River Test Chalkstream Gold gin

March Craft Gin Club deliveryThis month’s Craft Gin Club is another special addition – luckily not a flavoured gin, but instead an award winning gin featuring a heritage botanical. Sarah and Jon set up The River Test distillery after attending a distilling course in 2017. On this course, they learnt about iStill, an innovative and fully automated still which uses less power than a traditional copper still. The team are based on a site of special scientific interest in Hampshire which means they are responsible for conserving the flora and fauna on their land.

The River Test Chalkstream Gold gin

Their commitment to the environment doesn’t end there. Their bottles are made of 55% recycled glass, and are made here in the UK to reduce their carbon footprint. They also invested in an electric van to carry out their local deliveries! Their original gin uses botanicals from their land – rosemary and bay grow in abundance, alongside their key ingredient: meadowsweet. Their original gin ended up winning Best London Dry Gin in England at the 2020 World Gin Awards, and when Craft Gin Club got in touch, they were up for a new challenge. For this version, they teamed up with a local farmer who introduced them to Maris Otter barley, a variety bred specifically for brewers and distillers. So, how does it taste?

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MOTH Drinks cocktails

MOTH Drinks rangeI think we can all agree the RTD market has exploded in the last few years. As someone that loves a tin of gin on the train after work, I’ve enjoyed seeing the range available grow. What has been missing though, has been *decent* cocktails. Sure, whacking some gin and cheap tonic in a can for £2 a pop is fine, but sometimes it’s been one of those days you want something over 4% ABV. Enter MOTH Drinks. MOTH (aka Mix of Total Happiness) was created by cocktail fiends Rob Wallis and Samuel Hunt. Their aim was to make bar quality, canned cocktails and they have launched with four variations: a margarita, a negroni, an old fashioned, and an espresso martini. Available from Waitrose, I grabbed the first three of these to try – no coffee or caffeine for me – and see how they taste.

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Shetland Reel Gin online tasting pack

Note: The tasting pack was gifted, but my views of the gin is always independent.

After the success of Shetland Reel gin’s home tasting kit, they have now launched an online tasting kit which allows for six people to try a range of gins over Zoom with a Shetland Reel ambassador.

You can get your hands on an online tasting set from the Shetland Reel website for £78 for six people (aka £13 a head). Make sure you sign up for their newsletter to get 10% off your first purchase and to stay up to date with their new releases.

You can find the Shetland Reel team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I was introduced to Shetland Reel by The Gin Cooperative as part of my support for International Scottish Gin Day, make sure you check them out – and their new Scottish gin shop! Let me know your favourite Scottish gin on Twitter and Instagram.

Shetland Reel Gin – Up Helly Aa 2020

Note: The gins featured below were gifted by Shetland Reel Gin but all opinions are very much my own.

You can see our first set of video tastings here.

Whilst Not Up Helly Aa sold out on pre-order, their 2020 and 2019 gins are still available via the website. Make sure you sign up for their newsletter to get 10% off your first purchase and to stay up to date with their new releases.

You can find the Shetland Reel team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I was introduced to Shetland Reel by The Gin Cooperative as part of my support for International Scottish Gin Day, make sure you check them out – and their new Scottish gin shop! Let me know your favourite Scottish gin on Twitter and Instagram.

Redsmith Distillery gin

Note: Wayne from the Redsmith Distillery kindly sent me a bottle to try but I will let you know what I really think.

Redsmith ginRedsmith Distillery came about when founder Wayne decided to branch out from commercial heating and pipe fitting in 2013 into distilling. With an engineering degree, Wayne decided he would build his still from hand whilst studying at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. In 2015, he finished building his still and gave it the name Jenny – whilst I’d love to say I inspired this, it’s actually named after ancestor who was married to a Cornish copper miner. The first batch of his London Dry style gin was ready for the public in May 2016, and in October of that year won the Gin of the Year award at the Craft Distilling Expo. Wayne uses nine botanicals in his one-shot gin, using juniper, coriander, fresh oranges, bay, cardamom, rosemary, orris, angelica and cassia – they then describe the taste as “leafy salad notes” which makes me intrigued to try it, but also wary as I don’t generally like my gin to taste of salad.

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Lemon & Basil New Town gin

Note: The team at Wharf Distillery sent me a bottle to try, as always I’ll let you know what I really think.

New Town Gin Lemon & BasilWharf Distillery are based in Towchester, a market town in South Northamptonshire, and are (currently) the only grain to glass distillery in the county. They opened in 2014 by founding team Alice, who formerly worked in a brewery, and Laurence, who made cider as a hobby until his Hard Cider won Champion Cider of Britain in 2011. This led them to experimenting with ciders, meads and apple brandy before turning to distilling. In the last six years they’ve created their own grain base spirit, which is used in their whisky, single malts, gins and vodkas, and locally source fruit for their brandies, liqueurs and aperitifs. Their range is even more extensive than it sounds, with nine gins alongside their other products. Today we are trying one of their New Town gins, a range of contemporary gins that pays homage to their base in the New Town of Milton Keynes. For this range they take their London Dry gin as a base before adding in additional botanicals. There are currently three gins in the range: orange & pomegranate, mango & cucumber, and lemon and basil. They say the lemon & basil is “perfect for those hot summer evenings”, so let’s see how it holds up in mid-December! Continue reading

