Note: The team at The Lakes Distillery sent me a sample of their new recipe to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
Back in February 2017, I was sent a sample of Lakes gin to try. Then, on my 30th birthday (10 October 2019 FYI) I received an email from the team saying they had reworked the recipe and had a beautiful rebrand to boot. After launching their single malt whisky, they have looked back at their gin and worked on it to ensure it stands the test of time. They’ve adopted a ‘less is more’ approach and now take a British wheat spirit as their base, and infuse in this their new range of botanicals; juniper and coriander are bound with angelica, orris root, cassia bark and liquorice before finishing with orange and lemon peel. They steep these in the spirit overnight to release the essential oils before distilling their gin in a copper pot still. Their rebrand reminds me of Mermaid gin, which was a great product in a fairly bland bottle; they get a jazzy new bottle and suddenly everyone takes notice. The new Lakes gin bottle features a new, leaner shape, an engraved glass bottle and a new label. The new recipe has also ramped up the ABV from 43.7% to 46%, hopefully ensuring the juniper is still front and centre. So, how does it compare?
It’s September which means it is Craft Gin Club delivery time again! This month’s gin comes from Wessex Gin (along with a host of goodies including my fave cardamom tonic from Peter Spanton). Gin distilling is not a new venture for the founder of Wessex Gin, Jonathan Clark. Jonathan was the founder of the City of London Distillery (about 5 mins from my office, see my thoughts on the Six Bells gin and Square Mile gin) and when retirement didn’t suit him, he and his family decided to start all over again. The City of London Distillery is so ingrained in London, and when Jonathan and wife Gill moved to Wessex, they wanted that same connection to their surroundings. Having grown up in the countryside of Hampshire, we visited many a Roman/Saxon/Tudor sites thanks to school trips, and it’s this Anglo-Saxon time that inspired this gin. Specifically, the stories of King Alfred the Great, the man that scared off the Vikings (which was no mean feat). This era embraced the magic and the mystic, herbs were used for their healing properties and this has never really faded in the gin industry with a strong focus on the roots of their botanicals. The Anglo-Saxons were big on herbariums – a book listing herbs and their properties – and it is this that the Clark’s used to source their botanicals. Keen to make a classic London Dry gin which is heavy on the juniper, Jonathan also favours citrus led gins, with a hint of coriander and medicinal chervil, nowadays bringing an aniseed quality but also reportedly soothing stomach ailments – did you know King Alfred suffered from stomach problems with people thinking it was akin to Crohn’s Disease. So, how does it taste?
Did you know that some tonic waters have as much sugar in them as a fizzy drink does? With more people watching the calorie count of their drinks, more tonic makers are introducing light versions of their tonic, or making this the centre of their brand. One such brand is Gallybird, who embrace a healthier way of life. Their tonic has no sugar in it, instead they spent two years experimenting in their kitchen in Sussex (hello neighbours!) to make a sugar free, zero calorie, natural tonic water. Instead of sugar, they use Stevia leaf from South America which has been used for centuries and is suitable for diabetics and vegans, as well as containing anti-inflammatory and antioxident properties. So, essentially, it’s good for you. They have designed their tonic to enhance your favourite spirit, rather than overwhelm it.
Note: I met the team from Opera gin at Junipalooza and they kindly gave me a sample to try, as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
What is Opera gin?
To anyone looking for their next holiday destination, I would recommend Budapest. It’s a lovely city and we had a very fun week there despite falling down the stairs in a ruin pub and spraining my ankle, and falling in the Danube (sprained ankle first). You might wonder why I’m telling you this, but today’s gin comes from that fine city. Fellow WSET student, Balint Damosy (also a lawyer) realised during his training that gin was his passion and spent two years researching and learning about gin, before deciding that launching their own gin was not as insane as they thought. And so Opera gin was born. In April 2018, they received their distilling license to become the first micro-distillery in Hungary, and set up shop in a former cotton factory within the Budapest city walls. They chose to create a traditional London Dry gin as they wanted to create something that was not just high quality, but also true to the spirit. They start with a Hungarian corn spirit before adding standard botanicals: hand picked juniper from the Kiskunság National Park; Bulgarian coriander seeds; angelica; orris root; and liquorice. They then make their gin unique by using citronella grass (which I’ve never come across as a botanical before but feel free to correct me!), lavender, a touch of aniseed and cubeb pepper, and their signature botanical poppy seed. They say this all blends together for a citrus and juniper forward gin that works well with tonic, but also pairs with a dry vermouth to make a crisp martini. So, how does it taste?
Note: The team at Whitby gin kindly sent me a sample to try, but I will always let you know what I think
What is Whitby Gin?
