I’ll be spending it drinking Tanqueray on a roof terrace in Yorkshire. Bliss.
The event, held in a trendy old warehouse in East London, was perfectly organised. From the moment I walked in, and was asked if I’d eaten lunch (drink responsibly, kids), to the tiny card I was given, which was hole-punched to signify how many gins I’d sampled, every detail was perfect.
Fifteen different makers were on hand, sampling 46 different gins. If there’s one way to get over a hangover, it’s a hair of the dog, right? Well no, actually. Turns out it’s a fistful of fur, which roughly translates to five gin samples and 5 gin and tonics. Who knew?
I started off with Langley’s No.8, a delicious hand-crafted gin, made with 8 botanicals in an English-produced pot still. Slightly stronger than your average ‘high-street’ gin (Gordon’s, Bombay, etc.) at 41.7% ABV, this English grain spirit was surprisingly smooth, and tastes great when served with Fever Tree or Fentiman’s Tonic over ice with a wedge of grapefruit and a basil leaf, according to Langley’s Brand Manager Nik Koster.
Find out more about Langley’s No.8 here.
Next up was Adnams. Well known for their beer and cider, but less so for their gin. They were sampling two types; Adnams Copper House Distilled Gin, and Adnams Copper House Distillery First Rate Finest Cut Gin.
At 48% ABV, the First Rate Finest Cut Gin was powerful and smooth with sweet notes. The Copper House Distilled Gin (40% ABV), made with six different botanicals, including hibiscus flower which really adds another dimension to the flavours of the gin. Recently awarded Gold Outstanding Winner at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2013, it really is worth a try.
Find out more here.
My third discovery was Bathtub Gin (43.3% ABV), produced by Professor Cornelius Ampleforth. It was the only gin at Junipalooza which is infused, not distilled. It’s been around for about two and a half years now, but is still produced in super small batches of no more than 60 bottles at a time. Cinnamon, clove and cardamom give this a really earthy, perfumed flavour and scent, but the overall consistency is smooth and almost creamy. A really lovely gin on its own, or with tonic (in this case, we tried it with Fever Tree).
Fun fact: each bottle takes four and a half minutes to wrap, print, entwine and wax.
Next up (and feeling slightly giddy by this point), I tried Elephant Gin. As a brand with a cause, I’d already heard a lot about Elephant Gin, and was keen to see if the taste lived up to the company ethos.
For those who don’t know, Elephant Gin donates 15% of all profits to elephant conservation trusts in Africa.
Made with 14 botanicals, including the more exotic Lion’s Tail, African Wormwood and Devil’s Claw, Elephant Gin is floral, fruity and spicy, and is best served with a wedge of apple. I found it had an almost menthol-y taste when it first hit my tongue, which was quickly replaced by the spice and fruit flavours. It’s a fresh, strong (45% ABV), but not overpowering taste, and is perfect if you fancy something a little different.
My final gin of the day was Tarquin’s Handcrafted Cornish Gin (42% ABV), made by the Southwestern Distillery. After tasting this in a hotel in Bath last summer, I was super excited to meet Tarquin himself.
It’s a fragrant, dry and zesty gin which tastes fantastic with Fever Tree. It’s warming without being harsh, and has a lovely lasting after-taste. Made by hand, every single bottle (no more than 300 per batch) is subject to testing by nose and taste, and is then hand filled, signed, corked, sealed and inspected. My current favourite.
I came away with a fantastic selection of miniatures (reviews to follow) and a spring in my step. Here’s to next year!
On a recent trip to Cambridge I popped into the Bridge Street branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants in the hope of finding some Cambridge Gin. The Cambridge Distillery, while only small, does supply to the bar of The Varsity Hotel in Cambridge, where I first learned about it. I’m on a mission to find a bottle, but more on that soon.
While the Cambridge Wine Merchants didn’t have any Cambridge Gin, they did have a spectacular array of other brands. In fact, the best part of a floor to ceiling wall was stocked with varieties of gin from all over the world.
Each bottle featured tasting notes, serving suggestions and recommendations from the staff. I’m planning to work my way through them all.
This week I headed along to the Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium, a pop-up bar above the wonderful Callooh Callay in Shoreditch, that serves fantastic cocktails by the UK and Ireland’s Most Innovative Bartender 2014 – Rich Woods.
On a balmy, sunny evening, part of me wanted to sit in a beer garden, by a river, or on whatever patch of grass I could find and bask in the sun’s rays for the remaining hours of the day, but instead I made the wise decision to head inside Callooh Callay, through their famous wardrobe door, and up some stairs to reach the beautifully decorated Imaginarium.
Photo courtesy of @themrwyatt
We were the first customers at the week-long pop-up, and were welcomed by Sean Ware, Bombay Sapphire UK Brand Ambassador, with open arms and humongous gin and tonics; the perfect reception. 50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fever Tree tonic, a wedge of lime, and bucket loads of ice poured into these goblets; The Ultimate Gin & Tonic.
The cocktails on offer were varied and, at just a fiver a go, hard to refuse! We had four between us: the Blue Cheese & Chocolate Martini, the Oops-a-Daisy, the Essence of Mary, and The Artist’s Impression (with a Happy Ending, naturally).
The Oops-a-Daisy (left) and Blue Cheese & Chocolate Martini (right).
Each drink had been designed to “dazzle the senses, and spark the imagination”, and boy, did they deliver. Each cocktail was carefully crafted, beautifully presented, and had the most amazing aromas and flavour combinations – a heady mix which created a fantastic experience.
The Essence of Mary, made with Duck and Waffle’s own spiced tomato consommé made for a great, lighter (although no less boozy) alternative to the Bloody Mary. The Artist’s Impression, a classic gin Martini, was available as bitter, with a twist, or with a Happy Ending. Our version of a Happy Ending was made with Vanilla essence and cola. Sweet, dry and delicious.
I’ve always thought Bombay Sapphire works incredibly well in cocktails, and the Imaginarium did not disappoint. Personally, it’s always been my gin of choice in a Martini, as its ever-so-slightly oily texture sets it apart from other gins, working well with the vermouth.
I asked Rich Woods, the mastermind behind the cocktails and our excellent bartender for the evening, how he got into his line of work (he is head of spirit and cocktail development at Samba Brands Management, and can be found heading up Duck and Waffle in London’s Heron Tower).
“I wanted to be an architect! I just jumped behind the bar once to help someone out, and thought, ‘hey, I really enjoyed that!’”. When asked, “isn’t bar-tending a bit of a leap from architecture?”, he replied, “Well, you’re still building something”.
The Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium runs until 24th May at Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY.
For more details, and to reserve your place, call 0207 739 4781.