So last week I got my latest delivery from the Craft Gin Club. This month’s package was a bottle of Chilgrove Gin with added Fentimans Ginger Beer and a whole load of recipe cards. Chilgrove Gin comes from Chilgrove (funnily enough) outside of Chichester so for me it is a good local gin (37 miles according to Google Maps). Founders Christopher and Celia did some research and discovered an old school recipe (16th Century old) which used a grape based spirit for the gin rather than the more traditional vodka base. After lots of experimentation focusing on getting a great base spirit enhanced by botanicals, they came up with their award winning mix. The key botanicals include coriander root, two types of orange, key lime and mint.
The bottle comes with a foil wrapped lid (much easier than a wax!) with a cork and a bloody satisfying pop (my favourite part of opening any bottle). Even from briefly opening it the smell hits me. It smells like a perfect summer evening – a rare thing in England. You firstly get the smell of the juniper and you can pick up the coriander (I noticed this before I read the list of botanicals, I think my palate is FINALLY growing sophisticated enough to notice these things!) As a warning it’s quite a heavy bottle so take care when pouring – not that I nearly dropped it or anything… I mixed it with a measure of water – it releases quite a strong smell (bottled at 44% so not surprised) yet it is fresh and fruity – I imagine this is mix of the orange, lime and grape. There’s a slightly bitter taste at the back of the throat, smooth on the tongue but without the fruity or zesty taste that I have come to expect from gin. As I write and continue to drink, and now knowing there is some mint hidden in there, it makes sense. Fresh and clean and a good strong spirit.
Making up my G&T with a Tesco low calorie tonic (pre-holiday detox and all that), I take a mouthful and my tastebuds are instantly confused by the unusual taste. It doesn’t taste a lot like gin and I feel this is because of the grape base rather than the botanicals used. It seems less harsh, not quite as fresh as Blackwater No5 for example, but it certainly has a different taste. I added as lemon wedge (all I had in the fridge) and it could almost trick me into thinking I was drinking wine. A cold, fruity white wine. Very easy to drink (dangerous when drinking it on a rather hot evening as I was!). It is very different, but not in the way Tarquin’s is, this just doesn’t really taste like gin. Very strange but lovely. A few mouthfuls in and I can see this becoming a firm favourite in my collection.
At this point in my tasting I took a break to make dinner and mull over the flavours. The more I drink the more I notice the gin tastes coming through, but it really does taste like a white wine. I can imagine why this wouldn’t appeal to some gin drinkers who like their gin a bit punchier, but since its launch in June 2014 it has won a silver medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a silver medal at the 2015 World Spirits Awards and a bronze at the 2015 International Spirits Challenge. Not to be sniffed at. The delivery came with a range of cocktail recipes including their takes on a Tom Collins, Pink Gin, Martini and a Gin Fizz. The one I’m most excited about is the Bright ‘n’ Breezy – gin, lime, angostura bitters and ginger beer. Sadly my lack of angostura bitters means I can’t try this right now, but I am planning a special blog on exciting gin cocktails so keep your eyes peeled.
Chilgrove is available online and in selected shops (Brightoners – head to Butlers Wine Cellar) with Master of Malt selling a 70cl bottle for £29. I would happily pay that for this gin, if anything I expected it to be more expensive. Whilst I’m not certain it will become my go to gin for my after work G&T, I think it’s subtle flavours will work brilliantly in cocktails and paired with different flavours. I’m looking forward to trying it again because by the end of my second drink I was still discovering different notes and tastes. I think for the price, it’s worth ordering to give it a go if you want to change things up and try something new.