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.
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: 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.
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.
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.