ADI Judging of Craft Spirits 2020 – Registration Open!

ADI-logo

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.
For more information, please go to www.distilling.com/judging, feel free to contact me directly, or click the link to Enter Today!

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.
Code Group
2020BNIA Armagnac
2020BNIC Cognac
2020IBRAC Cachaça
2020PISCO Pisco
2020AGAVE Mexican Spirits
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.

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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.

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

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.

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.

 

ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 9: The Journey Home

When I woke up, I was a little fuzzy from the day before. If you haven’t read day 8, it might be worth catching up. Tequila, Mezcal and Gin can give you quite the head.

I woke early, snuck into the shower and was down for breakfast early. As I prepared a toasted bagel smothered in cream cheese, a big glass of OJ and a cup of fresh coffee, I was contemplating the day before and my jolly around the bars. I had come across a various mix of people, as you do in any city. Some were friendly and others weren’t really out to meet new people. As a lone traveller, you have to put yourself out there. It was apparent more than once that the people I’d started talking too weren’t very interested in talking to me and it had left me feeling a little sad. I had hazy memories of ordering a shuttle to the airport. I could remember the woman behind reception being very patient with my slurry demeanour, but I couldn’t remember what time it had been ordered for.

Looking for somewhere to sit for breakfast in a hostel is like looking for a place in a school lunch hall. For those of us with social anxiety it can be a nerve racking situation. You have to make a decision, and fast. No dilly dallying, or you get stuck between several possible places and stand there like a glitching character in a video game. This has happened to me more than once. And, certainly more than once since I left school. I saw a girl smiling and waving at me from a table with a space. I was unsure where I knew her from but was very thankful for the hospitality so I flashed her a smile and went to sit down.

“I remember you from last night.”

Oh dear. I didn’t remember. I didn’t remember much from the night before. I hope I hadn’t embarrassed myself.

“Well” I responded, “good morning!”

She spoke to her friends around her and introduced me. They were from Taiwan, visiting the East Coast on a 17 day trip. They asked what I did and on explaining the gin blog and the ADI and by the time I had finished they had already looked my blog up and added me on Facebook. She gave a big grin and showed me a picture of my fella.

“He plays guitar!”

“He does!” I grinned proudly.

“I play music” a lad in the group started, enthusiastically. “Let me show you!”

He fiddled on his phone and found a couple of tracks he’d written and recorded at home using logic. As I sat there looking at their lovely happy faces in that busy room I realised that this was the sort of interaction that I’d been missing, and the sort that can sometimes dissipate from a busy city, even one like San Francisco. Within 30 minutes sat at that table we’d swapped social media, shared hobbies and promised each other a bed if ever in the country. I thanked them, telling them they’d brought some sunshine to my day. I left the table feeling warm, went and checked what time the shuttle was due and went to pack my things.

I shared the shuttle with a lovely couple that were heading to the airport to travel home after 6 weeks away. Talking to them was like a debrief. We agreed that the city was much more relaxed than London, but there was still that city vibe. Despite the FDA shutdown I managed to get through customs relatively quickly and found myself near the gate with time for food. On a nosy around I spotted Tacos. Tacos! One of my take homes from the trip. I still hadn’t tried the fish tacos that San Francisco was so famous for and to my delight they had them on the menu. Ooderlally they were gorgeous! They’ve been added to the list of tacos I’m going to be making at home.

The flight was long. I was hoping to catch the Northern Lights as we headed back across Greenland and over to Iceland but alas, I think I saw them faintly but it was too faint to tell, a grey/white shape mottling in the sky. The flight gave me time to contemplate the trip. What were my take homes, the best bits? Well, there were a lot! The City Lights Bookstore, Versuvio Cafe and Women’s March in just one day. The trip to Tiburon and the beautiful scenery. The amazing experience of judging for the ADI. The incredible people that I met, and the things I learnt form mingling with such experts in their field. The Zombie Village Tiki Bar, Tequila and Tacos at Tacolicious, Anchor Beer, crab melts, True Laurel and Whitechapel. I do feel like I crammed a lot in, but there is still so much to do in that city that I didn’t get close to touching. Fingers crossed that the ADI were pleased with my work and I get an invite to go back next year. Pretty please ADI, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed! In the meantime I’ve made a lot of new connections and I’d just like to extend my thanks to everyone that was involved in that fantastic event. It was incredibly well organised and it was an honour to attend. Until next year, hopefully. Fingers crossed. And toes.

ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 8: Tequila, Mezcal and Gin

It was the last day so I knew I had to make it count.

I wanted to get into Mission. The chap sat next to me on the flight into the city lived in that area and said that it was a nice part of town. I did a bit of research and discovered that there’s a large Mexican community there so I decided to find somewhere good to go for Tacos and Tequila. I had hoped to get along to Mission Dolores Park, but as soon as I arrived at Tacolicious I figured I’d not be leaving there any time soon. There was wonderful array of Tequilas and Mezcals and I was just in time for Happy Hour.

