So you might have seen my previous posts about the City of London Distillery – I’ve already tried their Six Bells gin, Square Mile gin and Authentic London dry gin, and today I’m drinking the Christopher Wren edition. Now, you might know that the City of London Distillery was the first gin distillery within the City of London for nearly 200 years, and you might know that Christopher Wren is very famous for designing, amongst other things, St. Paul’s Cathedral. But, fun fact, when I went to visit the distillery and bar (which I recommend doing after lockdown as it’s lovely) there was a poster in the toilet advertising that it takes less steps to walk to St. Paul’s from the distillery than it does to climb to the top of St. Paul’s. Now, I haven’t fact checked this, but it just shows how close the two are. This gin was created in collaboration with Tom Nichol (who, at the time, was the master distiller at Tanqueray) and this is made to be a classic London dry gin. In this expression, they use only one type of citrus (dried orange peel) alongside juniper, coriander, liquroice and angelica root. The tasting notes on their website say the candied orange flavour carries throughout, and as someone that isn’t massively keen on orange, this might have been a poorly thought out purchase on my part. But, here we go.
Now, if you’ve ever been in a shop or a bar, you’ve probably seen and heard of Hendrick’s gin. The one that people think is fancy because it tastes of cucumber and has a nice bottle. Last March, they released a Midsummer Solstice gin which focused on the floral flavours of a summer bloom, and in June released the Orbium gin. Now, we all know the ‘history’ of gin and tonic, the quinine from a tree bark had anti-malarial properties, we mixed it with booze etc etc. Here, Hendrick’s have made a ‘quininated’ gin, as in they took their gin and added quinine, wormwood and blue lotus blossom. On their own website they say “it is almost certainly not for everybody” which intrigues me. It seems like a bold move for a major brand, even for one that builds itself around the unusual oddities of life. They’ve clashed together the flavours traditionally found in tonic and vermouth, which bring bitter boozy notes to mind. They say these are balanced by the blue lotus flowers, which takes the flavour from floral to bitter via a long slow finish. They suggest making it into a martini or a Martinez, or simply mixing it with soda. So, this should be an interesting taste test.
Anyone that follows me on social media might have seen that I basically stalk the Mackintosh gin family. I’m worming my way in to be an adopted daughter even though my hair isn’t nearly long enough or bright enough. They kindly sent me a bottle of their original gin back in May 2019, then I loved them so much I bought a bottle of their newly-launched navy strength gin in April. Due to lockdown my lack of commuting has given my bank balance a boost and I’ve been bored and FOMO kicked in so I just got myself a bottle of their Old Tom gin. Launched at the same time as the navy strength, I was unsure of the Old Tom – which is a style we all know I love – because it’s pineapple and grapefruit. I worry about pineapple in gin. It shouldn’t be on pizza and I don’t think it should be in my gin. Obviously Old Tom style gins are usually sweeter, and they add candy syrup between distillation and bottling along with the fresh pineapple. They say this is still juniper led with locally foraged elderflower, like their other gins, with a strong citrus burst.
Regular readers might have realised by now that I am a big fan of the Gower gin team. Not only are they lovely people, but they manage to smash out great gin after great gin (case in point: Gwyr gin, Pinwydd, Rhosili, Rhamanta and Bara Brith). Today’s gin is one that I have been looking forward to for a long time, their first foray into the world of navy strength gin which comes with layers and layers of wrapping. Based on their Rhosili gin which uses sea buckthorn, lime, gorse and linden flowers to commemorate Dylan Thomas, this gin isn’t just the minimum 57% ABV needed for navy strength gins. Nope, we are going all the way to 60% ABV. As well as the amped up ABV, they have also added grains of paradise and cubeb pepper for heat, and bringing in a smokiness from lapsang souchong tea. If you head to Rhossilli on the western end of Gower, you’ll find Worms Head, a tidal island shaped like a dragon drinking from the sea which inspired the name and botanicals for this gin.
As part of Gin Foundry’s clear out, I received a bottle of Durham gin in my box of goodies. Founded in 2014 after Jon Chadwick had drunk his way through the craft spirits of the East Coast of America, he returned to his hometown of Durham and decided to set up the first distillery in the city. He wanted to make a classic gin, true to the spirit’s roots, whilst weaving in elements of the city he loved. He mixed traditional juniper with Northern botanicals elderflower, angelica and celery seed. He wanted to give his gin a modern twist alongside this, so added in pink pepper and cardamom (two of my favourite flavours, just sayin) and ended up with their signature gin. Ensuring the city’s history was firmly included in the brand, the bottle was designed as a modern interpretation of the Cathedral’s Rose Window – fractured at first, but bought back to it’s original form when viewed though the bottle of gin. Since 2014 the company has grown and they also now produce a vodka, a cask aged gin, two gin liqueurs (strawberry & pink pepper and damson, blackberry and ginger), and in 2018 started work on their first whisky – a first for the North East. So, how does their flagship gin taste?
