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?
As you’ll probably know if you read my blog, I am a long time member of Craft Gin Club. My next delivery is due in March, but when I saw the announcement that February’s box is an exclusive release from Gŵyr, I had to get myself a box. The newest member of the family is a Valentine’s special featuring their distinct foraged wild fennel alongside pomegranate seeds, red rose petals and fresh pink grapefruit zest. The label may be pink, but the gin isn’t. Rhamanta has two meanings: the first is an old Welsh tradition of divining your romantic future, and the second is the translation “be romantic”. Because what says romance more than shovelling grains of wheat over a fire to see when they pop and then commanding someone to be romantic? Siân and Andrew liked the idea of “romance” counting as the act of sharing your gin with your partner, friends and family – sharing gin love is the best type of romance. Made in their distillery at the bottom of their garden, surrounded by their family (who are the team), over looking the sea, this gin also helps celebrate the couple’s 30th anniversary. Let’s raise a glass to Brooks’ and see how it tastes.
December is a tricky time – well, by tricky I mean I get my Craft Gin Club delivery and because it’s Ginvent I don’t get to open my delivery until later in the month. This month we got a bumper box: four cans of Merchant’s Heart tonic, festive nuts, Pedrino sherry and tonic spritz, a bottle of cava, biscuits, winter tea, and the main event – Copperfield A Christmas Carol gin. Distilled in the Surrey hills, husband and wife team Chris and Katherine (who between them have a degree in biochemistry and chemical engineering, and a PhD in brewing and distilling) were left home alone after their children grew up and decided it was time to set up their distillery. Inspired by the classic books collected by Katherine, and named after a legendary policeman in their village, the Surrey Copper Distillery was born. Going full steam ahead, they designed a spirit lab and distillery, ordered two 2 litre and one 20 litre copper pot stills for their gin, plus a second 20 litre still for their vermouth. All are named after literary characters – Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Alice, and Wendy (Darling), and their branding is an homage to illustrations on antique book covers. Their original London dry gin uses – you guessed it – a historical recipe found in a library archive of pink peppercorns, cubeb berries, rose petals, hibiscus and elderflower. This time we are trying their Christmas gin exclusive to Craft Gin Club members which focuses on cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange, rosemary and sage. So, how does it taste?
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?
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?