Juniper: the magic berry

Gin is juniper. Without juniper, gin simply is not gin. That’s why juniper is so important. But what is it, where does it come from and why is it found in gin (but not in vodka or rum)? Well, read on as we lift the curtain on this fabulous berry which plays a vital part in our lives.

A tiny pine cone that conquered the world

So, here’s interesting fact number one!

The juniper berry isn’t actually a berry at all. In fact, it’s a tiny pine cone. These little cones can be found on a small, wild shrub called juniperus communis which primarily grows wild in the northern hemisphere. Juniper bushes are, in fact, closely related to the cypress family. These amazing plants can live for as long as 100 years and they can reach a height of 10m.

But that’s not all. Juniper is a hardy plant, with one of the widest geographical reaches of any tree in the world. You can find juniper bushes thriving across different landscapes and climates and a range of countries from Canada to the USA, from Iceland to Greenland, from Europe to North Africa and from Asia to Japan.

No hurry, juniper takes its time!

But juniper is not in a big hurry to flavour your G&T. In fact it takes each juniper bush around 10 years to actually bear fruit. But enough about the mother ship, what about the berry?

Well, this is a weird one. Juniper berries start off green and then, after around 18 months, they start to ripen into a dark purple colour. And they’re quite small – most juniper berries are less than 1cm in diameter. Intriguingly, each berry contains between 3 and 6 rectangular seeds, which birds kindly eat and distribute on juniper’s behalf.

So, where’s the best juniper to be found?

Well, we already know that juniper’s influence spreads far and wide. You can still find it growing in the UK and Spain, but the best stuff comes from Macedonia. And here’s another interesting fact. Juniper is generally harvested directly from the wild, meaning that it is more like foraging than farming. There’s a particular technique for getting the best crop from your tree.
According to long tradition, juniper pickers will circle the tree, beating the branches as they walk around it. They then catch the falling berries in a round, flat basket, often collecting their own body weight of juniper in a single day.

What does it actually taste like?

This complex botanical (with as many as 70 constituent elements) is most prized for its juniper oil, which represents as little as 3% of the cone. This means you have to squeeze an awful lot of juniper berries to get a decent amount of oil. And just like everything else, juniper has its own unique flavour profile.

Think pine notes, heather and lavender, sitting alongside grassy pepperiness and citrus. These are the dominant flavours that give it such a distinctive, bitter taste. They are also the same notes that make it into your gin once the distillation process is under way. All this work comes at a cost and the average price for juniper right now is around £7 per kg.

How did juniper end up as gin’s main ingredient?

Well, after a long and distinguished career in medieval medicine, in the 16th century, juniper switched seamlessly into gin. It had already been used in health remedies since the Egyptians started using it to make drinks and to embalm their dead pharaohs, so its health benefits had been known for millennia.

By the 1660s, as Amsterdam became the centre of world trade, the Dutch army and navy took to the habit of drinking a daily ration of genever. Then, in a bid to appeal to the growing middle classes, Dutch distillers began to flavour their malt wine with juniper and other spices from the Dutch East India company.
And the news spread, so before long, genever became popular in other European countries including France.

Ready for lift off

By the end of the 19th century, it was being sold in England at half the price of brandy, so its popularity took off rapidly. The rest is history.

The English embraced the idea and adapted it to their tastes and by 1621, there were more than 200 registered gin distillers in London alone.
Since then, it has gone on a journey from the devil’s drink, blighting the social fabric of 17th century London through to the drink of choice in 18th century drinking clubs. Eventually, this spirit became engrained in the history and psychology of England and by the time the G&T took hold in the 19th century there was no stopping it.

Gin goes global!

By the 20th century, this beautiful “juniper juice” had become a cocktail staple and the drink of choice for movie stars, writers, film stars and royalty. But production was still dominated by a few powerful brands such as Gordons and Tanqueray, who did nothing imaginative to this most versatile of all drinks. And then the craft gin revolution arrived in the early 21st century giving birth to a mind-boggling array of flavours and styles that we could only have dreamed of 20 years ago.

So, there it is. This little berry (that isn’t a berry) has taken on the world and won.
Every gin you drink, no matter where you are, will always have one thing in common – the juniper berry. Where would we be without you!

Indian gin

5 great Indian craft gins to watch out for in 2021

Indian gin is having its day in the sun. The world’s largest democracy is host to one of the most complex, diverse and varied cultures on the planet. This enormous and beautiful land is a heady mix of ancient religions, extraordinary food, incredible architecture and rich cultural diversity. Indian history and traditions are legendary and its influence over the centuries has been profound. 

This is a country that is proud to wear its history (and its heart) on its sleeve. Everybody from the Mughal emperors to Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great have left their mark here. The English, the French and the Portuguese took much away, but all added something unique to this rich culture.  The Chinese influence is there for all to see, wherever you go in India.

There is so much richness and diversity that nothing should surprise you – but, in India, it frequently does.

Recently, we posted a link to an article that identified that gin was the perfect pairing for a curry.  And that got us thinking about Indian gin. What is it? Is it any good? Where can I get it? 
The result is our handy guide to Indian gin and a top 5 list for you to try for yourselves. 

So, here’s what we found out…

Gin and India

Gin-making and India are not necessarily the first things that come to mind when you think about the Indian subcontinent.  I know that there are some half-decent Indian whiskey’s out there. I also know (from personal experience) that there are some pretty bad ones!

