Carrying the Torch – The Gin Sessions

Recently I wrote an article on By Ginvitation Only, a new gin experience started by two of my friends who used to work in the Events team for Gin Festival Ltd. And, two of the staff of the twenty seven that found themselves out of work when Gin Festival Ltd announced it was going into administration.

Since the sad collapse of the company, I’ve taken great comfort in seeing the team blossoming into life post Gin Festival Ltd. They’re such an incredibly talented and hard working bunch and with their rich experience, morals and work ethic, they’ve got a lot to bring to the table.

Many of the people that I’ve spoken to since the festivals finished, have said how sad they are as they were such a good event. Well, I’ve got some very good news for you, someone has picked up that torch and is making a run with it.

Naomi Good, another Gin Festival team mate has started ‘The Gin Sessions’. In her words it’s “a much more scaled down version of Gin Festival Ltd”. Naomi wants to focus on putting on good events, working with excellent brands and continuing to share the love of all things gin.

“Over the last four years I have worked endlessly to manage our events program but sadly couldn’t control the commercial decisions that were being made so I saw a slow collapse of a business and community that I loved.”

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She acknowledges the determination needed to start up. “My competition is fierce. I have no external funding just me, a lap top, passion and some awesome contacts. I know I can throw a good gin event, my biggest challenge is selling that to people, getting them on board and getting them to purchase a ticket and attend an event.”

“Starting out with zero social presence is terrifying. So far, I have launched two events and the response has been really positive. I’m getting positive responses from previous work colleagues, brands are being very supportive and potential customers are getting on board.” So far Naomi has set up a Facebook page and Twitter page and due to her being known from Gin Festival Ltd is already picking up lots of followers which bodes well.

“It is with great pleasure I present to you, The Gin Sessions, a small independent festival driven by passion and the desire to explore new and exciting gins.”

“At The Gin Sessions you can expect to find a large selection of gins over 4 bars, some live music to keep your toe tapping and masterclasses from industry experts. We love gin and want to share out passion through a fantastic session packed with a carefully selected variation of gin styles. You will be presented on arrival with your copa style gin glass and a booklet with tasting notes.”

Naomi has organised 2 ‘Sessions’ so far with more on the way.

First up is Bristol, Naomi’s home from home, where she studied Photography in previous years.

The Bristol festival is on:

Saturday 27th October: 12.30 – 17.00
Saturday 28th October: 18.30 – 23.00

The House of Gin cancelled their dates so The Gin Sessions took over. It’s at the Paintworks which is a fantastic venue, an ex factory converted into an events space. Tickets available here.

The second festival is on Hayling Island and is on:

Saturday 3rd November: 12.30 – 17.00
Saturday 3rd November: 18.30 – 23.00

The event will be held at Hayling Community Centre. It will be the Islands first ever gin festival. Tickets available here.

Tickets are £10 (plus £1.37 booking fee) per person. This includes entrance to the festival, your gin glass, gin talks and the gin booklet. Book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available through Eventbrite, with built in refund cover.

Naomi’s plan is for five bars. Two classic gin bars, one international gin bar, a flavoured gin bar and a gin cocktail bar. In total there will be approximately sixty gins exhibited with several brand ambassadors which is a great touch. When attending these sort of events it’s so much better when you can meet people who can tell you more about the gins, how they’re made and whats so special about them. There will be focus on local brands for each location as people are proud of where they come from and their local gins. There will also be masterclasses hosted by the brands along with other topics, such as the history of gin and gin cocktails.

In addition to all the gin, Naomi’s well aware of making it a good night with all the extras so there will be local street food and live music.

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“It was really sad when I lost my job, but I’m feeling optimistic. I’m keen to work with as many people from GF as possible. I’ve had awesome support from ex colleagues and I’m hoping to get some of them on board. I’m focusing on small events, no sell out stadiums. I’m wanting each customer to get the opportunity to chat to bar staff, and feel like they have space to roam. No sardines!”

If you have attended any of the previous Gin Festival Ltd festivals, you’ll be able to see where her structure is similar. The bars, masterclasses, copa glass and gin book. What Naomi has been very clever in, is recreating the good aspects of Gin Festival Ltd before it got too big. An event that is intimate, including real interaction with characters in the industry. A genuine, warm and wholesome event that is driven simply for the love of it. Naomi has an enormous wealth of experience in both gin and organising events and her focus is in just the right areas to create some amazing experiences. Well done on picking up that torch and running with it, Naomi. We’re all behind you.

