It’s always good when a friend casually mentions that their brother-in-law makes gin. It’s even better when you find out that they don’t just play with primitive homemade gin but make real, proper award-winning gin! This is how I was introduced to Hawthorn’s London Dry Gin, but the real story is even more of a family affair.
The inspiration for Hawthorn’s came about when the founder was browsing through his grandfather’s secret wartime diaries after he passed away about five years ago. In a story not dissimilar to the one behind 6 O’Clock Gin, Will Turnage discovered that his grandfather, Royal Navy Commander Michael Wallrock, made gin to boost morale on the boats in World War II.
It is remarkable that he found any time for distilling for Wallrock had, it is fair to say, an eventful war. Among his many actions, in 1941, he took part in the perilous Tiger Convoy from Gibraltar to Alexandria that delivered tanks to the Eighth Army ahead of the Western Desert Campaign (the first steps towards a victory that Churchill would famously hail as the “end of the beginning”). He was also twice mentioned in dispatches – and awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French – for his role in the D-Day landings in June 1944.
“His maritime boast of being sunk three times and never getting his feet wet was always proudly toasted at each port with his legendary ‘On the Rocks’ measure which he soon became famous for.”
Turnage found his grandfather’s gin recipe alongside detailed battle plans and analysis of his confrontations, and Hawthorn’s London Dry Gin was created in homage to his exploits. It features botanicals sourced from the four corners of the globe in which he laid anchor. The exact recipe is kept a closely-guarded secret but two of the ten botanicals are nutmeg from Sri Lanka and Indonesian Cassia Bark. Hawthorn’s is distilled from 100% English wheat in a copper pot still and, being a London Dry Gin, contains no artificial ingredients and has nothing but water, and a small amount of sugar, added after distillation to bring the ABV down to 37.5%.
The striking bottle references the British naval link too, with a Union Jack prominent against a background of lines of longitude and latitude radiating from the Hawthorn’s logo. Those in the know (or those who’ve done a little research!) will also notice that the additional row of nautical signal flags on the secondary label also spell out H.A.W.T.H.O.R.N.S.
Wallrock, and his fellow officers, used to drink their gin neat and, in keeping with that tradition, Hawthorn’s makes a superb sipping gin. Despite being a fairly classic London Dry Gin, the juniper is not overly dominant. Hawthorn’s is not particularly dry, or at all harsh, but it is incredibly smooth and clean with a delicate finish. The juniper is there alongside some citrus, a little pepper from the coriander and a slight sweetness possibly from the nutmeg.
I particularly enjoyed Hawthorn’s neat (which certainly isn’t always the case!), and also mixed 50/50 with water, but it makes an excellent G&T as well. And I’d also be very tempted to try it in their recommended Lemon Basil Gimlet with a mint garnish.
Hawthorn’s retails at £20 for 70cl making it exceptionally good value, especially for a gold medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2016, and I would highly recommend you add this award-winning gin to your collection.
Hawthorn’s is available to purchase from Master of Malt for £18.95.
With thanks to Nick Masters at Hawthorn’s for sending me a sample bottle for review.