We all know that gin is usually served with Indian tonic water. In the context of India, it is a drink often associated with staid colonial clubs and wrap around verandas.  
Which is why it came as a bit of a surprise to discover that India has a fast growing (and innovative) craft gin industry.

And the even better news is that some of the Indian gins they produce taste pretty darned good! 

The Indian craft gin revolution

The same couldn’t have been said 5 years ago. Since 2015, the gin revolution in India has gone full throttle. India’s artisan gin makers are now producing some really interesting gins to sip alongside your curry and kebabs.

After all, India is where Indian tonic water first made an appearance as a way of making the antimalarial ingredient quinine, an easier sell. When added to their favourite imported gin tipple, this new “tonic” mixture became increasingly popular – and without it, there would be no gin and tonic! In 1870, Schweppes launched its first tonic water to the Indian market and since then, the G&T has never looked back.

The G&T is now one of the most widely drunk cocktails on the planet. As British colonial rule continued over the centuries, G&Ts became the preferred cooling drink for hot days at the colonial clubs and villas of Calcutta and Delhi.

From middle class tipple to cool craft cocktail

Over the last decade or so, gin has transformed itself from a middle class drink beloved in suburban English golf clubs to the sophisticated drink we know and love today.  Gin has become an exciting, dynamic drink that has captured the imagination of drinkers and distillers the world over.

Luckily for us, it has also led to a breathtaking variety of choice.  As the craft gin movement exploded, thousands of small craft gin distilleries began to appear around the world and India was no exception. Now there are a number of innovative new gin brands who are all tapping into the uniqueness of India.

So, here are some of the top Indian gins starting to make a name for themselves in the sub-continent and beyond. However, please be aware that many other brands use Indian names or references in their product names. But there are still only a dozen or so serious craft gin contenders in India, so choose your Indian gin carefully.

Get ready for a Gin-dian summer!

1. Terai: ABV 42.8%

This gorgeous Indian gin comes from Rajasthan, one of the most exotic and exciting parts of India.
It comes in a very attractive, ribbed glass bottle and is made by the India Craft Spirit Company. 

The team behind the gin took their inspiration from the countless local feasts and religious celebrations that India celebrates daily. They wanted the bottle to tap into this vibe without it becoming a pastiche of Indian cliches.

The result is attractive and sophisticated, inspired by temple architecture, local handicrafts and religious icons. And as for the gin, Terai takes a “grain-to-glass” approach using home-made rice grain spirit as its base.

It’s distilled in a handmade German still before being infused with 11 botanicals including fennel and coriander. This brings a unique green freshness to the gin. There are also strong perfumed notes, driven by lavender and rose. And then there is a distinctive nutty flavour at the end. 

All the botanicals have been sourced from within India, with the exception of the juniper which is imported from Europe.  This dominant juniper taste places it firmly in the London Dry camp.

2. Hapusa: ABV 43%

Hapusa is Sanskrit for juniper.  And that’s what the team at Nao Spirits have called their latest premium Indian gin creation to avoid any doubt that this is an Indian gin.

With juniper berries sourced directly from the Himalayas, this unusual gin also includes coriander seeds, turmeric, almonds and even mango as its key botanicals.  The delicious result of all this hard work is a unique premium gin that tantalises with delicate floral notes up front before taking you on a journey towards an earthy spiciness that works beautifully in a fresh, ice-filled G&T. 

This gin is building quite a reputation in India and is currently only available in New Delhi, Goa and Mumbai.  But keep your eyes peeled, I think it might break out of the subcontinent soon! 

3. Stranger and Sons: ABV 42.8%

Stranger and Sons is a great gin.  It’s been around since 2018. It’s made by the Third Eye distillery in Goa, but it has gathered botanicals from across the country as well as some produced in their own garden. 

As with most Indian gins, there’s a healthy hit of juniper.  But then comes the spice – black pepper, mace, nutmeg, coriander seed, angelica, licorice, cassi and citrus peels all make an appearance.  The result is an intriguing mix of citrus and spice that makes an extraordinarily complex G&T. It has a citrus forward character, driven by Gondhoraj lemons from the East. sweet limes and nimbu from Goa.

This is best served in a delicious G&T, with a slice of lemon if you want to bring out the citrus. Alternatively, add a little piece of ginger to release some of that warming spice. However you try it, this is delicious.

4. Jaisalmer: ABV 43%

Now, here’s something a bit different.
Jaisalmer gin from the Golden City – one of the most exotic and beautiful places in the whole of India.  Rising out of the Thar desert lies a walled fortress city of gold, peaked with crenellations, towers and turrets. Inside the city gates lies a vibrant citadel city packed with twisted alleys, hidden surprises and stunning views across the desert towards the Pakistan borders in the far distance.
This is a place straight out of the Arabian Nights and one of the most unique and atmospheric towns in all of India. 
The last place I would expect a modern craft gin brand to appear.

Made by the Rampur Distillery, this gin features botanicals such as lemongrass, Darjeeling Green Tea, juniper, citrus peels and other Indian herbs.


This gin is triple distilled in a copper pot still and was recently named the Best gin in Asia in 2019 by the Gin Guide Awards, UK so it is building quite a reputation internationally.

It’s packed with complex spicy notes from the pepper and the tea and balanced with citrus and floral notes from the orange and lemon peel.  Then, it’s all rounded off with a little blast of licorice from the angelica, licorice and caraway seeds. A gorgeous blend of flavours, this gin has something for everyone.

5. Jin Jiji: ABV 43%

This beautiful gin is from Goa, an area rich in Portuguese heritage as well as its reputation for partying backpackers. In fact, this gin is appropriately named.  The name JiJi is a derivation of the world jijivisha, which is an ancient Hindi word used to describe a lust for life. 

