For today’s blog, we are travelling to Germany, specifically a town called Göttingen, to try Von Hallers gin. This town is known for their University – alumni include the Brothers Grimm – and the Old Botanical Garden. This was planted by Albrecht von Haller (aka the father of modern physiology) in 1736 and today contains over 14,000 species. Continue reading
If you haven’t heard of Monkey 47 gin before, then where have you been? It’s delicious – I actually reviewed their regular gin here. Thanks to having gin friends from Twitter (Hi Andy!) I’ve managed to get a sample of their Distiller’s Cut gin. The Distiller’s Cut edition of their gin is made but once a year, bottled in a limited run of just 4,000. So what make’s it different? The 2017 edition is their traditional 47 botanicals with added musk yarrow leaves and flowers which are macerated, distilled, distilled again and then left to mature for three months. This year, the team trekked up a Swiss mountain to ensure their special ingredient is as fresh as possible – with a lovely photo story over on their website. Continue reading
It’s a horrible coincidence that today’s gin is opened the day after a lorry attack on a busy Christmas markets in the streets of Berlin. When I first read that we would be receiving Berliner Brandstifter Berlin Dry Gin in our calendar I was excited and couldn’t stop thinking about my holiday there last year, so it’s a shame that we can’t all try it under nicer circumstances. This gin was launched in 2013 and is designed to make you think of “taking a wonderful walk on a careless summer day in the capital” using elderflowers, woodruff and mallow as key botanicals. This gin is limited to just under 10,000 bottles per year, and each bottle is hand bottled and labelled. It sounds like this should be a nice refreshing, floral gin. Hopefully a lighter note to brighten our days.
From the bottle it certainly smells fresh (Note: I do currently have a bit of a blocked nose and am wearing a pore strip so my nose isn’t on top form right now). It reminds me slightly of Blackwater No 5 (the best gin) in that it smells a bit like rain – although this has a stronger juniper nose to it. Tasting it straight, the main flavours (after the small shock of drinking straight gin) is floral and light and slightly sweet like a hint of sherbet sweets. I like. With tonic, this is a delight. Slightly sweeter than a usual gin, but not too sweet. Just light and refreshing, with a flowery aftertaste. It’s hard to describe (check out #ginvent on Twitter for people being more eloquent [it’s been a long day]). Less fresh rain and more kids sweets, but I’m enjoying.
You can find Berliner Brandstifter on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and you can grab yourself a bottle of this from Master of Malt for £47.85. This seems quite a lot for something I don’t think I could have as my every day gin, but it certainly feels like something special. Perhaps it’s the import costs?
After a bit of a kerfuffle with Royal Mail and their tracking system, my September Craft Gin Club delivery finally arrived. I’ve seen Elephant Gin around a few places but I’ve not yet had a chance to try it, so imagine my excitement when I open my box to find a full size bottle of an exclusive batch, PLUS small bottles of the regular gin and sloe gin (reviews of these to come after my holiday as I’ve run out of time). We were also lucky enough to receive ChariTea Red, Divine‘s newest flavour – dark chocolate and pink Himalayan salt – and a bag of Buchu (literally no idea). 15% of Elephant Gin’s profits go to help elephant conservation through Big Life Foundation‘s Ranger Club and Space for Elephants Foundation and all products in this box are fair trade, so I can feel totally good at spending this months subscription cost. Each batch of Elephant Gin is named after a real elephant that is either being protected or has played an important role in Africa’s history. Mshale, my bottle’s namesake, is a 40 year old elephant living in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park – one of the largest with tusks weighing 100 pounds each (aka £25,000 worth of ivory).
The large bottle has some lovely decoration (we all know I’m a sucker for a good label) and string wrapped around the bottle neck. It gives a feel of something old that has been shipped to us, helped by old world postage stamp designs and a map of Southern Africa. No wax seal to break through here (thank god), just a simple cork top. First sniff is fairly pungent. I can’t work out what the smell is – but this is probably from the rare African botanicals they use (Devil’s Claw, Lion’s Tails or Buchu anyone?). Straight away the smell packs a punch in the glass, but the taste is less intense than anticipated. It’s certainly got flavour to it. But I have no idea what that flavour is. Not sweet, the gin falls more on the savoury side with an almost herby smell (after tasting it I checked out the botanical list, Mountain Pine, that will be the one). A small amount of heat is noticeable on your tongue – ginger is one of the botanicals. It goes down very easily straight (never a good sign for my liver).
Mixed with tonic (and a small panic when I realise I am now out of tonic water) this is an absolute delight. Fresh apple flavours (but no disgusting fake sweetness) keep it light while heavier spiced tones make it deep and earthy. No burning sensation at any point – one could almost confuse it for exciting water. Different areas of the mouth come alive as you take a sip. At 45% I was expecting this to be harsher, but it is clean and simple in taste. I felt no need to add any lemon or lime to this gin. I happily sipped away at it all evening, and will continue to do so. I can’t wait to crack open their signature gin and the sloe gin.
