Finally, the days are getting longer and warmer, spring is on its way, and we might even have a roadmap out of lockdown! There’s still a long slog ahead of us, especially for those in the hospitality industry, but at least there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. As for February, it might have been a short month but there’s been plenty going on, not least my five-year anniversary of Gin A Ding Dinging! Thank you to everyone who has supported and helped me so far on this journey; with any luck there’s even more to come over the months and years ahead.
It’s been a tale of two halves this month. On the one hand, WSTA found that the number of UK distilleries increased by 124 in 2020, up 28% compared with 2019. However, it’s hard not to assume the months ahead will show not only a slowdown in distillery openings but perhaps some closures too. Similarly, while many rejoice the long-awaited reopening of hospitality businesses (outdoors only from mid-April and indoors from mid-May), UK Hospitality has warned two-thirds of hospitality venues do not have enough money to last until May.
In cheerier news, the Gin Magazine Awards were announced during a virtual ceremony on 25th February. Among many Icons of Gin, Greensand Ridge was announced Sustainable Distillery of the Year, Warner’s Distillery claimed Craft Producer of the Year and writer, judge, consultant and good friend of mine, David T. Smith, was rightly inducted into the Hall of Fame (rumour has it he’s also rather chuffed with being inductee no. 7, likening himself to another 007!).
Meanwhile in the World Gin Awards, Australia’s Four Pillars Olive Branch Gin claimed World’s Best Signature Botanical, and Estonia’s Junimperium won World’s Best Sloe Gin, with The Gower Gin Company claiming country winner for Wales. Tobermory’s Hebridean Mountain Gin took World’s Best Classic Gin and, in a very strong category, where York Gin and Rock Rose were both announced country winners, it was Australia’s Strong Gin from Ester Spirits that claimed World’s Best Navy Gin.
New Gin Alerts
There haven’t been a lot of notable gin releases this month but two of the big hitters have both released (yet another) flavoured gin. Alongside a new 0% “spirit”, Tanqueray have unveiled their Blackcurrant Royale Gin, while Beefeater have gone for a combination of Peach and Raspberry. Meanwhile Tappers have released Dalglish 7 Gin; a limited-edition spirit featuring strawberries, raspberries and orange peel, it was commissioned in honour of Sir Kenny Dalglish’s 70th Birthday and in support of The Marina Dalglish Appeal.
My Month in Gin
For a short month I’ve packed a lot in, including 6 O’Clock Gin’s Virtual Tasting and Tour where Tristan (re-)introduced me to their delicious dry, sensational sloe and outstanding Brunel Gins. Negroni Club UK took us to Cognac (with a Pink Pepper Negroni in hand) where we joined Audemus Spirits founder and distiller Miko in his living-room-turned-vacuum-distillery! And (with the help of a kind friend) I even attended the fascinating virtual launch for The Distiller of London and got to hang out (virtually speaking of course) with the great and the good of gin, including Jared Smith, Desmond Payne and Charles Maxwell!
On the nights I wasn’t online, I was knocking back some outstandingly good pre-made cocktails from The Manhattans Project and Asterley Bros Cocktail Club, as well as shaking up some smashers with the help of Wye Valley Gin’s Silver Circle Distillery Big Night In cocktail kit.
Welcome to My Collection
It’s been quite the month for gin deliveries! I heard about Audemus Spirits‘ “On the QT” Gin during the Negroni Club social, and had to order a bottle, but I also gratefully received McQueen’s Blackcurrant and Raspberry Gin featuring (what they claim to be is) The World’s Coolest Label. It couldn’t be more different to Brentingby’s spin-off No-Nonsense Spirits brand, which offers craft products at (closer to) supermarket prices.
Then there was Hospitality Gin’s second release, and the first in their experimental bartender series. Produced at Cooper King Distillery, it features pineapple, green bell pepper and pink peppercorns and 100% of the profits are used to support the UK hospitality industry and its people. Meanwhile Cooper King’s own Dry and Herb Gins are now proudly claiming to be England’s first carbon-negative gins. And I was equally delighted to receive Deck Chair Gin, Junimperium Summer and Winter Edition Gins, as well as GŴYR’s Rhamanta Redcurrant Gin.
Thanks also to Sipsmith who kindly sent me a sample of their Original Gin, produced for the Sipping Society by their master distiller, Jared Brown, and replicating as closely as possible a 1639 recipe he unearthed. It features in his recently published (and my recently purchased) The Distiller of London; a fascinating (if geeky!) read which will make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about the history of gin!
I was also delighted to receive a review copy of Negroni (published by Ryland Peters and Small and on sale from 9th March). Written by two stalwarts of the industry – David T Smith and (US Brand Ambassador for Sipsmith) Keli Rivers – and divided into four sections including classic, experimental and seasonal, this book features fantastic recipes for everything from pink and white negronis to those made with tequila, rum and even mezcal!
Finally, I couldn’t resist treating myself to a couple of new gin pins and was also delighted to receive one from Cooper King Distillery!
Catching Up and Looking Forward
If you haven’t already seen it, why not have a read of my Meet the Team interview for Gin Magazine? As for looking forward, #GinADayMay 2021 is in the final planning stages so keep your eyes peeled for the prompts, which will be published soon! Until next time…🍸🛎🛎