The JiJi team wanted a gin that would showcase the extraordinary diversity of India’s botanicals. They started with Himalayan juniper, foraged in some pretty hard to reach places on the highest mountain range on earth.  The guys add some unique local ingredients including high quality, locally grown cashew nuts, which were first introduced here by Portuguese rulers over 400 years ago. Other ingredients such as tulsi (basil) and chamomile are distilled in a copper pot still in Goa resulting in a beautiful sipping gin. 

Juniper dominates here, but backing it up are citrus notes, floral chamomile and spicy cloves and peppers.  All of this is rounded off with spicy black pepper and tea and a distinctive nutty aftertaste from the cashew nuts. This is not a subtle gin and it packs a lot of flavour in tribute to all corners of the great Indian subcontinent. 

Keep an eye out for these Indian gins. When the world’s largest democracy, with the world’s fastest growing middle class catches on, Indian brands are bound to make their mark. 
Try them now and be the first to tell your friends.

Fascinating fact: Apparently, there’s no specific word for cheers in India. They just say cheers.

Cheers!



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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venison stroganoff

Cheers, deers! Venison stroganoff (with a drop of gin to keep you warm)

Venison. It’s the dish of royalty, beloved of chef’s everywhere and it’s one of the most delicious, full-flavoured meats out there. It’s highly sought after in high end restaurants from London to Barcelona and it’s a must have meal at posh Scottish hunting lodges. But it’s strangely undervalued for every day eating.

However, this delicious meat is increasingly recognised not only for its delicious taste, but for its health giving qualities.  It’s blessed with a low fat content and loads of vital minerals and vitamins. 
Different (and ultimately more flavoursome) than traditional beef and other roasted meats, it’s worth taking a step out of the ordinary when it’s on the menu.

But what makes venison so different?

Venison is very lean with a rich, earthy flavour that generally mimics the landscape on which it has been raised. Often, you can pick up notes of acorns and wild herbs that were its staple diet during its life. Also, due to its lower fat content, it’s not quite as juicy as traditional beef.  But as if to make up for this deficit, it also has a firmer, smoother texture which works perfectly in this rich, creamy recipe.

So, what does all this have to do with gin, I hear you ask?

Well, we love venison and we love gin, so we thought we’d investigate how best to combine these flavours into a beautiful, hearty dish to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 
Welcome to our delicious Venison Stroganoff, a warming, spicy, earthy recipe that will heat you up from the inside. Meals like this are best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire in a country pub somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.  But it’s delicious anywhere!

It contains a decent slug of gin to give it a juniper kick and to keep us reminded of the things we like most.  There are some mushrooms, a kick of mustard, some juniper berries and a generous helping of rich double cream to bring it all together. Oh, and did we mention a large portion of gin instead of the traditional Cognac? Honestly, this is a delicious recipe, easy to make and best drunk with a hand crafted Scottish gin from the Highlands for an extra dash of respectability and style.  So, here’s our recipe. 

Dive in and enjoy.

Venison Stroganoff with gin recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g tenderloin of venison
  • 250g of field mushrooms
  • 50 ml of Scottish gin
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 1tsp Dijon style mustard
  • 2 tbsp of thick double cream
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

Method:

  1. Finely slice the onion and garlic so that it cooks quickly
  2. Heat a shallow frying pan on low heat and add a few drops of oil, the garlic and the onion
  3. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper
  4. Slice the mushrooms and add to the garlic and onions
  5. While they are cooking slice the venison into thin strips and season with salt and pepper
  6. Finely chop the rosemary and sprinkle over the venison
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and rub all the flavours in
  8. Add to the pan and brown evenly
  9. Add the gin, the juniper berries and the mustard
  10. Pour in the double cream and stir
  11. Serve with pasta or sauteed potatoes and green beans
  12. Pour yourself a large Scottish G&T and dig in.

We think you’re going to love this one!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Irish Gins

Bertha’s Revenge vs Dingle: the battle of the Irish gins

Irish gin has come a long way.  Building on ancient traditions of whiskey making, a well-known Irish love of a good drink and the growing reputation of Irish cuisine, it’s not surprising that gin is Ireland’s next big thing.  And now, there is a mini boom as small batch (and larger) distilleries across Ireland get creative.
The result is a plethora of new gins, often based on locally foraged ingredients, creative thinking and hand-picked (sometimes unusual) botanicals.

Ireland’s brave new world of gin

Ireland is blessed with a new breed of distillers who aren’t afraid to experiment. These brave souls are innovators and the result of their work is a myriad of delicious and imaginative gins including gin made from seaweed, gin made with tea and gin made with Irish heather.
Foraging for local botanicals is also a major theme in Irish gins with everything from locally sourced samphire to sweet Irish honey and from wild heather to spruce appearing in local gin brands. In fact, right now there are around 50 distilleries operating in Ireland and many of these small batch brands are finding a significant market in the UK and beyond.

The St. Paddy’s Day challenge: Bertha versus Dingle

Two of my favourite gins of all time are Irish, so today (in honour of St. Patrick) we thought we’d put my two favourite Irish gins head-to-head to see which is the best.
So, here we go with a little competitive gin review to see who wins the battle of the Irish gins.  

We’ve chosen Bertha’s Revenge from County Cork (made in small batches by the Ballyvolane House Spirit’s company using cow’s milk as its base) and Dingle Original Pot Still Gin (made in the Dingle Whiskey distillery on the beautifully rugged Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry, South West Ireland).  Both gins are exceptional and brimming with integrity.

