Now, more than ever, people like to know the provenance of the food and drink they consume and you can’t argue with the provenance of Six O’Clock Gin. Six O’Clock Gin is produced by Bramley & Gage, a family-run business still going from strength to strength after 28 years. Now a working distillery based outside Bristol, Bramley & Gage was cultivated on a fruit farm in South Devon in the mid-1980s. The farm itself wasn’t doing particularly well so founders, Edward Bramley Kain and Penelope Gage, started experimenting with surplus fruit to make strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant liqueurs using a traditional french maceration method. The liqueurs were a great success and it wasn’t long before a sloe gin was added to the range.
After 10 years Edward and Penelope took the decision to sell the fruit farm and focus on liqueur production, moving into a dedicated building with a small bottling line and larger-scale facilities. They continued to ensure they only used the best quality fruits, buying them as locally as possible and only in their optimum condition. Over the years, their liqueurs picked up a number of awards from prestigious food and drink competitions, including Taste of the West, the Great Taste Awards, the Quality Drinks Awards and the International Wine and Spirits Competition.
In 2006 Edward and Penelope found themselves nearing retirement and considering selling the business. However, they tempted their son, Michael, into taking a year’s sabbatical to learn the art of liqueur-making and Michael never looked back, buying the family business with his sister, Felicity, in 2007. Michael and Felicity moved the business from Devon to Thornbury near Bristol but retained the essence and quality that their parents had always insisted upon. Indeed, to this day, Edward still works at the distillery a couple of days a week, as his palate is considered essential to Bramley & Gage’s quality control!
It was in 2013 that Bramley & Gage decided to add a premium gin to their product line. They raised £25k in just three weeks via peer-to-peer lending to commission a custom-built copper still with a unique double sphere head, more familiarly known as Kathleen. This wasn’t the great departure from the family business line it might appear to be. Not only had Bramley & Gage already been producing a sloe gin for years but Michael’s great-grandfather Edward Kain, an engineer and merchant seaman, had also been rather partial to a medicinal G&T. In fact it was Edward’s tradition of taking his G&T at 6 O’Clock that inspired the name of Bramley & Gage’s new line.
The 6 O’Clock range now includes the original gin as well as a Damson Gin, a Sloe Gin and a 6 O’Clock Tonic. The original 6 O’Clock Gin is presented in a striking blue bottle while the damson and sloe gins are packaged in clear bottles allowing the stunning claret colour of the gins to catch the eye. Across the range, the bottle is dominated by the large 6 numeral with its cog pattern referencing the intricate blueprints in which Edward Kain documented his mechanical works of art.
Edward Kain once said that any intricate blueprint demands and deserves balance, poise and precision, and now 6 O’Clock Gin is also created according to that mantra. This London dry gin is made using a relatively modest seven botanicals; juniper, winter savory, angelica, orris root, coriander seed, elderflower and orange peel. On the nose, juniper and citrus dominate. On the palate 6 O’Clock Gin is clearly juniper-led but is underwritten by a spicy pepperiness, with sweet notes from the elderflower and hints of citrus. It is also, as the bottle rightly claims, “Strikingly Smooth”. Or, as the literature boasts, “smoother than velvet slippers on a polished marble floor”! It is also incredibly clean; testament to the fact that only the pure heart of each distillation makes the cut.
6 O’Clock Indian Tonic Water has been designed to best complement 6 O’Clock Gin using high quality natural quinine with extracts of lemon and lime. 6 O’Clock Tonic is all natural without artificial sweetener, preservative or flavouring, and is also free from sodium benzoate and saccharin, commonly found in mass-produced tonic waters. It definitely stands out as something different to taste. It is incredibly clean with low carbonation and a dominant, but gentle, lemon flavour; there is none of the bitterness or strong aftertaste that one sometimes finds in the more generic tonic waters. Combined with its namesake gin, it makes one hell of a classic G&T; clean and smooth and moreish.
The damson and sloe gins are hand-made in the traditional way, in small batches, using hand-picked fruit. The intense flavour, and colour, is achieved by using a high fruit-to-gin ratio and allowing the gin to mature slowly for a minimum of six months. Both gins have a sweet, fruit aroma. On the palate both are intensely fruity but neither are sweet or syrupy to taste, as homemade versions can be. In fact, they are rather dry and slightly spicy. The damson is probably the sharper of the two with a slight peppery heat to it whereas the sloe gin has a lovely almond/marzipan flavour on the finish.
For a perfect 6 O’Clock G&T fill a copa glass with plenty of ice, a measure of 6 O’Clock Gin and two to three times as much fresh 6 O’Clock Tonic and a twist of lemon peel. If you’re more of a cocktail fan you could pair 6 O’Clock Gin with Bramley & Gage’s new Dry or Sweet Vermouth for a super smooth Martini or Negroni.
I really enjoyed both fruit gins neat but Bramley & Gage also have a few alternative serving suggestions for these. For a modern take on a mojito you could try the Sloe-jito made with 60ml of sloe gin, crushed ice, basil leaves and lemon and topped with sparkling water. Or try a refreshing Damson Mule using 50ml of damson gin, the juice of half a lime and topped with a fiery ginger ale. For an added kick Bramley & Gage suggest steeping red chillis in sugar syrup and adding a shot of that!
Just never again ask what time Gin O’Clock is; it’s always 6 O’Clock!
The entire 6 O’Clock range is available for purchase from Bramley & Gage. 6 O’Clock Gin retails at £30 (for 70cl), both Sloe and Damson Gins retail at £28 (for 70cl) and a four pack of 6 O’Clock Tonic retails at £4.
With thanks to Bramley & Gage for sending me 6 O’Clock Gin and Tonic Water to review.