Passion and Business – Junipalooza and Imbibe

Being a gin writer based outside of London isn’t always easy. Don’t get me wrong, there are great gin scenes happening all over the country. But, London is still a base and hot bed for shows, launches and other events.

And the last month has been particularly generous, what with two of the largest events on the calendar, Junipalooza and Imbibe. This year I was lucky enough to get to both. Here’s my round up.

Junipalooza

Junipalooza was an exciting event for me. I’ve been writing on gin for about four years. But, due to previous work commitments, this was the first one I’ve made it to and it was a real box ticked! Junipalooza is legendary in the gin world, it is some would say ‘the’ gin event of the year. Held at Tobacco Docks, a fabulous venue in London, it spans countless rooms with ninety odd stalls. Some were simple whereas others went all out, creating whole rooms like the Franklin and Sons experience room. The event was huge and I learnt the valuable trick that some people go to more than one session, a popular choice being the one Saturday session, then a Sunday session to break it up. I arrived slightly late and did an initial run round to get my bearings. Even doing this, and having a clearly marked map, and the event being incredibly well sign posted, I still managed to miss a whole room on the left hand side! I’m sorry guys!

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What I did make it to was great. As soon as I walked in I saw Xav’s happy face behind the IOW Mermaid gin stall. He had a new offering for me to try, getting on the pink train with the release of a strawberry Mermaid gin. Xav is a stickler for local produce so naturally the strawberries are sourced from the island. It’s a gorgeous spirit. The muddled sweetness of the fruit mingling ever so nicely with the elderflower and sicilian lemons of the gin. Their new bottle caused quite a stir yesterday and the new pink colouring for that edition is sure to be a definite hit. I also met a couple of lovely chaps from Belgium who are looking to launch their gin, the Drunken Horse, into the UK soon. It’s a good solid gin and I’ve got a little bottle to go into more details when it comes out so lets hold that thought for now.

Next up I sought out Jaisalamer. I have recently been sent a bottle which is in my reviewing queue. I was keen to see what it was about after trying Hapusa at Gin Live. It seems the terroir of Himalayan spirits add an element of mystical earth and spice and make for a beautiful and different style, built around fragrant notes and generous warm spices. The gentlemen on the stall were all lovely and serving a G&T with orange was a great serve indeed.

Taking a minute to contemplate the map, I was approached by Olivier and handed a mysterious plant. He has asked me to love it, nurture it and keep it alive for a project that Gin Foundry and Warner are working on, which should happen about August. I’d like to add that the plant, now identified as apple mint, is looking very happy on my windowsill, which is quite surprising considering my kittens love a nibble on a juicy plant.

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Boatyard Gin was certainly worth a visit. Having tried some of their vodka at a competition, I was surprised at the character, power and smoothness. It stood out to me so much, that a year down the line, I was immediately drawn to their stall. The chap there was lovely and keen to show me the gin wares. Their double juniper gin was incredible! So much flavour, really generous and a lovely mouthfeel. If you’ve not tried it yet then I suggest that you get on the case. I’m a big fan of their work. Speaking of overtly juniper gins, Never Never was another stall I discovered and their Juniper Freak gin has been making waves in the gin community and fellow bloggers have spoken very highly of it.

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One of the great things about the event was getting to meet people face to face that had only previously been voiced in email and social media. Bruce from Brentingby was a highlight for me and his grapefruit pomelo gin slushie was absolutely superb. The natural zing of the grapefruit was so refreshing on such a hot and busy day. Hats off to that Bruce, you’ve inspired me to try and source a slushie machine for home.

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I promised myself I’d sit in on a masterclass, just the one. It felt important to appreciate the offerings of the event, though I’ve held a few myself and the time felt too valuable to sit and learn stuff that I already knew. The Warner one seemed incredibly relevant for me. Tom Warner came to do a gin talk at the gin bar I worked in a few years ago, where I fell in love with it. I missed that class. And, even now, I feel like I missed out on something there, so I was keen to see him in person doing his thing. What a force of showmanship he is. After working on the Tinker stall for so long I do feel akin to people doing the job. It’s intense, repeating the same info, being asked the same follow up questions, and being able to do it with consistent energy and enthusiasm, treating the last set of customers with the same approach as the first. It really is a marathon and he didn’t let me down. He was informative, personable and funny. The room itself was gorgeous, with an incredible wall of flowers which they had built for a stand at the Chelsea flower show. Nature in a fundamental element of the botanicals and the process at Warner. They forage what they can in botanicals down at the farm, if they don’t find enough they’ll make less bottles, simple. That love and care really came out in the masterclass as well. Great stuff guys!