But which one tastes better?
Who will win the battle of the Irish gins?

Bertha’s Revenge: ABV 42%

Made in small batches in County Cork, this is an Irish milk gin. That’s right, I said milk. From a cow.
But this was no ordinary cow. This was a cow called Bertha and according to local legend she was at one stage the oldest cow in the world. Having giving birth to around 39 calves during her lifetime, she has now become the inspiration behind one of Ireland’s most unusual (and delicious) gins. Alas, poor Bertha died in 1993. But she lives on in local legend and now she’s been immortalised in the gin that bears her name.
Using whey alcohol, their own natural spring water and locally sourced and foraged ingredients, the team have come up with a truly unique gin that would have made Bertha proud.

On their ingredients list, they mention everything from juniper to coriander, from cinammon to cloves and from elderflower to almonds. Apparently, they’ve also managed to bottle laughter, love and childish enthusiasm, all of which come through with every sip. So, what does this milk gin actually taste of? Well, there is a soft, creamy fragrance up front on the nose. Complex, rich and creamy you know you’re in for a treat. Then take a sip and warming, spicy notes appear in your mouth bursting with complexity and flavours that will keep you guessing. And then, to end there’s a long, smooth finish that leaves a blast of fruit lingering on the taste buds long after the final sip has been taken. All in all, this is a delicious gin.

The perfect serve

We think you should keep this simple so that all the flavours of the gin come out.

  1. Place some large ice cubes into a highball glass and fill up with ice.
  2. Squeeze a juicy wedge of lime into the glass and wipe the lime around the rim.
  3. Pour a large shot of Bertha’s Revenge over the ice.
  4. Open a fresh bottle of premium tonic water such as Fever Tree and pour gently over the ice.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and sip.

You will be amazed!

Dingle Original Pot Still gin: ABV 42.5%

A two hour drive away, dangling on the edge of Europe, lies the Dingle Peninsular.
Blasted and cleansed by the strong winds blowing across the Atlantic, this is a place of fresh air, green hills, craggy cliffs, dramatic landscapes and crashing waves. And those are the feelings that are evoked by Dingle Gin, made by the Dingle Distillery in Co. Kerry. While this gin is officially classified as a London Dry, its unique flavour combinations take it into new territory through a carefully selected botanical range. These include unusual botanicals such as rowan berry, fucshia, bog myrtle, heather and hawthorn.

These unique flavours are macerated first for 24 hours to bring out the depth and complexity of the spirit. Then, when the spirit is ready, the maceration is passed through a basket in the neck of the still which imbues the gin with the subtle and complex flavours that are so reminiscent of the Kerry landscape. The result of all this work is a deliciously well balanced gin combining nine traditional and home grown botanicals. Each bottle is then cut with pure water taken from their own well, 240 feet below the distillery. But what does it actually taste like?

Well, this gin was named the best in the world at the 2019 World Gin Awards, so they must be doing something right. It is quite sweet and bursting with flavour. Leave it in a glass for a bit to fully appreciate its spicy, floral notes. You can taste the summer berries in every sip – it’s almost “jammy”. Then, just when the fruit blast starts to fade, you’ll pick up loads of fresh herbs including peppery ginger and minty eucalyptus. This is a gorgeous gin with loads of character and is perfect in a cocktail or a long G&T.

The perfect serve

  1. Serve this in a large highball glass which you have filled with large ice cubes.
  2. Pour a large measure of Dingle into the glass.
  3. Wipe a grapefruit wedge around the rim of the glass.
  4. Top it up with a premium Mediterranean tonic water and finish it all off with a slice of grapefruit.

This is an absolute delight!

The Verdict:

Two amazing Irish gins, two great stories, two different tastes – but there can only be one winner.

Despite Dingle’s appearance as one of the world’s best gins in 2019, for me, Bertha’s Revenge wins by the smallest of margins.
I love the complex background of different botanicals, the mix of flavours and the fabulous story of Bertha and her offspring. But most importantly, there is a rich creaminess to this drink that really brings out the flavours in a way that no other gin does. It is complex, and bursting with character. For me, this is right up there amongst my very favourite gins in the world.
Well done Ireland – you have much to be proud of on St. Paddy’s Day.

Slainte!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Corpen Gin

Corpen gin: refreshingly honest!

Corpen Gin – refreshingly honest. 
That’s the perfect way to describe this brand new gin from Barcelona’s newest gin brand.
This gin is refreshing in two senses. Not only does it taste refreshing, but the brand is driven by a philosophy that is also refreshing. In a world where everybody seems to want to be a gin maker, these guys are the real deal – small, artisan and passionate about their product. 
Too many other “craft gin” brands are happy to add gimmicky flavours (think bubble gum or cola cubes). Others spend their money on fancy bottles and still others create exotic back stories made up by an ad agency they barely know. At Corpen, they stick with the basics.  They just want to make really good tasting gin – and they have succeeded!

It’s the gin that matters here!

We went to visit Corpen for an interview recently at their new craft distillery in Barcelona’s bohemian Poblenou district. We chatted with co-founders Pablo Barrera and Brian Burgess and they revealed the philosophy behind the brand and the challenges of launching a new gin in the middle of a pandemic.
They made it clear that they want to concentrate on the gin (and not the marketing!). Handmade in small batches in Barcelona, Corpen Gin was tested on hundreds of gin drinkers before the team finally decided on their gorgeous recipe.  So, what does it taste like and does it really live up to all the “non” hype?

