ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 3: Islands and Inductions

I wasn’t blessed with the weather that morning. It was dark and wet. I took a cab from the hostel to Pier 39. I knew the ferry left from close by and I was keen to see the Sealions.

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Flying in over the bay, I had caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz, but I really wasn’t prepared for how beautiful the area is. As we pulled away from the gloomy, partly obscured skyline of the city, I realised that the Golden Gate is not the only bridge and there are various suspension bridges connecting different islands. The ferry is a wonderful way to do some sightseeing. It passes quite close to Alcatraz, which even from a distance, seems desolate, the blue water and skies doing little to detract from the dark history.

 

As we came closer to the peninsula across the way, small specks dotted over the rocky and lush green outcrops turned into houses. Amazing houses of different colours and sizes built into the steep sides, on stilts, some right down kissing the waters edge. Putting myself into the shoes of someone who lived there, I tried to imagine what it must be like waking up to such a beautiful view every morning. I don’t know if I can quite imagine the serenity.

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Firstly we stopped in Sausalito, a lovely little spot and a common visit for tourists who hire bikes to ride over the Golden Gate and return on the ferry. Then we stopped at Angel Island, a state park that looks rather beautiful from a distance, although listening in to conversation, I found out that it was used as a quarantine station to screen visitors for the Bubonic Plague in the late 1800s with buildings including a detention centre and leper house. In the early 1900s it served as an immigration station and during World War 2 it served as a detention centre for Germans, Italians and Japanese, arrested from Hawaii as Fifth Columnists. For such a beautiful place, I’ll bet it’s seen terrible things.

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Next stop Tiburon. After marvelling at the beauty of the area, of this cluster of lush, emerald jewels set in gently lapping sapphire seas, I was amazed to see us pulling in to another one of the peaceful settlements and docking. The colours here are so vivid. There’s a sense of tranquility on these peaceful shores. I disembarked from the boat and trotted along to the hotel. Luckily I was allowed to check in early, giving me time to land and get some supplies in before heading down for the new judges induction.

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It was wonderful to see some friendly faces amongst the new judges. I was excited, and nervous. The thing about judging is getting confidence in your opinion. Back in the UK, I am getting to  good level with that as I’ve been doing it a while, but when you’re in the US the goalposts change a bit. What Is looked for in the categories, flavour profile, the quality of the spirit can be different. We did a little training using 4 vodkas, scoring and writing feedback before discussing it on our tables. It was very much a learning curve, especially for myself with less experience with vodka than gin. It was really interesting to see the different things that people were picking up and it gave great insight into what was expected of us.

In the evening a reception was held in the downstairs bar. I had an absolute whale! Being around such a prominent group of people I was a little nervous until I’d had a couple of drinks and the dutch courage kicked in! I began with a St George and tonic as it seemed like the right thing to do, being made in San Francisco. Then I picked up a glass of bubbly rose to join in the celebration and then it was martini martini martini!! I requested 209 gin as it’s another local and boy a 209 martini with a big salty olive is just a glorious thing! As the night went  and the blood moon came out I’d met some really wonderful people. Everything shuts down relatively early around here, so there was just enough time to head up the road and get some Italian food and a final glass of wine before I wobbled joyfully back to my room. It was a great day full of new experience and dipping my toe in to the process of judging, I felt ready and excited to be a part of it.

 

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.

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!

Take Victory – Victory Gin

This article is a particularly special one for me.

I’m an avid reader. I’m sorry if I’ve told you that before. George Orwell’s 1984 is one of my favourite books. I was born in 1984 and I’m fascinated with the various distopian futures we could be heading towards. When I first read it, I felt like it gave some substance to my concerns with society. I felt the same overwhelming connection and understanding than I did when I read Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. It equally gave me the same cold shiver as did Auldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It’s a very special piece of work indeed.

I love some of the stories that I find in gins. Many gins in recent years have been intrinsically linked to a local story or some sort of history and this is one of the things that has kept gin so close to my heart. Imagine my delight when I first saw Victory gin, a gin taken straight out of the pages of my beloved 1984. A gin that had be handled with the clever amount of creativity and consideration required to take it from a proletariat symbol of totalitarianism, to a class act, totally becoming in cosmopolitan London.

Husband and wife team Max and Máire have not missed a trick. Their processes are focused on conserving energy and reducing waste. Their simplistic, modern labelling is a bold statement. The convenient, recyclable eco pouches, which are available in two sizes, from the 2.1L to 20 litres in size (count me in). Everything about their presentation has been exact for survival out there in the heavily populated gin society. I’ve been intrigued from the get go and finally I’ve got my grubby prole mitts on some.