McQueen – More than a changing colour gin

Everybody is raving about the new colour changing gin that they’ve launched at Aldi. I get it, it’s exciting. I’ve seen lot’s of articles about it popping up over the last few days and it’s clearly a highly desirable gin, with its forest fruits flavour and a colour changing nature, as Dale McQueen mentions in this article in the independent, “Not only does our new artisan gin taste great, but it also brings a little bit of theatre to gin o’clock”.

009_McQueenGin_GlassIt’s a clever as well as beautiful. Blue petals from the Asian Butterfly flower change colour when the PH is changed i.e. by adding tonic, or citrus. It’s a magical thing to witness, hence I’m not surprised why everyone is going nuts for it. At £19.99 a 50cl bottle, it’s very reasonably priced. At all the Scottish Aldi’s right now, they’re hoping to roll out out into England. It is my Birthday next month so fingers crossed it’s soon.

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little more about McQueen Gin some more. Everyone is loving Aldi at the moment for their cheap gin selection, but it’s McQueen that created and distils this showstopper and McQueen deserve mentioning in a little more detail because they’re a wonderfully creative distillery.

I first came across McQueen through the That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent Calendar. Their Chocolate Cherry Gin is wonderful and is fantastic for cooking or simply for sticking in hot chocolate. The gin is rich in flavour, without losing that juniper nod You can find out a little more about it in my article on some of Boutique-y’s new releases. There is certainly talk on the scene of the merits of gin and chocolate, and on researching McQueen, I found them to be inventive in their ideas and a stickler for doing it right. As they say on their site, their flavours are infused during distillation, not added after. This is a principle that they’re very proud of.

Dale and Vicky 3

Dale ‘the science behind the gin’ McQueen comes from a background working as a chartered mechanical engineer and a career sales professional. Dale spent his first 6 months developing all the initial flavours and has a talent for concocting unique and exciting profiles. Vicky is an experienced Chef and Master Baker, and her flare of culinary creativity is key to creating innovative flavours that set McQueen apart. Their independent gin distillery is the realisation of ‘one couple’s dream’ to create unique and interesting distilled flavour gin. What a beautiful project to share.

They have a varied and unusual selection of flavours. There are the staple Super Premium Dry and Sweet Citrus, but coveting awards across the board. Then we have the more unusual Chilli, or Mocha gins, to name but a few. You can check out the full range in the online gin shop.

Based in Callander, close to Trossachs, which is one of Scotland’s oldest National Parks, they have a beautiful setting in which to make their gins. Distillery visits are on offer. Sounds like a grand holiday to me.

You can find out more information on Mcqueen here. Really excited to see what magic they make next.

 

News – Darnleys Gin Cottage Series Goes Very Berry

This just arrived in my emails. Some might say it’s hot off the press:

31st July 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Darnley’s Gin Cottage Series Goes Very Berry

Darnley's Very Berry Pack Shot

Darnley’s Gin launches ” Very Berry” as the inaugural release in its range of limited editions under the banner, Cottage Series. This is the first recipe to be developed by Scott Gowans in his role as Distiller and the first product to be released from the brand’s new Scottish distillery, adding to the existing three core expressions. Inspiration for the recipe was taken from the countryside in which the Darnley’s Gin cottage sits.

Distiller Scott Gowans in front of cottage PRESS

Distiller Scott commented: “Inspiration for Very Berry came from the countryside of the East Neuk of Fife, home to Darnley’s Distillery. I selected the signature botanicals of sloe berry, rosehip and elderberry which all grow wild around the distillery cottage and sugar kelp which is farmed off the nearby coastline. The overall taste is floral and fruity, giving a different taste profile to the others in the Darnley’s range.”

TASTING NOTE

Nose: Sugar Kelp gives both sweet and salty notes with rosehip adding a fragrance of raspberry and hibiscus.

Palate: Tart and bitter up front with rich fruit from elderberry and sloes.

Finish: Finishing with a sweet and aromatic character over the palate balanced with a coastal mineral flavour reminiscent of the sea breeze at the beach near our distillery.

