Gin

Friday Favourites – Indie and craft London Dry Gins

Doing a quick poll around the office, we found that the most popular summer alcoholic refreshment here is the classic ice cold and zest gin and tonic. An ideal accompaniment to sitting out on the terrace on a warm and balmy evening. This week at The Amazing Blog we would like to share with you three of our exception #amazingfinds all centred around international indie and craft London Dry Gin brands. The first thing to note is that a London Dry Gin doesn’t have to be made in England. Instead, London Dry (also known as London Gin) refers to that which is made under a series of mind-bogglingly complex EU regulations that were put in place in February 2008. (definition quoted from Ginfoundry.com  )

Something else that you might not know, is that although gin has become somewhat of a British staple, its origins are actually from 17th century Holland, where it was originally used for medicinal purposes. During this period, British soldiers fought alongside the Dutch in the Thirty Year’s War, where they would imbibe in a glass or three of gin before battle, to help them acquire ‘Dutch courage’ - a popular phrase that stills carries through today.

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We’re going to start by going ‘down under’ to the wine region of the Yara Valley, with the Australian brand Four Pillars and their collaboration with Swedish brand Hernö creating their Dry Island Gin . This all started in October 2017 when Swedish Hernö ‘s founder Jon Hilgren visited founder Cam Mackenzie at his Four Pillars distillery. Hernö came to market first in 2012, exactly one year before Four Pillars, and by 2014, they were both appearing on global lists of the ‘new gins to watch’.  The collaboration began by both of them tasting each other’s range of gins, gaining inspiration and then together creating this rather special 42.8% vol Dry Island Gin.

This Aussie x Swedish collaboration includes particular botanicals given to native Australia such as river mint, roasted wattle seed, strawberry gum, lemon myrtle, and meadowsweet. Although the base is made up European juniper (of course), coriander and fresh lemons. This international gin fusion is definitely one not to be missed.  We think best enjoyed as a dry martini with a lemon twist and a sprig of thyme to bring out all these beautiful citrus notes and a lovely floral cut-grass character.  Or as per their suggestion as a Dry (Island) Martini which consists of 60ml Dry Island Gin, 20ml Cocchi Americano (a quinine-laced aperitif wine) and a dash Angostura Orange Bitters. Stir the ingredients over plenty of ice until appropriately diluted (about 15 seconds of stirring). Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel, twisted to express the oils. Delicious! But be warned as we found that this cocktail really packed a potent punch!  You can purchase the 70cl of Dry Island Gin for £37.75 here .

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Next, we go to the emerald isle, for an Irish craft gin, Dublin City Gin.  Launched in 2016 by the couple Jim O'Connor and Sheila Cooney, two gin enthusiast who came up with the idea that Dublin needed a hometown gin, hence Dublin City Gin was born. Their efforts have certainly paid off with awards such as Gold ‘Super Premium’ at Global & World Gin Masters and a Gold medal as the overall Best European Craft Gin 2018 at ICSEA in Netherlands – great accolades for such a new contender.

What we love about this gin, is that it is Irish to the core, with their Irish milk spirit as the base, which helps to give it their smooth and silky finish, and the organic rhubarb grown along the Grand Canal in Dublin.  All loving prepared by hand in small batches of 600 with only a total of seven different botanicals. As they say this is their “Irish gin with a Dublin accent” In summary, they suggest pouring their gin over ice, with tonic “…all with a soft citrus ruby-red grapefruit, orange or slice of fresh ginger to make it sing!”  So popular is Dublin City Gin, that the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin has even created three signature cocktails exclusive to them. Given the botanicals we decided to try this gin in a Negroni, 30ml Dublin City Gin, 30ml Campari and 30ml Vermouth Rosso. Add all ingredients together, shake well with cracked ice, strain into glass over cubed ice and garnish with a twist of orange peel. Very moreish, so much so we all just had to have another! To buy your 70cl bottle of 42 % volume Dublin City Gin for £37.95, see here .

