Four years ago I visited my first gin distillery, more out of curiosity than anything else. I drank the occasional gin but I still wasn’t sure it was the drink for me. Certainly I had realised that tonic wasn’t. Gin was just on the verge of the massive boom we have seen recently that now takes it to a billion Pound industry in the UK and many of us were still being offered a choice of one or two in pubs, if we were lucky. One of those was invariably one of the big ones, the household names, and I don’t know about you but I felt there was more to gin than mass produced stuff, probably from the cheapest ingredients, with no traceability.
The explosion of craft distillers, many of whom make their spirit in their own back yard means we know so much more about the botanicals and where they are made. And by whom. I don’t know if it is because my parents had a vineyard and I knew their story, but I love knowing something about the drink in my hand. I don’t want to think it is just made in a huge factory on an industrial scale. My parents have always said “wine is made to be drunk”, getting a bit frustrated with the idea that people buy wine to simply lay it down in a cellar before selling it to the next highest bidder.
I love the idea of knowing something of the finished product, of knowing it wasn’t made on an industrial scale with botanicals bought by the tonne and shipped to an anonymous industrial estate. Mermaid Gin for instance is not only made on the Isle of Wight but the samphire that goes into it grows locally. Forest Gin, has botanicals foraged from the nearby Macclesfield Forest. Foragers Gin gets its ingredients from the area in Snowdonia that is depicted on the bottle. Ditto Silent Pool. Twisted Nose has watercress from the nearby town.
Once you get to know a bit more about each of the gins you learn a bit more about the people behind these craft products and it becomes a fascinating lesson in more than just how to enjoy a night in.
I found myself a year or so ago collecting gins. I don’t think I am ashamed to say that I now have 81 different bottles. And whilst I couldn’t tell you which one was which when poured into a glass, I can tell you something about each one if you give me a name. Either where it is from, who made it or how it got it’s name. We pick one up whenever we are away and I now see them as a more grown up souvenir than a fridge magnet. I also soon realised I could probably spell out the alphabet if I put my mind to it.
Y and Q became the last two, elusive buggers but this week I did it. Mr B found me a Y on Amazon, and I found the Q thanks to a shout out from a friend on Twitter. And with that my A-Z of gin was completed. Just in time for World Gin Day on June 9th. It’s almost like I planned it or something! So here we go, here is my breakdown of the alphabet of gin.
Alt Enderle — Mr B bought me this one as it’s known as their 1969, the year I was born. Definite notes of lavender in this one.
Blogger Gin — If you don’t know about this one WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! It’s mine. I made this one so it has be my B.
Collagin Gin with added collagen. Actual genius.
Dutch Courage One of a few gins made by Zuidam you can really taste the vanilla in this one
Eden Mill This gin has a beautiful pale pink hint to it. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. And with Fentiman’s rose lemonade
Fera The most expensive gin I have ever bought, but worth every penny. Made in the Fera kitchen of Claridge’s in batches of about 12. You can only buy from the hotel, and I made a special journey to London to get my bottle once my name had come to the top of the waiting list. It doesn’t disappoint, it is a beautiful gin.
Grins A gin made in Cheshire but the bottle looks it straight out of a 1940s hotel in Miami, but is instead a nod to Lewis Carrol’s Cheshire cat. Many of the botanicals are local to Cheshire, and the water is from the Peckforton Spring.
Hampshire Made by the Winchester Distillery it would have been rude not to have my home county recognised in this collection. Sadly this edition is now sold out but there are others in the range and they are all wonderful, with a wonderful range of flavours.
IQ Made in Oxford from a wash base that starts life as fermented barley this has a unique taste that is distinctly floral. Probably due to the rose hips
Juillet I knew nothing about this one, and didn’t even taste it before buying it. Spotted in a Calais Duty Free I bought it simply because it began with a J. It’s a bit too sweet for me, with a definite hint of Pernod about it. Though that might just be my mind playing tricks with French alcohol.
Ki Nobi Another one bought simply because it began with the right letter. From a lovely little wine shop in Lymington. My first Japanese gin and my first made from rice wine. Definitely up there in my top five favourites.