Developed by Scott on a mini still in the Darnley’s Gin Cottage, the recipe was then scaled up for full distillation using a combination of traditional distillation and vapour infusion. This is the first time Darnley’s Gin has used this in production. 

The four signature botanicals (rosehip, elderberry, sloe berry and sugar kelp) are loaded into a muslin bag and placed into the vapour basket above the pot still holding the neutral grain spirit, juniper, angelica and coriander. This creates the delicate, floral flavours to be embedded in the spirit.

Very Berry perfect serve

SERVING SUGGESTION:  Enjoy 3 ways

•Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic and a red berry garnish

•Tonic and grapefruit garnish

•Good quality grapefruit soda, like Bon Accord Salted Pink Grapefruit Soda.

Just 2100 bottles of Darnley’s Gin Very Berry was produced and is available in a 50cl bottle at 41.5%abv. Very Berry is available in the UK only and is retailing at Darnley’s Gin Distillery, their on line shop and available exclusively through Inverarity Morton for wider distribution.  It has an SRP of £27.95.

-ENDS –

This sounds pretty lovely. I’m loving the idea of those flavours. Fresh, salty, sweet, tart and breezy. They were some extra information included about Darnleys that I’d like to share, a little bit of the history side of things:

Darnley’s Gin was launched in 2010 as ‘Darnley’s View Gin’ by one of Scotland’s longest established and experienced wine and spirits makers, the Wemyss Family (pronounced ‘weems’). Their family seat at Wemyss Castle in the Kingdom of Fife was established in the 14th Century and it is here, in 1565, that Mary Queen of Scots first met her future husband, Lord Darnley – an occasion that inspired the ‘Darnley’s Gin’ name many centuries later.

So there you have it. Keep those news stories coming.

 

News – Worlds Strongest Gin – Strane reclaim their title – #2 Official Press Release

Following my yesterday’s article on Strane’s new gin, I received a response from Robert Ransom of Highfern Ltd, with the full press release and further comments:

July 2018

Sweden’s Smögen distillery has released Strane Ultra Uncut Gin 82.5% in a deliberate attempt to regain the record for the world’s strongest commercially available gin. 

Strane London Dry Gin Ultra Uncut 82.5% is a limited edition variant of Strane London Dry Gin. Whilst the high strength of Strane Uncut 76%, which previously held the record for three years, came about as a consequence of the unusual way Strane Gin is produced, Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% is a deliberate attempt to push the boundaries of gin distilling to the extreme, as far as intensity of flavour and strength goes, using a traditional copper pot still. 

Back in 2014, looking to preserve the intensity of the flavours in gin distillation, Pär Caldenby, distiller/ proprietor of the Smögen Distillery, developed a methodology where three base gins are distilled and then blended to create complexity and balance, before the addition of water. As Pär Caldenby blends the base gins straight from the still, before the addition of water, he became accustomed to sampling Strane ‘uncut’, and decided to create the ‘Uncut’ addition to the Strane Gin family, along with Strane Merchant Strength 47.4% and Strane Navy Strength 57.1%. For Pär Caldenby, ‘Uncut’ refers not just to the consequential high strength, but more importantly to the intensity of flavour when undiluted. In so doing Pär Caldenby invented a new category of gin, and created what was the strongest gin available in the UK for three years. 

Strane Ultra Uncut with glass copy LR

With Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5%, Pär Caldenby has deliberately tweaked the production process to take the intensity and strength to a new level. This was done with a much stronger charge of the still than usual and also by doubling the amount of botanicals, for massive flavour.  Given the high strength Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% is only to be enjoyed in the smallest of measures, hence it will only be available in 200ml bottles. Exercising due care, it can be savoured neat and ideally well chilled, in very small sips (with a glass of water on the side), which delivers an intensive juniper-led flavour impact, with great complexity from the other botanicals, including coriander seeds, almonds, liquorice root, lime and fresh herbs. In Pär Caldenby’s words, ‘This leaves the palate clean as a whistle’. For a longer serve Pär Caldenby suggests one part of Ultra Uncut to two parts of tonic water from Fentiman’s, on plenty of large ice cubes. Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% also makes an interesting base for creating your own fruit liqueurs and infusions.