When I think of Whitby, I always think of Dracula, but it turns out the seaside town in North Yorkshire has more going for it than the place the Count landed in England. When Jess and Luke went on a camping trip to the Outer Hebrides in 2017, they were inspired by the amount of distilleries the islands housed, and Jess wondered why her hometown didn’t have one. Luckily, Jess has a background in business planning, and Luke one in food manufacturing, so they had a bit of a head start on the process. They ordered a still before they even got home and decided on three key botanicals: heather (sustainably sourced from the North York Moors), sugar kelp (from Robin Hood Bay) and honey (bought raw from their local bee keeper). 45 trials later and they had found the perfect combination of botanicals to complement these, including juniper, coriander seed, citrus peels and liquorice root and so Whitby Gin was born. These are added to their copper column stills (Stanley, Stockwell and Scripps, obviously) with their grain spirit and distilled once before hand bottling and labelling their products. Since their launch, they have won a host of awards including winning the Best London Dry Gin (UK) at the 2019 World Gin Awards.
Note: The Manly Spirits team sent me a bottle to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
New South Wales is probably most famous for being the state that Sydney lies in on the south east coast of Australia. The Australian gin scene is growing rapidly (so much so that Junipalooza has expanded out there), and Manly Spirits started life in Tasmania in late 2015. Founders David and Vanessa discussed the possibility of opening a distillery and dedicated their time to researching successful distilleries around the world before commencing training with a distillery closer to home. They launched their own distillery in April and utilise the biodiversity that Australia has to offer. Their spirits are hand crafted – they don’t rely on a machine to work out when the head/heart/tail start and end, instead relying on the noses of their team. They forage for their marine botanicals with the help of renowned forager and chef Elijah Holland to ensure that everything is sustainably sourced. Their range now features two vodkas, a whisky currently sat ageing in barrels, a limoncello, a coffee liqueur and three gins. The gin we are trying today is the Coastal Citrus gin that features botanicals such as lemon aspen, sea parsley, meyer lemon, lemon myrtle and fresh coriander leaf. If the name alone didn’t connote that this was citrus led, then the botanical list certainly does. So, how does it taste?
Note: The Artisan Drinks team sent me some samples to try, but I will always let you know what I really think.
Who are The Artisan Drinks Co.?
The Artisan Drinks Co. started as all good partnerships start – when a group of people met in a bar. Steve, an entrepreneur who previously created Feel Good Drinks, and Alan, a Yorkshire based artists, met Mikey, an award winning bartender, and the Artisan Drinks Co. was formed. They created their drinks in the bar as accompaniments for their favourite spirits. They use 100% natural ingredients and produce in both the UK and Australia in some damn fine bottles. So what is their range?
Note: The team at Taplin & Mageean sent me a bottle to try, as always I will let you know what I think.
What is Taplin & Mageean gin?
Taplin & Mageean gin has an unusual name, which for once doesn’t have a hidden meaning. It is simply the names of the founders – Chris Taplin and Barry Mageean. Chris met Barry whilst on a visit to the Yorkshire Distillery where Barry was head distiller. They got chatting, hosted a gin tasting and – as all good gin tastings end – ended with a conversation about making their own gin. They opened their distillery in Wensleydale (no, not the cheese), in an former train repair building at Leyburn station. As former head distiller, Barry put his skills to work developing their recipes and 49 trials later, they settled on the four that make up their range. I find it interesting that they launched with all four, the usual trick is to introduce one to market and then expand. Here, they have their signature gin which I am trying today, juniper heavy with Yorkshire hops, fresh grapefruit, flowers and spice, a peach and basil gin which also used apricots and vanilla, a spiced orange gin with winter flavours fig, cranberry and cinnamon, and finally a summery gin using elderflower, chamomile and apples. Despite being a new brand, the Signature Edition won a silver medal in the gin tasting category of the 2019 San Francisco Spirit Awards, so how does it taste?
Welcome to June and that means only one thing: Junipalooza time! Kidding (well, I’m not) but it is also time for a Craft Gin Club delivery. This box was literally larger than normal, but on opening it turns out we have a very fancy bottle inside that needs protecting – welcome to the world Nelson’s Gluggle Jug gin (try saying that five times). I’ve never tried Nelson’s gin before but I’ve long admired their bottles, and this is no exception. The bottle was made exclusively for this gin by Wade Ceramics who have been making ceramics since 1810. Inspired by the classic gluggle jug – so called for the sound it makes when you pour water from it – which is a Staffordshire icon, Nelson’s wanted to make a gin that would withstand the long summer evenings. Founder Neil experimented with various botanicals before settling on his recipe, then called in team Craft Gin Club to help him pick the best iteration. Botanicals that made the final cut include green cardamom, sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon, hibiscus, lime, pink peppercorn and star anise; lots of citrus up front complemented by the richer cardamom and spices. So, how does it taste?
Note: The team at Glacier Fire tonic sent me some samples to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think
What is Glacier Fire tonic?
Based in Iceland, Glacier Fire produce a range of tonic waters (alongside a host of soft drinks, spirits and beers) using glacier water which has trickled its way down the mountains towards Reykjavik. This water is naturally filtered as it comes down through lava fields and so is free of pollution. They use responsibly sourced, non-gm quinine from Africa and all their tonics are sugar free. Alongside an Indian tonic, they also make a fiery tonic (with chilli), elderflower tonic, volcanic tonic (ginger and cinnamon), botanic tonic, and a berry tonic (both of which I am trying today).