A 50cl bottle of the signature blend is available on Masters of Malt for just £29.49 (as of day of publishing). Absolute bargain. This will be on order the second this bottle is finished. Elephant Gin are all over social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
This week was historic. It’s the week that Britain threw a strop and voted itself out of the EU. I’m having post-Brexit Blues which coincided with pay day which ended up with me in Grape and Grain after work buying myself a bottle of gin. Monkey 47 to be precise. I’ve tried it before but a long time ago, so after an extensive discussion with the shop owner and staff I decided to give it another go. Also it’s German so prices will clearly rocket if we actually leave so thought I’d get it for a good price while I can!
Monkey 47 hails from the Black Forests of Germany and was first produced in 2008. It went on to win Best Gin in the World Gin catagory in 2011 at the IWSC and Gold in the World Spirit Awards. So it comes highly recommended. The name hails from the 47 botanicals used to make the gin, and it is handily bottled at 47% as well (they sure know how to create a strong brand – speaking of which I highly recommend their website). Some of their botanicals are listed on their website’s Encyclopaedia Botanica. Each batch is hand bottled and they list their batch number on the bottle – apparently each batch is subtly different, I guess I’ll just have to buy another bottle to see!
The bottle isn’t sealed with wax, but has a cork edged with a metal ring, going for an old pharmaceutical look. The cork comes out easily and the smell is quite fruity. Nothing overpowering. Mixed with water and the juniper comes to the front. Super smooth and easy to drink, it again has no overpowering taste to it or a chemical burn that some gins have, leaving just a fragrant taste in your mouth. The 47% abv gives it a warmth that isn’t as overpowering as a navy strength gin.
Mixing up a G&T with some light Fevertree tonic it really comes alive. A variety of flavours swill across your tongue. It has that exciting sherbert quality that Cornelius Ampleforths Bathtub Gin has. It’s sweet but not cloying. Tart but not sour. Hints of pepper. I add a lemon wedge which brings out a citrus tone and makes it very refreshing. Wowzers. I’m super sad I haven’t embraced this earlier.
I paid £39 for this at Grape and Grain. Worth. Every. Damn. Penny. Even if it hadn’t been pay day. Get this now and add it to your collection. Yes it’s pricier than Gordon’s but my god it’s more exciting. Masters of Malt stocks it for £36.46 (plus delivery) – and if you need more convincing then check out some of it’s reviews!
If you’re ever in Haywards Heath, head to Grape and Grain and speak to Ed. He loves gin and will happily chat to you about it for as long as you want (until you have to run off and catch a train home in my case) – or they’re on Facebook.
I wrote this blog when I was in Berlin in mid-September, let’s look back at my adventure…
On the Thursday I woke up early (6am for the second time in one week) and jumped on a train to Gatwick to meet my mum at the airport. Is it lame to go on holiday with your mum when you’re 3 weeks away from turning 26? No. We went to Prague last year and had a hoot. We like going to party cities and not really partying. Although last year it took us a while to find each other at Gatwick, this time I got through the train barriers and there she was. Off we fly thanks to Norweigan Airways (showing Mum how to use self service bag drop in the process) and wine and Prosecco (our flight was at 10am so perfectly acceptable, especially once you put your clock ahead an hour for German time…). By 3pm we had navigated the train system and checked into Melia Hotel Berlin. Right next to Friedrichstraß, our hotel lies on the Spree and perfectly located for our three day trip. After a quick wander, we collapse fairly exhausted into our hotel room with mini bar wine (booking through lastminute.com we got a €15 Voucher per night at the hotel aka all the minibar wine!)
Being lazy and exhausted we headed to Block House, a total of 20 feet from out hotel. I order a beer and a steak – medium rare – and Mum orders a burger. My steak arrives beautifully pink and Mum’s burger was, and I quote, “no onion, plain meat, but tasty it didn’t need the onion” – I should note here the ‘burger’ came with no bun and was purely a round piece of mince meat instead of a steak. This is a not a suitable place for vegetarians (so me circa 7 years ago). Served with a baked potato loaded with sour cream and a mountain of coleslaw, that combined with my Pilsner was the pick me up I needed after a long day of travelling. A steak, a burger, a wine, a beer and some water came to €40 including tip (£29.64 at the time of publishing). Bargain. In bed by 8.30pm, my mother and I shared a wonderful evening of silence, kindles and headphones before collapsing asleep.