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Back to the UK with Fatty’s Organic Gin , this is amongst only a handful of certified organic gins that are now available here in the UK. The brain child of former sports agent Phillipa ‘Fatty’ Gee, who self-funded her start-up: “I knew if I was struggling to find a certified organic gin that was uncompromising on taste, others would to.” Cleverly she saw a gap in the market and took her inspiration for her key ingredient from her native Dulwich, which means ‘meadow where dill grows.’  Organic Soil Association approved, they also believe in Fair Trade Produce for sourcing all their 100% organic ingredients. Even their bottles are sprayed with organic ink and screen printed at low temperatures in order to be kinder to the environment. It is also an award-winning gin, achieving a Gold at the Global Gin Masters 2018, and the only organic gin to achieve this.

 

Apart from the dill it also has the finest organic grain and botanicals all carefully selected from around the world. A combination that creates a full flavour and a crisp refreshing finish and noted for its herbaceousness with the dill and citrus. We found it to be the lightest of all three featured London Dry Gins on the palate. We also think that it lends itself perfectly to slightly more subtle flavoured cocktail. So, we tried their recommended Cucumber & Dill Gin Mojito: 50ml of Fatty’s Organic Gin, four lime wedges, two slices of cucumber, two springs of fresh dill and one teaspoons of sugar.  Add the Fatty’s Gin, sugar, dill and lime wedges in to glass and muddle. Dice one slice of cucumber, half fill the glass with crushed ice and diced cucumber. Stir well and top up with soda. It was bottoms up all round and we’re ashamed to say that it didn’t touch the sides! Get your 40% Volume 70cl bottle of Fatty’s Organic Gin for £45 here .

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Finally, we’d like to round off by introducing you to The Gin Dictionary. This 256 page A-Z compendium of gins is an indispensable guide for all gin drinkers. With more than 200 of entries covering everything from history, ingredients and distilling techniques to flavour notes, cocktails and the many popular varieties of gin from all around the world. All researched and penned by the award-wining gin expert David T Smith. Covering the explanation of ABV to the history and instruction of making a Zanzibar cocktail; we found it comprehensive without being overdone or pedantic. Published by Octopus books and available for £15 here .

With the current ‘gin revolution’ sweeping the world, there has never been a better time to explore craft gins and their new botanicals. We hope that these featured three London Dry Gins will give inspiration be a great starting point for you. Bottoms up!

Friday Favourites: Festive Gins

The second weekend of December is here, and we think that justifies a festive tipple or two. As gin lovers at The Amazing Blog, we were thrilled to come across six new spirits - we're certainly never averse to a spot of gin tasting in the name of research! Whether you're a connoisseur or not, we're sure that you'll find a suitable botanical to mix with your favourite tonic, add to a signature cocktail or gift to a gin lover in your life.

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Firstly, we discovered Conker, based in Bournemouth and known as Dorset's first gin distillery. They pride themselves on being free from traditional constraints, instead, evolving their Dorset Dry with meticulous testing and tweaking; producing a gin that has a strong focus on quality, rather than industry expectation. We don't mind admitting that we were dubious as to whether this approach would produce a suitable outcome, but in fact, the delicious taste of this gin speaks for itself, proving this assumption very wrong. Whether distilled traditionally or not, we are suitably impressed.

Despite their no-fuss approach, Dorset Dry is still a classic dry gin. The fresh taste is thanks to the use of ten unique botanicals, including Dorset elderberries and samphire, as well as handpicked New Forest gorse flowers. We were pleased to see the use of local ingredients, including British wheat spirit and New Forest Spring Water, both adding subtle and different flavours. We particularly enjoyed the light and refreshing taste, still smooth enough to be consumed neatly over ice, or equally enjoyable when mixed with a good quality tonic. We also found it works well with a dash of ginger ale, for a spicy and fresh tipple. Purchase Conker's Dorset Dry here starting from £21.50 (350ml).