Getting it right takes time

The Corpen team are not afraid of experimenting.  In fact, they tried more than 40 different botanical combinations before they settled on their final flavours.  They validated those findings in personal workshops, taking on the feedback and adapting the recipe to get the combinations just right.  They then ramped up production to make sure that the balance and complexity remained true in larger production runs.

According to Brian: “Instead of the fruity/floral or citrus/spicy flavour combinations that dominate the market, we wanted to develop a gin which celebrates more rooty, earthy, herbal, dry flavours. But we were also careful not to stray too far into eccentric or extravagant combinations just for the sake of being different”. 

And Pablo added: “We chose these flavours to bring something a bit different to the market. But we also believe that gin should be good enough to be consumed in cocktails but also good enough to be sipped neat. Corpen Llevant is full of complex and complementary flavours. It’s been made to be enjoyed in the right atmosphere”.

The verdict: elegant, sophisticated, complex

This sophisticated gin is subtle and complex.  First of all, the bottle is simple and elegant featuring a Corpen flag. This is a nod to Brian’s career in the US Navy and is a signal command for a change of direction. It is the perfect symbol for this gin. At 45% ABV, there’s plenty of strength here. There’s a strong blast of juniper on the nose, which keeps it true to its London Dry roots.  But linger a little longer and you’ll begin to notice complex notes of toasted coriander and fresh orange peel to get your taste buds tingling. Take a sip and those notes are joined by their playmates eucalyptus, black pepper, orris root and angelica root which dance a refreshing jig on your tongue.  The finish is smooth and lively. All in all, this is a really well balanced gin and a pleasure to drink.

A classic G&T – with an orange twist

We tried ours in a classic G&T but Corpen Llevant is definitely good enough to drink neat. Paired with a decent tonic water, you’ll taste a fantastic blend of refreshing citrus, with a warm blast of spice to add to its complexity. Plus, there’s a lush herbaceous flavour that comes through to keep your senses tingling until the last drop is finished. This gin is so good that it will stand on its own in a classic dry Martini.  The Corpen guys go with a drop of Dolin Dry vermouth in theirs. But you can find the one that works best for you.  Remember, the gin is the real star here.

Corpen Gin the perfect pour:  Corpen Llevant is definitely good enough to be drunk neat. But we think it is a perfect gin for a classic G&T.  We poured a large shot of Corpen Llevant gin into a copa glass. We added a few large, round ice cubes and gave the glass a little swirl. Then we wiped the rim with a wedge of orange, which we squeezed over the ice.  Next, we poured a freshly opened bottle of Franklin and Sons delicious, Natural Indian Tonic water, which had just the right balance of flavour and fizz.  No added sugar here, so it complements the gin rather than detracts from it.  We finished it all off with a simple twist of orange peel which we dropped in to the glass.

Wow! It was a gorgeous G&T – simple, elegant and refreshing.

Bespoke gin, distillery tours and more…

For more information about Corpen gin, check out their website on Corpen Barcelona. Not only do these guys make a delicious gin, but they host small tastings, distillery tours and offer bespoke gin making for corporates, special events and anybody who is looking to make something unique and special.
If you’re ever in Barcelona, check them out. You won’t regret it!

gin news

The Ruddles Report: February 2021 Gin News

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin news | 0

Ruddles has been at it again.

Gin news

As the hairy “face” of Barcelona Gin, he’s very easy to like – and his opinions carry weight. He’s lent his marketing power to a few Barcelona Gin posts recently and every time, they beat all our records for engagement. We think he’s our secret weapon. That’s why, in addition to his current role as Newshound, we’re giving him a promotion to Marketing Director. Or should that be Barketing Director?
Either way, he’s continuing to sniff out the gin news you want to hear. This month, he’s found some interesting stories for us all to enjoy.

Algorithm confirms: curry and gin are a perfect match

gin news

Ruddles has sniffed out a great story about a Japanese firm that has employed Artificial Intelligence to confirm what we all knew already: that curry is a good match for a gin and tonic. Fascinating article, but we didn’t need a robot to tell us that. The research was commissioned by Bombay Sapphire owners Bacardi and apparently gin comes out as curry’s best mate. No more pints of lager required, just a large, civilised G&T (and maybe a separate glass of iced water!).

The question is which gin goes with which curry?
Keep an eye out for next month’s article on the 5 best gins to drink with a curry.
It’s hot stuff!

Virtual reality: the world’s coolest gin labels?

The folks at McQueen gin up in Scotland have come up with something equally unique. They’ve added a full augmented reality (AR) experience for each of the six bottles in their core range. Just point your phone at the label and scan it for an immersive gin experience like no other. You can take a virtual dive into their black cherry and vanilla gin pool. You could even learn about the spirit of Ben Ledi, the beautiful mountain that overlooks the distillery itself.
Welcome to the world’s coolest gin labels.

When is a gin not a gin: how low can you go?

gin news

Plus, there’s some trouble brewing over alcohol free gins. Some people are getting upset that low alcohol spirits are passing themselves off as gins.
By definition, a gin has to be 37.5% ABV (and have juniper as its dominant flavour) to be given legal recognition as a gin.
Low alcohol versions clearly don’t measure up to these requirements but some are still being sold as gin. That’s misrepresenting our favourite spirit (and potentially damaging its reputation).
The good news is that the Gin Guild is taking up the challenge on behalf of the industry.