 

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And, I’ve been very lucky as I was sent a collection of the pouches, including the vodka, gin, bitter and Negroni. They arrived in a cardboard box, with a faint stamp saying ‘Take Victory’. Everything about the presentation is spot on. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

It was important to try the vodka first. Being the base of the other drinks, it gives a good ground level understanding of the foundation of flavours. The vodka was clean and strong. I was amazed to discover that the vodka base is a little different to most. Victory have set up a partnership with a chap called Rob Dunne, who is the Director of coffee at Old Spike Roastery and Co-Founder of Dunnefrankowski Creative Coffee Consultancy. Rob ethically sources seasonal, unroasted green coffee beans, which form the base of this fantastic spirit. Now, don’t fall into the trap of thinking this vodka will taste like coffee. The flavour really is very fresh, with a savoury nature. I had a simple serving of soda water and lemon. I rarely drink vodka and soda, but I found the flavour incredibly palatable and this simple serving let the vodka do the work. It was really rather lovely.

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The gin is naturally made with the vodka base and kept to a classic recipe, other than the addition of Chestnut, which is a delightfully thoughtful nod to the book. You get an extra 10 points if you know where. “Under the spreading Chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me.” It’s fresh and confident and really, everything that I had hoped it would be. There’s a beautiful play between the woody notes of the chestnut and the warm spice of cardamon. They sit just behind a fantastically sturdy level of juniper and are a beautiful accent. It’s a subtle yet ingenious twist on a classic, well built gin. A classic gin is something to be respected. I’m partial to a bit of experimentation, but we live in times where gin is in a battle to reclaim it’s identity. Gins like this are such a good example of how you can put your unique twist on it whilst still respecting the spirit.

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It wasn’t long before I had a craving for the Negroni. I’m quite partial to a Negroni. It’s a solid, stand on your own two legs kind of cocktail and it has to be done right. All those strong flavours battling it out in a glass need precise levels to reach the harmonious taste of a good Negroni. The Victory Negroni was wonderful. There was a great balance of flavour, a sharp woody edge and a certain volume to the flavour that brings an indulgence to the simplistic nature of the branding.

The bitters are a lovely little counterpart allowing a bit of creativity at home. Aperitvio culture, which was based in Italy, has for many years been providing a wide range of tart, red wine or spirit based aperitifs, originally drank to help stimulate the appetite. From my experience, I see these being mostly used as a valuable ingredient in many cocktails, such as the Negroni, although the Victory literature also suggests a serving of ice, tonic and lemon. I tried it and I may now be drinking bitter with tonic from now on.

I love this gin. I love every detail of it’s conception, manufacture, marketing and of course the products themselves. I find myself weeping “gin scented tears”. But, thankfully, not as Winston weeps. I love what Max and Máire have done with Victory gin. It was an ambitious project to take on. They’ve very conscientiously created something with real sentimentality and I think they’ve achieved something really quite exquisite. Well done and more importantly, from a fellow Orwell fan, thank you.

 

 

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – GIVEAWAY TBGC’s Yuletide gin: Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions for retweet and win a bottle of TBGC’s Yuletide gin

Thanks for taking An interest in the Twitter competition to win a bottle of TBGC Yuletide gin.

Yuletide Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

A competition must have terms and conditions. If you’d like to enter, I’d ask that you do look at the terms and conditions. If you retweet and enter, I’ll take it that you’re happy with the rules.

  • 18+ UK entry only.
  • Enter by retweeting the competition tweet. You can only retweet once and must not use duplicate accounts.
  • 1 winner will be selected at random, winning a 50cl bottle of Yuletide gin in time for Christmas.
  • Competition will run for 3 days and will run from 9.45pm 12.11.18 – 9.45pm 15.11.18. I’ll be announcing the winner on 16.11.18 and getting in contact for your address.
  • No purchase necessary. No payments to be taken. This is a free bit of festive fun.

GOOD LUCK!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – TBGC’s gin advent calendar, plus win a bottle of Yuletide gin.

After keeping schtum for the last few weeks, I can talk now without getting too much stick, I hope.

I love Christmas. I’m one of those disgusting Christmas people. I want to put the decorations up asap and spend at least a month inside in front of the tree making Christmas crafts surrounded by all the festive goodies. The cheesy feel good films, the jolly, jingle bell sodden music. I love it all. The way I see it, if you can put the pressures to buy big aside, it really boils down to the opportunity to spend time with those you love the most. And, as life gets increasingly busy, I like to take all the opportunity I can for that.

Bearing this in mind, I’ve got a treat for you. I’ve teamed up with That Boutique-y Gin Company to offer you a festive treat, the opportunity to win a bottle of their Yuletide gin for yourself to share with friends around the fire, or perhaps in front of Die Hard. It is a Christmas film. To me, anyway.

