Some of you may have noticed things go a little quiet towards the end of last year. Truth be told, I was a little stretched and had to hold fire from writing on here for a bit. As much as I love writing this blog, I have to juggle it in with other things and sometimes I can’t quite do it all.
For those of you who don’t know me so well, when I started writing Under the Ginfluence, I was working part time and studying a BA in English and Creative Writing. In the nearly 5 years (April time) I’ve been doing this, I’ve been slowly building my reputation in the industry and it’s leading to wonderful things. Nowadays I’m a self employed writer and spirits judge, as well as working full time and studying for an MA in Creative Writing. It’s a little more than before and sometimes it’s hard to squeeze it all in, especially with more deadlines to juggle.
So firstly, thank you for your patience.
Secondly, it’s got me thinking. I need to change things up a bit. The first step is to drop back down to part time at work. Luckily for me, I work in a University and they’re fantastic for supporting you whilst you do other things too. As of early Feb I’ll be dropping back down to 3 days a week, which means Mon-Weds I’m at work, Thurs-Fri will be my self employed office hours. Just to be at the point where I have official hours is a brilliant thing and something that seemed a world away when I first started. I have a small room in my house that I use as a study. More often than not it’s full of boxes and anything I don’t know what to do with gets chucked in and the door closed. Last weekend I cleared it out and I’ve ordered a few extra bits to transform it into a proper office. I’ve ordered a large corkboard for keeping organised, some filing trays and a shelf to put my plants on. After some organising, my desk actually looks like a desk. I’ve got a bookcase in there already that’s full of nonsense so I’ll be clearing that off to home all of the gin bottles I’ve been collecting around my house the last few years. I’ll have a real Ginfluence HQ. It’s all very exciting.
Secondly, I think I’m going to open my blog up to a little more. So far it’s really been just focused on the gin and just to assure you, the gin will still be the prominent feature, it’s Under the Ginfluence after all. However, I’m finding it tricky to keep up with reviews. Although I’ll have more time for reviews and I’ll certainly be keeping it updated with all sorts of gin related stuff, going forward, I’m going to loosely broaden the content. I’m going to be writing a little more on the judging, on the experiences travelling to events and maybe a little more on my life as a gin person too. This is for me as much as for you. I’ve found that having a few gins in the queue can really block up my ability to write anything at all, and I think having the option to write about more stuff would mean I write more in general. Don’t worry, I’m going to organise the categories so you can click a button and get all the gin reviews and nothing else, if that’s what you’re really into.
I’ll be starting this with a travel diary of my trip to San Francisco for the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits in February. I did have a bash at travel writing when I went last year and there was a great response to it, so much so that I made the joke that perhaps I’d gone into the wrong business. So, fingers crossed I can keep it as interesting this time too!
And with that, here’s my first post of this year, and my first post on here for some time. Boy, that sure feels good.
Thanks for all your support, here’s to a broader horizon in 2020, hopefully even brighter too.
As you may know, I’m a big supporter of IOW Distillery. Our history goes back a long way, when I had only been writing the blog for a ahort time and I took a trip to meet Xav and see what they were about.
If you want to read that post from way back when, you can here.
Seeing as we go back, I like to keep up with what their doing and I love to see their progress. So, with this in mind, I was really pleased to receive this update on their latest victory:
31st October 2019
Plastic-free packaging prevails: The Isle of Wight Distillery celebrates international design award.
Just six months after the relaunch of Mermaid Gin, the island spirit has been presented with a prestigious international award. Coming up against competition from around the world, Mermaid Gin was awarded first place in the International Wine and Spirit Competition for its strikingly sculpted design, which is 100% plastic-free, with a wood topped cork and unique plant-based tamper proof seal.
Xavier Baker, co-founder at the Isle of Wight Distillery said:
“This award is proof that a commitment to being plastic-free and 100% recyclable doesn’t mean you have compromise on style. Thanks to a brilliant team and our partners, we’ve managed to balance both. This is such a prestigious award – we couldn’t be more pleased. It’s really an award for this innovative island as much as Mermaid.”
Great work guys! I remember my last visit to the new distillery and bar, when you showed me the bottle for the first time. It’s such a gorgeous thing and clearly the product of a lot of thought, consideration and love. I’m not at all surprised that it’s doing so well. Keep up the good work!
