Mary Rose Gin – the launch of HMS Spirits

There’s a new nautical gin in town.

Mary Rose gin was launched mid August, and it’s got some big boots to fill. With the motto ‘Chart your own course’, it’s the flagship gin of the new HMS Spirits. It’s a bold and brave name, but creator Ben Maguire was pleased to confirm that he went through all the right channels to confirm he could use it and as well as online the gin is for sale at the local Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. There are also hints that there could be further projects with them which is wonderful. Good luck with that, Ben, it’s a fantastic connection to have.

If you’ve read my previous article on IOW Distillery – Mermaids and the mighty – HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin, you would already be aware of my connections to the Dockyard, being a local resident in Portsmouth and for a period of time working at the Dockyard itself on ships like HMS Victory and HMS M33. So, it could be said that I take a great personal interest in nautical gins coming out of the south coast and it felt only right to write a little something on it.

On speaking to Ben, it’s apparent that this gin has come from a particular labour of love. He has travelling in his blood and wanted to create a gin that caught that sense of adventure and his own fondness of the south coasts nautical connections. Creating a gin that boasts the bold flavours of grapefruit and rosemary, he found it a nice play on words to name the gin Mary Rose (rosemary, get it?) Silly me hadn’t immediately picked up on the connection, but once I did, I found it rather clever.

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The gin tastes strong at 42% and the rosemary does give it a rather lovely kick. Using a higher level of oils than some gins, it’s smooth to taste, whilst holding a characteristically strong flavour.

HMS Spirits began life in a garage, with Ben pottering with a 35L still he brought during a trip to Hungary. The idea was to create a gin that respected the full art of a traditional London Dry, whilst giving it a modern twist. Four years were spent playing with different recipes before arriving at Mary Rose gin in 2016. This labour of love was soon to turn to business as after friends commenting that they thought it was a good gin and could hold it’s own in the market. With this boost to confidence, Ben felt that it was worth looking into further and started down the road to make it an official company.

It would be another year before HMS Spirits got their name. “The name needed to encompass all of our core beliefs and interests, we felt like the HMS Fleet did exactly this, pulling together a love of the sea, travel, taking risks, discipline and supporting others.” He’s ambitious and believes that Mary Rose gin is just the start, wanting “to create the finest spirits, using the highest quality organic botanicals from across the globe as well as locally, learning from other cultures as well as out own and in turn spread the word of ‘Modern Britishness’. With our changing times, this idea of Modern Britishness is certainly an idea I can get behind and I’m really looking forward to seeing what other spirits they come up with. HMS are keenly looking into export and are arranging meetings so I think it’s only so long before they’ll be off on a voyage of their own.

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It’s recommended to go with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of grapefruit, although HMS actively encourage people to ‘chart their own course’ to try it with different mixers and garnishes and share how they like to serve it. Ben has hinted at a fantastic idea for marketing which will see social media participation with drinkers hashtagging the HMS Spirits cork at different places around the world.

And there’s more in the pipeline. Ben tells me there’s a Navy Strength due in the new year, and a summer styled blend that will be available in the spring. He’s keeping his cards close to his chest with botanicals but has said it is another London Dry style with no flavours being added after distillation.

If you fancy meeting the guys, good news! They’re partnering Suzuki at the London Boat Show in January and Ben would love people to pop along and say hello.

The gin is lovely, Ben is friendly and excitable and there are some good creative ideas here. I’m certainly wishing HMS Spirits all the best and I hope to catch them on the high seas soon.

Mary Rose gin is for sale on all good websites like Amazon and Master of Malt, as well as local stockists and of course the Mary Rose Museum at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Pictures courtesy of HMS Spirits.

Hernö Gin

I was lucky enough to stumble over Hernö Gin when a good friend gave me a box of various gins to look over and potentially write about. Hernö was there, both dry and sloe varieties. As I worked my way through tasting it was the sloe that caught my attention first and following that, the dry was also very impressive. I decided it was these I should write about and got in contact with Hernö to tell them so, to which they kindly sent me some information to get me started.

