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.
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There’s been a lot of talk in the recent months about the rise in Scottish gin, but today we head across the water to the north west coast of Ireland. Boatyard Distillery is based on the banks of Lough Erne in their farm-to-bottle distillery. Their vodka is made from home-grown wheat, the spent grains go back to the land as fertiliser and animal food, and they pick their signature gin botanical (Sweet Gale – a type of bog myrtle) is picked from the family bog. Today’s drink is their flagship Double Gin, made by macerating eight botanicals for 18 hours in their wheat spirit and ensure the juniper flavour is front and centre using a filtration process which helps to highlight the beautiful pine notes. They keep their botanical list fairly traditional – alongside the juniper is coriander, liquorice root, angelica, orris, fresh lemon peel, grains of paradise and the aforementioned Sweet Gale. So, how does the banks of Lough Erne 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.
Note: Symphonia kindly sent me a sample to try and ramble about, but as always I’ll let you know if I’m not a fan.
Did you read about Symphonia No.1 and No. 2 gin? If not, shame on you and you can read about them here and here. The third (and currently final) gin in their range is a fruit cup. The fruit/summer cup trend seems to be growing from smaller distillers, perhaps due to the popularity of Pimms and the pink gin craze. So what makes the Symphonia fruit cup different? This 25% fruit spirit is made using raspberries from the distillery garden and berries foraged from the hedgerows in the Irish countryside. The lower ABV makes it perfect for sipping, or mixing with tonic, soda, prosecco or lemonade (essentially, whatever you want). One thing you instantly notice about this fruit cup is the colour – fruit cups usually have a pink/orange tinge to them but this is surprisingly clear.
Note: Symphonia kindly sent me a sample to try and ramble about, but as always I’ll let you know if I’m not a fan.
Did you read about Symphonia No.1 gin? If not, shame on you and you can read it here. The second gin in their range is a bit more unusual as it is an apple gin. This isn’t a flavoured gin liqueur, this is a full on 40% gin made with crisp Bramley apples from Ireland which pairs with the juniper to create what they say is a gin filled with floral and herbal notes. Did you know that the apples grown in County Armagh have protected geographical status as the growing conditions out there are pretty unique? Apparently this creates the apple with the lowest sugar content but the highest acidity content, which Symphonia use to their advantage to flavour their gin. They counteract the sweetness of the apple with spice from ginger root and coriander.
Note: I met the Symphonia team at Junipalooza and they sent me home with some samples to try properly. As usual, I’ll let you know what I think.
Symphonia gin is a fairly nerdy brand. Founded by Ric Dyer (who has a PhD in organic chemistry) in 2016, he decided to use his skills and experience to create innovative spirits with a focus on local flavours and ingredients. In the heart of rural Ireland, Symphonia is distilled using a knowledge of flavour molecules to create their balanced compositions. This ‘composition’ carries through to their branding with the musical notation on the label – which FYI is the notation of the makeup of the gin. Symphonia No.1 is a mix of citrus, local herbs and flowers and ending with spice.
It’s the best time of year again – my Craft Gin Club delivery arrived! Another bumper box includes a full bottle of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, a bottle of Peter Spanton No. 9 Cardamom Tonic, New York Delhi Wasabi Peas, Butler’s Milk Chocolate Irish Cream Truffle Bar and, if there’s any room left, Ten Acres Sweet and Sour Crisps. After my tumble down the stairs the other week, this was finally a ray of sunshine. Can we also take a moment to talk about how beautifully designed this month’s copy of Ginned is? Mostly just for the cracking travel photos. Which leads nicely into the gin – based in Ireland with botanicals from around the world, this gin is the brainchild of Patrick J. Rigney. Whilst travelling in Morocco, he discovered Chinese Gunpowder green tea. Blended with grapefruits from Indonesia, kaffir limes from Cambodia, juniper from Macedonia, and caraway seed and cardamom from India, this gin’s botanical list is basically my travel bucket list. I’m fully expecting a big, bold gin with this one – anything that crams so many flavours in to one bottle is never going to be dull.
