It’s day 14 of Ginvent and today we are drinking Tappers Darkside gin. Tappers have been making gin since 2016 in their home of West Kirby, t’up norf near Chester and Liverpool. This is certainly a small batch gin, every batch they make is a total of 40 bottles, each of which is hand filled, labelled, waxed and numbered. It took them a year to develop the recipe, based on Prohibition Era compound style gins. Darkside gin reflects the mix of seaside botanicals from the area: red clover flowers, chickweed and sea beet alongside five other botanicals (they don’t say that these are, but I’m guessing juniper, angelica and orris root are probably in there somewhere because they always are).
Today is lucky number 13 of Ginvent and today we are trying a gin I only heard of recently, with a cracking bottle design. An Dúlamán Gin comes from County Donegal in Ireland, Sliabh Liag Distillery is the first distillery from Donegal for over 175 years and their main botanical is local seaweed. Five types of seaweed to be precise. This ties into the brand via the name – Dúlamán comes from an Irish folk song about a conversation between two seaweed collectors. Basically. They REALLY like seaweed over there.
Happy 12 December! Fittingly, today’s gin is Twelve Keys. Which is fantastic. How do I know this? Well, I’ve already tried it after I met them at Junipalooza and you can read what I thought over here.
I’m not sure how I feel about today. This is a gin advent calendar. Not a liqueur advent calendar. This is only bearable because today’s liqueur is a) bramble flavoured and b) it’s made by Colonsay. We tried their gin in last year’s calendar which was filled with flavour, and they launched this in August 2018 after a trial run in small bottles in 2017. As a liqueur, this sits at 20% instead of their usual 47% and they use blackberries foraged from the island of Colonsay (their homeland in case you couldn’t guess) and brambles from Speyside in Northern Scotland. I’m a fan of a bramble cocktail so I have quite high hopes for this.
I am excited for today. During Gin Foundry’s summer series, we had an evening with Corner 53 who were a bunch of lovely guys that made some great gin so I am looking forward to revisit this. My favourite that evening was their viking strength gin (and by favourite I mean we drank a lot of it and I hated my life the next day). Today however we are drinking their Cherokee gin which is inspired by famous bourbon Jack Daniels. Unable to replicate their maple-charcoal filtration process, instead the team add maple syrup to their list of botanicals and balance the sweetness this brings with sarsaparilla (an earthy vanilla note).
Last year we were able to try Puddingstone Distillery‘s Campfire London Dry gin, and today we have another Navy Strength gin. Their Navy Strength uses the same botanicals as their London Dry including roasted hazelnuts, golden berries and rooibos tea, but with a small tweak to increase the juniper profile. The ABV is also increased from 42% to 57% which is quite the leap, yet Puddingstone say that it is still smooth and easy to drink. Let’s put that to the test shall we?
You’ll know if you’ve seen Sir Robin of Locksley gin before as it is a fairly lurid green bottle, and today’s gin – their VSOT, a navy strength Old Tom – is a similarly bright blue. Their signature gin is a half way point between an Old Tom and a London Dry style of gin (and was in last year’s Ginvent calendar), aimed to be sipped easily, but this is full Old Tom (the name stands for Very Special Old Tom). Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across an navy strength Old Tom before – and in my mind it seems a bit strange. Old Tom gins are traditionally sweeter, and I worry that the 57.5% ABV will knock some of that sweetness out of it.
We’ve made it to the end of week one of Ginvent! Let’s celebrate with a gin shall we? Luckily this is ginvent so today we can try Persie‘s Labrador Gin. I’ve tried their Herby & Aromatic gin (not a massive fan) and their Old Tom (too creamy, not sweet enough), so let’s see if today’s offering can pick things up for them. They called it the labrador gin as they liken the flavour to the breed – the gin is traditional, mellow and warming. They even go so far as to say it is playful upfront, which I can get on board with. They fill it with juniper and cardamom and coriander – basically all the good stuff. It seems like they have put aside their more experimental ideas for a moment and gone down the more traditional route. Plus, they donate money from the sales of this gin to the Perthshire Abandoned Dogs Society, so that’s nice.
Day six of Ginvent brings us a special edition gin from Masons in Yorkshire. At the 2017 Harrogate Christmas market they launched their Peppered Pear gin, you might remember their lavender gin from the 2017 Ginvent calender. The Peppered Pear version is made as the name suggests, balancing the sweetness of pears with the heat of pink peppercorns. Although this was a limited edition in 2017, the team at Masons liked it so much that they have continued to make batches of it. They suggest serving this with a slice of kiwi, and the Gin Kiosk folk suggest red apple slices. So, what will it be?
Have you ever had the discussion about “what makes a craft gin, craft”? For me, there are many factors but I’m also interested in the story and the dedication to the gin. Smeaton’s gin is one of those such gins. They use the “Bristol method” which involves distilling each botanical separately, and each batch of distillates varies in maceration length and temperature of distillation to ensure that the very best flavours are achieved. They base their gin on a recipe from 1870 and use eight botanicals, usual suspects juniper, coriander, orange, orris, angelica and liquorice meet cinnamon and calamus – a plant commonly used to help with stomach ailments. Team Smeaton feel that no garnish is needed for their gin as they invest their time into blended it to the perfect taste so nothing is needed to enhance it. Bold claims, so let’s see how it tastes.