I have always said I would be suited to being a lady who lunches. It seems like the perfect way to spend your days, doesn’t it? A couple of weeks ago I had that very thought confirmed. Right after I had spent a leisurely afternoon on board the Betsie Jane on the River Hamble, glass of gin in hand. “Yes, this is the life”, I thought.
You arrive at Blue Box Experiences in the Hamble Marina (all clearly sign posted and with ample parking outside) to sign in and that done you then wander down onto the most beautifully restored cruise boat. If you get there early you can have tea (just £1 for a big mug of it) and cake in their lounge area, or you can sit out on their balcony and watch the other boats coming and going. Rumour has it the Betsie Jane was one of the boats at Dunkirk before she was abandoned in a barn for decades. Not that you can tell any of that now though, she is beautiful and totally ready to welcome aboard up to ten guests for an evening of gin tasting.
We were lucky enough to have Xavier Baker aboard who is one of the founders of Mermaid’s gin and he kindly explained how they made the gin (even bringing along the nine botanicals that go into it) and why he got into making gin (originally wanting to make whiskey but it takes years to mature, gin is much quicker). It isn’t a new gin for me, it was one of ginmas gins back in December: Ginmas Week 4.
Xav also talked to us about their navy strength gin and the very limited edition gin that supports HMS Victory’s museum.
Do you know why navy strength is called that? Well it’s because back in the 18th century when all boats had to carry a supply of gin for the officers on board (seaman had rum, officers had gin). The Royal Navy legislated that it must be 100° proof (the English standard of the day) which equates to 57% ABV. However, the gin was often stored near the gunpowder barrels and it was discovered that gunpowder soaked in alcohol with a strength of more than 57% could still be ignited and this became the standard test for Navy Strength or ‘gunpowder proof’ gin. Anything less than that standard could have been a fire risk so was banned.
Mermaid gin contains botanicals that are sourced on the island, or very close to it, including samphire from the islands chalk cliffs and Boadicea hops grown in Ventnor’s botanical garden. This really is a locally made gin. There is a real sweetness to it for me, though I know some say they can really taste citrus.
It really was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours, especially as the weather was kind to us that afternoon and I can see this being a really popular gift for gin lovers, at £99 for two.