I met the team from Bullards gin at Junipalooza and was able to give their range a try (I would like to give a shout out to their strawberry and black pepper gin which I thought I would hate but actually quite enjoyed). I’ve now got myself a bottle of their Old Tom gin – a style of gin you should all know I enjoy – which also won best Old Tom style gin at the 2019 Gin Guide Awards (as a distillery they won five awards plus Distillery of the Year). They use ten botanicals in their Old Tom gin including honey which is contrasted by mango and pink peppercorns. That’s a lot of flavour for a gin that is usually defined by it’s sweetness; by the sounds of it, the sweetness will be less synthetic than some sugary gins. Bullards were (that I’ve seen) one of the first brands to introduce refill packs, theirs fit through a normal letterbox and are 70cl so you can reuse your bottle then pop the empty pouch into a postbox and the distillery recycle them. This saves you money and is a much greener option – we all know bottles are recyclable but they also take a lot of energy to make and transport around.
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I am the #modelofrestraint. Because of this, and being bored at home, I decided this month’s treat would be a bottle of Hidden Curiosities Aranami strength gin. I’ve met founder Jenny a few times and tried it at Junipalooza, plus everyone RAVES about it on social so to get rid of my FOMO, I ordered a bottle on Friday and it arrived on Tuesday (note: the Monday was a bank holiday). Super speedy. Hidden Curisosities started in a slightly unusual way; Jenny started Cravat Club, a place to design and sell modern, beautiful cravats. After five years living in Japan and many years of sampling gins, Jenny pursued her entrepreneurial streak and decided to launch her own gin. She found that she was getting tired of the same flavours coming through again and again so wanted to create something unique that would last the test of time. She worked with the team at Silent Pool gin (30 mins drive from my home town, just saying) to develop her recipe and launched Hidden Curiosities in 2017. Since then, she has launched today’s gin, the Aranami Strength, bottled at 59% ABV. Using 20 botanicals (seven of which come specifically from Japan), Aranami means “raging waves” in Japanese and this is how Jenny sees this gin – like a burst of flavour. It actually won Best English Navy strength gin at the 2020 World Gin Awards and won the Industry Choice award at the 2020 Gin Guide awards so the love for this gin is surging forward like the name suggests. They say it is “overflowing with citrus, pepper and floral notes”, so let’s see how this tastes.
Note: The team at Artisan Drinks Co sent me some samples to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
Back in June 2019, I tried some new tonics and mixers from the Artisan Drinks Co. Since then, the range has grown and I have some new drinks to play with. Alongside the Indian tonics, Violet Blossom tonic and Barrel Smoked cola we now get to try three new flavours: Agave Lemon tonic, Pink Citrus tonic, and Fiery Ginger Beer.
As you may know from this blog or my social media, I work in central London. Just down the road, in fact, from the City of London distillery. Whilst coronavirus might mean we can’t travel or go anywhere, a fantastic deal online meant I pity-bought myself a bottle of their Authentic gin. The Authentic gin is the first gin the distillery launched back in 2012, becoming the first gin distilled in the city of London. The gin itself is pretty simple with just seven botanicals – classic juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and liquorice root alongside a load of citrus peel (orange, lemon and grapefruit). Distilled in a pair of 200l litre stills named Jennifer and Clarissa (after The Two Fat Ladies), the Authentic gin launched and defined the brand that now boasts an impressive nine gins (in fact, I’ve already reviewed their citrus led Six Bells and the Square Mile gin).
Note: Stuart from Biggar gin sent me a sample to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
Back at the start of 2019 (do you remember that far back? You know, when we were allowed out and stuff), the team from Biggar gin sent me some of their gin to try and I LOVED it. I was just sad it wasn’t a BIGGAR bottle (see what I did there?). Sorry, I’ve been alone for eight weeks now, I’m finding bad jokes very amusing. Their new gin is bottled at 57% ABV (their original gin is 43% ABV) and made in small batches (hence my little Biggar sample), making their navy strength gin the third in the brand’s line up.
Alongside their original gin they have a Clyde Valley plum gin which is a limited edition gin infused with South Lanarkshire plums (FYI this is bottled in batches of 400 per harvest). As they are based in what is basically the centre of Scotland and far away from any oceans, they felt strange calling this new gin “navy strength” (hence, Biggar strength), and they didn’t just want to cut their original gin at a higher ABV. Instead, they took three of their original botanicals (rowan berry, rosehip and nettle) and added locally grown hawthorn berries, which when dried are similar to cranberries with a hint of apple. They wanted to make a gin that was recognisably Biggar, but with a twist and that also worked in classic cocktails.