Opening the bottle and pulling out the branded cork, it smells gentler than I anticipated, but opened up in the glass it hits you. Big, bold and zesty it hits your nostrils with a bam. Loosened up with some water, it is more savoury than I anticipated. It’s quite deep in flavour and heavy but not too oaky. A hint of spice at the edges but with a lightness at the front of the tongue.
I decided it would be rude to not try it with the tonic provided (which on its own is very yummy and exciting, slight hints of curry from the cardamom but the lightness of the tonic, I wouldn’t normally drink tonic on its own but this tastes really exciting) and the cardamom from the tonic highlights the more exotic flavours and it tastes absolutely nothing like a normal gin and tonic. I’m suddenly really gutted that I was too lazy to go buy a lime to garnish this with. It’s not too heavy, but also not too “strange” – we know from ginvent I’m not a massive fan of overly flavoured gins but this one has a good balance to it. It’s different to your usual tipple, and I imagine will work well with normal tonic, ginger beer or in a cocktail to add some depth of flavour. At first taste I wasn’t sure of this, but the more I drink the more I’m used to the flavour. I really like the little hit of citrus at the back of your throat which helps to lighten the drink.
You can find a bottle of the 43% gin on Master of Malt for £31.50 (at time of writing). My opinion – invest in a bottle. It will spice up your evenings without being too wacky. You can get in touch with Drumshanbo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
It’s the end of week one of Ginvent! Today I get to try the gin with easily my favourite name: Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin. The Irish team behind the gin (Ballyvolane House Spirits Company) were interested in using whey alcohol as a base spirit and after hearing Charles Maxwell’s (Head Distiller at Thames Distillery) approval on the subject they headed home to get experimenting. By batch 19, they’d got it. As of 27 April 2015, Bertha’s Revenge was born. Key ingredients are orange and grapefruit, with a liberal amount of childish enthusiasm and love – hopefully those last two flavours really come out in the tasting!
Cracking open the bottle, it smells lovely. Considering I know there is a lot of orange in it, it smells great and I’m very excited – the cumin and cardamom come to the front and it smells like a welcoming, gentle curry. Tasting it neat, the spices are clearly a main ingredient, it’s warm and earthy. Mixed with tonic (still sticking with Tesco) it’s incredibly flavoursome. It tastes of an incredible spice blend, not hot spicy but warm earthy cinnamon. Whilst I think it would go brilliantly with ginger beer with tonic it comes to life. I can’t work out what the whey base spirit brings to the party (sorry team) but this is brilliant. If you’re looking for something to jazz up your evening, this will do the trick. “That sip tasted like a fancy sausage roll”. Move over Catriona, the boy is the new taste tester on this blog.
A 70cl bottle of Bertha’s Revenge costs £35.84 on Master of Malt. Personally, I think it’s worth it. Unless you like boring gin, in which case stay away.
This Easter weekend, Catriona, Lisa and I spent a few days in Dublin. And boy were we busy. We also listened to a LOT of Irish pop music, if you fancy listening along whilst reading you can listen to my Spotify playlist here (yes, it is mostly Westlife…):
On Wednesday we got up at 6:30am (not too horrific) and we made the lengthy (30 minute) trek to Gatwick. We had some reservations as we were flying the day after the horrific and pointless bombings in Brussels, but everything was absolutely fine. Not even an increase in police presence. After a short flight and a downed prosecco (the drinks trolley took a bloody long time to get to us!) we landed in the Emerald Isle and headed to Abigail’s Hostel on the river Liffey. Dumping our bags we headed out to explore. After a wander to Trinity College and through Temple Bar, we ended up at the Leprechaun Museum. Short but sweet, the museum is a 45 minute tour with a story-teller looking at Irish folk-lore such as leprechauns, giants, fairies and changelings (seriously, fairies are bastards). It gives a brief overview and not a huge amount of detail, but the giant’s room is fun, the rainbow room is magical and don’t forget to take a #selfiewithseamus. From here we walked around the corner to a random church Lisa had heard about. St. Michan’s Church is similar to other churches, and is fairly unassuming until you go down
into the crypts. In there are four preserved bodies. A combination of dry air (limestone walls), methane gas (leaking in from the ground) and a constant temperature has left their skin freakishly in tact. Totally worth €6. Just one road up from here is the Old Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Technically not a distillery any more since they moved production out to the countryside, but the tour looks at the process of whiskey making, slags off Scottish whisky and gives you some free drinks. Hurrah. I learnt that whilst I do NOT like straight whiskey, I am a BIG fan of whiskey, ginger and lime. Absolutely knackered we wandered back to the hostel for a wee rest before dinner.