As far as we are aware, prior to Ultra Uncut the record for the world’s strongest gin was held jointly by two gins at 80%, one Danish and another from South Africa. Thus we believe Strane Ultra Uncut at 82.5% reclaims the record of world’s strongest commercially available gin for Strane, whilst also offering flavour intensity of the very highest order. Robert Ransom, from UK importer Highfern Ltd said, ‘So far Pär has distilled every drop of Strane Gin and Smögen Whisky personally. He did not intend to start a ‘strength race’, but as a pioneering distiller, having been challenged, could not resist responding’.  Summing up Pär Caldenby said ‘Its flattering that others have copied our Strane Uncut as regards strength in abv. I have enjoyed the challenge of taking this to the next level in all respects. However, strongest gin or not, I believe gin enthusiasts will enjoy and cherish the incredible intensity of flavour that our Strane Ultra Uncut delivers’.  

So there we are.

I’m with Pär here. I don’t think I’d have been able to resist responding either. I also agree that it’s important to note that although the strength of a drink certainly tickles a little excitement in us, it’s the taste that really hooks us. I’d love to give it a go. The idea of lime and herbs sounds really interesting. Apparently the first chance to try it will be at a Strane Masterclass hosted by Robert himself at the Nickolls and Perks Just Gin Show, in Stourbridge, on the 28th of July. Get yourself there if you’re nearby. It sounds like a great event and a rare opportunity to try a true showstopper. It will be available shortly through Master of Malt, for the appropriate price of £33 for a 200ml bottle.

Robert also kindly clarified the other uncut gins mentioned in the initial article I read on Master of Malt. The Danish gin is Skan der Bronx 80%, which was apparently a deliberate attempt to be stronger than Strane Uncut. Taking a look at their website is intriguing as although they’re honest about their intentions to “beat the Swede” in a rather tongue in cheek manner, they don’t actually clarify much on the way it’s made, i.e. is it a London Dry, or name the distillery that makes it either. There is also Pienaar and Son’s Drought Gin 80% from South Africa, released at uncut strength to save water. Pienaar are a great little distillery, included in Cape Town Gin Route, as covered by my first guest writer Yolisa Qunta a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks for getting in touch, Robert. Great information to add to a really interesting story. I hope things go well at the Just Gin Show.

 

 

 

News – Worlds Strongest Gin – Strane reclaim their title

You may remember a little while ago I shared some news that Twin Rivers had released a new gin. At 77%, it had just pipped Strane’s uncut to the title of ‘World’s strongest gin’. I wrote an article on it, which you can find here. It I noted the previous standing 76% gin and Robert Ranson of Highfern Ltd, the UK importers of Strane, were kind enough to get in contact with a response.

I was very impressed with his response to the news. It was fair, congratulation Twin Rivers on their new title, whilst simultaneously reinforcing the Strane Brand in a rather polite manner. If you’d like to read more on that, the article can be found here.

Strane Gin LR
The Strane Family photo needs an update

That was back in February. And it seems that these events have sparked a little something. Yesterday Strane announced the launch of a new gin. A stronger gin. The strongest gin.

Strane Ultra Uncut is bottled at 82.5%, firmly toppling Twin Rivers and regaining their title. So far I’ve only found the news through Master of Malt’s nightcap. I hope they don’t mind me quoting from the article, but a spokesman has said that the release is, “a deliberate attempt to push the boundaries of gin distilling to the extreme, as far as intensity of flavour and strength goes…” I wanted to use this quote as these words sound rather absolute. It leaves me wondering if anyone is going to dare to top it. As a friend of mine online said, “How strong is too strong?”.

It also has me wondering if ‘uncut’ gin could or will become an official gin category. Are there are any uncut categories at gin awards and if not when could we see one. I’ve got some experience in judging (it’s one of my favourite activities) and the Navy Strength category is more varied that you’d think. Gin at a higher ABV can change the order in which flavours hit the palette and there is lots of flavour in there, that come through despite the strength. Distillers taste uncut gin to determine when to take the cut so there is still a discernible difference in strong gins.

The title of Worlds Strongest Gin seems to be a slightly confusing affair. Previous to this article, I was under the impression that Twin Rivers was the only distillery to have produced a stronger gin (officially. There are no doubt various unmarked bottles around the world). However, on Master of Malt there is mention of distillery’s in Denmark and South Africa. I’d love to find out what these gins are, if you can help then please get in touch.

