My December delivery from Craft Gin Club arrived whilst I was in Bangkok, so I hot footed it home to give it a try (technically my holiday had finished and I was coming home anyway but whatevs). This month’s treat came courtesy of Sibling Distillery, a family of four aged between 16 and 23. Makes me feel rather inadequate that they’re all younger than me and have their own gin. Maybe I’ll start distilling – who wants to invest in me?
The four grew up working in Battledown Brewery, set up by their parents to supply local pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops with premium local ales. The foursome from Cheltenham work on a ‘grain to glass’ approach, fermenting their own grains to make vodka before infusing it with their botanicals to make gin. This process means it takes nearly three weeks from start to bottle, by way of comparison a big brand can turn around a batch in hours, and craft gins that buy in their base spirits take around 12-48 hours. Their botanicals are changed every 17 batches to ensure freshness, with lemons, oranges and blueberries hand chopped and grated. Interesting fact: as the quartet are under 25 they aren’t allowed to to use images of or communicating any information about themselves on their website or at trade events – basically they can’t include a photo of all of them for another 9 years until Digby, the youngest, turns 25. Guys, if you need a brand ambassador over 25, I’m here. Just saying.
I digress. The bottle is beautiful – I enjoy well designed bottles as these end up as lamps around my flat, plus it feels nicer to drink if they have put effort into the bottle (just me?). The siblings created “the first glass and stainless steel still in Europe, ensuring that we produce the purest vodka base” – you can tell brewing is in their blood, can’t you? The botanicals they use are slightly different, in between the usual coriander, orange and lemon there sits blueberries and vanilla.
After having a little struggle to open the seal (in my defence, when I cracked into my bottle I hadn’t slept for a while and was still on an Asian time zone), I pop the cork. Taking a whiff from the bottle, the vanilla is quite prevalent. It smells sweeter than other gins but not in a cloying way. Diluted with one part water, the juniper scents come out along with more vanilla. It smells a bit like a cake in a glass. Smooth and easy to drink (never a safe thing to say about straight 42% gin), the botanicals are well balanced so that none of the flavours are overpowering. There’s a slight tang at the back of the throat – coming, I presume, from the orange and lemon but the vanilla and blueberries balance it to leave a good taste. I’m not one to drink straight spirits (alas the days of my youth are gone) but this is nice. It helps that as I type this, a Brighton seafront storm is brewing, it’s dark and cold and windy and wet outside, but I’m snuggled up. If only my flat had a fireplace!
It’s impressed so far, but how will it fare in the gin and tonic test? Before I opened this I had a look on the Craft Gin Club Facebook page and was concerned to see a few negative reviews – would this finally be the gin I don’t like? Pairing it with the Bottle Green Light Tonic supplied in my box and making it in my new Martini glasses (birthday present from the wonderful house mate Jenny Bernarde) – although I then realised due to the size of the Martini glass compared to the size of my gin serving I am in for a strong drink.
On first taste I understand one of the Facebook reviews which I believe said it reminded her of disinfectant, it certainly has a chemically taste to it on the first mouthful. With the tonic it seems sharper on the tongue – whether this is the gin or the tonic I don’t know, I’ve never had the Bottle Green tonic before and a quick taste of it shows that it is slightly more bitter than other tonics. I am also aware that I’ve made a strong drink which will alter the taste.
Once you’ve got past the initial taste, the blueberries come out and a sweeter taste comes in. After a few sips I added a little more tonic to make the drink better balanced/I was already slightly pissed and the chemical taste disappears and you’re left with a fruity gin. I’ve had a “mixed berry” gin before that was fairly terrible as it tasted of fake fruit and sugar but this has a subtle hint to it. If I didn’t know it had blueberries in, I wouldn’t have guessed it.
Adding some lemon wedges (because I’m sorry Sibling distillery and others, I will NOT be adding orange to my drink, won’t, shan’t) makes it, in my opinion, pretty damn close to perfect. I know I’m a fan of citrus, but the sharpness from the lemon contrasts the sweetness and enhances the sharper notes making it a smooth drink. With some lemon, I will happily drink this all day long.
All in all, yes it’s a little different at first taste, but very rewarding. I like that it is set up by a group of young entrepreneurs, I think they are ginspirational (that’s right, I went there) and it’s a shame they can’t present their product as a family (although I do wonder how much tasting the 16 year old does…). But seriously, if you’re hiring…
You can get your hands on a bottle through their website, their 42% 70cl bottle is £34 plus £6 postage. This price puts it up in the luxury gin area, but (including postage) this is the same amount as my fave Brighton Gin and others. I appreciate this might be a bit much for people to buy to drink every day, but this brings some interesting flavours to the party and will make an impressive addition to any upcoming Christmas cocktail parties. I know that once I’ve shaken this post-holiday lurgy I shall be enjoying it and trying out a few new drink ideas to change things up a bit for the New Year.