A few weeks ago, I went to the City of London Distillery for one of their distillery tours (which I recommend, it was great fun on a Wednesday night [note: I paid for this myself, it wasn’t gifted]). As we left, obviously I bought myself a bottle of gin. The City of London Distillery opened in 2012 on Bride Lane (literally five minutes from my office) with their traditional London Dry gin which was quickly followed by the Square Mile gin that I am trying today. Since then, they have also launched a Sloe gin, an Old Tom gin, their Christopher Wren gin, and a number of flavoured gin such as the Six Bells gin they launched with Craft Gin Club. The Square Mile gin is distilled with juniper, coriander seeds, fresh orange and lemon amongst others and won a Double Gold Award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017 which is a pretty big deal. Bottled at 47.3% ABV, it is also the strongest gin they make (I am slightly surprised they haven’t added a navy strength gin to their family, but hey, there’s still time).
Note: I met the team from Opera gin at Junipalooza and they kindly gave me a sample to try, as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
What is Opera gin?
To anyone looking for their next holiday destination, I would recommend Budapest. It’s a lovely city and we had a very fun week there despite falling down the stairs in a ruin pub and spraining my ankle, and falling in the Danube (sprained ankle first). You might wonder why I’m telling you this, but today’s gin comes from that fine city. Fellow WSET student, Balint Damosy (also a lawyer) realised during his training that gin was his passion and spent two years researching and learning about gin, before deciding that launching their own gin was not as insane as they thought. And so Opera gin was born. In April 2018, they received their distilling license to become the first micro-distillery in Hungary, and set up shop in a former cotton factory within the Budapest city walls. They chose to create a traditional London Dry gin as they wanted to create something that was not just high quality, but also true to the spirit. They start with a Hungarian corn spirit before adding standard botanicals: hand picked juniper from the Kiskunság National Park; Bulgarian coriander seeds; angelica; orris root; and liquorice. They then make their gin unique by using citronella grass (which I’ve never come across as a botanical before but feel free to correct me!), lavender, a touch of aniseed and cubeb pepper, and their signature botanical poppy seed. They say this all blends together for a citrus and juniper forward gin that works well with tonic, but also pairs with a dry vermouth to make a crisp martini. So, how does it taste?
Note: The lovely team at Gwyr gin sent me a bottle to try, but as always I will let you know what I really think.
What is Gwyr Rhosili gin?
If you want to know about Gwyr gin, then I will point you to my posts on their original gin and their Pinwydd edition. Today, however, we are drinking their newest edition to the family, the Rhosili gin. This has been designed with the Dylan Thomas Estate to commemorate the poet’s links with Gower and Rhosili (his body is interred around the coastline in Laugharne). Thomas is most famous for poems such as Do not go gentle into that good night, a poem that has been quoted in numerous shows and films like Doctor Who and Independence Day. So how is this gin different to their others? Where their original gin focuses on pink grapefruit and fennel, the Rhosili edition features foraged gorse flowers, fresh lime zest, sea buckthorn (a botanical that seems to be appearing more and more) and linden flowers. Linden flowers have been used by herbalists for all sorts of things – coughs, colds, high blood pressure and migraines and research has shown that the flowers may have properties that help prevent damage to your liver. Which surely can only be a good thing when added to something that is proven to damage your liver? Please note I am not saying that drinking this is good for you in any way, as always, please drink responsibly. So, moving on, how does it taste?
Note: The team at Whitby gin kindly sent me a sample to try, but I will always let you know what I think
What is Whitby Gin?
When I think of Whitby, I always think of Dracula, but it turns out the seaside town in North Yorkshire has more going for it than the place the Count landed in England. When Jess and Luke went on a camping trip to the Outer Hebrides in 2017, they were inspired by the amount of distilleries the islands housed, and Jess wondered why her hometown didn’t have one. Luckily, Jess has a background in business planning, and Luke one in food manufacturing, so they had a bit of a head start on the process. They ordered a still before they even got home and decided on three key botanicals: heather (sustainably sourced from the North York Moors), sugar kelp (from Robin Hood Bay) and honey (bought raw from their local bee keeper). 45 trials later and they had found the perfect combination of botanicals to complement these, including juniper, coriander seed, citrus peels and liquorice root and so Whitby Gin was born. These are added to their copper column stills (Stanley, Stockwell and Scripps, obviously) with their grain spirit and distilled once before hand bottling and labelling their products. Since their launch, they have won a host of awards including winning the Best London Dry Gin (UK) at the 2019 World Gin Awards.
