If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a new comeback kid in bars these days.
Gin has had a style overhaul, and what was once known as ‘Women’s Ruin’ and drunk exclusively by drunks, is arguably one of the most popular spirits going at the moment.
No longer are we limited to the Gordon’s.
We’ve had a taste of the good stuff, and now we all want more.
So when an opportunity to try more than 200 gins on a winter’s night in Clapham cropped up, I jumped at the chance. Gin Festival UK brought all the gin and all the nostalgia of an English school summer fair to the Clapham Grand on a cold December night, and it was glorious.
I was drawn to the Bathtub Gin, for the quirky name and homegrown feel to the bottle. I flicked through my ‘Gin Bible’, which tells you a little about each and every bottle, and decided to start my evening with an English gin.
Bathtub is an award-winning gin, produced in England by – wait for it – Professor Cornelius Ampleforth. Great name.
The professor is described as ‘enigmatic’ in the Gin Bible, and creates this little treasure by the traditional method of Cold Compounding, known to us laymen as infusing. Ingredients include juniper, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
This beautiful bottle was a sure favourite of the evening. A Belgian gin, Copperhead is a heady combination of botanicals like juniper, cardamom, orange peel, angelica and coriander.
But who was Mr. Copperhead?
Supposedly, it’s named after the alchemist who was searching for the elixir of life. Not sure if he found the elixir, but he created this along the way, and we’re not complaining.
This gin was so smooth, every ingredient was present on the tongue. We enjoyed the educational bite we got from the Copperhead team, letting us try the gin neat, then mixed with a little tonic, followed by an interesting taste test with the bitters you can add to your G&T.
After licking a droplet of all 3 (Aperitivum, Digestivum, Energeticum), we chose the one that had been most appealing to our tastebuds, and a few drops were added to our gin & tonic.
The Digestivum added sweetness and the Energeticum added extra citrus notes, while the Aperitivum was my choice: citric, bitter, and tangy.
Another mention needs to go out to Elephant Gin, their Sloe Gin in particular. The taste of this blend was so unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. The sloe was peppery and nutty all at the same time, but left a sweetness on the tongue that was the lingering flavour. Unreal. Let’s just say 2/3 of our party went home with a bottle of this.
Monkey 47 Sloe Gin was a second sloe highlight, and I tried it altogether by accident. The gin I had selected had been completely drained through the course of the day and night, and so my fellow gin-lovers made an executive decision at the bar (the best kind) and Monkey 47 was the result. Most sloe gins on offer were English, so it was intriguing to taste a German offering.
And my oh my this did not disappoint. Aromatic yet fruity, you can taste the earthy distillates settling on your palate just as the tangy juniper enlivens your tastebuds. The flavour rounds off with a distinctly nutty note – almonds I think.
Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin brought up a sense of missing home for me. The Tea Edition of the dry gin was refreshingly just like a little cup of iced tea. The name, the tea, the accents… it all lifted me up as if I were back where I used to live in Leeds.
A couple more shoutouts go to…
*Martin Millers, a product of teamwork between the Brits and Icelandic friends. This gin is distilled here in the UK before it is shipped to Iceland, to be mixed with Icelandic spring water. The guy from Martin Millers told us that we shouldn’t feel any burn sensation when we drink this one straight, and we all sort of rolled our eyes and laughed a little bit.
Then we all looked rather silly and obnoxious when we raised our eyebrows incredulously because he had been right, zero burn, zero unpleasantness a lot of people associate with drinking alcohol neat. It was smooth as a baby’s bottom.
*One Key was a bottle that caught our attention. Produced in Slovenia, the gin is made up of distillates of juniper, coriander and ginger. Most intriguing though is the bottle design, as it doesn’t look like a bottle at all. A boxed treasure, the key to the bottle is hidden at the base.
*Tinto Premium was one of my favourites for the night. Though The Apprentice had warned us all to stay away from coloured gins, I decided to throw caution to the wind and that wind carried me to Portugal. Ingredients include dill, laurel, white willow bark, elderberry, eucalyptus leaf, wild celery and more, and even though my drink was red, it tasted the opposite of artificial.
Raising a glass until the next one!
What’s your favourite gin? Have you ever been to a gin festival?
Gin Festival UK ticket was about £15 for the evening session, which allowed entry from around 4pm until the end.
Upon arrival, you can pay £20 for a stamp card. This entitles you to 4 G&Ts from the bars, whilst any bottles bought from companies present at the festival can be bought with card or cash.