For those of you who remember, I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco earlier in the year to judge for the ADI, in their Judging of Craft Spirits. Luckily for me, they like what I do so I’ve been invited back for next year.
I’ve recently had word that registration to enter your spirit in the competition has opened!
As director of the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits it is my privilege to tell you that registration for our 2020 competition is open. The Judging of Craft Spirits is the oldest and most respected spirits competition dedicated to producers of craft spirits. We accept US and International entries in all classes and categories of distilled spirits, RTDs, cocktail bitters, aperitif & fortified wines from ADI Members as well as non-member small and medium-scale producers.
Medals for both the spirit and packaging are awarded only to those judged worthy of recognition. All entrants will receive written feedback with comments from the spirit judges. And, all entrants are evaluated to see 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 a digital renderings of all applicable medals, awards and certifications.
For any international spirit not yet exported to the US we also provide a free online COLA Waiver application which allows you to legally ship samples to our competition that do not have a certificate of label approval from the US Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. December 22, 2019 is the last day to apply for the waiver and all spirits registered before December 29, 2019 will automatically receive our early-bird discount, and save $50/spirit entered.
As well as this, I’ve had a further email offering discounts for certain spirits.
In addition, we have created a few discount codes for international producers who may not be members of ADI. If you know any international spirits that falls into one of the below categories please feel free to share a discount code with them.
These codes discount the entry fee for non-ADI members by $100/spirit, which is in addition to the $50/spirit early-bird discount if producers register before December 29, 2019.
I’ve been donning my judges hat at a few competitions now. And, the ADI Judging of Craft Spirits is one of my favourites. There are a fantastic crowd of industry people there, some top spirit connoisseurs. And, not only is it carried out professionally, but it’s friendly and really fun. I would thoroughly recommend checking out their site and considering entry. They receive entries of many different spirits from all over the world, and last year it was our very own Cotswolds Gin that took the gin title.
If you’ve got any questions, do feel free to ask. And, if I can’t answer, I’ll certainly put you in touch with someone who can.
I received a rather interesting email today from Ginger PR on behalf of Verdant Spirits and Avian:
Order! Order! Verdant Gin Wins Tender to Supply Gin to the House of Commons.
The House of Commons has awarded Dundee distillery, Verdant Spirits, the contract to be their sole supplier of a House of Commons Gin with a special edition of their award-winning spirit. Verdant Spirits will not only provide their gin but will also deliver expert training and tastings for the House of Commons team and members.
Voted Scottish Gin of the Year at the inaugural Scottish Gin awards, Verdant Dry Gin, crafted in Dundee’s first distillery for almost 200 years, fought off a shortlist of five from a number of UK national brands including incumbent supplier, Sipsmith.
Verdant won the prestigious tender after scoring top marks in the blind taste test and wowing judges with their presentation at the Houses of Parliament. Their proposal, developed in collaboration with Dundee design agency Avian, put forward an entirely new visual treatment and packaging concept marrying the Verdant Spirits and House of Commons branding.
Bespoke boxed packaging was created replacing Verdant’s original graphics with a specially designed House of Commons treatment, with feedback from the House of Commons stating the judges were ‘blown away by the whole package’.
Andrew Mackenzie, Founder and Managing Director at Verdant, said: “We spent two years researching and finessing the perfect dry gin and we firmly believe in our product, but it still felt fantastic to win out in the taste test. To really show our commitment to the process, we didn’t want to simply add a logo or brand to the bottle, we wanted to create a truly co-branded product.”
Scott McCallum, MD of Avian, said: “By creating an entirely new label and specialised packaging solely for the House of Commons, we retained the integrity of both the Verdant Spirits brand and the historic House of Commons identity, whilst also creating shelf appeal. This balance of both brands in one product really resonated with the judging panel as they recognised the all-out effort to secure this prestigious opportunity.”
Andrew added: “We hope that this exciting new development signals a significant opportunity for the Verdant Spirits brand to be elevated to the next level, and also highlights and encourages the further investment and partnership we are currently seeking.”
This marks the second time the contract has been awarded since Sipsmith were chosen to serve back in 2016.