Dinner that night came from Thai Orchid, just opposite Trinity College. Great food, fairly shoddy service. Yes the waitress seemed to be running the place on her own, but she did so with a grumpy expression, no apologies, told a customer off for seating himself after she ignored him and ignored me after I tried to ask for the bill. The food however was pretty damn good. My prawn Singapore noodles were nice and fresh, Lisa’s cashew stir fry had one of the best sauces I’ve ever tried and Catriona was delighted to find extra tofu in her chicken pad thai (vom). After a little walk, we ended up in a pub with traditional Irish dancing which was fun to watch. Luckily we were tired and pretty sober so we didn’t try to copy them/embarrass ourselves!
Day two started with our free breakfast – we seriously would recommend this hostel, who doesn’t love free toast? – before we decided to wander down to the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol (points to any non-Irish folk that can pronounce that!) On the way we got distracted by the Castle (not very castley) and the Windmill (definitely not a windmill) then we popped into Guinnessland to buy our tickets (via a few photos in front of the Guinness signs). We eventually got to the Gaol via my scenic route (stupid vague map) at midday to find the queue would be at least an hour for a tour that was at 3pm. Nope. So instead we went to the pub opposite for some lunch (priorities). Two bowls of sup and a pulled pork bun later, we went back to the Storehouse for a super fun afternoon. For people who actually like being educated in museums and stuff, the first few floors provide insight into the brewing process and the history behind the company. Then you get a sample of their Porter, a mini pint of Guinness in the tasting rooms (breathe in through the nose, take a sip, swallow, out through the nose then the mouth). On floor 5 is the best part, after enjoying all of the selfie opportunities with the various advertising models, you exchange part of your ticket for a masterclass in pouring the perfect pint. Pint in hand you can head up to the Gravity bar on the seventh floor for panoramic views of the city. In theory. In reality it’s a bar RAMMED with people so you can’t get near a window so you get to chill at the circular bar instead. And it turns out that I really enjoy Guinness.
Exhausted by this point (Lisa’s pedometer said we’d walked nearly 4.5 miles at this point!) we jumped into a waiting taxi and met Colm, one of the many friendly people that we chatted to over our stay. On our way back, we popped into Tesco to stock up on the all important crisps and prosecco. This was important because on Good Friday it turns out that you can’t buy alcohol in Dublin, or indeed Ireland as a whole. We were a bit naughty and hid ours in our room, defying the signs that said alcohol could only be consumed downstairs. We’re just not friendly or sociable. Dinner on Thursday was at Aperitivo. A tiny cafe we found through Trip Advisor that stays open into the evening serving yummy pizzas – seriously if you’re in Dublin you must go here. Be aware that there are only a handful of tables but a big pizza and a glass of wine came to under £14. I can personally recommend the Mediterranean vegetable one (or the megiterranean one as I said when I ordered) and the Pinot (as always). Just up Parliament Street is Porterhouse. A labyrinth of a pub with lovely barmen, a mix of tourists and locals, a couple eating each others faces and an awesome band on the smallest, randomest stage ever. The stage, seemingly precariously wedged between two staircases above the bar, hosted three grey haired gents singing classic rock songs that made our evening a hoot. A few bevvies later we headed back for an earlyish night.