Now it seems I’ve been a little slow off the mark as Hernö are well up there, being the most awarded gin in Europe during the past 3 years running. They hold various awards for everything from the Master Distiller, to the distillery itself, let alone a collection of awards for all that glorious gin. In 2016 Hernö gin was awarded the World’s Best Gin for Tonic and Gin Producer of the year by the renowned IWCS.

There’s a lot of the gin too. The dry has several sister varieties, Old Tom and Juniper cask along with stronger Navy Strength, as well as flavoured gins such as the Sloe and the Blackcurrant. After trying the Sloe, I am super keen to try the Blackcurrant and perhaps try cooking with it as I can imagine it would add a gorgeous punch of flavour to fruit pies and desserts and perhaps reduction jus for dark meats.

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Hernö’s story began in 1999 when Jon Hillgren went to London to bar tend and quickly fell in love with gin (well, who wouldn’t). After a lot of research, he founded the Hernö distillery in 2011. It was not only Sweden’s first gin distillery, it was also the world’s most Northwestern gin distillery. That’s quite a title. Another impressive title is that of Gin Grand Master which Jon has won twice since releasing his first gin in 2012.

The distillery is quite beautiful. Housed in a traditional Swedish Manor in wood that’s painted red and white, it has been built in the North of Sweden in the village of Dala, which is just outside the City of Harnosand in Angermanland. The area is officially one of real natural beauty and Jon takes inspiration from this in order to create the gin; clean, fresh and natural.

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The process in which the gin is made is a careful one. Using the single shot method, the gin is made with only natural and organic botanicals and the wheat base spirit is distilled twice. Once it becomes vodka and the second time it becomes a gin by being macerated with juniper and coriander for 18 hours before the other botanicals are added and the batch distilled into that delightful London Dry.

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The botanicals:
Juniper Berries (Juniperus comminis) from Hungary
Coriander Seeds (Coriandrum sativum) from Bulgaria
Fresh Lemon Peel (Citrus limon)
Lingon Berries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) from Sweden
Meadowseeet (Filipendula ulmaria) from the UK
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) from India
Cassis (Cinnamomi cassia) from Indonesia
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) from Madagascar

The dry gin has a wonderfully delicate and complex flavour, serving as an ode to the attention it receives during the entire distillation process. There’s a smoothness, with the lingon berries and meadowsweet pushing for a floral flavour, a flavour that works brilliantly with the citrus and follows through into a slightly spicy finish.

The Sloe Gin is made from the London Dry base and is bottled at 30%. I really enjoyed sipping it neat, the berries give it a lovely spice, reminiscent of a good port. I finished this bottle all to quickly and am pleased to report it is one of my favourites of the Sloe Gins, only challenged by Monkey 47s variety.

If you’d like to know any more about Hernö, or more importantly buy some of their lovely gin. You can visit their website here.

I just need to try the others now…and perhaps book a trip to Sweden to enjoy it in it’s natural habitat. Authenticity, right?

All pictures care of Hernö Distillery. Thanks ever so much for the information.

HMS Victory Navy Strength Cask Aged Gin Opening Ceremony – Drink a little history

Back in I wrote an article about IOW Distillery’s triumph, the Mighty HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin. Whilst the gin itself is something special, I was left extremely curious as to how the whole project would turn out. You see, as well as the gin there was also an ambitious endeavour to age the gin in casks made including staves of wood and copper from the ship itself. These casks would be aged briefly for 4 months, then 1 year, 3 years and 5 years, known as the first-forth release respectively. The concept is that the gin would take on the colour and flavours of the cask, recreating a taste something like what it would have tasted like in the days it was carried by barrel.

The ceremony of presentation of bottles from the first cask was on Tuesday 18th October, well timed during Trafalgar week, the day itself being the 21st. I was lucky enough to secure an invite into an intimate evening and went with keen interest to see how the gin was working out.

