that I loved.”

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She acknowledges the determination needed to start up. “My competition is fierce. I have no external funding just me, a lap top, passion and some awesome contacts. I know I can throw a good gin event, my biggest challenge is selling that to people, getting them on board and getting them to purchase a ticket and attend an event.”

“Starting out with zero social presence is terrifying. So far, I have launched two events and the response has been really positive. I’m getting positive responses from previous work colleagues, brands are being very supportive and potential customers are getting on board.” So far Naomi has set up a Facebook page and Twitter page and due to her being known from Gin Festival Ltd is already picking up lots of followers which bodes well.

“It is with great pleasure I present to you, The Gin Sessions, a small independent festival driven by passion and the desire to explore new and exciting gins.”

“At The Gin Sessions you can expect to find a large selection of gins over 4 bars, some live music to keep your toe tapping and masterclasses from industry experts. We love gin and want to share out passion through a fantastic session packed with a carefully selected variation of gin styles. You will be presented on arrival with your copa style gin glass and a booklet with tasting notes.”

Naomi has organised 2 ‘Sessions’ so far with more on the way.

First up is Bristol, Naomi’s home from home, where she studied Photography in previous years.

The Bristol festival is on:

Saturday 27th October: 12.30 – 17.00
Saturday 28th October: 18.30 – 23.00

The House of Gin cancelled their dates so The Gin Sessions took over. It’s at the Paintworks which is a fantastic venue, an ex factory converted into an events space. Tickets available here.

The second festival is on Hayling Island and is on:

Saturday 3rd November: 12.30 – 17.00
Saturday 3rd November: 18.30 – 23.00

The event will be held at Hayling Community Centre. It will be the Islands first ever gin festival. Tickets available here.

Tickets are £10 (plus £1.37 booking fee) per person. This includes entrance to the festival, your gin glass, gin talks and the gin booklet. Book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available through Eventbrite, with built in refund cover.

Naomi’s plan is for five bars. Two classic gin bars, one international gin bar, a flavoured gin bar and a gin cocktail bar. In total there will be approximately sixty gins exhibited with several brand ambassadors which is a great touch. When attending these sort of events it’s so much better when you can meet people who can tell you more about the gins, how they’re made and whats so special about them. There will be focus on local brands for each location as people are proud of where they come from and their local gins. There will also be masterclasses hosted by the brands along with other topics, such as the history of gin and gin cocktails.

In addition to all the gin, Naomi’s well aware of making it a good night with all the extras so there will be local street food and live music.

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“It was really sad when I lost my job, but I’m feeling optimistic. I’m keen to work with as many people from GF as possible. I’ve had awesome support from ex colleagues and I’m hoping to get some of them on board. I’m focusing on small events, no sell out stadiums. I’m wanting each customer to get the opportunity to chat to bar staff, and feel like they have space to roam. No sardines!”

If you have attended any of the previous Gin Festival Ltd festivals, you’ll be able to see where her structure is similar. The bars, masterclasses, copa glass and gin book. What Naomi has been very clever in, is recreating the good aspects of Gin Festival Ltd before it got too big. An event that is intimate, including real interaction with characters in the industry. A genuine, warm and wholesome event that is driven simply for the love of it. Naomi has an enormous wealth of experience in both gin and organising events and her focus is in just the right areas to create some amazing experiences. Well done on picking up that torch and running with it, Naomi. We’re all behind you.

From the Ashes – By Ginvitation Only

As most of you will know by now, Gin Festival Ltd went into administration on 5th July 2018.

I’ve kept relatively quiet on the subject, in a similar sense it’s hard to talk of a person recently lost, it feels very much like someone special has gone for good.

As someone who worked for them as a Brand Ambassador for Tinker Gin from April 17 – April 18, I was blessed to be a part of the GF events team, a glorious machine and the best team I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. They were incredible. As I mentioned in a response to a post earlier today, they made magic happen. The sterling professionalism in the face of all sorts of adversities in unloading two arctic lorries at 7am and setting up and entire festival to be ready for 5pm is a skill. Being able to have fun while we did it, rock through 3 x 14 hour days with the customers then take it all down after a double session is an art. I’m aware there are many questions floating around on how or why an event of such magnitude and popularity could collapse like this and I won’t keep you keep you hanging. I didn’t work in the office and I’m not privy to the information to answer them. As the events team, you turned up, turned out and made it work.

