Gin, Glorious Gin!
Posted on May 01 2014
When our Chiswick shop opened in March 2012 we stocked a grand total of five gins. Fast forward two years and we now have 15, with plans to add more before the end of the year. The change in focus from big brands and familiar flavours to small producers and more unusual styles has been striking and now gin is one of the most innovative spirits in today’s market.
Reputedly invented in Holland in the mid 16th century and popularised in England after William of Orange, ruler of the Dutch republic, occupied the English throne with his wife Mary in the glorious revolution of 1688, Gin rapidly became one of the country’s most popular drinks thanks to ease of production and heavy taxes on imported spirits. Thanks to its ready availability and cheap price Gin rapidly became extremely popular with the poor and was (according to Middlesex magistrate’s court) “the principal cause of all the vice and debauchery committed among the inferior sort of people”. At the peak of London’s infamous ‘Gin Craze’, half of London’s 15000 drinking establishments were gin shops! Various governments legislated to reduce gin consumption and production, including imposing a levy of £50 per year on distilleries (from which our own Fifty Pounds Gin takes its name) and the craze eventually subsided as demand ebbed.
At its most basic level gin is essentially a recipe – a mixture of various herbs, spices and other flavourings (collectively called botanicals) macerated in a neutral spirit. Although the predominant flavour must be juniper, this allows virtually limitless possibilities (not all of them good of course) for a budding ginmaker. Our gins are all very different and so to help you choose the perfect gin for each occasion I’ve come up with profiles of four of my favourites:
Jack Cain’s Premium Gin is our biggest selling gin and it’s not very hard to see why. Produced by Wylam brewery just outside Newcastle and named after a local raconteur, Jack Cain’s trademark flavours of elderflower, honeysuckle and sweet spice make it a lovely summer gin. Too much tonic can muffle the flavours of a delicate gin such as this so I’d suggest equal parts tonic and gin to get the best out of it; more advanced drinkers should try it neat over ice…
One of our newer acquisitions, Dodd’s Gin is unique in that the blend changes very slightly depending upon the season. The spring/summer blend contains slightly more red raspberry leaf and honey than the autumn/winter blend which is a little heavier on cardamom and ginger. While only very slight, this is the sort of attention to detail that comes from such small production and dedication. Coming in at 49.9% abv Dodd’s is perfect when paired with plenty of smooth, flavoursome tonic and so is my gin of choice for a traditional long G&T.
Sacred Gin is made by ex city trader Ian Hart in a distillery he set up in his own house in Highgate North London with a vacuum plant in a wendy house in the back garden. A true perfectionist, Ian distills each of the 12 botanicals separately before blending the results to create a uniquely delicate yet flavoursome style. Although first rate in a G&T, Sacred’s lush, smokey flavours really shine in a Martini.
Of course it’s not just the UK that can make great gin as Death’s Door from Washington Island Wisconsin proves. Utilising only three botanicals (most gins have at least seven and some as many as 20!) it is a creamy, full bodied gin that can stand up to plenty of tonic or shine in a cocktail, but is still delicate enough to be enjoyed neat over ice; so useful I’ve always got a bottle at home!
These four are only scratching the surface as we have many more in stock at both shops and are always on the look out for new additions. Even better, we have all these gins and many more open to taste so drop by and do some research of your own!
Image courtesy Sacred Distillery