Ginvent means one thing: a Tarquin’s exclusive! Pairing up with team Gin Foundry for the third time (first was the Hedgerow gin, second was last year’s Tan Ha Mor), they kept fairly shtum about what exactly is involved, but luckily months of Instagram stalking (and a few conversations with Emile and Olivier) plus their release a few weeks ago mean we know a bit about this now. They wanted to really invoke the sense of Cornwall of barbecues on the beach (which TBH is summer in most coastal areas, Brighton included). Pictures from their Instagrams show the team on the beach with trays of woodchips, and they have said they threw everything on – sea samphire, fennel, saffron, spiced butter and, I kid you not, lobster. Whacked on a few extra lemons and let it all char and griddle to get a real sense of candied fruit and smoked wood and the job is a good’un. This mixture of non-veggie friendly goodness was then throw in the the pot to be distilled. So, let’s see how it tastes.
It’s day three of Ginvent and we’ve hit our first strange gin – Pickering’s limited edition Brussels sprout gin. To celebrate the Christmas season, they have released six festive flavours: cranberry, figgy pudding, plum & ginger, spiced pear & cinnamon, clementine, and today’s flavour Brussels sprout. Using their classic gin as the base spirit, they distil their gin in their copper still Gertrude and they say this results in a herbaceous finish with bright green pepper notes. Matt, the co-founder and head distiller at Pickering’s, found 10,000 sprouts in January to make this gin, which shows how long in the making a new gin flavour can be. Mixed with classic tonic, they suggest adding a slice of cucumber as a garnish, or making it into their “love it or hate it” cocktail with fresh cucumber, lime, orange bitters and elderflower tonic.
Day two of Ginvent brings me something I’m rather excited for. Last year we tried Dartmouth gin for the first time, and I am a big fan. Today, we are trying their navy strength version. Their original gin mixes juniper with floral and spiced notes, and the navy strength version uses a new recipe as well as the new ABV of 57%. The Naval link is deeply ingrained in the brand, their families having centuries of maritime history and this gin takes that inspiration a step further. They amp up the juniper and bring lime in at the front – presumably to fight off the scurvy – alongside loads of spice power from grains of paradise, star anise, cardamom and cubeb.
Happy first day of Ginvent! Here we are for my fourth year and kicking off the festivities with Conniption Navy Strength gin. Hailing from the Durham Distillery, this gin isn’t from the Durham of Cathedral fame, instead they are based in Durham, North Carolina. We’ll take a short detour here to talk about American gins as they have some different rules over the sea. Here in the UK, to be gin the flavour must be “predominantly” juniper with a minimum ABV of 37.5%. In the USA, gins have to be “characteristically” juniper and a minimum of 40% ABV. This means their gins have a different feel as the juniper is less obvious (at least in the American gins I’ve tried previously) which allows them to play with their flavour profile a bit more. Now we have that out the way, the distillery uses a two step process to create their gins. First they perform a traditional distillation in a copper pot, then they move on to a more modern vacuum distillation for their more delicate botanicals. Their original gin uses cucumber and honeysuckle to create a fresh and floral finish, and usually when a brand creates a navy strength gin they tend to just amp up their recipe. Here, they share just three botanicals but add sweet citrus and fig and raises the ABV to 57%. They have won a number of awards, most recently winning the Best American Navy Strength gin at the 2019 World Gin Awards and before that a double gold (pretty impressive) at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. So, how does it taste?
A few weeks ago, I went to the City of London Distillery for one of their distillery tours (which I recommend, it was great fun on a Wednesday night [note: I paid for this myself, it wasn’t gifted]). As we left, obviously I bought myself a bottle of gin. The City of London Distillery opened in 2012 on Bride Lane (literally five minutes from my office) with their traditional London Dry gin which was quickly followed by the Square Mile gin that I am trying today. Since then, they have also launched a Sloe gin, an Old Tom gin, their Christopher Wren gin, and a number of flavoured gin such as the Six Bells gin they launched with Craft Gin Club. The Square Mile gin is distilled with juniper, coriander seeds, fresh orange and lemon amongst others and won a Double Gold Award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017 which is a pretty big deal. Bottled at 47.3% ABV, it is also the strongest gin they make (I am slightly surprised they haven’t added a navy strength gin to their family, but hey, there’s still time).
Happy Christmas Eve! It is with great sadness that we bring Ginvent to an end for yet another year, but before we do we need to try Scapegrace Gold gin. Scapegrace gin comes from New Zealand, when one guy married the other guy’s sister and discussed how they would like to make their own gin. 13 botanicals and a load of debt later, they had a gin that won gold in London and San Francisco. They use glacial water from the southern Alps mixed with orange and lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and dried tangerine to make their classic 42% gin. Scapegrace Gold is their navy strength version at 57% which builds layers of citrus with orange, lemon and tangerine. So let’s see how it tastes.
Final three days! Today we drink Malfy gin, an Italian gin with a lovely label. Most accounts of gin history trace the roots back to the Dutch genever, but Malfy claim that gin was invented by monks on the Salerno coast and their distillery in Moncalieri has been established since 1906. The key flavour for Malfy gin is the Italian lemons that grow in Sicily and the Amalfi coast. These lemons give the gin it’s freshness, alongside Italian grown juniper and fresh spring water. Since launching, they have grown their range to include four varieties – the Originale that we are drinking today which actually came second and is more juniper forward than the original the Con Limone which makes the most of the fresh lemons, the Con Arancia using Sicilian blood oranges, and the Gin Rosa which features pink grapefruit and Italian rhubarb. So, how does it taste?
With four days left to go, we’ve hit the third gin that I’ve already reviewed (this is impressive that we have so few this far in). Today’s gin is Salcombe Start Point gin, and you can read all my thoughts here.