Cotswolds Cloudy Christmas Gin

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December Craft Gin Club boxIt’s December which means it is Craft Gin Club delivery time! Usually at this time of the year I am frantically writing a blog a day for Ginvent, but for many reasons they weren’t able to make an advent calendar this year which means I’ve actually get to try this box vaguely near the start of the month. This box, like the last few December editions, includes a Christmas themed gin. Cotswolds gin is a very nice gin (review here) and this version includes their signature lavender and grapefruit, alongside clementine, cardamom, black pepper and bay leaf. They used ten times the amount of botanicals to alcohol which imparts a lot of flavour, along with so many essential oils that the gin louches when mixed with water or tonic.

Cotswolds Cloudy Christmas ginWhilst most distillers will chill filter this out to produce a clear liquid, the Cotswolds distillery team leave it as is to ensure they don’t lose a drop of flavour. Their recommended serve is with London Essence tonic water, and the signature cocktail of the moth is a Gin Star Martini (details below). Before we taste the gin, my last blog about CGC focussed on the ‘value’ of the box, and you can certainly see this here. Alongside the 70cl bottle of gin, we received: two bottles of London Essence Indian tonic, one bottle of Grapefruit and Rosemary London Essence tonic, a carton of Crafted Mango and Passionfruit juice, a bottle of cocktail syrup, a small bottle of Codorniu cava, two Kind nut bars, a bag of mixed fruit and nuts, a bar of Gnaw chocolate; and, most excitingly, a giant bag of Tyrrell’s crisps. But moving on from the snacks, how does the gin itself taste?

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Lumber’s Bartholomew Navy Royal gin

Note: I was invited to the launch of the new Gin Superior range and got sent a bunch of goodies for the event, as always I’ll let you know my thoughts.

Lumber's Bartholomew Navy Royal ginLumber’s Bartholomew gin exists because Pete Lumber decided he wanted to have a go at making gin back in September 2017. He was determined to make his gins distinctive, selecting the botanicals that would “conjure up vivid images” in the drinker and currently makes four signature gins. The London dry is designed to be the classic combination of juniper and citrus; the Berkshire dry uses grains of paradise, white pepper and cassia to make you dream of winter – having tried this myself, it is very woody and warming; the Country Garden goes with floral notes led by lavender; and finally the Navy Strength is a smooth drinking classic gin that is juniper led.

137 Gin packThis gin however is the first of the 137 Gin Superior range. The Navy Royal gin comes in at a hefty 58% ABV, and has been a year in the making. Pete wanted to craft a gin that created an experience, rather than just another gin. Not only does Pete put care into the gin distillation, he also hand bottles, labels and waxes every bottle that comes out of his distillery, each leaving with the gold topped seal of approval.

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Jüst gin

Note: The Jüst gin team got in touch and offered to send me a bottle, as always I’ll let you know what I really think

Just ginJüst gin (pronounced Yust) was crafted with an ethos in mind: people are starting to drink less, but what they are drinking is better quality. How true this theory is, I don’t know (especially with lockdown in full swing) but I like the thought that they deliberately designed a drink that should be savoured and enjoyed, rather than swigged and forgotten. Based by Lake Boren (about three hours south west of Stockholm), Janne and Anders wanted to make a classic London Dry gin but with a Swedish twist. After lots of experimentation, they settled on the final recipe using just five botanicals, the key one being Swedish Crown Dill. They also use juniper (obviously), alongside grains of paradise, liquorice root, and sweet and bitter almonds. Not only does the dill add a hint of lemon sweetness, but in old Norse it means to soothe or lull, exactly what they hope the experience of drinking their gin will be. So, are we ready for the mindful experience?

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Isle of Harris gin

Isle of Harris ginAs a birthday treat, I decided I would like some fancy martini glasses. So I instantly turned to the Isle of Harris distillery. And because I was already spending money on postage and I have zero restraint, I also treated myself to a bottle of their gin. Even if you don’t know much about the gin, I’m sure you recognise the beautiful glass bottle designed to reflect the ripples of the ocean. I met the team when I went to Edinburgh for International Scottish Gin Day in 2019 and they explained the irregularities in the curves are designed to fit perfectly in your hand. The Isle of Harris is in the Outer Hebrides, and the distillery is based in the small village of Tarbert. Isle of Harris packagingThey are famous for their use of sugar kelp as their key botanical which is collected by hand from local sea lochs to ensure sustainability. The way they ensure this is by only picking the kelp if there is an ‘r’ in the name of the month – if not, then it is left to grow and recover. Alongside the sugar kelp are some more usual botanicals: juniper, cassia bark, coriander seed, angelica bark, cubeb pepper, liquorice root, orris root, and rounded off with bitter orange peel. These are distilled in a traditional copper pot before being bottled and labelled on site. They are unusual in that they don’t recycle the heads or tails of their gin – whilst a lot of distillers redistill this, the Isle of Harris team get rid of it completely. It is more expensive for them, but for them it means they are only bottling the best of their product. They also use all cardboard packaging, covered in information about the brand which makes it extra special to open. So, how does it taste?

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