If you’re anything like me, then your heart most likely skips a beat every time you spot a new gin on social media. And then sinks a little with the realisation that there is yet another product you have to add to your must-try list and attempt to track down. And it’s hard enough to keep up with just the UK gins. Don’t even get me started on the European and worldwide gins. It is nigh on impossible to keep up with the insatiable growth in the market at the moment but a new gin subscription service from Master of Malt may just keep you one step ahead of most of the rest of us.
With the demise of Gin Explorer, not to mention Tipple Box and Microbarbox’s gin offerings, there are relatively few miniature gin subscription services on the UK market these days. However, the launch of Master of Malt’s Dram Club in June 2017 was timed almost to perfection to fill the gap its predecessors left behind. Clearly targeted at the connoisseur end of the market, Dram Club offers its members a set of five 30ml samples of gin (or, indeed, whisky or rum – albeit at an additional cost) for £24.95 per month.
Master of Malt have long offered their extensive collection of spirits for purchase in 30ml sample drams but this latest subscription service makes it possible to explore a whole world of gin from the comfort of your own home every single month. I received a three-month trial of the gin subscription service starting with the August box which, as my first, also included two complimentary crystal tasting glasses. Depending on their subscription, members also receive further free gifts at 3, 6 and 12 months.
I was very excited to open the August box to see what lay within and I was not disappointed. Three of the gins were instantly recognisable; Marylebone London Dry Gin and Rock Rose Navy Strength Gin, both of which I’ve tried before, as well as one of my all-time favourites – Warner Edwards Rhubarb Gin – which I immediately cracked open and served with my favourite Double Dutch Pomegranate and Basil tonic water and orange peel garnish! Northern Ireland’s Shortcross Gin is one I’ve heard a lot about but never tried so that was a hit. And then there was a gin I had never even heard of: Belgium’s Uppercut Dry Gin which features a “combination of forgotten weeds” (as they put it) including damiana leaf, strawberry leaf, liquorice root and vervain herb!
September’s box was equally, if not even more, exciting! Again there were a couple I’d tried before – JJ Whitley London Dry Gin and Spain’s Santamania Premium London Dry Gin – and a few familiar looking gins that I’d neither tasted nor knew an awful lot about. Hammer & Son Old English Gin is made with 11 botanicals to a recipe from 1783 and distilled in the oldest working pot still in England. Then there’s the real gin geek’s dream: Origin Gin; a single botanical gin featuring (on this occasion) juniper from Apecchio in Italy, intended to highlight the impact that the terroir (or origin) of juniper berries can have on the flavour profile of a gin. And, if that wasn’t good enough, the final dram contained Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Limited Edition; a special release of classic Bombay Sapphire to celebrate their new home at Laverstoke Mill, which is bottled at 49% ABV and retails at a whopping £99.95 for a full-sized bottle!
The tasting notes, and accompanying glasses, make it more than obvious that this subscription is aimed very clearly at connoisseurs. The notes are extremely comprehensive but, like the glasses, are almost more in keeping with a whisky tasting set-up. The tulip-shaped glasses don’t lend themselves to gin and tonics, or many other cocktails, but they are perfect for concentrating the aromas of the gin for proper pro tasting. Meanwhile, the otherwise detailed tasting notes list neither the botanicals within the gin nor any suggested serves, which is a bit of a pity but easy enough to remedy. The size of the drams, too, limit the amount of experimentation you can enjoy but, at 30ml – just over a single UK serve – there is certainly enough to get a good feel for your liquor and, if you’re not quite a connoisseur yet, tasting guidance is also available online.
This is undoubtedly a quality product, aiming for the top of the market, with a fairly hefty price tag to match. However, given the range of gins included in each box, and how tricky some of them are to get your hands on, I’d argue that the Dram Club boxes still offer very good value for money (and are certainly cheaper than buying the drams – where available – individually). The boxes are also the perfect way to try a wide range of gins, especially the more expensive ones, without committing to a full-sized bottle. And it’s definitely exciting to open the lid each month and find out what wonderful treats await! For all you gin geeks, desperate to try as many of the world’s best gins as you possibly can, look no further; this is the club for you!
Join the Dram Club here.
With thanks to Anna Grant at Atom Group for the complimentary gin subscription service membership.