The next morning we awoke at 8.30am with no concept of the time thanks to our great blackout curtains. Heading downstairs to our included breakfast we spied some champagne. “Surely not for us” we said as we loaded our plates high with all of the necessary components for a fry up/heart attack. I tentatively asked our waitress about the champagne who instantly offered to bring me some. Best. Hotel. Ever. “Don’t worry” I replied as I ran to get some. When my mum saw this she laughed, I mentioned it was free and she grabbed a glass. Definitely related.
We headed off for a walking tour that was mentioned in our guidebook my boss Kate had given me for the trip (published in 2007). Down the road from our hotel to Checkpoint Charlie (fake, a reconstruction thanks to tourism) along with the “You are now leaving the American sector” sign (also a reconstruction). Note: the two men in fancy dress offering to stamp your passport for €2 are also fake. We turned right along Zimmerstrasse to the remnants to the wall. I’ve been to Auswitcz and Birkenau and they are harrowing experiences, but seeing the wall (all 200 metres of it) is different. This is the wall that separated families and a nation. People on the south side woke up to it right in their doorways. The wall came down when I was one month old so growing up I didn’t really get the significance of it, but the Topographie of Terror memorial along the wall really drove home that this was something humans did. Then once ‘we won’, a wall was built between ‘us’ and the Russians. When they finally couldn’t hold back the crowds, the wall came down, and Hasselhoff sang a song (a month later but still).
Now the remnants of the wall are filled with holes from tourists and keepsakers wishing to own part of history for themselves. After this, our tour cheered up a bit as we walked up to Potsdamer Platz for some lunch and up to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (I admit this doesn’t sound very cheerful). The guidebook says that “it is spooky in places especially on overcast days and near the middle, where many feel a sense of confinement”. We joked as we walked through the undulating alleys of pillars of different heights, but you can’t help but feel a sense of unease. This is created because hundreds of thousands of people died. And much like the ‘stone for every person that died in Auswitcz and Birkenau’ memorial, this will never leave me. Whilst it is smaller at just 2,711 stones, it makes you feel fairly alone. The echoes of other tourists shoot around you, even when you can’t seen anyone. In my mind, this is a beautiful memorial. It is something that will stick with you for a long time.
By this point it was only 3pm so we strolled up to the Brandenburg Gate and along Strasse Des 17 Juli to the Siegessäule, basically big F you to the French from the Russians. This is where normally I would have climbed the 285 steps to the top, but by this point we had already walked around 5 miles in the sunshine and I gave up because I wanted a beer (’tis the British way). So that’s what we did. We visited a cafe opposite the Bundestag (Parliament buildings) where a young waiter lectured me on “we don’t do pints in Europe we do litres” then apologised for having no lime for my my Corona and explained how in South America (where he was from) that no one drank Corona and how I should go to Mexico and drink real Mexican beer. Screw you kid. I like lager.
Dinner On Friday was courtesy of a Italian restaurant just over the bridge where we dined on a pepperoni pizza, a vegetable risotto and a litre of Pinot Gringo for €40 again (this seems to be our magic number). Thanks to the Spar Express in Fridrichstrß station, we had beer, wine and Pringles for €11 for pudding. I love Europe outside of England.
Saturday. Our last day. Having spent 30 minutes queuing on Friday afternoon to get a (free) ticket to go up into the glass dome on the Bundestag – heads up, you need some form of photo ID to do this – we headed over there in the morning sunshine. After some airport style security we were escorted to a lift which whisked us up to the fourth floor which opened on to an incredible roof terrace. No bar though. With 360degree views across Berlin, the roof terrace alone is a great sight. In the dome, a curled ramp leads you to the top as the audio guide (sounding freakishly like Bill Nighy) guides you towards points of interest and explains some of the history behind the structure and buildings around you. I think this was my favourite thing in Berlin. And it was free. I admit there was lots of queuing, but hey, I’m British and I enjoy a good queue.
The afternoon was spent in a gin haze as we took a river tour along the Spree, which ended the other side of the city and the boat home the man had assured us would be there was, but wasn’t leaving for 30 minutes. So we got a taxi home like good adventurers do. Dinner came from La Parrilla, an Argentinian steak house around the corner from our hotel. Mum had a turkey steak with cheese and pineapple – something that just sounded wrong to me – and I had a grilled salmon steak with potatoes and spinach. The salmon was beautifully cooked, the rest of the meal was so so.
It was with full bellies that we headed back to the hotel to sleep off our day of adventures, and after one final lazy champagne breakfast we headed home. I really enjoyed Berlin, although much like Prague I didn’t see any of the nightlife, but the city was certainly buzzing and had a really nice atmosphere. Whilst it was quite busy, I never felt unsafe or crowded and I like that. If I wanted to be pushed around all day I’d just move to London (or indeed visit the Lanes on a sunny Saturday afternoon!)