Although I cannot help with what happened in the office, what I do know is this, with so many tickets sold currently without sign of refund, and with outstanding bills to suppliers who are understandably being rather vocal, its a big knock to the industry. The consumers confidence has taken a hit and that’s something we all need to work hard to repair. There is no issue with the industry, demand is very much there, companies just need to ensure going forward they take it slow, carefully and are reassuring, for example, selling tickets through Eventbrite, which insures customers a refund if an event is pulled. There are important lessons that can be learned here and we would be wise to take notice.

However, despite the loss, something stirs.

The events team has been split from one glorious machine, into several small groups and persons with expert knowledge of the gin industry and events. Despite the blow of very sudden redundancies, I expect to see the phoenix rising from the ashes as they step forward fully equipped to take an existing business to the next level, or to start their own.

I bring to you, Case Study A: By Ginvitation Only.

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Founded by two ex-employees Dennis Glynn and Sean William, By Ginvitation Only brings the gin to you with independent gin hosting and a Brand Ambassador service. Think of throwing party at yours, or a corporate event, these guys will turn up bringing all the gin, knowledge, plus a bit of cheeky charm. Their aim is to support independent distillers and as Den says they are “Just a few good guys wanting something good to come out of all the negative stuff because that not the true spirit of GF, that’s not what we represented.”

“I came up with the concept. I approached Sean and Adam (designer for GF) and both have been instrumental in making this thing come alive.”

“Then GF folded so we decided to launch – like a Phoenix from the ashes!”

They’ve only been up and running a very short time, looking through their social media I can see menus with gins such as Robin of Locksley, Cuckoo, Turncoat and Handyman and they’re open to other gins coming on board. They’re also looking into bring premium mixers on board. If you’re interested in them showcasing any of your products then please do get in touch.

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Both Den and Sean worked at GF from the beginning and having worked alongside them myself, I can confirm that their knowledge of gin and events is absolutely on point. They’re highly professional and lovely to boot. Both gin connoisseurs, Den specialises in the gin side of things whilst Sean is the cocktail maestro. It’s early days for them so please do show them some support by liking and sharing their social media, and bear them in mind to recommend to anyone who fancies having a party with two of the nicest guys in the industry.

If you’d like to have a look through some of what they’ve done so far, you can check their Instagram or for more information email them at hello@byginvitationonly.co.uk

And they’re not the only ones, another bloom is unfolding from previous employees Adam and Joe, who a little birdy tells me, have recently set up a merchandise and apparel site called Merch Stall.

I wish Den and Sean all the luck in their new venture and have full confidence it’s going to go well. I’m also sure that it’s not the last we’re going to be hearing from those beautiful souls on the events team. Guys, please keep me updated with your gin adventures and I’ll be happy to squawk about it on here. All the love.

 

 

Cape Town launches it’s first Gin Route – Yolisa Qunta

Exciting times at the Ginfluence. It is with great pleasure I present to your our first ever guest writer!

Yolisa Qunta.jpgYolisa Qunta is a wonderful writer based in Cape Town and has a fantastic passion for gin. “Yolisa discovered the joys of gin to a trip to Victoria Falls where she was assured that not only was it perfectly acceptable to enjoy a tipple at 11am, but it could also prevent malaria. The latter turned out to be an urban legend but her love for gin continued. She is a published author, freelance writer, editor and researcher based in Cape Town. Yolisa enjoys traveling and taking pictures of all her food for Instagram.”

If you have any enquires for Yolisa, you can email her at: yolisaid2017@gmail.com.

It’s great article and a delicious insight into the gin boom in Cape Town. I warmly welcome writers from around the world to get in touch if they would like me to publish something on gin in their local area. Well done Yolisa! You’re my first fellow ginfluencer and I hope you’ll keep us up to date with any more news.

 

Cape Town launches its first Gin Route

Cape Town, this beautiful coastal city at the tip of South Africa, is famous for many things. Visitors flock to see the mountain shaped like a piece of furniture. The wine also keeps the crowds coming. From Napoleon, who showed his diva tendencies by having dessert wine shipped to him in exile, to Barack Obama who was sipping a South African bubbly to celebrate his inauguration. Over the years many have made the pilgrimage to the wine regions and cemented their place in history.

Meanwhile a quiet gin revolution was happening. It started the way acrylic nail tips fall off: slowly then seemingly all at once. First there was Inverroche Distillery. But, in the same way Wonder Woman swooped in to save the DC franchise, along came plenty more distilleries to show that the Cape Town gin wave was not just a hipster phase.

Cape Town Gin Route launch crowd
Clearly, having a Gin Route to showcase all the fantastic places was the next logical step. I was invited to the launch which fittingly enough happened on World Gin Day. At the penthouse of a swanky hotel, I got to taste all the gins on the new route. General manager Efi Ella, one of the masterminds behind the Gin Route had this to say, “We saw this as an opportunity to celebrate the exceptional gin that is being produced locally. We are honoured to be associated with these incredible distilleries and provide a platform where users can plan their own journey of gin discovery, that is likely right on their doorstep”.