The barman was a lovely chap, proudly from Mexico City and he was delighted in my interest in tequila. I asked for some recommendations and he suggested three types that were favourites of his. He set them up for me and whilst doing so gave me a great education in the drink. Tequila is made specifically from blue agave and it only grows in 4 or so regions. Blanco is unaged, reposado is aged for around one year and he gave me some of a newer style, anjeo, which is aged for longer than one year. I had one that was aged for around eighteen months. As he said, people are always looking for new things, new ideas, new flavours.

All three were served up with cumin sweet spiced salt and fresh lime wedges. A quick education in Tequila. We tend to rush things in the UK, racing to lick the salt, shoot the shot and suck on the lemon to wash over the tequila flavour. When it’s a good spirit, you don’t want go drown that out, right? The preferred method is much slower. No shooters here. The method works in the same order but just much more gentle. Light licks, small sips, cycle round as often as you fancy. The cumin salt has a wonderful sweet warm spice flavour. It really opens up all the spirit and careful now, it’s surprising how quickly you can work your way through the measures.

First up was Fortaleza Blanco which had a really lovely flavour and was very balanced. There was hardly any kick back for a 40%. Then, Cazadores Anejo which was a lovely golden colour, smooth and well rounded. And finally, Don Julio Tequila Reservado which was incredibly smooth and had a great flavour. They were all 40% and the taste was amazing for a mid shelf range.

Drinking Tequila takes some responsibility. For years to us Brits it’s been the ‘one drink too many’ had at the end of the night, sometimes on a dare. This perception could be a little tricky to break, most of us have bad memories of Tequila. However, I challenge you to have an night of tequila and tacos and I’m hoping that that you’ll look at this drink in a completely different way.

Nonetheless. I was needing food, and fast. I was recommended the pastrami taco and it was ludicrously tasty. All the saltiness of the rich meat holds up beautifully to tequila. A squeeze of lime sets it off with crisp red cabbage and creamy mustard manzano aioli. I only had the one, but could have definitely managed more and since I’ve returned, I’ve been researching recipes so I can try my hand a recreating this deliciousness at home.

Seeing as I was there, I decided to try some Mezcal and I asked what the differences were. Other than the agave plant used (tequila using the very specific blue agave and mezcal using any of the other forty odd kinds out there), it’s also about the process. The agave is smoked, which gives the mezcal a wonderful smokey flavour. Served with cricket salt and fresh orange, it was wonderful. After this I must admit, I was feeling a little heady, so I decided to move venue and went to True Laurel, as recommended by Leon at Gin Journies.

True Laurel is a discreet little set up, but had a lot of people there. I am not surprised. The cocktail menu was great. I went for an emerald gem named a Shoop Sour. Uchuva (physallis, one of my Dads favourite fruits), salt & pepper, lime and vermouth. It was smooth and fruity with a zingy pop and salty spice at the end. Ooderlally.

It was time for the big one. Whitechapel. Any gin fan that knows their juniper will know Whitechapel. It’s home to one of the largest gin collections in the world (for a bar), around 400. The speakeasy style and vaulted ceiling really add to the atmosphere and on the night, there were people in full dress doing pre-drinks before attending a ball. I felt like I’d gone back in time! There was a definite magic in the air. The staff were brilliant, assisting my polite, brit demeanour getting served amongst the more forward San Franciscans.

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I had a couple of cocktails and a ginfusion that was out of this world. The gin is infised with orange peel, Ramazzotti Aperitivo Rosato, Pear Brandy and Oloroso Sherry which creates a wonderful sweet, dry, fruity drink. Eventually I found myself chewing the ear off a gentleman about gin, gin history, the cocktails we were drinking. I recommend Piucinque which is one of my favourites and quite a rare find, only available in the UK at the Atlas Bar Manchester right now as far as I know. We had some doubles, then I was quite certain I needed food and bed. It was a great last day and definitely ticked some boxes off. Theres an excellent bar scene there. Something for everyone. I went to sleep a very happy girl.

ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 6: The Grand Panel Party

The final day of judging was a blast.

I was asked to join the review panel which was just amazing! The review pane judging began in the morning, to help judge the spirits that had gone back for well, review. It really shows the integrity of the process, I think. If a spirit is brought to a table and there’s a big difference in the scores, for example if half think it should get a gold and half think it shouldn’t medal at all, it’s sent for review and given to another table for a second opinion. The reviews had been going on through the previous day, with a mysterious flight arriving here and there that we weren’t expecting. Some unaged rums some honey whisky, even some cream liqueurs.

I felt honoured to be on the review panel. I felt like I’d really grown as a judge through the few days and I loved the opportunity to debate the merits of some tricky spirits. The other judges were great, we had a lot of fun and we debated the hell out out everything. Listening to jock jams, we worked our way through a lot of entries, managing to settle on an appropriate score for each one, and an appropriate song for the wait for the next one.

After a brief lunch everyone got together for the grand panel. The best of the best! Flights of the gold winners of each category came through and for these we had to pick the top three. The quality of these entries was spectacular! There were some great ideas, some really well executed too. I’d love to tell you about them but I’m sworn to secrecy for now and I kind of like that.