“Downton Abbey” distillery: 31 international gin awards in first two years

Last year saw a flurry of gins released by the various royal households, including Buckingham Palace Gin and Highgrove gin.
Other members of the establishment are also getting in on the act now. Highclere Castle (otherwise known as Downton Abbey) is only in its second year of distilling, but it’s celebrating with a big smile on its face. In the 16 months of its existence, it’s already won more than 31 international spirits awards and is forecasting sales of 20,000 cases during the course of this 2021.
Not bad for a young one.

Gin-soaked raisins – is this the secret for a long life?

Here’s one to inspire you. Are gin and raisins the secret to a long and happy life? Meet 105 year old Lucia DeClerck from New Jersey, who’s been nibbling these little gin treats for almost a hundred years.
She eats exactly 9 gin-soaked golden raisins every day and she attributed this habit to giving her long, healthy life. There must be something in it – she’s lived through two world wars, survived the Spanish Flu and she has outlived three husbands and one son. And now, she’s one of only a few centenarians worldwide to have survived Coronavirus.
So much better than cornflakes!

Silent Pool gin: ending on a high

Always good to end on a high note.
Last year, the folks at Silent Pool distillery launched their first CBD infused gin. It’s called Colorado High and it was receiving great reviews.
CBD is legal for sale in the UK and Europe these days and they’ve sold thousands of bottles without complaints. So, they were a bit frustrated when a complaint was passed to the UK’s Portman Group (one of the UK’s regulators), who challenged the packaging.

Despite being a totally legal product and with no references to cannabis on its labels or packaging, they found it to be in breach of rules.
They claimed that it created an “indirect connection” with illegal drugs.

This is a claim that the folks at Silent Pool deny consistently and they are challenging the decision with the Portman Group itself. Silent Pool aren’t backing down and have launched a cheeky marketing campaign to make their point.

Drugs or drink. What do you think?



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Gin Sea

Gin Sea: born in London, raised in Spain

Gin Sea’s 5-times distilled base spirit is sourced from England and imported directly to Manuel Barrientos’ little gin project in Galicia.
All the best gins start with the best ingredients and this is no exception. It’s the highest quality neutral grain spirit around and is sourced overseas before a touch of Galician magic is added in Spain. And that’s also why this gin combines the best of both worlds.
These guys aren’t in a hurry to get the quickest turnaround. Instead, they’re dedicated to making their gin the old fashioned, way – slowly, by hand. And this is one of the things that distinguishes Gin Sea from some of its upstart competitors. There’s a real dedication to getting this right, no matter how long it takes. The result is a pleasure to drink.

Once the five times distilled neutral grain spirit is imported from England to Galicia, Manuel Barrientos redistills this precious spirit with 11 botanicals including juniper, cardamom, coriander, thyme leaves, chamomile, licorice, peppermint, cinnammon and sweet and bitter orange peels. Each botanical is then macerated separately before being distilled in a 130 year old copper still made by Herve et Moulin in Bordeaux. This is one of the oldest stills still active within Europe. And that says it all, really.

So, where does this little beauty come from?

This is a classic example of European co-operation. With the purest of neutral grain spirits shipped in from London, the rest of the work is the combination of an ancient French still and a thoroughly modern sommelier.
Manuel is the man who makes the magic happen at the distillery in the rugged region of Galicia in Northern Spain and he had form before he started working in his dream gin project.
He brought 15 years of experience in the hotel industry, including 5 years as a sommelier in some of Galicia’s top restaurants to this project. And he was determined to produce something he could be proud of and which would represent the region of Galicia in all its uniqueness.
Born in London, raised in La Coruña.

As Manuel said: “This idea was germinated in Galicia and our first task was to select the right local ingredients. We had to carry out hundreds of tests until we found our final formula. More than 100 Galician hospitality professionals took part in our different tastings. We took all their opinions on board to develop the delicate and classic flavours of our final product!”

What does Gin Sea taste like?

This is a delicious and distinctive gin at a standard strength of 40% ABV.
Sweet citrus notes and earthy juniper play well against a background of candied ginger, thyme and chamomile. There are hints of lavender and a gentle spiciness that warms the palate nicely. There’s also a noticeable peppery herbal finish which balances the sweetness of the chamomile and the warmth of the ginger is very comforting. We think that Gin Sea (like most good gins) lends itself to a beautiful G&T. But it would work equally well as a cocktail spirit. Perhaps in a classic Negroni or even in the Queen’s favourite cocktail, a “Gin and It”.

The perfect pour

Since this is a Spanish gin, we think it should be served in the Spanish way. And that means digging out your copa glass!

  1. Fill your copa glass to the top with large, round ice cubes (the larger the better!).
  2. Give the ice a gentle stir. Wipe a little orange wedge around the edge of the glass before squeezing the juice into the ice.
  3. Pour a generous serving of Gin Sea over the ice directly into your glass.
  4. Top it up with a premium, fresh tonic water (such as Franklin and Sons premium Indian tonic water).
  5. Garnish with a twist of orange zest or some cardamom pods to bring out the flavour.
  6. Give it a gentle stir before raising it to your mouth, inhaling all those delicious citrus flavours and then diving in for a long sip.

This fabulous, complex, classic, well balanced London Dry gin will get you in the mood for fun. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Hope you enjoy their beautiful add: https://vimeo.com/55014833



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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botanicals

Botanicals: gin’s secret stars

Why is gin so different to vodka or any other white spirit? What makes gin so special? Well, the secret lies in the botanicals.

