It’s September! For some people that means back to school time, or holiday time (which is actually also me), but it mostly means it is Craft Gin Club delivery time! This month’s gin is a lockdown project from Viki Baird and Pat O’Brien in Dublin. The roots of Social gin started long ago when Pat first tried to set up a distillery in Dublin, but sadly weren’t able to secure the necessary funds to get the project up and running. Pat never gave up on the idea, and when they found their plot in Dublin 8, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it.
From day one, Pat and Viki had three goals for their brand: one, to be modern and use cutting edge technology; two, to be as sustainable as possible; and three, to do good for their local community. From this, Stillgarden Distillery was born. In front of their distillery, they worked hard to build a community garden – what is now known as the Social Botanist Project. They grow a number of their own botanicals and encourage the local community to get involved with their garden as well as teaching them to cultivate their gardens at home. The botanicals in this gin include lavender, mint, rowan berry and rosehip alongside classics juniper, lime peel, lemon zest and cubeb.
I’ve been very quiet recently on the blog, mostly because I got myself a new job which keeps me very busy during the week and I’m trying to have a real social life so not had time to sit down and do any proper gin tasting for a while. I mean, I’ve definitely had gin, but not in a sit down in front of my computer and make notes kinda way. But that changes today because I got my quarterly Craft Gin Club subscription! This month includes a gin I’ve never heard of – Astraea gin.
Distilled in Seattle, Craft Gin Club is providing the platform for their UK launch. Founded by Danielle Leavell, the gin might be made in America, but is Scottish in spirit. After failing to find adequate courses that would teach her the art of distilling in America, she was accepted onto Heriot-Watt’s Brewing and Distilling Masters of Science – one of only seven women in her year of just 50 students.
During her time in Scotland, she saw the emergence of hyper-local gins that are based on foraging botanicals from their local area. She took this ethos home to Seattle and created four gins, each named after a landscape of the Pacific Northwest. This edition, the Meadow gin, is inspired by Paradise meadow at the foot of Mount Rainier – a meadow full of wildflowers. Here she decided on her botanical list including: chamomile; rosehip; lemon verbena; honeysuckle; and lemon balm.
Happy March! The evenings are getting brighter and, for me at least, it’s Craft Gin Club delivery time! This month’s box contains a special edition of Shivering Mountain gin (for a full view of box contents, check out my reel here). Hailing from the Peak District, founder Nick Malaczynski set up his distillery near Mam Tor.
Officially named for “Mother Hill”, Mam Tor is also known as Shivering Mountain due to the soft limestone deposits that wash away and move during rainy periods, giving the mountain the illusion of moving and shivering. The landscape doesn’t just inspire their name. The beautiful bottle features the landmass itself in the base, along with the textured glass refracting the light, and the base being embossed with the co-ordinates of Mam Tor’s summit.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year….aka Christmas! And what does Christmas mean? It’s Craft Gin Club delivery time! This month’s bumper box contains a festive special edition of Kirkjuvagr gin. I have tried their Origin and Aurora gins in the past, and since then they’ve had a rebrand and have some rather stunning new bottles. Based on an island which is closer to the Arctic circle than it is London, their home is important to them. Not only are they inspired by their Viking ancestry, but they are also lucky enough to pick their own native angelica on the island. For this Christmas edition, they carefully selected Aronia berry (also known as the Viking berry) alongside festive spices cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Because it’s Christmas, they also add some frankincense and myrrh – although the only gold you’ll see here is on the bottle. To balance all the spices, they add rose hips and three types of rose – Burnet, Ramanas and Red roses.
It’s somehow September, which means it’s time for me to get my quarterly Craft Gin Club box. This month is yet another special edition, this time hailing from Yorkshire’s Otterbeck Distillery. Founded by a group of friends and set up in a formerly derelict cotton mill on their land, their original gin took six months of experimenting to develop. Clearly this is time well spent as the Cotton gin has won a Gold at the 2020 Spirits Business Awards, Bronze at the 2021 IWSC, and Silver at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Since then, they have designed the Cotton Garden gin to reflect the long, sunny September evenings spent outdoors.
They wanted to highlight some of Yorkshires native botanicals that are found in their garden and along hedgerows including elderberry, yarrow, rosemary, sage, thyme and mint. They balance these herbal notes with lemon, orange, cassia and coriander seed and leaf. This is their fifth gin – their original Cotton gin features watercress and hand-foraged spruce, and their collaboration with Sir Tom Moore is inspired by his childhood holidays in the area. Eliza – their custom built still – includes a vapor chamber allowing them to include the more delicate flavours, which would otherwise get lost in the main pot.
It’s summer! The sun is officially out (at time of writing) and it’s time for June’s Craft Gin Club box. This month we get a special edition gin from Fynoderee (pronounced Fi-nod-er-ee) distillery on the Isle of Man. Based on the island, the name comes from the folklore of Kitty Kerruish. Long story short: Kitty fell in love with Udereek, a fairy (big no no), and to punish them they poisoned Kitty and turned Udereek into a satyr. Half-man and half-goat, he was renamed Fynoderee – Manx for “hairy one”.
Founders Tiffany and Paul Kerruish live outside Glen Auldyn, which is where The Manx Wildlife Trust are reintroducing juniper plants to the island. Recognising the name, Tiffany rediscovered this tale and the shared surnames piqued their interest. They hope to one day use Manx grown juniper for their gin, and for this edition harvest local elderflowers – after first paying their respects to the fairies that live in their roots. They distil this alongside coriander seed, pink grapefruit peel, lemon peel, rosemary, orris root and thyme. Paul himself said that they knew they had the recipe nailed when they first smelt their distillate coming off the still. He describes it as a “conversation starter” so I’m intrigued to give it a taste. Continue reading
This 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.
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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It’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.
Whilst 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?
Note: Please note if you join Craft Gin Club using the links in this post, you will receive money off your first box and I will receive money off a future box via the referral link.
I’m going to be straight with you. I was considering cancelling my [affiliate] Craft Gin Club subscription this month, mostly because the pictures teasing this month’s gin featured coconuts and mangoes and tropical fruits and I was really worried it was going to be a fruity/flavoured gin which is just not my thing. But I decided to give it a chance and make a decision after this box. Boy am I glad I didn’t cancel. This month’s gin is Stranger & Sons hailing from India – this was actually part of the 2019 Ginvent calendar and you can read a fairly in depth review of it here. Whilst a part of me it is sad that it is a gin I’ve already tried, I’m excited to have more than 30ml of it to play with. Continue reading
After last month’s special box, this month I received my regular Craft Gin Club delivery. The boxes have come a long way since I first joined, and this month we received a bottle of Wardington’s Original Ludlow gin which has been exclusively distilled for members, along with three bottles of Buzbee’s tonic, a spiced tomato mix, stroopwaffles, cocktail syrup, fruit juice, dried garnishes, crisps and chocolates. As the name suggests, this gin originates from the historic town of Ludlow (Welsh borders) from distiller Shaun Ward, who sports a bold moustache. An organ player by training, he launched Ludlow gin in 2018 as a juniper forward, classic gin and since then have launched three more gins, a coffee liqueur and a triplecello – like limoncello but with lemon, orange and pink grapefruit. This box contains their fifth gin, a limited release paying homage to the Welsh countryside in the springtime. Taking inspiration from traditional elderflower cordial, Shaun experimented with distilling elderflower and chamomile but knew his recipe wasn’t quite right. When visiting a country show at Malvern, he overheard some producers talking about the virtues of lemon verbena; after a chat and a taste, he knew he had stumbled upon his missing ingredient. So, how does it taste?