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If you're a traditionalist at heart, then Hayman’s may be the gin brand for you. Producing gin since 1863, Hayman’s have a wealth of knowledge, passed down between generations. This has unearthed a brand that is committed to championing traditional methods, and through priding themselves on creating truly English Gins, Hayman’s have produced a collection of delicious spirits, that certainly stand out amongst the crowded gin market.

For us, sloe gin optimises December and Christmas, the ideal tipple for an evening spent by the fire (or perhaps Father Christmas’ spirit of choice). We tried Hayman's Sloe Gin, a handcrafted spirit that is distilled using a fifth-generation family recipe. Thanks to the use of English wild-forage berries, this gin has a plummy aroma and fruity taste, particularly popular among those of us with a taste for almond. Made from harvested English sloe berries and Hayman's English Gin, the ingredients are steeped for four months, giving a broad and bursting flavour. Due to the lower alcohol content of 26% ABV, this gin is delicious when consumed on its own, or when mixed with prosecco, for a party worthy Sloe Royale. We must also mention the packaging, launched nationwide in Marks & Spencer; the bottles are wrapped in limited edition paper, perfect as a gift for gin lovers, or merely to add a bit of festive cheer to your spirit cabinet. To purchase your own Sloe Gin for £26.00, head into a local Marks & Spencer store or visit the Haymans website here.

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Despite the name 'London Dry Gin', it is not only manufactured in the UK. Strane introduced us to their Swedish offerings, made at Smögen Whisky, a small craft distillery on the Swedish west coast. As a whisky company, we found it interesting that Strane have applied their whisky process to gin making, focusing heavily on the blending process. Launched in 2014, Strane's blending process is designed to ensure that each gin has a distinctively different outcome, with different proportions of botanicals added to each of the three offerings. What impressed us, is the quality control of this small batch company, trialling and testing on a constant basis to re-balance the final product.

We tried two of Strane's gins: Strane Merchant Strength 47.4% ABV and Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% ABV. Both are handcrafted in small batches of around 45 litres and are mixed by master blender, Pär Caldenby, who ensures each of the three gins is mixed precisely. Merchant Strength has an intense depth of character thanks to the use of juniper, coriander and mint. Strane also include two secret botanicals, one local, and the other, typical of the ancient trade of the armed merchant ships. Although we can't spill the names of these ingredients, we certainly enjoyed the gin with a good quality tonic and a classic lemon garnish. Strane's Ultra Uncut gin is an explosion of strength, yet is still a delicious gin to be consumed with a good quality tonic. Thanks to the use of cinnamon, sweet almond and sage, this gin has a botanically strong taste, which is rich in juniper, and heavily citrusy with notes of lemon peel and garden mint. Try it for yourself here for £33, or if you're feeling less adventurous, try Strane's Merchant Strength for £39.83 here.

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Finally, thanks to Esker Spirits, we were transported to Scotland and introduced to two final additions to our (ever-growing) gin cabinet. With a desire to create premium spirits, Esker's first distillery was housed in a humble back garden shed, which has now impressively evolved into a distillery on the Kincardine Estate. As a family-owned distillery, ingredients are sourced from the local area of Royal Deeside, and it is the silver birch sap, in particular, that is characteristic of their unique spirits. Thanks to this ingredient, Esker Spirits have a classic yet distinct flavour, distilled traditionally in a copper pot still, creating delicious gins that we couldn't wait to try.