Note: The Manly Spirits team sent me a bottle to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
New South Wales is probably most famous for being the state that Sydney lies in on the south east coast of Australia. The Australian gin scene is growing rapidly (so much so that Junipalooza has expanded out there), and Manly Spirits started life in Tasmania in late 2015. Founders David and Vanessa discussed the possibility of opening a distillery and dedicated their time to researching successful distilleries around the world before commencing training with a distillery closer to home. They launched their own distillery in April and utilise the biodiversity that Australia has to offer. Their spirits are hand crafted – they don’t rely on a machine to work out when the head/heart/tail start and end, instead relying on the noses of their team. They forage for their marine botanicals with the help of renowned forager and chef Elijah Holland to ensure that everything is sustainably sourced. Their range now features two vodkas, a whisky currently sat ageing in barrels, a limoncello, a coffee liqueur and three gins. The gin we are trying today is the Coastal Citrus gin that features botanicals such as lemon aspen, sea parsley, meyer lemon, lemon myrtle and fresh coriander leaf. If the name alone didn’t connote that this was citrus led, then the botanical list certainly does. So, how does it taste?
Note: The Artisan Drinks team sent me some samples to try, but I will always let you know what I really think.
Who are The Artisan Drinks Co.?
The Artisan Drinks Co. started as all good partnerships start – when a group of people met in a bar. Steve, an entrepreneur who previously created Feel Good Drinks, and Alan, a Yorkshire based artists, met Mikey, an award winning bartender, and the Artisan Drinks Co. was formed. They created their drinks in the bar as accompaniments for their favourite spirits. They use 100% natural ingredients and produce in both the UK and Australia in some damn fine bottles. So what is their range?
Note: The team at Taplin & Mageean sent me a bottle to try, as always I will let you know what I think.
What is Taplin & Mageean gin?
Taplin & Mageean gin has an unusual name, which for once doesn’t have a hidden meaning. It is simply the names of the founders – Chris Taplin and Barry Mageean. Chris met Barry whilst on a visit to the Yorkshire Distillery where Barry was head distiller. They got chatting, hosted a gin tasting and – as all good gin tastings end – ended with a conversation about making their own gin. They opened their distillery in Wensleydale (no, not the cheese), in an former train repair building at Leyburn station. As former head distiller, Barry put his skills to work developing their recipes and 49 trials later, they settled on the four that make up their range. I find it interesting that they launched with all four, the usual trick is to introduce one to market and then expand. Here, they have their signature gin which I am trying today, juniper heavy with Yorkshire hops, fresh grapefruit, flowers and spice, a peach and basil gin which also used apricots and vanilla, a spiced orange gin with winter flavours fig, cranberry and cinnamon, and finally a summery gin using elderflower, chamomile and apples. Despite being a new brand, the Signature Edition won a silver medal in the gin tasting category of the 2019 San Francisco Spirit Awards, so how does it taste?
Welcome to June and that means only one thing: Junipalooza time! Kidding (well, I’m not) but it is also time for a Craft Gin Club delivery. This box was literally larger than normal, but on opening it turns out we have a very fancy bottle inside that needs protecting – welcome to the world Nelson’s Gluggle Jug gin (try saying that five times). I’ve never tried Nelson’s gin before but I’ve long admired their bottles, and this is no exception. The bottle was made exclusively for this gin by Wade Ceramics who have been making ceramics since 1810. Inspired by the classic gluggle jug – so called for the sound it makes when you pour water from it – which is a Staffordshire icon, Nelson’s wanted to make a gin that would withstand the long summer evenings. Founder Neil experimented with various botanicals before settling on his recipe, then called in team Craft Gin Club to help him pick the best iteration. Botanicals that made the final cut include green cardamom, sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon, hibiscus, lime, pink peppercorn and star anise; lots of citrus up front complemented by the richer cardamom and spices. So, how does it taste?
Note: The team at Glacier Fire tonic sent me some samples to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think
What is Glacier Fire tonic?
Based in Iceland, Glacier Fire produce a range of tonic waters (alongside a host of soft drinks, spirits and beers) using glacier water which has trickled its way down the mountains towards Reykjavik. This water is naturally filtered as it comes down through lava fields and so is free of pollution. They use responsibly sourced, non-gm quinine from Africa and all their tonics are sugar free. Alongside an Indian tonic, they also make a fiery tonic (with chilli), elderflower tonic, volcanic tonic (ginger and cinnamon), botanic tonic, and a berry tonic (both of which I am trying today).
Note: Bruce at Brentingby gin kindly sent me a sample to try, but all the opinions below are my own.
What is Brentingby gin?
Brentingby distillery sits in the Leicestershire countryside, distilling and bottling in Melton Mowbray (halfway between Leicester and Nottingham). The team came up with the idea to make their gin back in 2015, and after three years of development which involved training with master distiller Tom Nichol (of Tanqueray gin) and building a distillery with a 10 plate copper still, they made their first batch of gin in the summer of 2018. Bruce grew up on the Durban coastline of South Africa and wanted to bring this into his gin; they use hibiscus as ab botanical and a feature on the logo and they named their still Ayanda which is proliferation in Zulu. Ayanda is powered by sustainable wind energy from the wind turbine based next door and ties into their care for sustainability. Since the launch of their London dry gin, they have also released a pink gin (no raspberries here, instead they use rooibos and baobab) and the black edition gin that I am trying today. This gin features botanicals ginger, lime and meadowsweet – they say this brings spice and warmth, so how does it taste?