I have emailed Robert to see what his thoughts are. But being a Sunday I’m not expecting a response immediately. I thought it best to get this news out there. If I hear from him then I’ll certainly let you know.

Congratulations Strane. You may return to your throne.

Cape Town launches it’s first Gin Route – Yolisa Qunta

Exciting times at the Ginfluence. It is with great pleasure I present to your our first ever guest writer!

Yolisa Qunta.jpgYolisa Qunta is a wonderful writer based in Cape Town and has a fantastic passion for gin. “Yolisa discovered the joys of gin to a trip to Victoria Falls where she was assured that not only was it perfectly acceptable to enjoy a tipple at 11am, but it could also prevent malaria. The latter turned out to be an urban legend but her love for gin continued. She is a published author, freelance writer, editor and researcher based in Cape Town. Yolisa enjoys traveling and taking pictures of all her food for Instagram.”

If you have any enquires for Yolisa, you can email her at: yolisaid2017@gmail.com.

It’s great article and a delicious insight into the gin boom in Cape Town. I warmly welcome writers from around the world to get in touch if they would like me to publish something on gin in their local area. Well done Yolisa! You’re my first fellow ginfluencer and I hope you’ll keep us up to date with any more news.

 

Cape Town launches its first Gin Route

Cape Town, this beautiful coastal city at the tip of South Africa, is famous for many things. Visitors flock to see the mountain shaped like a piece of furniture. The wine also keeps the crowds coming. From Napoleon, who showed his diva tendencies by having dessert wine shipped to him in exile, to Barack Obama who was sipping a South African bubbly to celebrate his inauguration. Over the years many have made the pilgrimage to the wine regions and cemented their place in history.

Meanwhile a quiet gin revolution was happening. It started the way acrylic nail tips fall off: slowly then seemingly all at once. First there was Inverroche Distillery. But, in the same way Wonder Woman swooped in to save the DC franchise, along came plenty more distilleries to show that the Cape Town gin wave was not just a hipster phase.

Cape Town Gin Route launch crowd
Clearly, having a Gin Route to showcase all the fantastic places was the next logical step. I was invited to the launch which fittingly enough happened on World Gin Day. At the penthouse of a swanky hotel, I got to taste all the gins on the new route. General manager Efi Ella, one of the masterminds behind the Gin Route had this to say, “We saw this as an opportunity to celebrate the exceptional gin that is being produced locally. We are honoured to be associated with these incredible distilleries and provide a platform where users can plan their own journey of gin discovery, that is likely right on their doorstep”.

He was not kidding about the exceptional gin, I know this because I sampled every single one. I never got around to asking if it was a coincidence that all of the distilleries were in such close proximity to each other but it makes it very easy to walk the whole route so that’s a bonus. Without further ado here is a round up off all the fantastic places included in the Gin Route:

Hope on Hopkins

These folk take gin distilling very seriously. Not only to they own the first stills to be licensed by the City of Cape Town but they also make their own gins from scratch. The process starts by cooking, fermenting and distilling barley to make the base neutral spirit. Then a range of locally grown botanicals such as citrus, coriander and Fynbos are added to make magic happen to the final product.

Hope on Hopkins at the Cape Town Gin Route launch

Hope on Hopkins is truly a family oriented venue. The three stills are named after the owners grandmothers and there is a rescue puppy that welcomes visitors to the distillery. There are two cats, one who moved from rainy London with the express purpose of keeping mice out of the barley, and a rescue. RescueCat is trying to find his way and spends a lot of time in the tasting room while LondonCat is adjusting to the idea of a newcomer. So just like a normal family then.

Musgrave Gin

A pink gin? Made by a lady? My money flew out of the purse of it’s own accord. Simone Musgrave of Musgrave Gin is the granddaughter of an adventurer who left Plymouth in 1949 headed for Africa and whatever adventures were to be found here. The pink gin that I love gets its Instagram ready color from rosehips and infused rosewater. The other gin is Musgrave 11 Botanicals which showcases botanicals that reflect ancient African spice routes. Highlights include cardamon. Whitei Mondei also known as African Ginger and Grains of Paradise, a very rare pepper like herb unique to West Africa.

