December is a tricky time – well, by tricky I mean I get my Craft Gin Club delivery and because it’s Ginvent I don’t get to open my delivery until later in the month. This month we got a bumper box: four cans of Merchant’s Heart tonic, festive nuts, Pedrino sherry and tonic spritz, a bottle of cava, biscuits, winter tea, and the main event – Copperfield A Christmas Carol gin. Distilled in the Surrey hills, husband and wife team Chris and Katherine (who between them have a degree in biochemistry and chemical engineering, and a PhD in brewing and distilling) were left home alone after their children grew up and decided it was time to set up their distillery. Inspired by the classic books collected by Katherine, and named after a legendary policeman in their village, the Surrey Copper Distillery was born. Going full steam ahead, they designed a spirit lab and distillery, ordered two 2 litre and one 20 litre copper pot stills for their gin, plus a second 20 litre still for their vermouth. All are named after literary characters – Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Alice, and Wendy (Darling), and their branding is an homage to illustrations on antique book covers. Their original London dry gin uses – you guessed it – a historical recipe found in a library archive of pink peppercorns, cubeb berries, rose petals, hibiscus and elderflower. This time we are trying their Christmas gin exclusive to Craft Gin Club members which focuses on cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange, rosemary and sage. So, how does it taste?
One of the highlights every year in Ginvent is seeing what Emile and Olivier come up with as their own Ginvent gin. This year, they decided juniper was the way forward. Lots and lots of juniper. Using 200 litres of various gins as a base, they then redistilled this with three types of juniper (hence, Juniper Cubed). From the Mediterranean we have juniper communis, juniper phoenicea from the Spanish island of Formentera, and finally the Africa juniper procera. It seems fitting to end this year’s Ginvent with a mountain of juniper, so let’s give it a taste.
Well, we’ve nearly made it. Just two days left to go and after four gins from South East Asia, we travel even further afield to the east coast of Australia. Manly Spirits burst onto the scene in April 2017, but I feel like 2019 was their year here in the UK. I had already tried their Coastal Citrus gin earlier this year and then I met them at Junipalooza and got a quick tasting of this edition (which was filmed for their Instagram and not at all embarrassing). Their Australian Dry gin uses native botanicals sea lettuce, anise myrtle, orange peel, pepper leaf and finger limes and they say this brings fruity peppery notes to the gin. It’s worth noting that in the two and a half years since launching, they have not just those two gins, but also the new Lilly Pilly Pink gin and a barrel aged gin and two vodkas and a limoncello AND a coffee liqueur. So, they’ve been pretty busy. But have they put quantity over quality? Let’s find out!
Ginvent 2019 has been full of new gins, and today we have our third Indian gin. Named after The Golden City in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer gin comes from one of the largest distillers in the country – Radico Khaitan distils over 13 million litres a month. This gin is influenced by the history of Maharajas, vibrant colours and stories of princes. They use native Indian botanicals including lemongrass, vetiver (a fragrant grass), orange and lemon peel, and darjeeling green tea alongside less native caraway seeds, cubeb pepper and Tuscan juniper added to their triple distilled grain spirit, all added into a traditional copper pot still. They say these flavours work together “like an oasis in the desert”, so – how does it taste?
Yesterday, we tried Stranger and Sons, one of the first gins coming out of India. Today, we continue with this theme and try Hapusa gin. They had the same realisation as the team behind Stranger and Sons, that lots of gins were inspired by India, but not actually coming from India. They are the only gin (correct me if I’m wrong!) to use Indian juniper berries from the Himalayas, and their name Hapusa is the Sanskrit word for juniper. Alongside the juniper, they also use a range of rich botanicals from the area – mango, almonds, limes, turmeric, ginger and cardamom along with their wheat based spirit. It sounds like an interesting blend – the sweetness of the mango paired with the warmth of the ginger and turmeric, so how does it taste?
If you think of gin, you probably don’t automatically think of India as a place of provenance. For me, last year was the year of Australian gin, 2019 seems to be the year of Indian gin. Amongst the new producers coming to market are Stranger and Sons. Hailing from the mountainous region of the Western Ghats in Goa, the three founders were inspired to make a gin after so many gins they had tried said they were inspired by India, yet were made nowhere nearby. So they decided to make their own. Their aim was to create a gin that was an instant classic with tonic, but also robust enough for bold cocktails like martinis and negronis. As well as growing their own pepper, coriander and lemons, they also use Indian bergamot, nutmeg, cassia and mace alongside the juniper to create a full flavour. They have an eye on sustainability, local women help them peel their citrus fruits, and in return take the flesh home to make their own jams and pickles that are sold in the markets. They also invested in a recycling tank which massively reduces their water usage – something that you usually need a LOT of in gin production – as well as being 100% plastic free, organic, fair trade, and installing solar panels to power their stills. So, with all that effort put into making the gin, how does it taste?
Back in 2017 I was able to try Colombo No. 7 gin, inspired by Sri Lankan ingredients cinnamon bark, curry leaves, ginger roots and coriander seeds. Originally released in 2015, after a 70 year old recipe convinced officials to allow gin distillation in South East Asia, they have now released a 57% ABV version. The Gin Foundry team call Colombo No. 7 gin a classic, and with a higher ABV comes a higher concentration of flavours. To ensure the signature exotic flavours shine, they have added in extra curry leaves to give it a real oomph. So, how does it taste?
Back in April 2018, I had a taste of the lovely Cuckoo gin. Since then, they have grown their brand and released two new editions, the Spiced gin (for winter nights with clove and cinnamon) and the Sunshine gin (for a sense of summer with raspberries and honey). In January 2019, Liz (wife of distiller Mark) was diagnosed was a rare and aggressive form of cervical cancer aged just 29 (discovered due to a routine cervical screening, so stop putting it off when your letter arrives people, go go go). After some intensive surgery and treatment, luckily Liz is now living cancer free and now the family are determined to help raise awareness of the importance of women getting screened. Solace gin helps to raise money for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Keeping the gin juniper led, they bring in savoury notes with rosemary, lemon thyme, and my favourite things in the world: Nocellara olives. They then balance this with bold lemon and bright grapefruit. So, let’s raise a glass to family and see how this tastes.
As we reach the final week of Ginvent, today we come across a cracking gin from Batch Spirits. I’ve actually already tried this after they kindly gifted me a bottle last year and you can read my thoughts over here.
Back in June when I went to Junipalooza and had the best time, I had a chance to briefly meet York gin. One of those gins that everyone raves about based in, you guessed it, the city of York, they are the only distillery in the city and hand make all of their gins. They have four gins to their name: the London Dry which uses nine botanicals including black pepper, lemon peel and grains of paradise and this year won silver at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition; the Roman Fruit inspired by their Roman ancestors which is infused with apples, berries and hibiscus; and the Outlaw gin which pushes the ABV up to 57% and incredibly won a double gold at San Francisco this year which is not an easy thing to do. The fourth gin is the one we are trying today, the Old Tom gin. Now, if you know me, you know I love an Old Tom gin. This is made in collaboration with Michelin starred restaurant Star Inn and uses botanicals foraged from the local area and the restaurant’s garden including the White Rose of Yorkshire, bronze fennel and star anise. So, how does it taste?