He was not kidding about the exceptional gin, I know this because I sampled every single one. I never got around to asking if it was a coincidence that all of the distilleries were in such close proximity to each other but it makes it very easy to walk the whole route so that’s a bonus. Without further ado here is a round up off all the fantastic places included in the Gin Route:

Hope on Hopkins

These folk take gin distilling very seriously. Not only to they own the first stills to be licensed by the City of Cape Town but they also make their own gins from scratch. The process starts by cooking, fermenting and distilling barley to make the base neutral spirit. Then a range of locally grown botanicals such as citrus, coriander and Fynbos are added to make magic happen to the final product.

Hope on Hopkins at the Cape Town Gin Route launch

Hope on Hopkins is truly a family oriented venue. The three stills are named after the owners grandmothers and there is a rescue puppy that welcomes visitors to the distillery. There are two cats, one who moved from rainy London with the express purpose of keeping mice out of the barley, and a rescue. RescueCat is trying to find his way and spends a lot of time in the tasting room while LondonCat is adjusting to the idea of a newcomer. So just like a normal family then.

Musgrave Gin

A pink gin? Made by a lady? My money flew out of the purse of it’s own accord. Simone Musgrave of Musgrave Gin is the granddaughter of an adventurer who left Plymouth in 1949 headed for Africa and whatever adventures were to be found here. The pink gin that I love gets its Instagram ready color from rosehips and infused rosewater. The other gin is Musgrave 11 Botanicals which showcases botanicals that reflect ancient African spice routes. Highlights include cardamon. Whitei Mondei also known as African Ginger and Grains of Paradise, a very rare pepper like herb unique to West Africa.

New Harbour Distillery

In the same way that the queen of the universe planned her exit from that girl group that used to wear matching shiny outfits, the brains wanted to set themselves apart from the pack starting with nomenclature. When choosing their name, New Harbour Distillery wanted people to know that their spirits are made in Woodstock, the old industrial heart of Cape Town harbour. New Harbour are a company of creative scientific individuals who combine botany, science and alchemy, to create handcrafted spirits using a combination of modern innovative and experimental distilling techniques. As Fynbos is at the heart of their gin they give back donating a specific amount to the Flower Conversation Trust from every bottle sold in the Private Collection. A conscious distillery working for conservation, I’ll raise my glass to that.

Pienaar & Son

In a past life I was a chemical engineer. I lasted two years with a multinational oil company before I set out for new pastures. I am only mentioning this because the Head Distiller at Pienaar and Son is one of those smart people who decided to put his degree to good use by producing amazing gin using cutting edge processes.

Pienaar & Son at the Cape Town Gin Route launch

A Master Distiller in his twenties, supported by his father the distillery states boldly that they are more interested in starting traditions than following them. Having tasted their Empire Gin distilled from maize (corn) infused with botanicals to produce a flavorful English style gin I can happily attest to all the above.

Woodstock Gin Company

Before the advent of this company, Woodstock was known for overpriced artisanal coffee, hipsters in checked shirts and lack of street parking amongst many other perils of gentrification. Thankfully, Simon Von Witt has provided a good reason to venture back into the neighborhood with Woodstock Gin Company. His grape distilled Inception Gin is matured in American Oak barrels for four months. The water is collected from a natural spring nearby to ensure that there are no chemicals to alter the taste. Another highlight is the High Tea Gin infused with undertones of the famous Rooibos tea.

Cape Town Gin & Spirits Company

Can’t have a brand new gin route without an eponymous company, am I right? Inspired by the roaring twenties, Cape Town Gin & Spirits Company is all about good times and small batch labels. You already know know I have a weakness for pink gins so here we are with theirs, infused with Hibiscus flowers and rose petals, and a heavenly hint of rose water. Fresh, floral aromas on the nose, with rose and Turkish Delight on the palate. That’s what the brochure says. All I know is that the gentleman serving it to me felt like like a looooooooooooooong drink of water himself.

Cape Town Gin Route launch guests

 So here we are, 6 distilleries and one glorious Gin Route in the southern tip of the world. Let me know which you which you are are looking to drinking most in the comments below.

The Gin Guide Awards 2018

The Award winners from the The Gin Guide 2018 have been announced!

Head Judge and Editor of The in Guide, Paul Jackson, kindly got in contact with the news, so naturally I want to share it with your good selves as soon as possible.