New Harbour Distillery

In the same way that the queen of the universe planned her exit from that girl group that used to wear matching shiny outfits, the brains wanted to set themselves apart from the pack starting with nomenclature. When choosing their name, New Harbour Distillery wanted people to know that their spirits are made in Woodstock, the old industrial heart of Cape Town harbour. New Harbour are a company of creative scientific individuals who combine botany, science and alchemy, to create handcrafted spirits using a combination of modern innovative and experimental distilling techniques. As Fynbos is at the heart of their gin they give back donating a specific amount to the Flower Conversation Trust from every bottle sold in the Private Collection. A conscious distillery working for conservation, I’ll raise my glass to that.

Pienaar & Son

In a past life I was a chemical engineer. I lasted two years with a multinational oil company before I set out for new pastures. I am only mentioning this because the Head Distiller at Pienaar and Son is one of those smart people who decided to put his degree to good use by producing amazing gin using cutting edge processes.

Pienaar & Son at the Cape Town Gin Route launch

A Master Distiller in his twenties, supported by his father the distillery states boldly that they are more interested in starting traditions than following them. Having tasted their Empire Gin distilled from maize (corn) infused with botanicals to produce a flavorful English style gin I can happily attest to all the above.

Woodstock Gin Company

Before the advent of this company, Woodstock was known for overpriced artisanal coffee, hipsters in checked shirts and lack of street parking amongst many other perils of gentrification. Thankfully, Simon Von Witt has provided a good reason to venture back into the neighborhood with Woodstock Gin Company. His grape distilled Inception Gin is matured in American Oak barrels for four months. The water is collected from a natural spring nearby to ensure that there are no chemicals to alter the taste. Another highlight is the High Tea Gin infused with undertones of the famous Rooibos tea.

Cape Town Gin & Spirits Company

Can’t have a brand new gin route without an eponymous company, am I right? Inspired by the roaring twenties, Cape Town Gin & Spirits Company is all about good times and small batch labels. You already know know I have a weakness for pink gins so here we are with theirs, infused with Hibiscus flowers and rose petals, and a heavenly hint of rose water. Fresh, floral aromas on the nose, with rose and Turkish Delight on the palate. That’s what the brochure says. All I know is that the gentleman serving it to me felt like like a looooooooooooooong drink of water himself.

Cape Town Gin Route launch guests

 So here we are, 6 distilleries and one glorious Gin Route in the southern tip of the world. Let me know which you which you are are looking to drinking most in the comments below.

The Gin Guide Awards 2018

The Award winners from the The Gin Guide 2018 have been announced!

Head Judge and Editor of The in Guide, Paul Jackson, kindly got in contact with the news, so naturally I want to share it with your good selves as soon as possible.

“Gins from 19 different countries completed for the coveted titles in The Gin Guide’s annual gin awards, with a leading panel of distillers and industry experts, Four Scottish Gins won awards, including the newly launched Biggar Gin, and Greek Gin has made it’s mark in the industry with Grace Gin winning an award too.”

Excitingly, there were a record number of gins and the quality has been described as ‘unprecedented’.

So, let’s have a drum roll please:

Production Categories

  • London Dry Gin: Winner – Biggar Gin (Scotland)
  • Distilled Gin (Non-London Dry): Winner – Grace Gin (Greece)
  • Compound Gin: Winner – Orkney Gin Company Johnsmas Gin (Scotland)

Style Categories

  • Traditional Gin: Winner – Makar Gin (Scotland)
  • Contemporary Gin: Winner – Caspyn Cornish Dry Gin (England)
  • Flavoured Gin: Winner – Cuckoo Sunshine Gin (England)
  • Old Tom Gin: Winner – The Ginsmiths of Liverpool Marshmallow Gin (England)
  • Navy Strength Gin: Kirkjuvagr Arkh-Angell Storm Strength Gin (Scotland)

Regional Categories

  • UK Gin: Winner – Makar Gin (Scotland)
  • European Gin: Winner – Listoke 1777 Gin (Republic of Ireland)
  • Rest of the World (Non-European) Gin: Winner – Underground Spirits Gin (Australia)

Industry Categories

  • Gin Innovation: Winner – Underground Spirits Gin (Austrailia)

“Scottish Gins stole the show with four different Scottish winners, including two gins from Orkney, the recently launched Biggar Gin and Glasgow favourite Makar Gin. Grace Gin has made a statement in putting Greece on the gin map, while Listoke 1777 Gin and Underground Spirits Gin has showcased the exciting and innovative gin industries in Ireland and Australia respectively. English gins continued to show their pedigree with wins in Contemporary Gin, Flavoured Gin and Old Tom Gin categories.”

