Wow, September has been super busy! From the sober and sensible Wine and Spirits Trade Association Industry Summit and Craft Distilling Expo to the fun and frivolity of the Highclere Castle Gin launch and Doghouse and Sacred’s birthday parties, there’s plenty to write about this month. Read all about it below.
This month all my booze news is coming from The Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s Industry Summit which I was invited to attend on a press pass. The summit – which also featured the launch of WSTA’s first Environmental Best Practice booklet and a Planning for a No Deal EU Exit guide – kicked off with Miles Beale, Chief Executive, warning that things are not going to get any easier for the industry amid a range of challenges, including Brexit as well as plans to introduce a bottle deposit-and-return scheme (which I was, I admit, surprised to hear so negatively received). WSTA, however, are determined to support and represent the industry by being louder and more “edgy” and by urging the Government to adopt a “Do it right, not right now!” approach.
A panel discussion entitled Beyond 2020 followed, the mood of which was largely sombre with Brad Madigan of Campari UK warning that with uncertainty, moving targets, hidden costs and low consumer confidence, Brexit is bad news for spirits. Furthermore, with perishable products (which make up 2/3 of UK imports) likely to get priority over wine and spirits at the border, Waitrose even revealed they have been stockpiling ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The mood lightened a little when moving on to discuss the importance of innovation. Pierpaolo Petrassi, Head of Trading at Waitrose, suggested wine could learn a lot from gin in terms of perfect serves, provenance, history and authenticity. The trend towards low- and no-alcohol beverages was also recognised, as was the fact that although under 25s might be drinking less, they are also drinking better and looking for a genuine experience while doing so.
The final session, Reinventing the Wheel, began with Kathleen Murphy from Coppola Wine describing Francis Ford Coppola’s fascinating journey from wine through spirits (including the recent release of Ada Lovelace Gin) to cannabis! While currently illegal in the UK, Henry Dimbleby (co-founder of Leon restaurants and lead non-executive board member of DEFRA) suspects UK brands may be preparing for the possible legislation of cannabis (for where the US goes, the UK tends to follow). And, with smoking becoming increasingly socially unacceptable, the proliferation of CBD-infused drinks (CBD being cannabidiol; the non-psychoactive component found in hemp and cannabis) may be paving the way for the next step. And that leads me neatly to…
New Gin Alerts
It’s entirely possible I’ve been so busy I’ve taken my finger off the pulse, but I haven’t noticed any particularly exciting new gins this month. What I’ve noticed more is trends. As above, CBD-infused drinks seem to be vying to be the next big thing, with the launch of Muhu Sweet Hibiscus Gin joining Wee Hemp Spirits Canna’B Gin, and BumbleZest adding a CBD tonic water to their range too. And fruit-flavoured gins certainly seem to have taken a seasonal turn with not one, not two, but at least three blackberry gins joining the market from Beefeater, Sloemotion and Wildcat.
My Month in Gin
September has been a super fun month but I think the Highclere Castle Gin launch at Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey!) had to be the highlight for me! The castle is every bit as impressive as it looks on the big screen and my goodness Earl and Countess Carnavon certainly know how to throw a party too! We enjoyed cracking cocktails and delicious canapés, a tour of the castle’s beautiful rooms (sadly no photography allowed) awesome entertainment from Alex Mendham and his Orchestra and The Gatsby Girls and even a traditional carousel! Of course we were really there for the gin and that didn’t disappoint either. A joint enterprise between the Carnavons and American entrepreneur Adam Von Gootkin, it took two years to develop the recipe which is now produced at Langley Distillery. Inspired by the castle’s fascinating history and gardens, Highclere Castle Gin features lavender, lime flower and orange among its botanicals. A slightly sweet London Dry, the gin also features estate-grown oats which give the gin a pleasing smoothness.
And that was just the beginning of the party season. I also visited Doghouse – London’s only grain-to-glass distillery – to join their 2nd birthday celebrations. Few distilleries make their own base spirit and for good reason – it’s hard work, complicated and eye-wateringly expensive. Braden and Katherine clearly aren’t ones to do things by half though, it takes 2-3 weeks to make enough of their own base spirit in their impressive 24-metre rectifying column (split into 3 x 8 metre sections) for just one batch of gin! And it’s not just the production method that makes Renegade Gin stand out but also its branding – inspired by rock-and-roll music and sporting a striking tattoo-artist-designed label – we enjoyed it served with tonic and rosemary.
I was also delighted to attend Sacred Gin’s 10th birthday party at Tate Modern (my old workplace), and afterwards at The Hide Bar London, thanks to a cheeky plus-one invite courtesy of Charley of Forest Hill Gin Club. A brand born out of curiosity, at around the same time as Sipsmith in the days long before the gin boom, Sacred Gin is fractionally distilled under low pressure and low temperatures using the most extraordinary mad-scientist set-up which has to be seen to be believed! With such a wide range of products, we enjoyed Sacred spirits in a wonderful variety of cocktails from classic Negronis and Old Fashioneds to Hide Bar’s Play Card to Get and On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink! Congratulations again to Hilary, Ian and the whole team at Sacred!
Finally, I was delighted and honoured (and mildly terrified!) to join a panel discussing Distillers and The Media at the Craft Distilling Expo at the Truman Brewery. It was the first time I’ve done anything like this but I was surrounded by good friends and fellow (!) experts Emma Stokes (aka Gin Monkey), Gin Foundry’s Oliver Ward, Bernadette Pamplin of Under the Ginfluence and Master of Malt’s Kristiane Sherry who also did a terrific job of chairing the panel. If you missed the event, this Gin Foundry article – Ten Tips for Contacting Media – covers a lot of the subjects we discussed and is well worth a read.
Welcome to My Collection
I’ve been waxing lyrical about Warners x Gin Foundry Farmed & Foraged Gin for a couple of months now, so I was delighted to finally try it, and take part in a terrific Twitter tasting, and find it totally living up to expectation. I was also delighted to be gifted a beautiful bottle of Holly’s Gin, and to receive a party bag containing Sacred Pink Grapefruit Gin. Finally, I couldn’t return from Greece empty-handed so popped a huge litre bottle of Old Sport Gin into my hand luggage!
In addition to all that, I also received a fabulous new gin pin; a collaboration between Tipsy Per Tutti and new distillery Corpen Barcelona Gin. And Sipsmith’s new book; SIP 100 Gin Cocktails, with only 3 ingredients – a lovely production which, in addition to A Very Brief History of Gin and guidance on glassware and garnishes, features 100 (fairly) fuss-free recipes that can be made in the comfort of your own home.
Catching Up and Looking Forward
After such a busy month it probably won’t surprise anyone that I haven’t finished my Theodore Pictish Gin review yet but it is on its way – promise! And if you’ve been picking sloes why not check out my guide to making your own sloe gin? As for next month, it will bring with it Drink Up London’s 10th London Cocktail Week from 4th to 13th October which is well worth checking out. Maybe I’ll see you there! 🍸🛎🛎