Yuletide gin is just fabulous. It has just about every Christmassy flavour you can possibly imagine, crammed in to one bottle. I’d tell you all of those botanicals, but from the mejool dates to the entire gingerbread house, the list is quite overwhelming. Plus, I’d be repeating myself. I wrote a little bit on their gin last year and with one click you can read the list here. You can buy a 50cl bottle online, but at the end of this post I’ll tell you how you can enter a competition to win one for yourself.

Yuletide Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

TBGC have been very kind to me this year. Not only have they given me a bottle of gin to give away to you fine lot, but they’ve also given me a Boutique-y advent calendar, filled with 24 of their delicious creations. It makes the festive season all the better. Last year I got the pleasure of opening doors to their calendar, in exchange for showing off some of the serves. This year I only had to create one serve which they will post on the day of the gin in the calendar. I already knew what I wanted to do. When the day of my serve comes, I hope that you like it.

Gin advent calendars are really rather popular and I can see why. Last year my December was transformed for having a surprise gin to come home to every day. If you’re interested in getting hold of one of their calendars for yourself or someone you know then you can do that through various sites: Master of Malt, Amazon, 31 Dover and IWOOT. I’ll leave it up to you to decide your preference there.

So, if you’d like to win the gin, just keep an eye out on my Twitter (@TheGinfluence). In the next 24 hours, you’re going to see a simple retweet to win. The competition will run for 3 days and I’ll pick one lucky winner out of my santa hat, to be announced on Friday.

So, keep your eyes peeled and good luck!

 

 

 

The Folkore Collection – Stirling Gin

One of the things that really hooked me into gin in the first instance was the enormous wealth of stories. It was all the history, the incredible tales that were being unearthed by distillers and brought to the public eye as the heart and soul of their product. Stirling gin have created a lovely little thing with their folklore collection, two delightful offerings in the form of gin liqueurs that have been born through two fantastic old stories.

The first is the Red Cap, a delicious gin liqueur made with Stirling’s own gin and Scottish raspberries.

If you meet a wicked Red Cap on your walk through the countryside you may find yourself spirited away to the fairy realm, a place of ghosts, magic and bloody mischief. We just hope you can find your way back.

The legend of the red cap comes from border folklore set around the Anglo-Scottish borders. The Red Cap was said to be a short, thick man, also said to be a goblin. He tended to inhabit castles on the border that had experienced wickedness or tyranny. The red of the cap comes from the act of soaking up blood of his victims. Apparently if you are unlucky enough to come across this creature, you can drive him away by quoting scripture and he’ll burst into flames leaving a tooth where he once stood. You can find out more about him here.

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Well the drink itself. 25.5% and a vivid red, which as you can see from the photo is not far from the red of the raspberries themselves. I kept it simple, pouring it over ice with a few raspberries for good measure. The raspberry taste is very natural and you also get a heavy hit of juniper which along with the ABV, gives the liqueur a lively punch. There is a slight viscosity to it and it’s a wonderfully rich drink over a a good amount of ice. The recommendation is over ice or in a bit of bubbly and I was most disappointed that my house is currently bubbly free, as I believe it would excel as a combination.

As for the Green Lady, this is a more unusually flavoured bramble and mint liqueur.

Often seen in the grounds of Stirling Castle, the ghost of the Green Lady likes to watch the townspeople go about their business. Once an attendant of Mary Queen of Scots, she perished in a fire while saving her Queen.

The Green Lady is a sad tale from Stirling Castle of a young highland girl who attend Mary Queen of Scots. She was a superstitious lass and became convinced that there was going to be a fire and spent the night awake for the Queens safety. The night was long and despite her efforts she succumbed to tiredness, falling asleep and setting fire to the queens curtains with her candle. Mary survived the incident but the poor girl died. It seemed her concerns had been misplaced and perhaps you can’t change fate after all. I researched the story of the Green Lady here. It’s a very interesting post that also documents the other ghostly ladies at Stirling Castle.

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As for the liqueur, it’s 24%, and a lovely deep ruby colour. Delicious bramble and mint, just the thing to make potions with. Considering the flavours, we’ve got a nice little, simple twist on a Gin Bramble on our hands. I poured mine over a lot of ice and lemon slice and gave it a little swirl. Again, the flavour has a good hit to it so I added another slice of lemon to cut through it but it was lovely. Amongst those berry flavours the mint is bold and fresh, which gives a great vibrancy to the flavour. Lots of ice and lemon and this liqueur sings a beautiful song.

Reading up on Stirling gin, they have an interesting story. You can find out more about them on their site.

The labels of the bottle are absolutely worth a mention, created by artist Ritchie Collins, based on the shores of Leith. The artwork is beautiful. There is something mysterious and almost somewhat sinister about the black line work and vivid red and green foil filling.