Another quick break and time to get ready for the evening do and the opening of the spirits room. There was a sizzle of anticipation as we ate and conversed about the day. It was all quite relaxed until a whisper circulated that the gold medallists had been brought through. Within moments, conversations politely fell away and plates were abandoned. “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. This is why we do this”, I was told. I totally get it. The excitement of seeing what everything is, of finding out who makes your favourites, of discovering the new gems in the crown of craft.

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That’s how night began, I remember. I was in full on kid in a candy store mode. Everyone was getting into everything with such vigor! Showing ones they liked to other judges that hadn’t tasted them. Singing their praises with the same passion they’d done on the panels. The night was a riot!! We all had glasses and just pottered around, looking at things, pouring ourselves tipple after tipple. The back two spirits rooms were opened up an hour early because everyone was just so flipping keen to get in there. 800 entries all available and in some cases to take the bottle. It was great mingling with everyone I’d only managed fleeting conversations with and although I was a little too pickled to get out on the late night cigar walk, I had a wonderful, wonderful time. My only regret is that I didn’t get many photos of people, which was my intention. I need to remember those beautiful faces. But, I was having way too much fun! There have been photos being throughout by the lovely Bill, so when they’re available for viewing I’ll share a few for you. It’s a night I’m going to remember always.

ADI San Francisco Travel Trip Diary – Day 5: I Am A Sponge

Over breakfast I was told that I’d be moving tables.

The comfortability I’d found on the first day dissipated quickly into nerves. I felt like I’d have to prove myself again. I sound over dramatic, which I am lets be honest, and it was very good to move around and listen to what other people were thinking and where they were coming from with their ideas. I’m just well aware that I’m swimming with some pretty big fish here, and I want to do it right. I shyly pottered through and sat at the the table. The pace had been upped, with us having to feedback much quicker. Also the debating had become more in depth, with several instances of having to come back to a gin that had a varied response, to discuss and agree on a score that was more in line with what everyone thought.

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This is however, very much my first rodeo and I’m well aware that this is a great opportunity to learn as much as possible. I am a sponge. I was constantly listening to all the tables in earshot, soaking up as much as possible. And, I was overwhelmed at the knowledge in the room. It’s a very humbling to be sat around so many experts. On the first day, I met a lovely gentleman, Jeff, who writes on rum and tiki. I clicked when he mentioned that he had got himself an office to get him out of the house because he was “losing all social skills he’d once developed”, by staying at home writing. My eyes widened, “I get you!” I can spend days sat at home in my pants writing, it’s like an addiction. I don’t feel I can leave the laptop if there’s more I can do and before I know it, I can’t even look people in the eye when I’m up the shops for a pint of milk.

Before the first drinks came out on day 1, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. The room is full of people from all areas of the industry. Distillers, bar owners, bar tenders, importers, distributors, writers, all sorts of people. I realised my hands were shaking as the plethora of incredible introductions crept closer and closer to little old me. Suddenly it was my turn and the whole room turned and looked my way. Silence. That sizzle of anticipation. I swallowed, before projecting my voice calmly and smiling as I said who I was and what I did. Smiles and nods, and onto the next. Relief washed over me like I was bare feet dug into sand on the shoreline. I will remember the moment always.

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So, I’ve been doing ok the last couple of days. I reminded myself of this, and I summoned up the courage to sit on the ‘Gin 2’ panel. It’s a great little table! Ben from Seattle based Big Gin, Ollie from Sipsmith and Keli Rivers who is everything a gin judge could aspire to be. Her palate and knowledge of flavour is exemplary! The notes she picks out are mind blowing. I was marvelling all day at her ability to taste, “this tastes wet and…hot, almost plastic, like when you drink water out of a garden hose that’s been in the sun”. I am a sponge. I have been and will keep learning all I can.

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Gins, gins, gins all day and something a little bit interesting at the end as we step in to help on honeyed whiskys, then unaged rums and finally cream liquors. The diversity of flavour here was amazing. It really was a marathon of a day but we got through it. On leaving I met up with the wonderful Lara Victoria and we went for some Italian food at Don Antonia Trattoria. I had spinach and ricotta ravioli in bolognese with garlic and it was out of this world! The service was amazing and the wine was lovely too, another great Pinot Noir from the local area. Great choice Lara!

Another solid 8 hours sleep and I’m up and raring to go. I’m bubbling with joy to be sat with a coffee, writing. Having not long finished a BA and now part way through a MA in writing, I have been spending a lot of time writing because I have too. Writing because I’m stressing over deadlines. The last few days of finding an hour in the morning to write because I want to, has been absolute bliss and I’ll go as far to say it’s re-sparked my love for it. I must find a way to continue this when I get home. I need to remember to find some time to write for love, even when there’s writing for deadlines.

Anyway, today’s the final day! Last gins in the morning, grand panel in the afternoon and the big do in the evening…but I’ll tell you all about those tomorrow. Let me at’em!