If you’re in Edinburgh, I can recommend the Pickering’s Distillery tour. Well. By tour it’s standing in one room talking all about gin, then going next door and seeing their bottling room, then back to the first room to drink gin. It’s accessed through the Royal Dick Bar (tee hee hee) at Summerhall roundabout. I went during the festival and was joined by my father, who at the end very kindly got me a bottle of the limited edition 2017 Tattoo gin. Working with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo organisers, this year’s edition features indigenous Scottish heather, milk thistle, bog myrtle and Scots Pine added to their Bombay recipe gin wrapped in the official tartan of the Tattoo (not McLaren tartan though as my father pointed out…). Along with the Tattoo gin, their range features their original gin, a navy strength gin and the 1947 recipe (made precisely to their original recipe). They’re also the makers of the original gin baubles that are LITERALLY ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA. The bottle is lovely, they have paid real attention to the small details – the Pickering’s peacock wrapped around the bottle and a charming scale of how empty the bottle is on the side.
Note: I contacted Tyree Gin to see if they would send me a sample for the blog and they were kind enough to do so – as always, I’ll be honest about what I think
Tyree Gin hails from the Hebridean island of Tiree (go to Oban and go west past Mull and you reach it). Tiree is only 12 miles long but three miles wide, and very flat. They do however seem to have lots of local botanicals on this small, windy patch of land in the sea. The soil on Tiree is what is known as machair – a combination of soil and sand, unique to Scotland. From here they gather eyebright (a flower that can help eye infections), Ladies Bedstraw (yellow flowers that smell slightly of honey), Water Mint (a form of mint…that grows in water…) and Angelica, combined with local kelp from the Atlantic Ocean. Their kelp forests are the fourth largest in Scotland don’tcha know. So, you’ve probably noticed that Tyree Gin is not spelt the same as their island namesake. Well, Tyree is the original spelling of Tiree’s Post Office – dating back to 1802. But it was changed in 1889 to avoid confusion with Tyrie in Aberdeenshire. So that’s that.
Note: I met Isle of Wight Distillery at both Junipalooza and Imbibe Live and they kindly sent me a sample pack to try. As always, I’ll let you know if I don’t like it.
Guess where the Isle of Wight Distillery come from? Based at Rosemary Vineyard, they are the first and only distillery (with a license!) on the Isle of Wight. They started with their Mermaid Gin followed by their Rock Sea Vodka and their HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin. They also have an Apple Pie Moonshine which sounds INCREDIBLE, but I don’t have a sample of that to try so whatevs I don’t care. They use locally foraged, hand picked ingredients in their gin such as Rock Samphire (from a secret location, they won’t tell you where they get it from), along with Isle of Wight grown hops and coriander seeds plus a touch of elderflower and grains of paradise. The Navy Strength gin is made in partnership with The National Museum of the Royal Navy using the same recipe but bottled at the higher 57% ABV to make the flavours more intense. Plus, for the first time on this blog, they have a vodka – grain distilled with the addition of rock sea salt and bottled at 40% ABV.
Note: I met the team behind Caspyn Gin at Imbibe Live and they kindly sent me some samples post-event. As always, I’ll let you know if they’re grim.
Caspyn Gin is the product of Pocketful of Stones distillery, yet another craft gin from Cornwall – this time in Long Rock, just outside Penzance. They currently produce two gins – the Cornish Dry and Midsummer Dry – as well as the Cornish Summer Cup. The original Caspyn gin is loaded with floral and citrus notes using the less regularly used botanicals hibiscus flowers, Japanese tea, gorse and lemongrass. The Midsummer version takes the original gin and infuses it with fresh English cucumbers. This leaves the gin with a slight green tinge (apparently, I can’t quite spot it). The Cornish Summer Cup is their take on the English cup (aka a Pimms to us plebs) loaded with fruit such as raspberries and strawberries mixed with star anise and wild carrot seeds. So all in all, for a small batch distillery, they’ve got a lot going on – there’s an Absinthe in the pipelines. And, more importantly, my bottles arrived with my name on them. So they’re the best.
Mayfield Gin is the brain child of James Rachham – who also founded the artisanal spirits company Emporia Brands. Growing their hops in just one acre of a 30 acre farm in Salehurst (for anyone else whose geography is a bit iffy, go north from Hastings but not as far as Tunbridge Wells) which gives a citrus edge to the hoppy gin. The Sussex Hops are distilled with juniper, orange and lemon peel, angelica root, coriander seed, liquorice and orris root. I have high hopes for this – nothing gimmicky or random has been thrown in.
Now, you probably know about Brighton Gin, but have you heard about Old Hove Gin? Well thanks to the Old Albion pub in Hove, we have a new contender for our favourite seaside gin. Working with Sussex based Blackdown Distillery, they make it with local silver birch syrup (because that’s a thing) and serve it exclusively at the Old Albion pub. The gin uses a wheat grain as a base spirit and is blended with Sussex spring water from below the distillery before being charcoal filtered – plus it’s gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. So basically it’s a super food.
The Duchess is a brand of non-alcoholic gin and tonic. I know right? That makes no sense. It’s not just alcohol free – it’s also sugar free. Created for the “conscious consumer”, The Duchess blends re-distilled juniper berries with botanically infused tonic water. Basically it tastes like a gin and tonic thanks to the juniper and orange peel, all spice, cardamom and cloves. The important questions are: 1) is it any good and 2) does it taste like gin?
Note: I met Tiger Gin at Imbibe Live and they were kind enough to send me a sample for the blog.
Tiger Gin is the product of JJ Lawrence (who starts emails with “Hi Tiger” FYI), a Shropshire lad with a passion for gin. He did what we all have thought about doing – wouldn’t be be awesome to make my own gin? And, well, he did it. What followed was a lengthy court battle against a global brand (Tiger beer familiar?) to be able to use the name, but finally Tiger Gin arrived. Using botanicals such as juniper (from the Balkans), coriander seeds (Eastern Europe), dried sweet lemon peel (Spain), cassia bark (China), nutmeg (West Indies), cinnamon bark (Madagascar) and two secret ingredients all blended with 100% grain spirit and pure English water, this gin is a global product.
Note: I met Bedrock Gin at Imbibe Live and they were kind enough to give me a sample for the blog.
Bedrock Gin are not a new brand, as I found out at Imbibe Live. They have been going for nine years from the Cumbrian Lake District. Founder Vince Wilkins was inspired by the beauty of the Lake District, and working with a master distiller blended his botanicals with Cumbrian kiln-dried oak bark thus making Bedrock Gin. Winning silver at the IWSC in 2012 and 2013, they won gold in 2016 – winning plenty of other awards along the way. Made with 11 botanicals including citrus peel, liquorice and cinnamon, they suggest serving Bedrock with a slice of lime and a garnish of basil.
At Imbibe Live I visited the London Distillery Company stand and they invited me to visit them. I had a day off work so thought why not? I met Toby on arrival in one of the many arches less than a mile from London Bridge station and discovered that he’s my kind of man – in that I walk in and he instantly offered me gin. So I started drinking and he started telling me about their gins. When founder Darren Rook had a slightly drunken discussion with former microbrewery owner Nick Taylor, they decided to make a whisky in London. Then, because whisky needs three years to age in barrels, whilst they were waiting for that to mature they thought, hey, let’s make some gin! And so Dodds was born.