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!

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Tell me, what’s your flavour?

So, as I see it there are 8 main brackets of gin flavour (Do let me know if you think otherwise). To know and understand these is a good starting point as no matter how well made a gin is, it’s all still a matter of taste. The next step is to understand how each botanical tastes and smells (we’ll get into that another time). Sooner or later you can gauge what bracket a gin will fall into by looking at the listed botanicals.

A list of gins and their flavour brackets can be found in my post Make a suggestion – The gin list This list is sure to grow and if you have any comments – suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Sweet
I do love a good sweet gin. Old Tom gins are my particular favourite. With a nice hit of liquorice (and sometimes added sugar), the gin has a deep and naturally sweet undertone. Haymans were one of the gin makers to look at reviving this older forgotten recipe (a brief story of old tom is included in my fantastical history of gin). Many have followed suit including those big hitters Tanqueray. Their Old Tom gin is a limited edition (only 150,000 bottles have been produced). If you’re sweet enough then try mixing it with bitter lemon for a well balanced and unusual flavour (this also works fabulously with Cream gin created by the Worship Street Whistling Shop).

Savoury
Savoury flavours are big at the moment and the gin on everyone’s lips has to be Gin Mare (pronounced Mar-ray). Served with basil and Fever Tree’s Mediterranean tonic water it makes for a crisp and refreshing G&T. The rosemary and lemongrass in the tonic sets the sweetness of the basil off nicely. Savoury flavours are bursting with herby botanicals and foodstuffs such as Olives. They also comfortably lend themselves towards other brackets so some fantastic balances can be achieved. Twisted Nose for example, is a wonderful, locally produced gin with peppery watercress and floral lavender.

Spicy
Some like it hot. This is also true with gin. Some G&Ts can be served with a garnish of fresh chilli giving an extra kick to an already warming flavour. Great to take your summer drink right on through the autumn before we’re all drowning in a sea of hot toddies and mulled wine. Bathtub gin is a favourite of mine with hints of comforting clove and orange. Monkey 47 also certainly deserves a mention, with 6 different peppers and one of the longest lists of botanicals in a gin.

Citrus
Gin needs citrus. It’s a fundamental part of most gins and most products use peel for their flavour. There are a handful that don’t, including the world renowned Tanqueray Ten. Tanqueray have also been pretty clever with the creation of Tanqueray Rangpur. Based on an old tradition of using the rare rangpur limes to smooth down the flavour, it delivers a gorgeous hit of fruitiness when sipped on it’s own. There are others out there so if you like your drink a little tart these will be the ones to look into.

Floral
Floral gins are summer in a glass. Delicate and flavoursome they are a stark contrast to the enormity of the Juniper we can taste in standard gin recipes. That said, they are the perfect base for any elderflower cocktail. Bloom is well worth comment. With camomile and honeysuckle it delivers a superbly sweet and gentle flavour. The Botanist Islay is up there as one if my favourites. Created by a whisky distiller, there are at least 31 botanicals in its recipe and 22 are native and hand foraged. The result is a complex floral taste with deep hints of earthiness from the surrounding bog and its as if the drink itself is a homage to our earth.

Dry
This is what most gin drinkers expect and in fact, this is a underlying flavour in the huge majority of gins as Juniper does have a naturally dry taste. For those of us after something special, No 3 London Dry Gin delivers. Keeping the recipe simple with only 3 fruits and 3 spices used, it’s clean, crisp and everything you expect from gin. This drink stands for good quality and makes the valuable statement that excellence comes from simplicity, just as much as complexity.

Juniper Driven
One for the true gin drinker. Juniper is the original and definitive gin flavouring. Although we’ve had a recent explosion in flavour experimentation there are some drinkers that feel if you can’t fully taste the juniper, it’s not a real gin. A wonderful example is Sipsmiths VJOP (Very Junipery Overproof). At 57% – Navy rum strength, this stuff really packs a wallop. There are plenty of other gins that are juniper driven but still carry a notable background flavour.

Liqueur
There are a variety of tasty gin liqueurs to be tried. Being a liqueur the abv is much lower than the standard 40% and at around 20% they are lovely to sip over ice. Spencerfield Edinburgh gin have a fabulous range including a raspberry one that really tickles me in the right places. I’ve also found it works brilliantly as a replacement for desert wine.