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.
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.
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: The team at The Lakes Distillery sent me a sample of their new gin to try, as always I’ll let you know what I think.
As you might have seen, just before Christmas I received a sample of the new Lakes Distillery gin following a tweak to their recipe and a serious upgrade to the bottle. Now the team have released their newest addition to the line up which takes inspiration from their favourite serve. When drinking a gin and tonic, I love to garnish it with a wedge of pink grapefruit, something that the team at The Lakes agree with. Bottled at 46% like their signature gin, this edition brings a big citrus hit to their traditional gin. The addition of the grapefruit brings a punch of flavour, with no added sugar or sweeteners, and they say no need for an additional garnish. So, how does it taste?
If anyone follows me on social media, you’ll probably notice I have a little love affair with the Mackintosh gin family. I mean, I’m ginger and half-Scottish so I’m practically part of the family. I am a big fan of their London Dy gin which was launched last year, and so when they announced two new releases, I got very excited. The first is an Old Tom style gin with pineapple and grapefruit (the pineapple inclusion here worried me but I have been informed it is actually rather yummy), and the one we are trying today, the 59% ABV Mariner Strength gin. Made using the same botanicals as their London dry, but cut at the higher ABV (previously 42%), they say this is juniper led, with notes of elderflower, soft citrus and a hint of pepper. I’m a fan of Mackintosh gin, and I’m a fan of navy strength gins, so I have high hopes going into this one, so let’s see how it tastes.
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.
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?
If you know your gin, you should have heard of Daffy’s gin – I actually reviewed it at the end of 2017. Before I had a chance to try their gin, they actually released a limited edition gin (thanks to Gin Foundry’s HQ clear out I got myself a bottle) in partnership with Formula 1’s Manor Racing. Their already striking label gets a jazzy upgrade with a winner’s wreath and trophy, and so does their recipe. They didn’t want to start from scratch, so taking inspiration from their original eight botanicals, this edition features including Lebanese mint and fresh Spanish limes – the goal was to create something fresh and exciting. They produced just 2,500 bottles of this release, and sadly the team it was produced for has since gone into administration. So basically, I’m trying a gin that you can’t buy, that’s four years old, and made for a team that don’t exist. Don’t say I don’t keep on top of all the news in the gin world. So, even though you probably can’t try it, I can.
Nearly 18 months ago I was excited to collect the keys to my new home. I was excited because at said new house was a bottle of the Four Pillars x Herno collaboration, Dry Island gin (which, if anyone is interested, is one of my favourites ever). For that gin, the Four Pillars team incorporated some of Herno’s key botanicals into their process. Today, we try Botany Bay, the next release which sees Australian botanicals make their way to Sweden to join Herno’s distillation. Fun story: the first Swede to circumnavigate the world was botanist Dr. Daniel Solander who was so taken with the variety of flora he found down under that he named the landing spot Botany Bay. Inspired by this history, Herno uses their signature botanicals meadowsweet and lingonberry and combines them with Australian wattleseed, Tasmanian pepper berry and lemon myrtle. Before we taste the gin, I think we should just take a moment to appreciate the label which ignores Herno’s simple label tradition and is a bright, colourful picture of Dr Solander’s adventure (Dry Island had a label very in line with Four Pillars’ branding). So, do the contents live up to the label’s (and its predecessor’s) standards?
There’s been a lot of talk in the recent months about the rise in Scottish gin, but today we head across the water to the north west coast of Ireland. Boatyard Distillery is based on the banks of Lough Erne in their farm-to-bottle distillery. Their vodka is made from home-grown wheat, the spent grains go back to the land as fertiliser and animal food, and they pick their signature gin botanical (Sweet Gale – a type of bog myrtle) is picked from the family bog. Today’s drink is their flagship Double Gin, made by macerating eight botanicals for 18 hours in their wheat spirit and ensure the juniper flavour is front and centre using a filtration process which helps to highlight the beautiful pine notes. They keep their botanical list fairly traditional – alongside the juniper is coriander, liquorice root, angelica, orris, fresh lemon peel, grains of paradise and the aforementioned Sweet Gale. So, how does the banks of Lough Erne taste?