With new craft distilleries opening every month, and existing distilleries increasing their portfolios, the number of gins on the market is growing exponentially. But how does one keep up with so many new products? How do you decide which one is good enough to invest in and which one isn’t worth your hard-earned pennies? Sometimes when you’re spoilt for choice and short on time it’s just easier to let someone else do the hard work for you. That’s where the Craft Gin Club comes in.
This year there has been a boom in gin subscription services, from companies such as I Love Gin and Microbarbox, offering a regular delivery of gin miniatures to your home. The original subscription service, however, was the Craft Gin Club which was founded by Jon Hulme and John Burke in January 2015. Hulme and Burke’s goal was, and remains, to share their knowledge and passion for excellent gins and to provide a service to help “gin lovers to discover the best”. To achieve this aim Craft Gin Club experts work with independent distillers to source the best small batch gins from around the world. Members can expect to receive limited edition batch gins and gins imported especially for them. The Craft Gin Club prides itself on offering an exclusive experience; you are not going to end up with a bottle you could have picked up in Waitrose with these guys.
The Craft Gin Club offers monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly memberships and members can increase or decrease the frequency of their boxes, skip a month or suspend their membership at any time. For £40 (including delivery) members receive one bottle of small batch gin (usually 70cl), GINNED! Magazine and a selection of treats to complement the gin which may include sweets, tonic water or other snacks and condiments. Previous gins of the month have included Scotland’s Navy Strength NB Gin, Germany’s Windspiel Premium Dry Gin, Tarquin‘s Limited Edition Rosemary & Thyme Gin from Cornwall and The West Winds Gin all the way from Australia.
One of the features of the Craft Gin Club is that each month’s gin is kept top secret, so you don’t know what you’ll be receiving until it lands on your doorstop. Only when all the deliveries should have successfully reached their members do Craft Gin Club announce which gin they have just dispatched. One might worry about receiving a bottle you already own, especially if your collection rivals mine, but I’ve looked through their gins of the month from the last 12 months and, although I’m familiar with most of them, I was happy to discover that I only own two.
I was lucky enough to receive the July 2016 box featuring Sweden’s Hernö Gin; Europe’s most awarded gin, in a Craft Gin Club exclusive 70cl bottle (as opposed to the usual 50cl). Hernö is a gin I’d certainly heard a lot about, and had come close to tasting at Junipalooza but, until it arrived at my home, it had never passed my lips. In addition to this, my box contained the newly launched Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic Water, Felix Lingonberry Jam, two packets of Swedish sweets – Dumle (chocolate-covered toffees) and Polkagris (stripy rock-like mints) – and GINNED! Magazine. Initially, I wasn’t sure what the lingonberry jam and sweets were doing in there but was delighted to receive both a gin and a tonic which I had not tasted before.
GINNED! is an impressive, professional 26-page glossy magazine devoted to the gin of the month and, in this month’s case, all things Swedish. This month’s publication includes a lengthy, informative article about the Hernö distillery with accompanying cocktail recipes; an introduction to Fever-Tree’s latest addition to the family; a series of pieces about Sweden’s cuisine and culinary tradition; an extract from Tristan Stephenson‘s new highly acclaimed book The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace and the rather fun Gin O’Clock prize crossword. The contents of the box also became clearer with the addition of an article regarding Sweden’s obsession with sweets and a very tempting recipe for a Hernö Lingon cocktail featuring that jar of lingonberry jam.
My Craft Gin Club box certainly did not disappoint. At £40 a pop this is not a cheap option but it does offer surprisingly good value, both when compared to the prices of the miniature subscription services (which average at £5 per 5cl) and also when compared to buying an equivalent bottle of gin online (especially when you factor in the additional cost of postage and packing). Of course, due to the very nature of the Craft Gin Club, a lot of these gins are not widely available in the UK. I did find most of them online at Master of Malt (with the exception of the exclusive limited editions) and I do think the Craft Gin Club price, with all the extras it includes, is very competitive. However, if I’m honest, I did find the packaging a little disappointing. Unlike most of its competitors, there is no smart box, no bespoke or branded packaging. This probably shouldn’t matter if you’re buying it for yourself but it might make me think twice before buying it as a gift.
This won’t be the subscription service for everyone; it’s not cheap and you won’t like it if you’re not keen on surprises either. But if you’re a gin lover, you love learning about gin and are open to new botanicals, new flavour profiles and new experiences you can’t go wrong. This has got to be one of the easiest, and most enjoyable, ways to amass a first-rate gin collection and set yourself well on the way to becoming a “Ginnoisseur”.
Join the Craft Gin Club here.
With thanks to Craft Gin Club for sending me a box to review.