The Gin Guide Awards - Judging
Head Judge Paul Jackson was accompanied by Alex Griffiths – Founder of Griffiths Brothers Gin, Rhys James – Distiller at Wayfinder Spirits, Andy Burrows – Editor of Gin Rag, and Natalie Button – Founder of Gin Obsessions.

“Entries were judged in blind tasting sessions across the hotly competed categories. Each gin is assessed using a detailed scorecard developed by The Gin Guide, featuring key characteristics including appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, finish and overall balance and appeal.”

Full details can be found on The Gin Guide Website and you can register you interest in The Gin Guide Awards 2019 by visiting here. Please do count me as interested, Paul! I’ll be signing up shortly and would love to come and give a hand next year.

On a personal note it’s fantastic to see Underground Spirits doing well for themselves. They’re a great bunch and have a great gin. I’ve been working on a write up for them and it will be posted very soon.

As a judge at The Word Gin Awards 2018. I’m always keen to see other awards, and how they’re judged. I think it’s really important that we keep this variety of competitions. It’s just another wonderful and varied facet of the colourful world of gin.

Well done everyone! Sterling work. Cheers!

 

 

News – Strane statement on Twin River’s ‘World’s Strongest Gin’ claim

Recently I shared news that Twin Rivers had brought out a new gin, the world’s strongest gin.

Previously, as far as I was aware, Strane had one of the strongest gins. They have 4 in the range and the uncut edition was pretty renowned at a whopping 75.3%, 76% in the second batch. I did wonder at the time what they made of the announcement and to my surprise, my wondering has been answered, with an email I received this morning from Robert Ransom of Highfern Ltd, UK Importers of Strane gin. He wanted to issue a statement congratulating Twin Rivers on their new gin and I said I’d be happy to put it up in my new ‘News’ section:

“News has reached us over the weekend of the release Twin Rivers Naked Uncut Gin, bottled at 77%. Whilst I am yet to try this new gin, I congratulate Twin Rivers on the launch, and concede that Strane Uncut London Dry Gin 76% is no longer the strongest gin on the UK market.

Strane Uncut London Dry Gin was first bottled back in 2014, and came about as a consequence of the unusual way Strane is produced, not a deliberate attempt to produce the strongest gin. Looking to preserve the intensity of the flavours in gin distillation, Pär Caldenby, distiller/ proprietor of the Smögen Distillery, developed a methodology in which three base gins; citrus, herbal, and juniper are distilled with the same 12 botanicals but in different ratios. The bases are then blended before the addition of water to create Strane Merchant Strength London Dry Gin 47.4% and Strane Navy Strength London Dry Gin 57.1%. As Pär Caldenby blends the base gins straight from the still, he became accustomed to sampling Strane ‘uncut’, and decided to create an ‘Uncut’ addition to the Strane family. For Pär, ‘Uncut’ refers not just to the consequential high strength, but also to the intensity of flavour.

We first imported Strane Uncut London Dry Gin, at that time 75.3%, to the UK in the spring of 2015. Initially we were careful not to claim that it was the strongest gin, but as we received feedback from gin journalists and gin bars, it became clear that the next strongest gin in the UK market at the time was less than 70% vol..

It was always inevitable that at some point Strane Uncut would be knocked off the ‘strongest gin’ podium. We are simultaneously flattered that Strane Uncut has been copied, and surprised that with the current interest in gin, that Strane Uncut was the strongest gin available in the UK for so long, for three years from 2015 to 2018.

Strongest gin or not, Strane Uncut London Dry Gin 76% remains the original Uncut gin, and delivers a wonderfully powerful juniper burst, which we believe gin enthusiasts will continue to enjoy.’

Robert Ransom, UK importer of Strane Gin”

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Interesting stuff. Everything moves so quickly in the world of gin! I am planning to write on Strane soon. I’d also really love to compare the two gins to see what the differences are in flavour. Fingers crossed that’s an option down the line.