Verdant Dry Gin is distilled in small batches in a 500-litre pot still, embodying the spirit of its home city, Dundee, with the highest quality ingredients sourced globally reflecting the shipping and trading heritage of the city.
Verdant is available in a number of premium bars and restaurants and stocked in Harvey Nichols, The Kitchin and Montpeliers in Edinburgh, as well as a number of independent retail outlets.
Interesting stuff and it’s put me in a right pickle over how I feel. I love Sipsmith. Plus, considering their hand in the changes to legality that made such a huge contribution to the industry, it feels right that they held that spot. Then again, considering Scotland produces something like 70% of the UK’s gin and suffered at the implementation of various taxes on gin production over the centuries, it’s kind of nice that the spot has gone to a Scottish gin. What are your thoughts?
I do like to receive news. And, I’m am always happy to share under my news section, so if you’ve got any important announcements do send it my way.
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.
“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.
Four years ago today, I posted my first post on this blog, and what a wonderful four years it has been!
Although it feels peculiar, and maybe a little self indulgent, to write about me rather than someone else, it feels right to take a moment of reflection and to size up my progress. Reading my first ever post, a brief introduction to the blog and how I was at that point just falling into love with gin, is actually quite emotional. Initially I spoke to distillers that came into the bar I worked in. One of the first pieces I wrote on a distiller and their gin was Paul Bower of Twisted Nose. Although I was lucky to have the access to distillers that I did through my job, I was keen to get further afield to visit some distilleries. In those early days I would contact distillers through Twitter and ask if I could visit. Sometimes I would hear back, sometimes I wouldn’t. Of those that let me arrange a visit, some would treat me like royalty, others would give me ten minutes and seemed suspicious that I was only in it for the booze, quite certain that they were never going to hear from me again. And no, I won’t divulge who.
Now, I absolutely understood that it would be this way until I built a reputation and I tried very hard to build a good one. I am a conscientious writer. Despite my cheeky nature, I try to be fair and respectful in what I say, both in my posts and my social media. I like to encourage and motivate others to do well in their gins and their blogs too. It was important to me to be reliable and early on, writing those first few reviews, I actually sent them off to the distiller to look over, as I was concerned that perhaps I had made a mistake with a detail and was terrified of putting up something that was ‘incorrect’. I know, I know. I lacked confidence back then. That all changed when I met Alfie Amayo, who at the time, was working as a Brand Ambassador of COLD. I had an amazing night in the distillery talking shop with him. At the end I asked if I could send him my article to check. He looked at me, saying nothing for a short while. Eventually he said “No. I don’t want you to send it to me. It’s your work, it’s your thoughts. You shouldn’t ever send it to anyone. You put it up for you.” That really resonated with me. In the early days you feel that you were doing it for others, but really, you’re doing it for you. That moment changed everything for me. That’s when I really started to feel like Under the Ginfluence was mine.
Blogging is very much a labour of love. You do it because you love it. Not because you’re trying to make anything from it. I think that if you did, you would lose patience. It took time toiling over posts to get a like, perhaps a share. There were points when I would feel disheartened. But, I somehow found myself seeking out the next gin to write about. I had a compelling curiosity to find out the information for me. And, I just love to write so sharing came naturally. I found I revelled in storytelling, in sharing my rather infectious enthusiasm with others.
The first brand to contact me to write on their gin was Batch, and in June 2015 they sent me a bottle of their Premium Gin. I still remember how excited I was, how my hands clumsily unwrapped the package and cradled the bottle as if some sort of trophy. I had the most fabulous day trying it with different mixers to see which worked best. I was so proud of the fact that I’d been contacted, rather than contacting other people. It was a sign that things were starting to grow.
And grow they did. Especially when I met David T Smith, Gin Expert and Historian, on the deck of HMS Victory, for the opening ceremony of HMS Victory Cask Aged Gin. I was fascinated with his knowledge and we met up to talk about gin. I was hoping to write a feature on him for my blog, but as it happens we never got to that. He was more interested in what projects I could help him with. He has been intrinsic to a lot of opportunity for me, especially the judging. I owe you a big thank you, David.