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The 50cl bottles cost £24.99 + £2.95 postage and are available to buy from Stirling’s online shop. They’ve got a great site and a great many products on there so do have a little forage and maybe you’ll uncover some more of the magical and the mysterious.

 

 

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.

 

 

Underground Spirits – You call that a gin? This is a gin

Underground Spirits came into my life some time ago. I’ve been intending to write about them for a long time, longer than it should have been.

I first met Underground Spirits whilst working as a Brand Ambassador. Two lovely ladies approached me for a little help and direction as they were new into the UK from Australia and wanted a bit of guidance to get things started and get out there.

Sure, I said, it’s always nice to help someone. They left me a sample bottle and went on their way. We emailed for a while and then drifted off.

viv and claudia

6 months pass and I’m sat at the World Gin Awards. I get talking to a couple of ladies who after a minute I recognise as the Claudia Roughley and Vivien Pailas, the two lovely ladies from Underground Spirits. Fate has spoken. They sent me a full bottle, I moved house, I finished University and suddenly we’re here.

They have been incredibly patient. Thank you.

So, let’s get started. Underground Spirits had my hooked almost immediately on their idea. “It’s not what you put into gin, but what you take out”, Claudia proudly told me. The basis of their gin begins with good quality botanicals, but it’s the method of filtration that makes it something special. Medical grade filtration equipment is used to filter at sub-zero temperatures, removing impurities and leaving the gin tasting super clean.

I’m only aware of one other company that filters then gin post distillation. I’m sure there are more out there, but it’s certainly not the most common method of production. So how much does this affect the flavour of the gin? Well, it does give a certain level of clarity. The botanicals seem to shine. There is a freshness and a cleanliness to it that set it off in comparison to a lot of other gins.

As Vivien explains, “Our point of difference is that we use medical technology in our distillation process. Using a process learned through IVF tech in Toby’s day job’ as a fertility specialist, he developed and subsequently patented a cryofiltration process that eliminates impurities post distillation. This basically involves the cooling down of the spirit to minus 30 degrees and then passing it through a series of blood filtration membranes (or nano filters). The cool temperatures allows the impurities in the spirit crystalise and clump together and then we pass it through these nano filters which go down to about .02 microns, which means none of those impurities get through, so it eliminates the alcohol burn you usually feel when you drink alcohol.”

The filtration technique was created by Underground Spirits founder, Toby Angstmann, a Dr and IVF specialist. After some time perfecting the technique to create his vodka in his garage, Sister Claudia wanted to create a gin and after putting herself through a gin making course she found herself equipped to create a gin using Toby’s pristine base, focused around punchy Australian botanicals.

And being an Australian gin, does it carry any of the Australian terroir? I am confident to say yes, with botanicals such as Lemon Myrtle, and Tasmanian Pepperberry, which gives the gin that familiar warm spicy that is apparent in a lot of Australian gins. This alongside a strong gin base with the addition of Poppyseeds and Black Pepper give the gin a lovely punch to its naturally earthy flavour. The earthiness works well in cocktails and Underground Spirits do have various cocktail recipes to view on their website. If you want a simple G&T then consider garnishes like orange, mint or lemon thyme.

There are other variations becoming available, one that is particular enticing is the Shiraz Pepperberry Gin, a variant that came about from an experiment and is soon to be a permanent member of the Underground Spirits range. I’m a big fan of the Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz so I’m incredibly excited to try some of Undergrounds delightful cask aged.

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Underground spirits are around a year and a half old now, and they’ve had a fantastic first year. Spreading from their base in Canberra to launching in London at the German Gymnasium, a restaurant and cocktail bar set in a fantastic Grade 2 listed building in Kings Cross, and what was once the first ever purpose built gym in England. This along with awards beginning with gold at the Global Spirits Awards in Vegas. Their achievements are a testament to their ambition, with them to soon open a larger distillery and intending to move beyond Australia and the UK into other export markets.

“We use the Vodka as our base spirit which has won a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year. We are the only Aussie Vodka to pick up a double gold. We also won a silver medal for the Gin at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a Silver at the IWSC & Bronze at the 2018 International Spirits Challenge. I know awards aren’t everything but they certainly help us add credibility to what we do, our process and the quality of the product.”

There has been a notable rise in availability and popularity in Australian spirits here in the UK, due to their unusual and comforting flavour profiles. I’m not at all surprised to see Underground Spirits growing steadily here. Their creative attitude towards processes and botanicals is sure to keep them afloat in the market. It really is a great gin.

You can get your hands on some of their Signature Gin or Vodka on their website. Well done guys! Thoroughly enjoying your work. Please do give me a shout when the Shiraz Pepperberry is available!