Personally, I’ve always found the gin industry to be a very friendly one. When I work at Gin Festivals and give masterclasses on gin history, I like to dispel the myth that it’s cut throat and competitive, despite being such a saturated market. The way I see it, there are so many variations of flavour, locality and story. Good gin drinkers want several different bottles of gin at home and certainly with myself, there’s a sense of collecting and trying different ones so there’s room for good products. However, its inevitable that sometimes products will clash and it’s good to see such clashes being handled diplomatically. Thanks for taking the time to get in touch Robert.

So whichever gin you drink next, do raise a glass to yourself, all of us gin drinkers and everyone involved in the industry. After all, we’re all in this together.

It must be love – Flavourly.com’s Honey and Raspberry liqueur

Valentines Day is nearly upon us.

Last week, to my joy, the fella arrived with a beautiful bunch of red roses. About ten minutes later he divulged that he’d got them in advance to save the impending Valentines Day red rose price hike. Clever lad.

Red roses are always a nice touch, but what if there was something a little different you could get for your lover? Something a little more, ginny?

Flavourly.com has a huge variety of drinks available and a Craft Gin Discovery club. Members receive a monthly delivery of 2 x 200ml bottles, mixer and snacks for £34.99. If any of you are interested in finding out more then you can check out their page.

So what’s that got to do with Valentines Day? Well, not much, but Flavourly.com have also launched a new gin. Part of their ‘Gin Project’, their Honey and Raspberry liqueur is a beautiful thing. Available to order through their site, the gin comes in 2 x 50ml pouches and a card that you can personalise with a romantic message, all contained in a small box that fits through the letter box. For only £9.99 it’s a bit of a bargain and would be an excellent little surprise for a loved one.

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Looks pretty good, right? It tastes pretty good too. The sweetness of the honey taking that tart edge off the raspberry. Distilled at Strathearn Distillery on Perthshire, it’s signature serve is with prosecco (a massive crowd pleaser with the ladies.) I tried this last night and it was luscious, the sweetness of the liqueur melting wonderfully into the dry bubbles to give an almost too easily drinkable flavour. I tried to savour it, but it was gone all too quickly and now I’m too scared to open the other pouch.

So, if you do have a loved one you want to surprise, or you just want to treat yourself, you can order it here. If you are kind enough to treat someone then do remind them that with two pouches, it would be rude not to share.

Just as good as red roses, if you ask me.

Found you! – Hidden Curiosities Gin

Hidden Curiosities Gin was created by gin lover Jenny Meguro. Jenny loves gin. In fact, she loves it so much that she dedicated herself to trying 100 different samples over the course of a year for ‘research’, a line I use regularly myself. Her aim was to develop a gin with “a unique recipe with a very distinct character.” 20 botanicals later, and with the help of a distillery located in the Surrey hills, she was able to find what she was looking for.

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It seems Hidden Curiosities is a name with purpose, as the gin has been designed to vary in flavour, with subtle botanicals that come forward with tonic. The flavour elements lean into citrus and spicy, with 5 different peppercorns and green cardamom. A short zesty burst of lime and more unusual citrus influences of pink grapefruit, bergamont and Japanese yuzu fades into a long, drawn out sweet spice. It gives a wonderful warming sensation when sipped neat. Described as a “self assured gin”, it really does hold its weight and it’s balanced and complex. It served me well when I started this article. It’s cold at the moment and despite many layers, a few drops of this was the only thing that made me feel warm all day.

Add tonic and the gin twists into something longer, more in depth, more complicated. Add the recommended garnish of pink peppercorns and green caradmom and we’re in business! The warm spice swimming in a sea of cool G&T goodness, the two balance very well indeed. There’s been a definite increase in popularity of spicy gin in the last few years, with distillers get more creative all the time. As far as I’m concerned, this gin is a wonderful blend of the traditional along with the growing trend. For the record, the gin also lends itself very well to it’s citrus notes if using yuzu or pink grapefruit garnish.

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The bottle is gorgeous and I love the look of the label with its bold metallic copper stamped on black and white. This with the square corked bottle gives a polite nod to days gone by, Victorian times with a fascination with curios and mysterious things. Drinking this evokes the sensation of hiding out in a secret side alley bar, full of taxidermy, with a lone magician working the bar for gin money. “Step right up, have I got a treat for you!”

Hidden Curiosities is available through many local stockists, their site and Master of Malt. A full list is available, here.