As you should know by now, I am a big fan of team Gower. In fact, the entire bottom shelf of my gin collection is their bottles #fangirl. So when they announced their limited edition festive release, I jumped on board. This is a sloe gin made with juniper, coriander seed, pink peppercorn and fresh citrus which has been infused over a number of months with their locally foraged sloe berries. After making this within their family for a few years, they decided to make it on a larger scale and enlisted local foragers to help them collect enough berries. The base spirit is specially designed for this gin, choosing to make a new gin with pink peppercorns rather than using one of their existing gins. In their pursuit to fully embrace the Welsh language throughout their brand, they discovered that ‘sloe gin’ translates to both sloe and damson gin in Welsh. To add clarity, their labels are printed with “jin eirin duon bach” aka ‘gin made with little black sloes”. So, how does it taste?
Note: I was invited to the launch of the new Gin Superior range and got sent a bunch of goodies for the event, as always I’ll let you know my thoughts.
Lumber’s Bartholomew gin exists because Pete Lumber decided he wanted to have a go at making gin back in September 2017. He was determined to make his gins distinctive, selecting the botanicals that would “conjure up vivid images” in the drinker and currently makes four signature gins. The London dry is designed to be the classic combination of juniper and citrus; the Berkshire dry uses grains of paradise, white pepper and cassia to make you dream of winter – having tried this myself, it is very woody and warming; the Country Garden goes with floral notes led by lavender; and finally the Navy Strength is a smooth drinking classic gin that is juniper led.
This gin however is the first of the 137 Gin Superior range. The Navy Royal gin comes in at a hefty 58% ABV, and has been a year in the making. Pete wanted to craft a gin that created an experience, rather than just another gin. Not only does Pete put care into the gin distillation, he also hand bottles, labels and waxes every bottle that comes out of his distillery, each leaving with the gold topped seal of approval.
Note: The Jüst gin team got in touch and offered to send me a bottle, as always I’ll let you know what I really think
Jüst gin (pronounced Yust) was crafted with an ethos in mind: people are starting to drink less, but what they are drinking is better quality. How true this theory is, I don’t know (especially with lockdown in full swing) but I like the thought that they deliberately designed a drink that should be savoured and enjoyed, rather than swigged and forgotten. Based by Lake Boren (about three hours south west of Stockholm), Janne and Anders wanted to make a classic London Dry gin but with a Swedish twist. After lots of experimentation, they settled on the final recipe using just five botanicals, the key one being Swedish Crown Dill. They also use juniper (obviously), alongside grains of paradise, liquorice root, and sweet and bitter almonds. Not only does the dill add a hint of lemon sweetness, but in old Norse it means to soothe or lull, exactly what they hope the experience of drinking their gin will be. So, are we ready for the mindful experience?
As a birthday treat, I decided I would like some fancy martini glasses. So I instantly turned to the Isle of Harris distillery. And because I was already spending money on postage and I have zero restraint, I also treated myself to a bottle of their gin. Even if you don’t know much about the gin, I’m sure you recognise the beautiful glass bottle designed to reflect the ripples of the ocean. I met the team when I went to Edinburgh for International Scottish Gin Day in 2019 and they explained the irregularities in the curves are designed to fit perfectly in your hand. The Isle of Harris is in the Outer Hebrides, and the distillery is based in the small village of Tarbert. They are famous for their use of sugar kelp as their key botanical which is collected by hand from local sea lochs to ensure sustainability. The way they ensure this is by only picking the kelp if there is an ‘r’ in the name of the month – if not, then it is left to grow and recover. Alongside the sugar kelp are some more usual botanicals: juniper, cassia bark, coriander seed, angelica bark, cubeb pepper, liquorice root, orris root, and rounded off with bitter orange peel. These are distilled in a traditional copper pot before being bottled and labelled on site. They are unusual in that they don’t recycle the heads or tails of their gin – whilst a lot of distillers redistill this, the Isle of Harris team get rid of it completely. It is more expensive for them, but for them it means they are only bottling the best of their product. They also use all cardboard packaging, covered in information about the brand which makes it extra special to open. So, how does it taste?
Note: The tasting pack was gifted to me by Shetland Reel, but I will let you know what I really think.
Shetland Reel gin comes from Saxa Vord Distillery, the most northern distillery in the UK on Unst, which is the mort northern inhabited island. This is a remote distillery, accessible from the Shetland mainland by not one, but two ferry journeys – not including the ferry to get to Shetland in the first place! Fun fact – it’s actually closer to Norway than it is to most of Scotland. It is here that Frank and Debbie Strang regenerated the former RAF site into a tourist resort, and teamed up with Stuart and Wilma Nickerson who own The Malt Whisky Company. Their unique surrounding inspired them to make the most of their local botanicals used in their core range. Recently they have created tasting packs of their three main gins – the Original, Simmer, and Ocean Sent. If you’ve paid attention to my social media, you’ll see I’ve also recorded these tastings with Debbie, which was an absolute blast, and you can watch them here.
Debbie from Shetland Reel gin kindly sent me one of their tasting packs to try, and we decided it would be fun to do some virtual tastings together. I’ve collated the videos below for your viewing pleasure…
I was introduced to Shetland Reel by The Gin Cooperative as part of my support for International Scottish Gin Day, make sure you check them out and pour yourself a Scottish gin on 24 October to celebrate! Let me know your favourite Scottish gin on Twitter and Instagram.
As we lead up to International Scottish Gin Day, I’ve teamed up with Roehill Springs gin to find out a bit more about them. They kindly sent me a bottle of their Gin No.5 to try, and I chatted to Shirley, one half of the founding team, about their background, inspirations and future plans.
Note: The team at Roehill Springs kindly sent me a bottle of their gin to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I honestly think
Roehill Springs Distillery is one of the newer distilleries emerging in the Scottish gin scene. Established in 2019, they’re based near Keith – sort of between Aberdeen and Inverness – on their third-generation farm. They are also one of the few distilleries that actually make their own gin – all of their gin is distilled, bottled and labelled on site, nothing is contracted to established distilleries (FYI – there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but lots of people don’t admit it and that’s misleading). So, why is this called Gin No.5? Where are numbers 1-4? After plucking up the courage to have a go at making his own gin, Duncan experimented with different batches and recipes and after many tasting sessions at home with friends and family, they settled on the fifth recipe, and in turn the name. Duncan, alongside wife Shirley, distil their gin in a traditional 30l copper pot still using botanicals foraged from the local area before blending it with spring water from Roehill (an area named after the abundance of Roe deer), which, as you can probably guess, also helped them name their distillery. Using a mixture of the copper pot still, a column still and a vapour basket, they add juniper, coriander, angelica root, cassia bark, pink peppercorns, and then some secret ingredients which they won’t disclose.
For today’s blog we raid the shelves of the random bottles given to me by an old housemate, and with this head to the Netherlands with Sculte gin. Based in a former monastery near the German border, founder Gerard Velthuis set up his distillery and now makes whisky, gin and brandy capturing the spirit of the Twente region. Using barley as a base, they make their gin with juniper, herbs and onions. Now, that sounds a tad strange (and it is), but the town they are based in, Ootmarsum, is also called the Siepelstad (Onion town) which is their main tourist draw. I’m confused, hesitant and slightly curious about how this will taste – but having just learnt to make a Gibson martini, if it tastes of onions then at least I have a starting point…
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.