Regular readers might have realised by now that I am a big fan of the Gower gin team. Not only are they lovely people, but they manage to smash out great gin after great gin (case in point: Gwyr gin, Pinwydd, Rhosili, Rhamanta and Bara Brith). Today’s gin is one that I have been looking forward to for a long time, their first foray into the world of navy strength gin which comes with layers and layers of wrapping. Based on their Rhosili gin which uses sea buckthorn, lime, gorse and linden flowers to commemorate Dylan Thomas, this gin isn’t just the minimum 57% ABV needed for navy strength gins. Nope, we are going all the way to 60% ABV. As well as the amped up ABV, they have also added grains of paradise and cubeb pepper for heat, and bringing in a smokiness from lapsang souchong tea. If you head to Rhossilli on the western end of Gower, you’ll find Worms Head, a tidal island shaped like a dragon drinking from the sea which inspired the name and botanicals for this gin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
Note: I contacted the Brighton Gin team who kindly sent me sample of their new Seaside Strength gin to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
If you cast your mind back to 15 December 2014, you might remember I published my first ever blog post. Oh how the four years have flown. The first post was written by an inexperienced but enthusiastic gin drinker trying the new Brighton Gin which I had very excitedly reserved at a shop wayyyyyy out of my way and collected exhausted after a holiday to Stockholm. In the time it has taken for me to sort of learn what I’m doing, the Brighton Gin team have been going from strength to strength and have just added a new edition to their family – the 57% Seaside Strength gin. Made in Brighton Gin tradition, each small batch bottle is filled, waxed and labelled by hand but this gin hits you with citrus in the nose using candied orange, juniper and “notes of spice” but they don’t say what. What they do say is that this gin is smooth and perfect for drinking neat, or with tonic and lime. So, how does it taste?
You’ll know if you’ve seen Sir Robin of Locksley gin before as it is a fairly lurid green bottle, and today’s gin – their VSOT, a navy strength Old Tom – is a similarly bright blue. Their signature gin is a half way point between an Old Tom and a London Dry style of gin (and was in last year’s Ginvent calendar), aimed to be sipped easily, but this is full Old Tom (the name stands for Very Special Old Tom). Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across an navy strength Old Tom before – and in my mind it seems a bit strange. Old Tom gins are traditionally sweeter, and I worry that the 57.5% ABV will knock some of that sweetness out of it.