Friday brought with it an early start – we hopped on a local bus and headed back out to the Gaol (having walked it once we weren’t going to do that again!) We arrived at 9:30am. We queued until 11:40am. Our tour started at midday. On the plus side, Good Friday marked the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Risings and as we patiently (ish) waited for our tickets, we were soon surrounded by people in period dress singing, beating drums and, joy of joys, playing bagpipes. Even my deepest Scottish roots dislike the bagpipes. Once we got in, the music dimmed, but we discovered that there is a reason the queue was so long. Really interesting tour where we learnt that the English didn’t treat the Irish as well as we probably should have… but at least we built some architecturally interesting jails. I mean I wouldn’t have wanted to be a prisoner, bloody cold and that’s after they installed glass in the windows. The East Wing is something to be marvelled at (helpfully given a lick of paint after they allowed camera crews in to film The Italian Job, In the Name of the Father and Michael Collins amongst others) and as we stood in the yard hearing about the rebels’ executions, the sound of drumming rolled over the walls and added some real atmosphere to our trip.
After our history lesson we strolled along the parade route and popped into PHX Bistro for lunch. A random find as we walked along the river, boy were we happy. A panini filled with pastrami, monteray jack cheese and chorizo aioli with fries was perfection. Well perfection would have been a beer to go with it but that wasn’t allowed boo. At this point we were exhausted from three days of walking so we jumped into a taxi to head to The Writer’s Museum. This turned out to be a bad decision as, unbeknownst to us, the main road leading up to the museum had been pedestrianised ahead of the Easter Sunday Parade. So we walked. Boo. But on the plus side, the museum was lovely (especially for three book nerds). In an old townhouse that once belonged to the Jameson family, it profiles key authors from Ireland – for example, did you know that not only was Bram Stoker Irish, but also that his name was actually Abraham? I did not, and went on and on about it for days. A quick browse in the book shop later (because it would be rude not to buy James Joyce’s Dubliners whilst in Dublin) we meandered back to our hostel. Now, as I may have mentioned, Good Friday in Dublin means no alcohol, so our evening consisted of drinking our hidden prosecco, eating crisps and going for a late evening walk around Temple Bar to see how empty it is and to buy a sausage sandwich. We also ended up doing the dance routines to Steps and S Club 7, but that’s fairly normal for us.
Saturday arrived far too quickly, but we were determined not to waste a second of our final day so we headed out to Dublinia. Set in an old church, Dublinia looks at Dublin’s (and Ireland’s) Viking and Medieval history. Basically, you get to dress up as Vikings. Some would call it educational, some (us) would call it a hoot. You can also get locked in the stocks. Loved it. As part of the ticket price, you can also go up the tower at the end of the tour. Now, we all know I’m a big fan of climbing large structures in European cities, at 97 steps it’s not the tallest but it was nice and empty unlike the Guinness Storehouse. We jumped forward in history after the Vikings to visit the Oscar Wilde memorial in Merrion Square. He lounges high on a rock for you to admire, much as I imagine he did in Paris as a young writer. Lunch came in the form of a very expensive G&T and a veggie lasagne from a different branch of the Porterhouse. Don’t ask for a double, mine cost about £10. I mean it was good but I wasn’t expecting that. Stick to beer and wine for the less expensive options. Our final stop on our whirlwind tour was the Book of Kells in Trinity College’s Old Library. Book of Kells, not so interesting (probably because we are not religious), the Old Library however was beautiful. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted everyone else to leave so that I could explore properly and touch the books but that is definitely not allowed. Filled t’brim with bookishness, we headed to the airport for a final beer ahead of a slightly rocky flight home – luckily landing before Storm Katie really kicked in.
So there we go. Dublin in four days. Big love to Catriona and Lisa for putting up with me for that long, even with all the scenic routes I made them walk. I’m sad I didn’t get to try Dublin City Gin – didn’t see it anywhere so no review for you guys, but I did try Dingle Gin which was lovely. We would highly recommend Abigail’s Hostel to anyone looking to stay somewhere central without breaking the bank – we each paid under £100 for the three nights which includes bedding, towels and breakfast. Fun Dublin fact to end this with: it was considered a a mortal sin for a Catholic to attend Trinity College until 1970. That’s right. Mortal Sin.
