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.
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?
One of the highlights every year in Ginvent is seeing what Emile and Olivier come up with as their own Ginvent gin. This year, they decided juniper was the way forward. Lots and lots of juniper. Using 200 litres of various gins as a base, they then redistilled this with three types of juniper (hence, Juniper Cubed). From the Mediterranean we have juniper communis, juniper phoenicea from the Spanish island of Formentera, and finally the Africa juniper procera. It seems fitting to end this year’s Ginvent with a mountain of juniper, so let’s give it a taste.
Well, we’ve nearly made it. Just two days left to go and after four gins from South East Asia, we travel even further afield to the east coast of Australia. Manly Spirits burst onto the scene in April 2017, but I feel like 2019 was their year here in the UK. I had already tried their Coastal Citrus gin earlier this year and then I met them at Junipalooza and got a quick tasting of this edition (which was filmed for their Instagram and not at all embarrassing). Their Australian Dry gin uses native botanicals sea lettuce, anise myrtle, orange peel, pepper leaf and finger limes and they say this brings fruity peppery notes to the gin. It’s worth noting that in the two and a half years since launching, they have not just those two gins, but also the new Lilly Pilly Pink gin and a barrel aged gin and two vodkas and a limoncello AND a coffee liqueur. So, they’ve been pretty busy. But have they put quantity over quality? Let’s find out!
Ginvent 2019 has been full of new gins, and today we have our third Indian gin. Named after The Golden City in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer gin comes from one of the largest distillers in the country – Radico Khaitan distils over 13 million litres a month. This gin is influenced by the history of Maharajas, vibrant colours and stories of princes. They use native Indian botanicals including lemongrass, vetiver (a fragrant grass), orange and lemon peel, and darjeeling green tea alongside less native caraway seeds, cubeb pepper and Tuscan juniper added to their triple distilled grain spirit, all added into a traditional copper pot still. They say these flavours work together “like an oasis in the desert”, so – how does it taste?
Yesterday, we tried Stranger and Sons, one of the first gins coming out of India. Today, we continue with this theme and try Hapusa gin. They had the same realisation as the team behind Stranger and Sons, that lots of gins were inspired by India, but not actually coming from India. They are the only gin (correct me if I’m wrong!) to use Indian juniper berries from the Himalayas, and their name Hapusa is the Sanskrit word for juniper. Alongside the juniper, they also use a range of rich botanicals from the area – mango, almonds, limes, turmeric, ginger and cardamom along with their wheat based spirit. It sounds like an interesting blend – the sweetness of the mango paired with the warmth of the ginger and turmeric, so how does it taste?
If you think of gin, you probably don’t automatically think of India as a place of provenance. For me, last year was the year of Australian gin, 2019 seems to be the year of Indian gin. Amongst the new producers coming to market are Stranger and Sons. Hailing from the mountainous region of the Western Ghats in Goa, the three founders were inspired to make a gin after so many gins they had tried said they were inspired by India, yet were made nowhere nearby. So they decided to make their own. Their aim was to create a gin that was an instant classic with tonic, but also robust enough for bold cocktails like martinis and negronis. As well as growing their own pepper, coriander and lemons, they also use Indian bergamot, nutmeg, cassia and mace alongside the juniper to create a full flavour. They have an eye on sustainability, local women help them peel their citrus fruits, and in return take the flesh home to make their own jams and pickles that are sold in the markets. They also invested in a recycling tank which massively reduces their water usage – something that you usually need a LOT of in gin production – as well as being 100% plastic free, organic, fair trade, and installing solar panels to power their stills. So, with all that effort put into making the gin, how does it taste?
Back in 2017 I was able to try Colombo No. 7 gin, inspired by Sri Lankan ingredients cinnamon bark, curry leaves, ginger roots and coriander seeds. Originally released in 2015, after a 70 year old recipe convinced officials to allow gin distillation in South East Asia, they have now released a 57% ABV version. The Gin Foundry team call Colombo No. 7 gin a classic, and with a higher ABV comes a higher concentration of flavours. To ensure the signature exotic flavours shine, they have added in extra curry leaves to give it a real oomph. So, how does it taste?
Back in April 2018, I had a taste of the lovely Cuckoo gin. Since then, they have grown their brand and released two new editions, the Spiced gin (for winter nights with clove and cinnamon) and the Sunshine gin (for a sense of summer with raspberries and honey). In January 2019, Liz (wife of distiller Mark) was diagnosed was a rare and aggressive form of cervical cancer aged just 29 (discovered due to a routine cervical screening, so stop putting it off when your letter arrives people, go go go). After some intensive surgery and treatment, luckily Liz is now living cancer free and now the family are determined to help raise awareness of the importance of women getting screened. Solace gin helps to raise money for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Keeping the gin juniper led, they bring in savoury notes with rosemary, lemon thyme, and my favourite things in the world: Nocellara olives. They then balance this with bold lemon and bright grapefruit. So, let’s raise a glass to family and see how this tastes.
As we reach the final week of Ginvent, today we come across a cracking gin from Batch Spirits. I’ve actually already tried this after they kindly gifted me a bottle last year and you can read my thoughts over here.