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.
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.
Blossom & Hops gin, I think, is the first South African gin to find a place in my collection. Hailing from the suburbs of Cape Town, creator Tim James had to put a lot of work into his gin. In South Africa, you have to have your distillery built and ready to go before you can get your distilling license, so they distil offsite at the Hope Distillery. Tim wanted to make a gin using hops flowers, an ingredient not often seen but was featured in old Genever recipes, and he and his partner Teresa worked to incorporate this into a modern London dry gin. Mostly used in beer, one of my favourite gins from England – actually not too far from me – Mayfield Sussex Hop gin also features this botanical so I am interested to see how it compares. Their hops are complemented by lime blossom, lime leaves, juniper and coriander, but they say this results in a juniper forward gin. So, let’s see how it tastes.
Note: James from Zeiver gin got in touch and offered to send me a bottle, as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
Zeiver gin gets my attention for two reasons. One, the monochromatic label, and two, the key botanicals are peach, pistachio and aloe vera. Part of me is intrigued, part of me is nervous. Launched earlier this year, Zeiver gin is a collaboration with Dr. John Walters (who is fancy and has a doctorate in biochemistry) and is the first spirit from the English Spirit Distillery based in Essex. Taking inspiration from Japanese spirits, their bespoke base spirit comes from polished rice which they say gives it an “ultra-smooth” palate. Alongside the three aforementioned botanicals, they also use the more traditional juniper berries, limes and grapefruits, plus apple, cherry and macadamia nuts. They describe their gin as “pure, straightforward and sincere” – indeed their name comes from the Dutch for pure – although I’m not convinced the botanical list embodies this, but let’s give it a go and see what we think.
You might have seen that last year, Martin kindly sent me a bottle of Pothecary gin’s new blend – Trinity gin. This has quickly become a firm favourite of mine (and currently has about 50ml left in it *sobs*), this gin was created as a rebellion against the rise in flavoured and coloured gins. That gin has, as the name suggests, just three botanicals: juniper, coriander and bergamot. That edition is bottled at 49% ABV, and this month Martin has launched the Smugglers’ Strength. Taking inspiration from the Dorset coastline history, this blend has been rebottled at 59% ABV. Sadly the official launch has been rather flattened due to the small global pandemic we are all currently living through, but bottles are available directly from Martin. In times like this it is important to remember to relax, I know the anxiety around the situation is grim, and I’m finding a well made gin and tonic is a good way to chill out (whilst drinking responsibly, the NHS don’t need anyone in hospital with alcohol poisoning at the moment), so I’m excited to give this a try.
After last month’s special box, this month I received my regular Craft Gin Club delivery. The boxes have come a long way since I first joined, and this month we received a bottle of Wardington’s Original Ludlow gin which has been exclusively distilled for members, along with three bottles of Buzbee’s tonic, a spiced tomato mix, stroopwaffles, cocktail syrup, fruit juice, dried garnishes, crisps and chocolates. As the name suggests, this gin originates from the historic town of Ludlow (Welsh borders) from distiller Shaun Ward, who sports a bold moustache. An organ player by training, he launched Ludlow gin in 2018 as a juniper forward, classic gin and since then have launched three more gins, a coffee liqueur and a triplecello – like limoncello but with lemon, orange and pink grapefruit. This box contains their fifth gin, a limited release paying homage to the Welsh countryside in the springtime. Taking inspiration from traditional elderflower cordial, Shaun experimented with distilling elderflower and chamomile but knew his recipe wasn’t quite right. When visiting a country show at Malvern, he overheard some producers talking about the virtues of lemon verbena; after a chat and a taste, he knew he had stumbled upon his missing ingredient. So, how does it taste?