It is an exciting time for gin lovers as more and more distilleries open in the United Kingdom (233 according to HM Revenue and Customs at the end of 2015). With so many, how do you discover the gin for you?
A visit to a gin festival is a must and luckily there are many planned across the UK. Jenni and I headed for Gloucester on one of the hottest days of the year on a journey of discovery. Something refreshing was our goal.
Gin is created from distilled spirit. In the very early days sweeteners were added to mask the poor quality spirit. In 1823 the Coffley Still was invented and non-sweetened gins began to be made heavily flavoured with juniper, some citrus and earthy flavours. At that time most gins were made in London hence London Dry gin – think of a classic Beefeater or Tanqueray gin.
Today brands will create their signature flavours with a selection of botanicals. This terms covers a myriad of flavours including herbs, spices and fruits.
Winston Churchill: The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives than all the doctors in the empire
They could include those gathered at the seaside as in Edinburgh Gin’s Seaside Gin (including seaweed, scurvy grass and ground elder; a complex mix of 34 as in Capreolus Garden Tiger gin or just 6 botanicals as in Six o clock gin. Juniper is always present.
Sampling the gins
Organised by the aptly named Gin Festivals, our entrance fee includes a tasting glass (which you keep) and two tokens. Further tokens can be purchased. Tokens are spent at one of the bars or in the cocktail lounge.
We headed for the Brands area. I was keen to try 6 O’clock’s Sloe Gin to compare it with my own winning gin. It was good but dare I say mine has the edge? The 1616 barrel aged gin with its whisky flavours from the Cotswold Distillery was very drinkable.
Now to the Gin Explorer Book a guide to the gins on offer. We are spoilt for choice. We could spend our tokens on an astonishing 300 gins!. Completely subjectively we choose ones that intrigued us and were new to us and attracted to us on a hot day. Fevertree tonic was on hand with the guide helpfully suggesting which type of tonic enhanced a particular gin.
Severn Bites Top 3 Gins
Presenting the 3 gins that really wowed us – it was a difficult choice!
Le Gin Christian Drouin – Coudray-Rabut, France
Incorporating 30 different apple varieties and 8 botanicals this gin is based on a distillate of apple cider. “Rose and lemon provide delicacy. Ginger, vanilla, cinnamon and almond give the Gin a smooth, spicy body while cardamom enhances its fruit and roundness in the mouth. Juniper and apple complement one another with their heavy or high notes, spicy or crisp”. Think calvados flavours. Amazing.
Zymurgorium English Hedge Rose Manchester Gin Liqueur
(exclusive to the Gin Festival)
Rose flavour is tricky, it can be overpowering and artificial. Not so with this gin, there’s a beautiful freshness that comes from real rose petals. With ice, a perfect summer drink.
This crowdfunded gin is just 3 months old. One of the first we tasted, we were completely bowled over and it lingered with us throughout the afternoon. Light and flavoursome, Tinker’s gin is made in the Spanish way with plenty of citrus. “It’s a move away from traditional gins with their dry, pine-like flavours and a shift towards spirits with more varied flavours: fruits and flowers, herbs and spices. Overall, it is a softer, more rounded style”.
Three more gins to try
And if you need more inspiration do try:
- Trevethan Cornish Gin – particularly when served with a sprig of rosemary and orange.
- One Square Gin – made by Pickerings for the Sheraton Hotel Edinburgh which has liqourice and orris root in the botanicals
- Edinburgh Raspberry Gin Liqueur – a favourite with prosecco.
Find out more
Buy gins mentioned from the Gin Festival Shop
Find out about the next Gin Festival. There may be one near you!
Charles Dickens describes gin shops in 1831
Danielle and Jenni attended the festival by invitation.