What are these botanicals and why are they so important? And how exactly do they turn a colourless, odourless, tasteless liquid into one of the most versatile and exciting spirits on planet earth?

We thought we’d spend a little time looking at these secret ingredients. We want to help us all to understand what makes these little blasts of flavour so important in the world of gin. So, let’s start with the most obvious: juniper.

Without juniper, there is no gin.

For a drink to be classified as gin, Juniper is a must. According to legal definitions, gin must always be a minimum of 37.5% ABV and Juniper must be its dominant spirit. That seems pretty simple and clear. But this is actually where the fun begins! Once the minimum requirements are met, distillers are working on an empty canvas where the art is only as good as the artist. From here on out, all you are limited by is your imagination.

Juniper’s medicinal history

The juniper berries you are most likely to find in your gin are actually a type of pine cone from a shrub called juniperus communis. This is generally found growing wild across most of the Northern hemisphere. It’s what gives gin that distinctive taste of pine, camphor and lavender.

In fact, its medicinal qualities have been recognised for millennia. An ancient Egyptian papyrus from 1500BC refers to juniper as a cure for tapeworm infestations. Juniper berries have also been found as part of the embalming process in ancient Egyptian tombs. Through the ages they were used to cure infections, prevent epilepsy and even cure the plague.
These days, the best juniper is grown on the hillsides of Macedonia and Italy and is rich in aromatic oil. This is one reason why its important for distillers to try a number of different samples to get the mixture exactly right.

Botanicals: a world of fragrant opportunities

Most of the botanicals that we use in gin have medical roots that go back hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years. Some of them are still used for their medicinal qualities.

As we know, juniper berries are integral to creating gin. Unsurprisingly, they feature in every gin that is produced.

As well as juniper, there may be some other common botanicals that may surprise you.
Wormwood (more commonly associated with absinthe) is a popular botanical for many distillers. Others such as coriander are extraordinarily popular and you will see it make an appearance in many gins imparting a fresh, spicy sage and lemon flavour.

Beyond that, you enter a world of opportunities with more fragrant botanicals such as frankincense (sweet and oily) and cassia bark (sharp and pungent) appearing more and more often.

Many other gins feature angelica (woody and earthy), citrus and orris root (aromatic and floral).

But the list goes on to include almonds (marzipan sweetness), bergamot peel (musky, perfumed) and cardamom pods (warm and spicy). These are becoming increasingly popular alongside cubeb berries (peppery), elderflower (sweet and floral).
Citrus peels are always in demand and ginger (spicy and warm) and even licorice (woody and sweet) are making more frequent appearances.

Each of these botanicals help to build up the complex layers of flavours that we enjoy in our G&Ts today. As gin makers experiment and become more comfortable with the possibilities of ingredients that they are using, they have become increasingly bold.

Laverstoke Mill: a temple to botanicals

If you’re interested in learning more about botanicals, it’s worth paying a visit to the stunning Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire.
Here, the main distilling process takes place in Bombay Sapphire’s converted 18th century Laverstoke Mill straddling the crystal clear waters of the River Test. But in a stroke of architectural genius, a swooping glass extension (reminiscent of the river that flows underneath it) covers a fascinating gin museum with wonderful gin tours. You will have the opportunity to taste a wonderful Laverstoke cocktail too!
Inside this extraordinary glass building they grow some of the botanicals that they use to make Bombay Sapphire. They have dozens of different botanicals beautifully presented in jars and bags for guests to touch and smell.

In their Discovery Experience they’ll help you map out your flavour tastes and even offer a well crafted cocktail mixed in their on-site bar. Their drinks are made to recipes by their in-house mixologist Sam Carter – and they’re delicious. The variety of botanicals on display is breathtaking and the flavours so individual and eclectic, that this will definitely need to be on your list for a fascinating visit once life returns to normal.

So, next time you try your latest gin, see which ones you can identify and raise a glass to our secret botanicals. They are the reason the magic happens.



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Malfy Gin con Limone

Malfy Gin con Limone: the best lemon gin out there?

I love it when a gin does exactly what it says on the tin. Malfy Gin con Limone is just such a gin.

As you’d expect, it’s literally a gin from the Amalfi coast of Italy that has been infused with juicy, sweet sun-ripened local lemons. They’ve even added some rare local Sfusato lemon peel alongside their hand-picked juniper and a small selection of other locally sourced botanicals. It’s that classic simplicity that shines through in what is, for me, the best lemon gin out there. This is a gorgeous, crystal clear gin with lashings of citrus on the nose and a complex lemon finish that lingers long after the last sip has been taken.
Somehow, this stunning gin manages to avoid the synthetic flavours of some other lemon gins. It doesn’t simply try to nostalgically mimic childhood sweets or recreate lost recipes from the past. This is a thoroughly modern gin that makes the most of its sunny location to dial up the citrus in every sip.

A family affair, oozing Italian chic

Malfy Gin con Limone absolutely oozes Italy. Its gorgeous modern bottle is decorated, with stunningly cool Italian designs and lemon circles, which suit this gin’s sunny vibe perfectly. Even looking at the bottle puts you in a holiday mood – but the drink inside is even better.

What makes this particular lemon gin the real deal? Well first of all, it’s a family affair. This gin is lovingly made by the Vergnano family. While this is a thoroughly modern gin, its roots go deep and the ingredients are intrinsically connected to the Italian landscape. The distillate base is Italian wheat and the juniper is from Tuscany.