Loos London Gin Interesting to note that London Gin does not mean it is made in London. London dry gin can be made anywhere as it simply refers to the process by which it is made, ie everything is added to the still and not afterwards, except for water. If anything is added after distillation it is no longer a London gin. This gin however is called Loos London Dry Gin and I can find nothing about it on the web. There is no maker name on the label, there is no bar code, no information on where it is bottled. Nothing. It’s an okay gin though, nothing to get excited about which is a good job really as I would never be able to find it to buy any more!
Moonshot This is brilliant and one of those bottles you never want to finish in case you can’t get another one. A present from my son this Christmas the botanicals have been fired into space so you could say it tastes out of this world. I’ll get my coat.
No3 This is made by Berry Bros and Rudd and the name comes from their address on St James’ , the key on the bottle a replica of the one needed to unlock the old parlour. The gin itself is subtle with a hint of grapefruit. We recently had a wonderful lunch in the cellars underneath the parlour, you can read about it here: Mother’s Day Lunch at Berry Bros and Rudd.
One Gin I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the launch of this gin last summer, and wrote about it here: A gin changing the world.
Plymouth The Plymouth Distillery is the oldest working distillery in Britain and I was very lucky to get this bottle as a present when Ellie went to visit a school friend at uni there. It is a wonderful gin but a shocking website, don’t try and read it, you will bang your head on the desk.
Guaglia Took me a while to find this one as there aren’t many gins that begin with Q, unsurprisingly. So at the time of writing I hadn’t tried it but it smells of citrus so I have high hopes for this being a great one to drink over the summer. And not a bad price at £22 for a bottle of gin.
Rock Rose This is another one I have written about before, their spring edition. I have sampled a few of their others and all of them are superb, with gorgeous styling too.
Sibling I adore the back story to this. Siblings deciding that if you want a job done, do it yourself. They make everything at the distillery include their base grain spirit (most distilleries buy their own or if you are making your own gin at home with your own recipe of botanicals you can use vodka). You can really taste the blueberries in this, and it is wonderful with a slice of orange rather than lemon.
Twisted Nose This is another one from Winchester Distillery, but it has the addition of locally grown watercress. The Romans knew watercress as Nasturtium, meaning ‘twisted nose’, hence the name. There’s a crispness to this gin that I really like.
Ungava I first tried this when we spent the weekend in Margate and found a bar with over 100 gins. I was intrigued as it has a yellow tinge to it which I hadn’t seen before. Then lo and behold I got a bottle for Christmas (I am very spoiled) Canadian it contains botanicals I haven’t come across in any other gin, such as cloudberry, Labrador Tea and Nordic juniper. It’s warm on the mouth, though that might be because it came in a little fleecy jacket.
Von Hallers A friend and I got through half a bottle of this the last time she came over. It iv very drinkable. The botanicals include German ginger which is then sent to Ireland for distilling. I suspect this will be lovely warmed with ginger ale in the winter.
Wint & Lila The still used for this gin was made in 1820 so this one has history and each botanical is macerated individually in 16 litre glass demijohns for 6-8 weeks so the process of making this gin takes much longer than for many others. Made in Spain it has lots of citrus notes that helps you imagine you are drinking it in Andalucia.
Xolato This gin has not only 15 botanicals, but chocolate in it. Alcohol and chocolate. The dream combination, right? Apparently it’s also an aphrodisiac. I can’t comment on that as I haven’t got around to tasting this one either.
Young Tom This is super sweet gin with hints of fennel. Made by Eccentric Gins who are based in the cellars of an 18th century building which has stood in Llantrisant for over 200 years. The gin is distilled with a natural spring that runs within the stone walls of the wash room. A really unusual bottle with just dog tags on the front, no label. It’s an unsual one.
Zing 72 The distillers use winter wheat and ingredients from Provence including fresh local herbs, spices and botanicals to create an aromatic gin full of character and flavour. The gin is distilled in small copper alembics which is where the striking bottle design takes its inspiration from. The name reflects the maceration of the botanicals which last 72 hours.
So there you have it. A complete A to Z of gins.
Might have to start collecting gins from different countries next. Anybody know if Azerbaijan or Zambia make gin?