It was at this point I realised time was running out and discovered the missing room! I just had time to get in and see my chums at Bullards. Their London Dry is a favourite of mine, using Tonka beans which give it a wonderfully earthy, old cocoa/vanilla vibe, which is a contemporary twist but still very in keeping with what we want from a traditional London Dry, really well thought out flavour, that. And I managed to catch a brief chat with Martin from Pothecary, who is very much one of those online voices I engage with often, it was a pleasure to meet him in person.

There were so many stalls I missed! I’ve certainly learned my lesson. I’m making a full weekend of it next year. The vibe was just wonderful. Everyone was there for the gin. The crowds were friendly and it felt like a party, a party where we celebrated our mutual love of our favourite spirit. Next year I’m hitting a couple of sessions and I’m doing it properly.
Imbibe

In recent weeks I’ve lost a small sense of the urgency in my writing. I tend to find that whether it be a review or an event, I tend to sit and stew on the experience, giving time for the ideas to develop, much like leaving botanicals to macerate in a still. This tends to produce better writing. However, it does have draw backs, the most difficult to negotiate being the drive to complete the piece. I am trying to become more disciplined with this.

Saying that, I’m currently on a train heading home from London, where I came to Imbibe yesterday, and I am just compelled to write. This compulsion is one of the main reasons I write, the sentences flying out onto the screen quicker than I can comprehend them and my finger tips dance on words that fall away like the bricks of a path in a fantasy land.

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I went to Imbibe two years ago when I was working for Tinker and GinFestival.com. Dan and me drove down off the back of three days working at an event in Leeds. I was repping for PJ Gin at that event and it was one of largest in the season. Being on a stall promoting four gins to so many excitable people was hard and by the drive down I was losing my voice. Even so, when I walked into the Olympia for the first time, seeing that enormous space, chok full with every alcohol you could imagine, set ups of all sizes, I felt like I was in heaven. I remember saying that if the real world was that space, and walking around it was the every day, I’d be so happy. I promised myself I would go back one year as a punter, the other side of the bar and this year I got to fulfil that wish and it was glorious.

With so many stalls offering so many things, there’s really just not time to get around everyone and give them all the time that they deserve, but I tried my best. I found some great little gins there. The Old Curiosity Distillery with a Geranium and Mallow gin was a firm favourite of mine. The gentleman on the stall, another Bernie, was warm and spoke about the gins with great love. There are currently six in the range, all inspired by old recipes for medicines and tinctures, flavours like ‘lavender and echinacea’ and ‘chamomile and cornflower’ with all botanicals excluding the juniper, being grown on their‘almost organic’ farm. I do hope they send me a little something to review as the Geranium and Mallow was exquisite.

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It was great to see Greater Than Gin there too as it meant they also had a little set up for Hapusa. Mystic and fragrant, it’s a fantastic gin and one to get your hands on. The natural terroir of the Himalayas is just fab, as mentioned previously. Hapusa certainly leans more to the rich an fragrant aromatics, rather than Jaisalmers warm spice. The rep on the stall was fantastic. She was really passionate about the spirit and was a great example of how a rep can be just as enthusiastic as those that work in the distillery.

Masons had a lovely set up this year and it was such a pleasure to catch up with Luke Smith, formally of Poetic License, who had moved over to Masons last year. It was also an honour to meet ‘Mr Mason’ himself and finally try some of the Pink Peppered Pear, which has been on my radar for ages. Things seem to be going really well for them since the fire which is wonderful. They’re great company and they make fabulous gin. Their Yorkshire Tea Edition has always been a favourite of mine. It’s my go to tea at home and they do such a good job with the balance of it. If you’ve not tried it yet, put it on your list.

I hit up the Maverick Stall to say hello as I do a bit of writing for them. It was great to see they had the Boutique-y RTD range out which includes some right crackers, my favourite of which being the Spit Roasted Pineapple Mule, made with their pineapple gin, ginger ale and lime. It’s a gorgeous drink.

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Fancying something a little different I got chatting to a chap called Federico Pasian, Head of Mixology at Quaglino’s Mayfair. He made me an incredible cocktail called the Globetrotter. Made with Sauvelle vodka, Nocino de Modena, Oloroso, Banana, Peanut butter and Grapefruit. The flavour was absolutely amazing! Such unusual notes but mingling together in a beautiful smooth punchy sweetness. It was gorgeous.

I was super pleased to see Bruce at Breningtby again. After reviewing the Black Edition a few months ago, then meeting him at Junipalooza, it’s great to see him going for strength to strength with his gin. He’s recently launched an RTD of the Roobois and Baobab and it’s up there with my favourites on the market right now. Having missed out on the new barrel aged gin at Junipalooza, it was great to see it in the flesh and give it a go. I love an aged gin, but I find the balance needs to be just right, with enough juniper punching through. Brentingby is a boldly classic gin and holds it weight really well in the barrel ageing process. Sterling work Bruce!