“Gins from 19 different countries completed for the coveted titles in The Gin Guide’s annual gin awards, with a leading panel of distillers and industry experts, Four Scottish Gins won awards, including the newly launched Biggar Gin, and Greek Gin has made it’s mark in the industry with Grace Gin winning an award too.”

Excitingly, there were a record number of gins and the quality has been described as ‘unprecedented’.

So, let’s have a drum roll please:

Production Categories

  • London Dry Gin: Winner – Biggar Gin (Scotland)
  • Distilled Gin (Non-London Dry): Winner – Grace Gin (Greece)
  • Compound Gin: Winner – Orkney Gin Company Johnsmas Gin (Scotland)

Style Categories

  • Traditional Gin: Winner – Makar Gin (Scotland)
  • Contemporary Gin: Winner – Caspyn Cornish Dry Gin (England)
  • Flavoured Gin: Winner – Cuckoo Sunshine Gin (England)
  • Old Tom Gin: Winner – The Ginsmiths of Liverpool Marshmallow Gin (England)
  • Navy Strength Gin: Kirkjuvagr Arkh-Angell Storm Strength Gin (Scotland)

Regional Categories

  • UK Gin: Winner – Makar Gin (Scotland)
  • European Gin: Winner – Listoke 1777 Gin (Republic of Ireland)
  • Rest of the World (Non-European) Gin: Winner – Underground Spirits Gin (Australia)

Industry Categories

  • Gin Innovation: Winner – Underground Spirits Gin (Austrailia)

“Scottish Gins stole the show with four different Scottish winners, including two gins from Orkney, the recently launched Biggar Gin and Glasgow favourite Makar Gin. Grace Gin has made a statement in putting Greece on the gin map, while Listoke 1777 Gin and Underground Spirits Gin has showcased the exciting and innovative gin industries in Ireland and Australia respectively. English gins continued to show their pedigree with wins in Contemporary Gin, Flavoured Gin and Old Tom Gin categories.”

The Gin Guide Awards - Judging
Head Judge Paul Jackson was accompanied by Alex Griffiths – Founder of Griffiths Brothers Gin, Rhys James – Distiller at Wayfinder Spirits, Andy Burrows – Editor of Gin Rag, and Natalie Button – Founder of Gin Obsessions.

“Entries were judged in blind tasting sessions across the hotly competed categories. Each gin is assessed using a detailed scorecard developed by The Gin Guide, featuring key characteristics including appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, finish and overall balance and appeal.”

Full details can be found on The Gin Guide Website and you can register you interest in The Gin Guide Awards 2019 by visiting here. Please do count me as interested, Paul! I’ll be signing up shortly and would love to come and give a hand next year.

On a personal note it’s fantastic to see Underground Spirits doing well for themselves. They’re a great bunch and have a great gin. I’ve been working on a write up for them and it will be posted very soon.

As a judge at The Word Gin Awards 2018. I’m always keen to see other awards, and how they’re judged. I think it’s really important that we keep this variety of competitions. It’s just another wonderful and varied facet of the colourful world of gin.

Well done everyone! Sterling work. Cheers!

 

 

Gin Magazine – A Hard Copy of Gin’s Success

With so many gin blogs out there and so much information to be found online, do you ever get the craving to hold the information in your hand? That traditional desire to sit and read a magazine rather than trawl through a lit screen? If so, then you’ll be pleased to hear that Paragraph Publishing have launched a magazine dedicated to our favourite tipple.

With the continuing rise in gin’s popularity, Paragraph Publishing decided it was time the drink had it’s own dedicated magazine. Responsible for publications such as Whisky Magazine which launched in 1998, they clearly know their stuff when it comes to readers with a dedication to distillation.

The first issue of Gin Magazine was launched on 17th November 2017 with a fabulous launch party in London’s Merchant House. It was wonderful to meet and greet some of gins finest and make some new friends, as well as catch up with some familiar faces in what is in my experience, one of the most friendly industries out there. The evening saw us tasting the 22 featured gins of the first issue, including spectacular gins such as Isle of Harris, Elephant and Swedish lovely Hernö, who I covered last year. They aim to continue this generous amount of reviews, with the magazine keeping to 22 gins every quarterly issue.

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22 delicious gins to taste at the launch at The Merchants House

As well as reviews, there will also be interviews and articles on producers as well as botanicals, production itself and naturally cocktails that you can make at home. (I do so love a home project!) Plus, it’s aimed at gin enthusiasts at all levels so it’s sure to be a brilliant way of keeping up with the gin world with something in there for everyone.

