Launched in 2010, before the current gin craze took hold of the country, Fifty Pounds is said to be made to a centuries-old recipe dating back to the times of the first gin craze. The original recipe became known, ironically, as Fifty Pounds Gin in reference to the Gin Act of 1736 which imposed an annual levy of £50 on anyone wishing to produce and sell gin. The cost should have crippled producers but only two license applications were ever received and the gin craze, and the attempt to curb it, continued unabated for many more years!
In 2010, John Savage-Onstwedder became one of the first UK recipients of a 350-litre still license, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the Dà Mhìle organic farmhouse distillery was opened in Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Having endured months, if not years, of building works and bureaucracy, success came to the distillery quickly as their first product, the organic Orange 33 liqueur, won a True Taste Award for its very first test batch!
A brief glance at Mary Rose Gin, from HMS Spirits, conveys a sense of voyage and expedition. But it goes beyond the compass emblazoned on the back of the bottle, the sailing ships and the instruction to “Chart Your Own Course”. HMS Spirits began with one chap from the South Coast, Ben Maguire, who had a passion for travelling and also a love of gin (born of a desire to lose weight without compromising his social life!). Having been enticed by the art of distilling, Ben bought a 35 litre copper still on a trip to Hungary (as you do!) but it took four years of experimentation in his garage before he settled upon a recipe he felt would “respect the art of the London Dry whilst adding a new modern twist”. There was then a further year of researching bottles, labels and stoppers and building a brand that reflected his love of the sea, travel and enterprise.
When I first came across Turncoat Gin, and met its founder – Terry Langton – at the small and intimate Catford Gin Festival earlier this year, I was intrigued. At first its seemingly simple bottle didn’t particularly leap out at me, but it did grab the attention of my somewhat geeky husband. And the more I chatted to Terry, learnt about, and tasted, Turncoat Gin, the more it grabbed me too. From the backstory, to the brand, to the bottle, this gin is different.
Boozy advent calendars have to be the best addition to the Christmas festivities since a stuffed stocking first appeared at the foot of your bed! And, better still, 2017 has seen the line-up grow larger than ever. From rum and bourbon to absinthe and mezcal, there is something for every spirit lover. There’s even a Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Advent Calendar with each of the twenty-four daily drams of vodka increasing in heat from 10,000 to 240,000 scovilles! But one of the newest additions to the market, and almost certainly the most beautiful, is That Boutique-y Gin Company‘s first ever Advent Calendar.
When so many new gins are launching every month in the UK and further afield, how do we bloggers and enthusiasts keep up? I like to keep a close eye on Instagram and Twitter where I share my finds with a #newginalert, while gin festivals are also a great way to not only hear about new releases but taste them too. I can still walk into a bar or pub and spot a gin that I’ve yet to try, but it’s pretty rare that I’ll never even have heard of it before. But that was how I first came across Inshriach Gin, and that was just the beginning of this serendipitous story.
In a recent interview with The Gin Guide I was asked what my top tip was for people just starting to discover gin. My answer? Get yourself to a gin festival; quite probably the most fun and relaxing way to learn about gin and discover what you like, love and occasionally even loathe! There are, thankfully, plenty of festivals taking place up and down the country nowadays, and each one tends to have a slightly different set-up, but one of the newest and most exciting has got to be The Catford Gin Festival in south east London.
There is something of the perfectionist apparent in the packaging of the 6 O’Clock Gin range, with its clean lines and bold yet intricate cog pattern. And little wonder really. 6 O’Clock gin was inspired by the engineer Edward Kain, great-grandfather of the founder, Michael. Mr Kain sr was clearly a man with a fine eye for detail – as well as a great fondness for gin – he once said that any intricate blueprint demands and deserves balance, poise and precision; the mantra by which 6 O’Clock Gin is still created.
With many gins come many gin awards. And even more medals. For even the most prestigious competitions have a tendency to award a multitude of medals. Consequently the value of such achievements is being diluted; forget bronze – even silver and gold medals make few ripples. And, perhaps more tellingly, most gin-lovers say they do not consider award stickers of being indicative of a gin’s quality either. A Double Gold (such as Pothecary was awarded at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition) certainly stands out within the industry at least, as does Hernö‘s recognition as “Europe’s most awarded gin”, but it takes something really special to catch the attention of the press and public alike. Something like Napue Gin‘s well-deserved title as “The World’s Best Gin for Gin and Tonic”.