Firstly, we tried Esker's Traditional Gin, with citrusy notes, thanks to the use of orange peel. This is a refreshing gin, with floral undertones that are characteristic of rosehip and heather flowers. We found this gin is best mixed with a good quality tonic (we liked it with elderflower tonic especially) and the citrus flavour really pops when served with a small amount of orange peel. It is also delicious when added to prosecco, add a cordial of your choice, and wow your party guests with a delectable (yet simple) cocktail. Equally, if you're looking for a spicier alternative, then Esker's Honey Spiced Gin is the answer. Thanks to the use of pink peppercorn and cassia, this gin has a warming kick, enough to warm the cockles after a long week at work. Although this can be served with traditional tonic, we enjoyed it immensely when served with ginger ale and orange peel, the ultimate long drink to accompany an evening of present wrapping. Purchase Esker's Traditional Gin for £36 here, or Honey Spiced Gin for £35.30 here.

How's that for some gin cabinet inspiration? Whether you're searching for a gift, a companion for your festive cocktail recipes, or even a spirit to put hairs on your chest - we're sure one of these gins will be your answer. Enjoy!

The Lakes Distillery Gin

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In recent years, the gin market has boomed, emerging a plethora of different tipples that we certainly enjoy exploring at The Amazing Blog. Recently, we were introduced to The Lakes Distillery's offerings, and I suppose you could say that our Friday afternoons have become much more interesting in the name of research!

From Cumbria myself, I was thrilled to introduce The Lakes Distillery to my colleagues. The company is based near Keswick, in the heart of the North Lakes, where co-founder Paul Currie and his team operate their distillery. The team compromises of multiple industry experts; production is overseen by whisky expert Alan Rutherford and distilling by Scottish expert Chris Anderson. You can therefore be safe in the knowledge that the Lakes Distillery's spirits are produced to the highest standard. Equally, the distillery is environmentally conscious - only fuel from sustainable sources is used, and barley waste from their whisky production is fed to local cattle. The considerations even go as far as to bear in mind the transport routes, choosing to refurbish an old barn on the main bus route to and from Keswick, encouraging staff and visitors alike to minimise the use of cars.

We tried The Lakes Gin, part of the Lakes Distillery’s core range, including 'The One Whisky' and 'The Lakes Vodka'. This gin is a special one; it is the only gin with true Cumbria provenance, made from local Cumbrian juniper, as well as a multitude of other specially selected botanicals, such as bilberry, heather and hawthorn. These are steeped overnight in both wheat spirit and Cumbrian water (sourced from the River Derwent), creating a truly Cumbrian outcome. Once steeped, the gin is distilled for up to 8 hours in a traditional and handmade copper pot, creating a smooth and refreshing taste. We found this gin pleasantly fruity in taste, with a citrusy zing that makes this tipple particularly fresh. The packaging is also sleek and elegant, the perfect addition to any spirit cabinet. I like to chill this gin and drink it neatly over ice. However, if you're feeling less adventurous, then it is equally delicious when mixed with a good quality tonic, and garnished with pink grapefruit.

We were also fortunate to try The Lakes Rhubarb and Rosehip Gin Liqueur, a liqueur with a fruity and floral taste that is delicious when mixed with apple presse. It can also be mixed with prosecco, for a sophisticated twist. As with the traditional The Lakes Gin, this liqueur is made with Cumbrian juniper and 13 other native Lake District National Park botanicals. We're sure this is one of the reasons that this gin was a Silver award winner in The Global Travel Retail Spirits awards this year. We must also point out the pretty packaging of this product, characteristically pink in colour; it is both enticing and aesthetically pleasing. This liqueur could easily be added to a vast array of cocktails or is particularly refreshing when mixed with ginger ale.

If you would like to try these Cumbrian delights for yourself, then you can purchase The Lakes Gin here or the Rhubarb and Rosehip Gin Liqueur here, both for £15.00 (20cl). They are great as a present for Christmas (if we're allowed to mention that yet) or simply to treat yourself as the cold weather creeps in!

Botanicals for Cocktails

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With the explosion of microbreweries and distilleries forging their way ahead in the production of uniquely artisan beverage options, we began to wonder just how feasible it would be to create our own bottle of mellow magic. This sent all of us at The Amazing Blog into a tailspin at the water cooler, as we all came up with appropriate cocktails. How about The Amazing Daiquiri or even The Amazing White Russian perhaps …?