You can check out my photos from Dublin on my Instagram and keep up to date with my mundane life on Twitter.
March’s Craft Gin Club delivery comes all the way from Northern Ireland in the form of a special edition wild clover batch of Shortcross Gin. I’ve heard lots of good things about Shortcross Gin (mainly from my manager who has only had this gin and he thinks this makes him an expert. Ha.) so I’ve been interested in trying it for a while. This batch was made specially for us – because we’re a well fancy group us craft ginners. It comes with a bottle of Franklin & Sons tonic, goji berry and pomegranate Suki Tea, cheese and onions Taytos and some viola seeds to make our own edible garnishes. Now the problem with our flat (after the mould and the damp and the general shabbiness) is that we have no garden, nor a windowsill large enough for plant pots, or indeed any sunshine. So the viola seeds will be sent to my mother for her garden and for me to use on trips back to the shire.
Now. The gin. The good bit. Each bottles is hand corked, waxed and sealed so it’s time for everyone’s favourite game: how long does it take Jenny to break into a waxed bottle? Seriously. If there’s a trick for this which isn’t attacking a bottle with a knife, please let me know. Luckily today I had some semblance of logic, cut straight down the bottle and it came off in one piece. On first sniff my reaction is “oh wow”. Floral with hints of (what seems to me) cardamom (having just checked this, no. I was wrong). Slightly curryesque. In a good way.
Mixed with some water the smell is obvious even from standing away from the glass. The juniper notes come to the front and it’s very palatable on the tongue. No harsh bitterness, no sickly sweet tanginess. Barely burns as it goes down the throat. It is well rounded in flavour, although at the moment I am not noticing the “uplifting aroma reminiscent of summer meadows, wild berries and Irish clover”. Perhaps Hampshire’s summer meadows taste different to the Irish ones. At 46% this is dangerous for me to be enjoying straight on a Sunday night.
Time to be sensible and crack open the tonic. Oh my. I’m not a fan of tonic on its own (because what’s the point of it without gin) but that’s rather nice. No bitterness that comes through in cheap tonic, and has almost a sweet edge to it. I’ve never heard of Franklin & Sons but they seem to do an interesting range of soft drinks and mixers so I’m definitely going to start looking out for them! The 200ml size bottle is perfect for two drinks at Jenny strength (50ml gin to 100ml tonic).
With tonic the slightly sweeter berry notes come through, staying dry on the tongue and sweeter at the back of your throat. You know when you eat Tangfastics and the insides of your cheeks go a bit dry? It gives that kind of feeling. It definitely has a floral aroma to it, whilst it doesn’t come through in taste, you can sense it while drinking it (that sentence makes no sense unless you understand me well). With some lemon chunks it adds a touch of bitterness to balance out the sweetness. Although, unusually for me, I think I prefer it without the lemon.
All in all this is different enough to feel special, but not so unique that it confuses you about what you’re drinking. This months Ginned magazine suggests making a syrup with the tea to then add to a cocktail, so this will be done in the future when I have my long overdue cocktail night. Just need to get a tea infuser first.
Now this gin isn’t available to buy, because we’re special, but normal ordinary Shortcross gin is available on Masters of Malt for £39.95 for a 70ml bottle. If this was the Wild Clover gin, I’d be happy to pay that. Although my bank balance might not be. Because sadly I can’t enjoy £40 bottles of gin as my every day drink…
Now imma sit down and have my Taytos and plan some activities for my Dublin trip in a few weeks. Yes technically Dublin isn’t in Northern Ireland, but they have Dublin City gin and I’m kind of near Blackwater No. 5 gin so basically it will be a gin (and Guinness) filled affair. But seriously, any tips for tags to do/see/eat/drink in Dublin are appreciated!