Lemons are the star here

But the star of the show here is definitely those lemons. The team at Malfy have also dialed up the citrus by adding some extra botanicals including Italian coastal oranges and Sicilian grapefuits alongside the lemon, licorice and coriander.
The result is the perfect summer gin – ideal for long G&Ts to cool you down on those hot evenings we’re dreaming of.

But here’s a little secret – those lemons aren’t just any lemons. They’re special lemons, only produced in limited quantities (most of them go to make Limoncello). The ones they use at Malfy are ultra-rich in oil glands giving them a uniquely potent aromatic quality that really makes this gin stand out.

A taste sensation

So, what is it like? Well the first impression on the nose is that it is immediately and noticeably citrus. There’s loads of lemon in there up front, with a bit of orange and even some underlying pine notes. But when you take a sip, it all comes together in a fiesta of citrus flavours. There’s a little spiciness from the coriander, but mostly this is all about the lemon which dances on your tongue in a frenzy of Mediterranean flavours that are hard to resist.

This is one of the best flavoured gins out there to make a classic Mediterranean G&T – and I think that’s a great way to start.

Splash a little sunshine in your glass

Just imagine yourself in a little rooftop cafe, perched on the edge of a steep cliff in a little village on the Amalfi coast. You’ve had a long hot day at the beach and now you want to unwind watching the sunset over the beautiful Mediterranean Sea sparkling below. The drink you want with you is Malfy Gin con Limone.

Malfy Gin con Limone: the perfect serve ( ABV 41%)

We think that there’s only one glass for this drink: a large copa glass.

  1. Fill the glass to the top with large ice cubes.
  2. Add a generous shot of Malfy Gin con Limone.
  3. Cut a lemon into wedges and then wipe the rim of your glass with the lemon wedge.
  4. Squeeze the lemon into the glass and fill to the top with a premium Indian Tonic water letting the fizz of the tonic water gently mix all the flavours together.
  5. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel and drink.

You’ll be transported to the Amalfi coast in no time.

TOP TIP: this gin works equally well in any citrus cocktails. I tried it last night in a classic Tom Collins and it was delicious. Really pumped up the citrus!



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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bitters and cocktails

Bitters: what are they and why should we care?

Anybody who enjoys a good cocktail will have come across the word bitters every so often.  And if you’re a gin drinker, you need to know what they are.
Basically, these are small bottles of highly alcoholic flavouring agents, generally infused with herbs and botanicals.  Like many things, they started off life as a medicinal potion. In fact, they have a medicinal history that has seen them prescribed as cures for everything from stomach aches to hangovers. They are also often the mystery ingredient in your gin cocktail.
But what are they and why should we care?

Back to basics

At their most basic, bitters are simply neutral spirits infused with aromatics such as spices, seeds, fruits, tree bark  etc.  Some of the more traditional flavours include cassia root, orange peel, cinchona bark and cascarilla. Generally, they contain a potent mixture of water, alcohol and herbs and they come in all strengths, ranging from the strong to the very strong.
As a mark of respect for their potency, they generally come in tiny bottles and are added to cocktails in small drops. This is due to their intense flavour and industrial strength.  The most commonly referenced brand of bitters is Angostura.
But what do these tiny drops of flavour do?

Smoothing out the edges

Cocktails often contain a delicate balance of flavours, generally in the sweet and sour range.  But by adding an additional primary taste bartenders can help to smooth out a cocktail neutralising any sharp or sweet edges and adding a little balance to the mix.  This complexity adds an extra layer of character to drinks and can subtly change your entire drinking experience.

So where did this all begin?

Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians were ahead of their time.  While they were constructing their mind-boggling pyramids, they also began to experiment with medicinal herbs.  Interestingly, they were also partial to a drop of wine.  They started to infuse their wine with those bitter herbal potions.  This not only changed the flavour profile of the wine, but also claimed apparent medicinal benefits.
Fast forward to the Middle Ages and the advent of organised distilling.  Preparations with deeper combinations of flavours started to appear, seemingly influenced by these ancient medicinal practices.
By the 19th century, the Americans started to add bitters to Canary wine as a preventative medicine.  And then the cocktail arrived.

Bitters become brands

That was when things started to make real progress.  Commercial distillers began to produce their own bitters – the most famous of which is Angostura (named after a Bolivian town of the same name).  As the years moved on and tastes became increasingly accustomed to these new flavours, other brands began to appear including Peychaud’s from New Orleans. This brand is now most generally associated with the Sazerac cocktail.
You may also  be familiar with bitters appearing in classic Pink Gin or Old Fashioned recipes.  This is where Angostura continues to make its mark.

During the latter half of the 19th century, orange bitters began to make their presence felt and began to appear in more and more cocktail recipes.  And then, in 1862, legendary bartender Jerry Thomas championed them in his book “How to mix drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion”.
This was the inflection point that brought them firmly into the territory of a mainstream cocktail ingredient.

The age of the cocktail

Bitters have added subtle flavour and aroma to drinks for centuries.  They are often drunk neat, as a digestif, in both Europe and America. But with the resurging interest in craft gins and bespoke cocktails, they are continuing to add an extra layer of complexity.
You will increasingly see them appearing in a range of cocktail recipes (not least in the common and garden G&T!).
And bitters have another excellent property which should not be ignored: they make a rather unpleasant tasting but highly effective hangover cure.
These days there are a plethora of new brands on the market and more and more people are experimenting with making their own craft versions at home.
Here are some of the most well known bitters, just in case you fancy mixing up a proper
pink gin (especially if you’re expecting a giant hangover any time soon!).

Some of the most popular bitters brands (paid links)

bitters selection



Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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