If you have a TV, you’ll have seen Lidl’s adverts doing the whole “You can buy X from Tesco for £Y, or you can come to Lidl and buy A, B, C, D and E for less than £Y”. One of those adverts features their own brand gin, Hortus. Developed with Kevin Love, a Michelin-starred chef (and prodige of Heston Blumenthal), Hortus ranked higher than big brands Gordon’s and Thomas Dakin in a blind taste test run by Good Housekeeping Institute (coming 7th overall) and winning a silver medal at the ISC 2016. They use botanicals such as lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and cubeb in their London Dry gin, as well as producing some limited edition seasonal variations. For most people, craft gin comes at a price too high to drink all the time, so if this really tastes as good as some craft gins but for a fraction of the cost, this could be why it is proving so popular with gin drinkers.
It’s my favourite time of the month again – it’s a Craft Gin Club delivery! This month we received a special edition of One Gin which features the sage we know and love from their original gin, but with the addition of russet apples, along with a host of goodies including Lixir tonics, Gusto ginger and chipotle, cucumber Dash water, lemon and juniper Divine chocolate, and a bag of Chika’s chilli and lime nuts. If we were playing Only Connect and these were the clues, the connecting factor would be “ethical and organic brands” (ok, Victoria Coren Mitchell would phrase it better). One gin works with charity partner The One Foundation who pledged to raise £20 million for clean water projects by 2020 – to date they have already raised a staggering £19.3 million. A bottle of One gin gives 10% of its profits to the charity which currently works in Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and Rwanda and features botanicals such as juniper (obviously), cassia bark, nutmeg, lemon peel, and sweet and bitter orange peels alongside the fresh sage and russet apples that give this gin its name. Bottled at 43%, it has a kick to it and they say it tastes fresh and crisp.
Because I am very lucky, I have lots of lovely friends and today I’m drinking Chase Distillery‘s GB gin. Chase Distillery came about after potato farmer William Chase had enough of supermarkets pushing up prices and feeling detached from his customers, so used his potatoes to make crisps. Tyrrells crisps to be precise. Whilst making these, he stumbled upon vodka made from a potato spirit, and thought that seemed like something fun to experiment with. Flash forward four years and they released their first batch of vodka. Ten years on, they have built a new distillery on their farm in Herefordshire making their own vodka, which in turn is the base for their gin. They use 10 botanicals to make their vodka shine, including juniper (obvs), cinnamon, ginger, almond, cardamom, cloves and lemon. Chase have a big focus on sustainability, they create energy from a bio-boiler using orchard prunings, their potato waste fertilises the fields and feeds their cows and grow many of their fresh ingredients themselves. So, how does it taste?
Today is lucky number 13 of Ginvent and today we are trying a gin I only heard of recently, with a cracking bottle design. An Dúlamán Gin comes from County Donegal in Ireland, Sliabh Liag Distillery is the first distillery from Donegal for over 175 years and their main botanical is local seaweed. Five types of seaweed to be precise. This ties into the brand via the name – Dúlamán comes from an Irish folk song about a conversation between two seaweed collectors. Basically. They REALLY like seaweed over there.
I am excited for today. During Gin Foundry’s summer series, we had an evening with Corner 53 who were a bunch of lovely guys that made some great gin so I am looking forward to revisit this. My favourite that evening was their viking strength gin (and by favourite I mean we drank a lot of it and I hated my life the next day). Today however we are drinking their Cherokee gin which is inspired by famous bourbon Jack Daniels. Unable to replicate their maple-charcoal filtration process, instead the team add maple syrup to their list of botanicals and balance the sweetness this brings with sarsaparilla (an earthy vanilla note).
Last year we were able to try Puddingstone Distillery‘s Campfire London Dry gin, and today we have another Navy Strength gin. Their Navy Strength uses the same botanicals as their London Dry including roasted hazelnuts, golden berries and rooibos tea, but with a small tweak to increase the juniper profile. The ABV is also increased from 42% to 57% which is quite the leap, yet Puddingstone say that it is still smooth and easy to drink. Let’s put that to the test shall we?
Up next in the series of “I have lovely friends that buy me gin” is a gin liqueur. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Jenny doesn’t rate gin liqueurs. Which is only true when a liqueur pretends to be a gin for marketing purposes. This bottle makes it very clear it is a liqueur and not a flavoured gin. Moving on. Tipsy Tart make a range of flavoured liqueurs with the aim to stand out from the crowd and to have a bit of fun. Not content with making cocktail ingredients, they also make bursting bubbles and shimmer drops so you can pimp any drink. Their white chocolate vodka has won a number of awards and they have quite the range of gin base liqueurs. I was given a bottle of the Lemon and Elderflower (21%ABV), which are two of my favourite flavours so I have high hopes for this.
Note: I met the Gin Eva team at Junipalooza and the kindly sent me some samples to try, as always I’ll let you know if I don’t like it.
You may have already seen my posts on Gin Eva‘s Mallorcan Dry and Bergamot gin and today we are drinking their special edition La Mallorquina. Named after a traditional olive variety that can only be found on Majorca, they use the leftover olives from a olive mill that have had the oil extracted. They then steep these in pure grain spirit for several weeks before the distillation process to then blend with juniper and coriander distillates. Whilst they say this works well as a gin and tonic, this is really designed to be drunk as a dry martini – even better if you replace the vermouth with sherry. That might be a bit much for me, but let’s see how it tastes.
You can’t talk about English gins without mentioning Hayman’s Gin. The Hayman family have been involved in the gin industry since the original gin boom 150 years ago, opening doors in 1863. Since then, their range of ‘True English’ gins have been distilled and made just as they would have been back then. Running three stills at a time (Marjorie the grandmother of the current Hayman’s, Karin the mother and Miranda the current fifth generation distiller who FYI is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet) they blend ten botanicals including cinnamon, nutmeg and liquorice together to make their London Dry gin. But it doesn’t stop there – they also have an Old Tom gin, a sloe gin, a navy strength edition and a gently rested gin – not aged, just rested. They have recently moved to Balham to a BEAUTIFUL new distillery which is open for tours which I highly recommend as it is so lovely I want to move in – and not just because when I went they said the words “help yourself to whatever you want”. They also have branded lemon peel.
Note: I contacted Brindle Distillery and they kindly sent me a bottle of Cuckoo gin to try. This won’t influence my tastebuds though.
Based in Lancashire, Brindle Distillery produce Cuckoo Gin – a gin with sustainable and ethically-sourced botanicals and named after a local legend. The Brindle Cuckoo hails back to the middle ages when hearing the first cuckoo’s call of spring led to celebrations that the fertility of the land would reward the farm workers. So, obviously, the locals decided to catch one to keep in the village to bring them luck all year round – except the cuckoo was smart and flew off. Now, anyone born and bred in Brindle is known as a Brindle Cuckoo. They keep this theme running with locally grown botanicals from the surrounding fields and their natural water source delivers spring water straight to the distillery. Being ecologically minded doesn’t stop there; they heat their still, Maggie, with renewable energy biomass boilers and they feed any distilling byproducts to their cattle and chickens. They say their gin is smooth with flavours starting at juniper and developing to citrus, spice and pepper. Let’s see how it fares…