Once the germination of an idea starts, of course, there’s always someone who takes it to the next level - and we may well have found the perfect solution to what has become a challenge for everyone in the office. Originally created by The Old Hamlet Wine & Spice Co. the Botanicals For Cocktails range gives us three options for turning a run of the mill bottle of gin or vodka into something far more interesting. - It has been quite the conversation piece for the Christmas shindig at The Amazing Blog Towers … if we are permitted to mention the festivities yet?

All of the required ingredients are handily packaged in signature calico pouches, so you need only to add a bottle of your spirit of choice. The Orange Gin sounds quite a straight forward affair, but actually once you start mixing those spices, it is quite clear just how many different flavours are there to tempt us. Let us warn you, the aroma can be quite intoxicating, especially in a cramped kitchenette, so make sure there is plenty of ventilation. As with all the best things in life, a little bit of patience is required in the production process here, and so we have to wait at least 8 weeks until we can properly taste the fruits of our labours - but for the REAL magic to happen, we have to ideally wait 2 years.

However, the first signs are good, and are as enticing as the offerings we might get from a bar’s cocktail list. The Gingerbread Vodka is a heady mix and planned for consumption at the above festive party in a couple of month’s time, with the Gin version being kept as a possible tasting option. In fact, there is a wide and comprehensive range available primarily through the Steenburgs website, an organic spice merchants based in Yorkshire, who bought The Old Hamlet Wine & Spice Co in 2017. These pouches of perfection can additionally be sourced with a price of around £3.80 for a single bag - trust us, it’s well worth the effort!

Devon Distillery - Gin and Dappa

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When the chance of a trip to Devon is on the cards, we at The Amazing Blog never need to be asked twice … our bags are packed and our walking boots are in place to explore the not so little piece of heaven we have here on the South Coast. When such a trip is centred around the world of Gin and Dappa, then we are there in a heartbeat.

Yes, you did read that correctly - Gin and Dappa, which like the inspiredly named Devoncello, sit proudly as the creations of The Devon Distillery, the first and only micro-distillery based here on our very own English Riviera. How refreshing to discover a company which extols the virtues of their British heritage, and celebrates the grapes grown from our own soil, in vineyards such as Sharpham, Bolney and Three Choirs? Although the original tipples may be from the Veneto area of Italy - notably Grappa and Lemoncello, our friends at The Devon Distillery have created something uniquely British and are offering their wares up as a new take on the after-dinner drink or cocktail. They also slipped us a limited edition Sloe Gin to try, which at this time of year certainly helps to ‘warm the cockles of one’s heart’.

Perhaps the only part which isn’t British made is the original and handcrafted Italian copper pot still which is placed firmly at the centre of this industrious team. At a time when we Brits are getting a bit of a bashing (which we can take btw) on many fronts, The Amazing Blog reckons a bit of unashamed boasting about a real success story for our country is certainly in order.

Cosmo Caddy founded the company in December 2012, and their first vintage of Dappa was completed the following October, and as with any venture of this kind, a huge amount of development and research has gone down in bringing each product to the marketplace. They should all be justly proud as punch in fact, for taking what is essentially a waste product of the winemaking process and turning it into something rather glorious for us all to enjoy. They also have a Devon Gin School Session that peaked our interest! Here you can make your own delectable concoctions they have 2 Sessions Per Day 7 Days a Week. All Sessions Start at 11am & 3pm, 4 Still Slots for up to 2 people per still per session. From £65 a session we think that this is the perfect gift for all aspiring distillers.

The Dappa is a particular favourite, and fits so effortlessly into the range, being offered up to us at various food festivals. You can, of course, find it through the Devon Distillery website here, where various sizes and gift sets are available. These range in price from £6.50 to £40, for which you're guaranteed something truly special.