The judging has been an incredible development. David picked up on my ability to taste and asked me to help out at Gin of the Year, held at Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Visiting the distillery alone was a joy and I felt really privileged to be a judge. I found I really enjoyed getting stuck into the differences in flavour, and how the gin worked. I loved sussing out the quality and seeing how the gin alludes to what it claims to be. It really was the start of something special. I still do Gin of the Year, and now also the World Gin Awards, have recently judged at the American Distilling Institutes Judging of Craft Spirits in San Francisco (there are nine posts on my blog, one for each day of the trip and you can find the first one here). And, in July I’ll be at the IWSC for all four days of the gin judging, which is a big box tick for me. Judging has become a key part of what I do. It has allowed me to taste such a huge variety of gin and really pay attention to each one. It’s also been fantastic for networking. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, the gin industry is incredibly friendly. I now have a little gin family spread far and wide and bumping into any of them at an event is a delight.
Networking opportunities also grew during my time working for GinFestival.com. Almost every week I’d be in a different city, with different brands on stalls. I made the most of that to talk to them all, try all the gin and look to arrange write ups. One of my favourites from this period was Cotswolds Distillery. Written in June 2017, the article hardly seems relevant now, but I still love it. Since that was posted they’ve released their whisky to great acclaim and have finished building their visitor centre. I’ve got a lot of love for their distillery and they know it. As well as Networking, GinFestival.com taught me the valuable skill of the masterclass. A few years ago I was scared to get on stage and read my poetry. At GFs height, I was holding masterclasses for almost 200 people a time.
I should add as well, that GF brought me my Gin Festival family who were the most amazing set of people to work with. We worked hard and played hard. The year I had touring around with them will always have a massive place in my heart. I love you team.
Blogging is a beast. Always there begging for attention and for nurturing. My life has become more and more about gin. Anything I was doing, could it go on the blog? Sitting down to a meal with a gin, I’m asking if should I take a photo to upload? Will it help my social media? I find it hard to leave things alone, even to my detriment and it all became a little obsessive. In the years since I started blogging, my life has become much more busy. I’ve studied and completed a BA in English and Creative Writing, I’m now half way through an MA in CW, and I’m now a self employed writer, as well as working at the University. So, I’ve had to lay a few rules to myself as otherwise it could all get a little too much. Sometimes the social media goes quiet for a few days. It’s ok, I’m just doing other life things. I used to stress myself out trying to turnaround a review in a matter of days. Now if someone contacts me, I give them an idea of lead time and give myself plenty of time to do it. I’ve learnt to relax in what I’m doing. It’s my ship. I’m in control. I’ll tell people how I work, rather than try and work like them. Taking these steps have been hugely beneficial to my mental well being and my productivity.
So, if you made it to the end of this, thank you! Here we are. I had other work to do today. Yet, I’ve just spent the last four hours sat here, writing this. It is a compulsion. I am compelled to write. I do it because I love it. I do it because I love gin.
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!
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.
This is an usual post from me, more of an update than a feature. I’ve been getting involved in more and more projects, which I love. However, I have found it gives me a little less time to write large posts. So, one of my new years resolutions is to make a concerted effort to post little and often to keep you all up to date with my shenanigans. I’ll still be writing the larger pieces though, they’re my favourite.
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year! It’s been fantastic to have a few days off with loved ones, and a bit of a rest too. I also hope you enjoyed opening your Drinks by the Dram and Boutique-y Calendars as much as I did! They’ve really upped their game from last year. I’m consistently wowed by new gins. They keep coming, and with such good quality! The possibilities for creation really are endless.
The next couple of weeks are going to prove rather busy at Ginfluence central. I’m finishing an article for Gin Magazine, judging at the World Gin Award finals and then wrapping up the first assessment of my MA. Needless to say, I’m feeling the pressure somewhat, but it is so very good to be busy.
On the 18th however, I’m going on an adventure.
I’ll be flying out to San Francisco to judge the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits! It’s a great event and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the fantastic industry people out there (and taking lots of notes for sure!) I’ll also be spending a couple of days either side of the judging to take a look around San Francisco, to learn a bit of it’s literary history and get myself into some gin bars. Top of the list is Whitechapel, although I’ll certainly be heading for others too.
I’ll be there until the 27th, posting updates as I go, rather than writing a large piece when I get back. Please do get involved with suggestions! It’s my first time in San Francisco and although it’s only a short stay, I’d like to squeeze in as much as possible!
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
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.”