As I final treat I got to say a quick hello to Steve Gould from Golden Moon Distillery, an American Distillery that I first discovered through a Boutique-y Gin collaboration. There were a great few products on the stall and it’s always a pleasure seeing Steve, as I catch him at a lot of gin competitions.

Before long I was feeling a little woozy, announcements were announcing the event was closed and staff were patiently ushering wobbly people towards the door. I’m sure local bars do a great trade today, the punters continuing the fun and discussion whilst the exhibitors are left to pack down their stalls, with the Olympia staff dismantling the set up around them. It’s really quite impressive how quickly it all disappears, until next year.

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It’s an interesting vibe at Imbibe. The event is aimed at trade and industry types and naturally this does mean a lot of the conversation comes down to business, rather than the love of distilling. This has the unfortunate setback in cultivating certain attitudes where words cost money. Let’s be honest, anyone selling the gin wants to make money. However, there were various instances where I was greeted with an attitude of ‘what can you do for me, is it worth me talking to you’. I was the lone blogger ignored at one stall and on another asked my credentials as if I had to prove my worth for being there. There were points where the speils ran dry quite quickly when they realised I wasn’t about to put a case a week on repeat order. Whilst I totally understand that it’s an industry event, and it takes a lot of stamina handling so many people, having been that side of the bar, I do feel it’s worth a gentle reminder that if you’re going deal with the hospitality trade, you should be hospitable. Still, I was already expecting some of this before I went and I don’t think it’s the fault of the event at all, it’s just the nature of business.

So, Junipalooza is mostly for the gin drinker and Imbibe is for trade. They’re two completely different experiences but are great none the less. There’s lots to be learnt and tried at each one. If I had I had to pick one of the two then Junipalooza would definitely be my preference. But, luckily for me, I don’t have too, so I’ll be going back to both next year. Just as a final note, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the organisers of both events. They’re just so big, it must take a lot of time to do it and we in the drinking world salute you.

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Win! Tickets to the Taste of London Show, in association with Puerto de Indias!

Have I got a treat for you!

I’ve teamed up with to offer 2 lucky winners tickets to the Taste of London Show!

Puerto de Indias Strawberry Gin is giving you the chance to win 2 tickets to Taste of London next week! Join Puerto de Indias Strawberry Gin in Regents Park for the ultimate foodie paradise, with culinary masterclasses from world-class chefs, cocktail demonstrations and live entertainment!”

There is SO MUCH going on at this show. Rather than me list at all here, click here to be directed to the Taste of London website.

Each winner will win 2 tickets so they can go and take a friend. Tickets are for the evening session, 5.30pm – 9.30pm, Friday 21st June.

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“With spring in the air – finally! – there is no better time to treat yourself to a delicious G&T. Puerto de Indias, the distiller of Puerto de Indias premium gins, has officially launched its hugely popular Strawberry Gin to the UK this month, and its set to tickle customers pink.

With pink gin quickly becoming a favourite in recent months and a firm staple on drinks
shelves across the country, gin lovers will be delighted with the news. Gin has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and it doesn’t look set to stop any time soon.
Amazingly, the first batch of the gin was made by accident after brothers Jose Antonio and Francisco Rodriguez Fernandez were trying to create a strawberry liqueur which resulted in this fashionably fruit-forward Spanish gin.

Puerto de Indias Strawberry Gin is crafted in traditional copper stills in Seville’s oldest
distillery. The worldwide bestseller is made with delicious strawberries grown locally in Seville, with 100% natural ingredients and boasts a deliciously sweet, smooth taste with hints of citrus and aniseed as well as the iconic strawberry flavour. On the nose, the gin explodes with strawberry flavour and a touch of juniper and aniseed, making it the perfect pairing for a premium tonic water.

With a crowd of loyal customers in native Spain amassing sales of six million bottles in 2018 alone, it is the fourth bestselling gin in Spain and ranks on the list of top ten gins worldwide.

The gin takes on the stunning pink colour of the strawberries, giving it a vibrant look, which guarantees to grab attention. The perfect serve for Puerto de Indias Strawberry Gin is over ice, garnished with fresh strawberry slices and a wedge of lime, topped up with premium tonic water.”

So how do you go about winning this glorious prize?

I’ve shared this post via a tweet. Find the tweet (it’s probably what’s led you here, if not you’ll find it pinned to the top of my Twitter profile), comment on it with who you would take and share.

T&Cs: The competition opens 9pm Friday 14th June 19 and closes 9pm Sunday 16th June 19. The 2 winners will be announced Monday, each winning 2 tickets, when I will also contact you for your address to send them. Do keep an eye on your social media as we want to get them out first class asap Monday to ensure they arrive in time for Friday 21st June. One entry per person. Over 18s only.

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.