Where can you get your hands on a copy? Well it’s available from Waitrose as well as W.H. Smith. It’s not just limited to the UK though and is also available in the US from Barnes and Noble. It’s also available online through https://gin-mag.com/ and there are print and digital subscriptions though https://ginmag.imbmsubscriptions.com/. If you’re looking to subscribe, good news! Right now, if you subscribe then the first issue is free. If there’s any of you out there thinking you’d like to advertise then you can contact them through commercial@paragraph.co.uk.

Gin Magazine is a quarterly publication with issues to be released in February, May, August and November. The next issue is due on the 16th February and I’m pleased to say that I’m contributing a little something so keep your eyes peeled. It will also contain details of the winners of the World Gin Awards 2018, an award which I’m lucky enough to be judging with some amazing people tomorrow. Needless to say I’m ecstatic to be getting involved with such a fantastic publication and wish it all the best for the future.

HMS Victory Navy Strength Cask Aged Gin Opening Ceremony – Drink a little history

Back in I wrote an article about IOW Distillery’s triumph, the Mighty HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin. Whilst the gin itself is something special, I was left extremely curious as to how the whole project would turn out. You see, as well as the gin there was also an ambitious endeavour to age the gin in casks made including staves of wood and copper from the ship itself. These casks would be aged briefly for 4 months, then 1 year, 3 years and 5 years, known as the first-forth release respectively. The concept is that the gin would take on the colour and flavours of the cask, recreating a taste something like what it would have tasted like in the days it was carried by barrel.

The ceremony of presentation of bottles from the first cask was on Tuesday 18th October, well timed during Trafalgar week, the day itself being the 21st. I was lucky enough to secure an invite into an intimate evening and went with keen interest to see how the gin was working out.

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Beautiful evening on the Victory

The attendees were a mixture of people at varying levels of involvement in the project. We began by taking a quick tour of the ship. Led by Max, we were led around key areas of the ship, the quarterdeck, captain’s cabin, galley, guns and shot. It was a beautiful evening and the colourful sunset of golden oranges and pinks lit up the wood with a wonderful glow. It felt serene, quiet and peaceful, far away from the chaos that would have been there.

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Gunpowder, the reason behind 57% or ‘Navy Strength’ gin

After the tour we were given a glass of the standard Victory gin, complete with Fever Tree tonic and pink grapefruit. As in my previous article, it’s a very good gin. Boadecian Hops, rock samphire and elderflower give a nice twist on standard gin recipes. The spirit is of a very high calibre with the hearts being cut off a little early to boost the quality.

Whilst sipping on the we listened to a talk from gin historian David Smith. David is a local man who himself had a relative on the Victory at Trafalgar, which is such a fantastic link. He explained that on hearing about the project he was keen to get involved and told us a little on the history of Navy Strength Gin. Gin was transported at 57%, it was only in the 1850’s that Plymouth gin used this as a commercial idea. He’s a very knowledgeable man and as a result I am taking a little expedition to visit him at his HQ and gin den to learn more on historical gins late December, write up to follow.

And with that, we were all presented with a glass of the freshly bottled, 4 month cask gin. No tonic needed, it was to be sipped and tasted bare, with nothing to change the favour. I was all aquiver as I took a deep breath and sipped. The taste was rounded, almost marmalade like in flavour. There was a slight mustiness to the smell and a yellow brown tinge to the colour. This was an interesting progression for the brief period of ageing and I’m more than curious as to what the next batch will be like. I savoured every sip, being well aware that I was consuming 250 years worth of history. It’s a pretty special feeling.

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Lovely presentation

After the tasting we moved into the Captains Cabin for the formal presentation. Everyone involved was presented with a bottle of Batch No 1, complete with wooden cask and a miniature, a keepsake worth keeping. I am sure that almost all of these will remain unopened on shelves, gaining value over the years. What an investment!

The remaining bottles are now on sale through the IOW Distillery shop and the National Museum of the Royal Navy shop with a price tag reflective of the rarity of this project. It’s difficult to know how it will all go but my gut instinct tells me that this is something worth paying for. Any gin collector will know that this is a very unique gin indeed and of great interest to both the discerning collector and any gin drinking historian.

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The first batch

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Xavier and Conrad of IOW Distillery

So all that follows now is to wait patiently until the 1, 3 and 5 year aged is open. It’s not that far away and I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that I’ll be there to taste the difference that these extra years make to both the flavour and the colour. Although I guess we’ll never know exactly how alike to the original flavour it is, what a rare and fantastic opportunity to create something akin to it. Also, on a personal note, to taste and consume elements of a ship as incredible as the Victory has been very special to me indeed.

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Lit up at night