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
If anyone follows me on social media, you might have seen that I’m lucky enough to be friends with Ant (@BrimandTonic), who introduced me to Chew Valley Distillery via our gin swap in December. Through Ant we tried their navy strength, the clementine and cranberry, and the blush which raised money for the Pink Ribbon Foundation. Founder and distiller Joe had a crazy 2020. Pre-covid, he was sat with his Dad looking at the spirits range they stocked in his restaurant and decided they wanted to have a go at making their own gin. They conducted lots of research and reached out to others in the industry. One year on and they have a range of gins which have won a number of awards, including the 2021 Gin Guide Awards winner New Distillery of the Year. As well as producing three core gins (the original, the navy, and the clementine and cranberry) and the charity blush gin, Joe wanted to keep experimenting and decided to make a limited edition gin. By making a small run, he’s able to be flexible with flavour combinations (without the extra expense of branding a new bottle) and try seasonal variations. He also distils on commission, and in doing one such run he came across the blend of pink grapefruit and rosemary. Whilst it wasn’t fully intentional, he liked the result and a few tweaks and 11 botanicals later, here we are. 100 bottles were produced and the online stock sold out within a week.
If you know your gin, you should have heard of Daffy’s gin – I actually reviewed it at the end of 2017. Before I had a chance to try their gin, they actually released a limited edition gin (thanks to Gin Foundry’s HQ clear out I got myself a bottle) in partnership with Formula 1’s Manor Racing. Their already striking label gets a jazzy upgrade with a winner’s wreath and trophy, and so does their recipe. They didn’t want to start from scratch, so taking inspiration from their original eight botanicals, this edition features including Lebanese mint and fresh Spanish limes – the goal was to create something fresh and exciting. They produced just 2,500 bottles of this release, and sadly the team it was produced for has since gone into administration. So basically, I’m trying a gin that you can’t buy, that’s four years old, and made for a team that don’t exist. Don’t say I don’t keep on top of all the news in the gin world. So, even though you probably can’t try it, I can.
Note: Darnley’s sent me a sample of their new gin to try, but as always, I’ll let you know what I really think.
For today’s tasting we are travelling back up north to Scotland, specifically the east coast of Fife to a town called Kingsbarn to try the newest in the Cottage Series released by Darnley’s. At the 13th-century Wemyss Castle, Mary Queen of Scots met her future husband Lord Darnley – an occasion that later inspired the Wemyss family (who already run an established whisky distillery) to renovate a cottage and try their hand at gin distilling. They plumped for a London Dry gin style, first steeping their botanicals in a four times distilled neutral grain spirit, before distilling it in their 300l pot still for a fifth time. Their core range of gins started with their Original gin, inspired by the wild elderflower growing on their estate, which creates a light, floral gin. They then went on to make their Spiced gin which brings flavours of pine needles, peppercorns, cloves, rosemary and cardamom. They then created a Navy Strength edition of their Spiced gin, bringing it up to 57% and adding in more juniper to allow the flavours to shine even at this higher ABV. Because having three spirits isn’t enough, Darnley’s are now creating limited edition gins, known as the Cottage Series. These releases are inspired by the botanicals growing on their estate and beyond. The first, launched in July 2018, featured sloe berries, rosehip and elderberry and was originally named the Very Berry edition. Today we try their second release, the Smoke and Zest. For this, their distiller Scott Gowans has taken the home grown barley that is used in their single malt whisky and smoked it in his family’s smoker with pine wood chips. They balance the smoke out with rowanberry and coriander (grown at the distillery) for a touch of sweetness and Turkish orange peel for that tang. The inspiration for this really comes from rowanberries, also known as Mountain Ash and it was this name that inspired Scott to look for something smokey to add to the citrus. The idea to smoke the barley over pine chips came from the production of Lapsang Souchong tea, to create what they call an unusual gin with juniper at its heart. So, how does it taste?