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Beautiful evening on the Victory

The attendees were a mixture of people at varying levels of involvement in the project. We began by taking a quick tour of the ship. Led by Max, we were led around key areas of the ship, the quarterdeck, captain’s cabin, galley, guns and shot. It was a beautiful evening and the colourful sunset of golden oranges and pinks lit up the wood with a wonderful glow. It felt serene, quiet and peaceful, far away from the chaos that would have been there.

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Gunpowder, the reason behind 57% or ‘Navy Strength’ gin

After the tour we were given a glass of the standard Victory gin, complete with Fever Tree tonic and pink grapefruit. As in my previous article, it’s a very good gin. Boadecian Hops, rock samphire and elderflower give a nice twist on standard gin recipes. The spirit is of a very high calibre with the hearts being cut off a little early to boost the quality.

Whilst sipping on the we listened to a talk from gin historian David Smith. David is a local man who himself had a relative on the Victory at Trafalgar, which is such a fantastic link. He explained that on hearing about the project he was keen to get involved and told us a little on the history of Navy Strength Gin. Gin was transported at 57%, it was only in the 1850’s that Plymouth gin used this as a commercial idea. He’s a very knowledgeable man and as a result I am taking a little expedition to visit him at his HQ and gin den to learn more on historical gins late December, write up to follow.

And with that, we were all presented with a glass of the freshly bottled, 4 month cask gin. No tonic needed, it was to be sipped and tasted bare, with nothing to change the favour. I was all aquiver as I took a deep breath and sipped. The taste was rounded, almost marmalade like in flavour. There was a slight mustiness to the smell and a yellow brown tinge to the colour. This was an interesting progression for the brief period of ageing and I’m more than curious as to what the next batch will be like. I savoured every sip, being well aware that I was consuming 250 years worth of history. It’s a pretty special feeling.

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Lovely presentation

After the tasting we moved into the Captains Cabin for the formal presentation. Everyone involved was presented with a bottle of Batch No 1, complete with wooden cask and a miniature, a keepsake worth keeping. I am sure that almost all of these will remain unopened on shelves, gaining value over the years. What an investment!

The remaining bottles are now on sale through the IOW Distillery shop and the National Museum of the Royal Navy shop with a price tag reflective of the rarity of this project. It’s difficult to know how it will all go but my gut instinct tells me that this is something worth paying for. Any gin collector will know that this is a very unique gin indeed and of great interest to both the discerning collector and any gin drinking historian.

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The first batch
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Xavier and Conrad of IOW Distillery

So all that follows now is to wait patiently until the 1, 3 and 5 year aged is open. It’s not that far away and I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that I’ll be there to taste the difference that these extra years make to both the flavour and the colour. Although I guess we’ll never know exactly how alike to the original flavour it is, what a rare and fantastic opportunity to create something akin to it. Also, on a personal note, to taste and consume elements of a ship as incredible as the Victory has been very special to me indeed.

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Lit up at night

 

What’s coming up

One of the main perks of my job are the wonderful people I get to meet through gin training. With permission I’m writing up small pieces on each and I wanted to let you in to what I have in the pipeline:

Paul Bower – Founder and distiller of the delightful Twisted Nose gin. Produced in Winchester, with hints of locally grown watercress and lavender, this gin is a homage to its surroundings and the wonderful gentleman who created it.

Luke from Fever Tree, cream dela cream of the tonic world. 7 of the top 10 bars in the world use them and for good reason, as they only use the finest ingredients in their range of topics and mixers.

An evening on HMS Diamond – 2 evenings on the new destroyer and I’m looking forward to both. A rum tasting evening with a representative from Pussers and a gin tasting evening presented by myself.

Tom Edwards of Warner Edwards is hitting our own Gin and Olive, Portsmouth for a decedent evening with his gin. Guests will enjoy a 4 course meal paired with each of his 4 gins (the rhubarb gin is a particular favourite) whilst he talks us through his gin story. I can’t wait for that one.

We’re also embarking on a distillery tour in the next few weeks.

All in all, lots going on here at ginfluence head office. As I said to my mother last week, she (as a non drinker) had always worried that drinking was a problem, and I am close to proving it’s my solution!