I never dreamt of becoming a blogger. I didn’t really know what it meant to be a blogger and I certainly never read any blogs. It all started in the summer of 2014 when I won two tickets to Gin Journey’s London Gin Experience. The following year I won 10 bottles of premium gin from 31 Dover and in 2016 two tickets to Junipalooza. Having dabbled in writing about my neck of the woods, I finally decided to take the plunge and write about gin.
I’ve never looked back. I’ve met passionate people and made wonderful friends. I’ve been acclaimed as one of the UK’s top gin bloggers, invited to judge Craft Distilling Expo’s Gin of the Year 2017 and the World Gin Awards 2018 and, most recently and perhaps most excitingly, been asked to give my personal feedback on a gin in production! Yes. I got to taste, judge and advise on a gin yet to be released to market. Proper top secret stuff! And now I can finally reveal the gin in question was The Wrecking Coast‘s navy strength Scurvy Gin, which launches at Imbibe on Monday 2nd July 2018 and will be available to purchase from the end of the month.
I’ve been a big fan of The Wrecking Coast since Imbibe 2017, and their Clotted Cream Gin made my Top 10 that year. Produced by cold-distilling the neutral spirit and clotted cream in a glass vacuum and then blending it with their gin – featuring juniper, coriander, chamomile, vanilla, grains of paradise and aniseed among its 12 botanicals – it is a complex but balanced gin. With an incredible mouthfeel from the cream, and subtle sweet and floral notes alongside spicy pepper, this is a truly exceptional gin. As is their stunning sloe gin, with its pleasing sweetness from local honey and warmth from cloves.
So I was honoured beyond belief to be asked to pass judgement on The Wrecking Coast’s new navy strength gin before they had even finalised the recipe and, as it happened, I got to test two variants and experience the development of the product as well. Real gin geek heaven!
Located on the Cornish shore known as The Wrecking Coast, it was clear that they would have to make their navy strength gin something special, and to do so they were determined to start with an entirely new recipe. Inspired by the Naval connections of a 57% ABV spirit (said to be that specific ABV – or rather 100% old British proof – for the reason that, if spilled on gunpowder, the cannons would still fire) The Wrecking Coast chose to use locally foraged Cochlearia officinalis, better known as scurvy grass, as their central botanical. This small cress-like plant, which is actually a member of the cabbage family, thrives in coastal regions, due to its high tolerance of saline conditions. With a sweet scent, bitter, peppery tasting leaves but, most importantly, high levels of vitamin C, it was regularly taken on board ships in dried bundles, or distilled extracts, to keep scurvy at bay.
Alongside the locally foraged scurvy grass, this gin features lemon and lime peel, juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, grains of paradise, orris root and liquorice root. The botanicals are distilled with British wheat neutral grain spirit through The Wrecking Coast’s modern computer-controlled iStill. Following distillation the spirit is cut down to 57% ABV with Davidstow natural Cornish spring water. The spirit is then rested for, in the case of the first sample I received, about four weeks.
Now, I was impressed with that first sample. Very impressed; the nose was powerful and inviting with lots of pepperiness, green juniper and some spice. However, neat I found it very strong – almost overwhelmingly so. And, although I enjoyed the juniper and pepper and slightly bitter finish, I also found it fragrant almost to the point of astringency. It’s easier to say this with the benefit of hindsight, but I did wonder if it was a little unbalanced.
Clearly the chaps at The Wrecking Coast agreed, as did Rik Patel of Cornerstone (for whom The Wrecking Coast produce a gin distilled with apple juice!) who said he felt the first version would be hard to work with in cocktails. Bad news for them perhaps but great news for me; I got another sample! This time they adjusted the cuts – the point at which the harsh and bitter head and tails of the spirit are removed during the distillation run – and also rested this second batch for approximately one week longer.
I found this second, and final, sample had a more restrained nose – though the pepper and perfume was still there, it seemed more subtle and more balanced. Neat, the difference in flavour was subtle, but this batch was certainly smoother and more refined with less heat and alcohol burn. I also felt this allowed more of the other botanicals – including the citrus and coriander – to shine. The star of the show is certainly the scurvy grass with its bitter, peppery but perfumed flavour but this gin retains a juniper core too. Scurvy Gin shares a little of the pepperiness of Clotted Cream Gin but otherwise it is an entirely different beast. It is a bold and powerful gin which can really hold its own against pretty much anything I suspect! It makes a smashing G&T, though I do look forward to playing around with other garnishes as I’m not convinced the recommended lemon and lime bring out its absolute best, and I also can’t wait to try a martini or a gimlet too.
Sadly, I suspect this scurvy spirit won’t do much for your vitamin C levels but I reckon it might just be powerful enough to deliver a broadside!
The first batch of Scurvy Gin will be limited to only 250 bottles. Purchase from Master of Malt at £44.96 for 70cl (57% ABV).