One of the boldest bottles on show in the Newcomer’s zone at Junipalooza was today’s dram, Sandhills gin. A big, bright yellow bottle certainly stands out and draws your attention in. Husband and wife team Jeanette, plus long time family friend Brian, take a scientific approach to making their gin. They distil the ‘heavier’ botanicals such as juniper and coriander in a traditional copper pot still before blending it with their cold vacuum distilled ‘lighter’ botanicals. Vacuum distilling allows them to capture the softer notes from ingredients such as gorse flowers, Douglas fir, yuzu peel, Tasmanian pepper berry, dandelion root, and local honey. Located in the Surrey countryside (a 34 minute drive from where I grew up, just saying), the area is covered in gorse and heather which attract the bees, making the local honey used to sweeten the gin, the hives sponsored by Sandhills gin to support the colony. Their spring water comes from their own bore hole drilled 65m deep to ensure purity, and as you might guess, this distillery has an ethos of sustainability. Any waste from the production is recycled (where possible) and a percentage of their profits go to charity – split between CountryMice (a local charity providing end of life care) and Clockhouse (a project aiming to end loneliness with activities, healthy meals and the opportunity to meet new people).
As we head reach the halfway mark we try one of the newbies to join this year’s Ginvent fun. Downton Distillery won the bursary slot at the 2019 Junipalooza festival and had one of the most decorated stands ever. Which is just as well really as they have one of the most beautiful bottles currently on the market. Downton Distillery take their name, not from the TV show, but from Downton Manor in Wiltshire which once belonged to Queen Elizabeth I until she gifted it to Sir Walter Raleigh. For those not as clued up with their history, he helped colonise America and sailed to South America for the search of ‘El Dorado’. In a barn adjacent to the manor house, the gin is made with more than a nod to this jet-setting history. They use botanicals from around the world, for example; the juniper is from Tuscany, pink pepper from Brazil, bay leaves and signature botanical red cedar from their own estate, szechuan pepper from Asia and grapefruits, lemons and lemon verbena from the Mediterranean. These are first macerated (soaked) in their base spirit before vapour distilling the gin with fresh botanicals, finally they add their spring water that travels down from the New Forest and though the Wiltshire Downs. I had a sample of this back in June so I’m excited to revisit it, so let’s go!
Day ten of Ginvent brings us a gin from a team based in Perth, Scotland, but distilled down in London. Bright Spirits are certainly not the only company to distil off site, and for a team that started in 2018 they already have three gins to their name. The first, Pips, is designed to be a taste of summer – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries along with pineapple and citrus peel. The second, Peels, is (as you might expect) bursting with citrus – lemons, key limes, yuzu and grapefruit. The third and the one we are drinking today is Roots which they say is “spicy, warming and earthy” utilising ginger, grains of paradise, galangal root and cardamom amongst others. As with all of their gins, all flavours are distilled in tthe gin and no sugar, artificial flavourings or syrups are added after this. They say this finishes in your mouth like a Dark Jamaican ginger cake. I’m a big fan of ginger cake, so let’s see how this tastes.
Happy Monday! For today’s Ginvent we revisit Tappers gin – last year we had a dram of the Darkside gin and this year is their Wintergreen edition. The Tappers range come in beautiful bottles – you know I’m a sucker for good branding – and have a lot of iterations considering they launched in 2016 up in the Wirral peninsula. They are a brand that mean small batch when they say it; their botanicals are sourced as locally as possible and they only produce 40 bottles at a time. This gin was the second in their range to be released, back in October 2016, and is inspired by the range of plants that stay aromatic in the wintertime. As their gin is compounded (made by adding the botanicals to the base spirit with no distillation after this point), it has a natural tinge to it from the juniper and the remaining botanicals – spruce needles, cassia bark, birch bark and meadowsweet (plus five more secret ingredients). They say it has the crisp taste of a winter’s day, let’s find out shall we?
As we enter week two of Ginvent, we start with something special. We were lucky enough to get tickets to an evening with Capreolus Distillery at Gin Foundry HQ as part of their Summer Series and it was eye opening. Barney, who can talk more than I can, introduced us to his extensive range of products, starting with their most recognisable Garden Swift dry gin, before we moved onto some of the aged gins and eau de vies (which is an incredibly big collection). Today’s gin is from their rare Hart & Dart gin, so good it gets it own name rather than just a barrel aged edition. They start with the Garden Swift gin (which, FYI, came about by hundreds of individual distillations and blends to ensure they were getting the exact mix they were looking for), known for it’s bold fresh Sicilian orange and British lime leaves is then aged in rare mulberry wood barrels. This gin is released in single batches which each has it’s own character from the wood – mulberry adds a sweetness, a spice note and a hint of florals. This sweetness, they say, brings in notes of apricot on top of the 34 carefully picked botanicals already in the gin. They also recommend it in place of an Old Tom gin in cocktails (due to the sweetness), or in a classic negroni thanks to its complexity. So, how does it taste?
We’ve made it to the end of week one, hurrah! Just two and a bit left. Today’s gin is from Rock Rose, a Scottish brand with some beautiful bottles. I’ve tried their original gin a few times out and about, and their Winter gin was included in the 2017 calendar. Made in Dunnet Bay Distillery (who also do a lot of contract distilling) they have three key flavours, plus four seasonal editions. In their main range they have their original gin, a navy strength gin, and today’s drink: the pink grapefruit Old Tom gin. This excites me because I love pink grapefruit, and I love Old Tom gins. As you should know, an Old Tom style gin is traditionally sweeter than normal gin (legend has it that back in the illicit gin trade days, people would add turpentine and such to their mix so would throw in a load of sugar to hide the taste) and the Rock Rose team add muscovado sugar at the end of the process. Before this, they hand peel organic pink grapefruits which are hung in a basket and vapour infused during the distillation. This gin was originally a limited edition run in 2016 during a competition for artists to design them a new label. The demand for this was so high that they went on to tweak the recipe slightly and bring it back in the core offering in 2019. So, let’s give it a try!
Today’s gin is becoming a staple in the Ginvent calendars; in 2016 we tried Slingsby gin, in 2017 we tried their rhubarb gin, and today we try their gooseberry edition. A proud Yorkshire business, Slingsby gin started in 2015 and since their launch have developed six spirits in their main collection. Alongside the two we have already tried, they have a navy strength gin, a marmalade gin and a vodka. The gooseberry gin, in a beautiful green bottle, still uses their famous Harrogate water alongside their base spirit and locally sourced botanicals. Their Yorkshire-grown gooseberries are packed with vitamin C (so this is good for you, right?) and impart a burst of sharpness, that they say is balanced by the sweet citrus of their classic gin. So, how does it taste? Continue reading
Ginvent means one thing: a Tarquin’s exclusive! Pairing up with team Gin Foundry for the third time (first was the Hedgerow gin, second was last year’s Tan Ha Mor), they kept fairly shtum about what exactly is involved, but luckily months of Instagram stalking (and a few conversations with Emile and Olivier) plus their release a few weeks ago mean we know a bit about this now. They wanted to really invoke the sense of Cornwall of barbecues on the beach (which TBH is summer in most coastal areas, Brighton included). Pictures from their Instagrams show the team on the beach with trays of woodchips, and they have said they threw everything on – sea samphire, fennel, saffron, spiced butter and, I kid you not, lobster. Whacked on a few extra lemons and let it all char and griddle to get a real sense of candied fruit and smoked wood and the job is a good’un. This mixture of non-veggie friendly goodness was then throw in the the pot to be distilled. So, let’s see how it tastes.