There’s nothing quite like a G&T at the end of a long day, but do you have a favourite place to enjoy yours? For me, it’s in my hammock in the back of my little London garden. But for travel-loving couple Ben and Kate Marston, it’s all about being in the great outdoors, ideally under the stars and beside a glowing campfire. It was this shared love of outdoor pursuits, adventure and gin, alongside experience in tourism and design, that inspired Ben and Kate to create their perfect Campfire Gin and, in so doing, establish Hertfordshire’s first distillery in 2014.
Since I visited in late 2016, Bimber have opened the doors of their relatively small North Acton distillery to the public, allowing everyone to get to know this forward-thinking company that, nonetheless, still respects its past. In homage to its Polish heritage, Bimber produce a wide range of vodkas, including a number of fruit-infused versions. However, these are a cut above the homely Polish home-brew from which Bimber gets its name, as their host of awards – including several medals from this year’s inaugural Bartender’s Brand Awards – testify.
From Aber Falls Marmalade Gin to Malfy Con Arancia (featuring blood orange peel) and Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla (made with Seville oranges and orange blossom), citrus is undoubtedly where it’s at at the moment. And One Time Gin’s April subscription box is no exception. I was lucky enough to receive the “dinky” package, including a 350ml bottle of Marmalade Gin alongside a bottle each of Luscombe’s Devon Tonic Water and Grapefruit Water and a bottle of OTG’s “Curaçao-esque” orange and ginger liqueur. And I was not disappointed. Not one bit.
1st April 2018: April Fool’s Day, Easter Sunday and the 100th Anniversary of the RAF; the oldest independent air force in the world and defender of the skies. As part of the celebrations – which will culminate on 10th July with a centenary service in Westminster Abbey, a parade in The Mall and spectacular flypast over Buckingham Palace – Spitfire Heritage Gin have partnered with The Royal Air Forces Association in producing stunning liveried bottles. A percentage of the profits from the sale of the bespoke bottles will also be donated to the RAF Association; a registered charity that provides welfare support to RAF personnel and their immediate families.
Judging gin, as I’ve said before, is a curious thing. And much harder than you might imagine. But what I find particularly peculiar is that, because gin is judged blind, you wind up not knowing which you’ve tried or what you thought of them! And so it was, I found myself hosting a table at the final of the 2018 World Gin Awards and meeting Jane Cannon from Newton House Gin, knowing I’d probably tried her product but, at the same time, knowing nothing about it! Nothing except that it had just been awarded a Gold Medal in the UK London Dry Gin category.
2017 was one hell of a year for gin with figures released today showing Britons bought 51 million bottles of our favourite spirit; an increase of 27% on 2016 figures! Sweeter spirits are proving increasingly popular, with fruit gins dominating sales in 2017 and growth only expected to continue well into 2018. Capitalising on this lucrative market, Aber Falls, North Wales’ first whisky distillery in over 100 years, has launched a range of gin and liqueurs while it waits on its whisky to mature.
Anyone who has even half an eye on the gin industry at the moment will know that small-batch limited edition gins are big news. As are gin subscription services. One Time Gin and Sipsmith’s Sipping Society have lead the way and now Batch Brew, Lancashire’s first gin distillery, are getting in on the act too with their monthly Batch Innovations subscription service.
Launched in 2010, before the current gin craze took hold of the country, Fifty Pounds is said to be made to a centuries-old recipe dating back to the times of the first gin craze. The original recipe became known, ironically, as Fifty Pounds Gin in reference to the Gin Act of 1736 which imposed an annual levy of £50 on anyone wishing to produce and sell gin. The cost should have crippled producers but only two license applications were ever received and the gin craze, and the attempt to curb it, continued unabated for many more years!
In 2010, John Savage-Onstwedder became one of the first UK recipients of a 350-litre still license, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the Dà Mhìle organic farmhouse distillery was opened in Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Having endured months, if not years, of building works and bureaucracy, success came to the distillery quickly as their first product, the organic Orange 33 liqueur, won a True Taste Award for its very first test batch!
A brief glance at Mary Rose Gin, from HMS Spirits, conveys a sense of voyage and expedition. But it goes beyond the compass emblazoned on the back of the bottle, the sailing ships and the instruction to “Chart Your Own Course”. HMS Spirits began with one chap from the South Coast, Ben Maguire, who had a passion for travelling and also a love of gin (born of a desire to lose weight without compromising his social life!). Having been enticed by the art of distilling, Ben bought a 35 litre copper still on a trip to Hungary (as you do!) but it took four years of experimentation in his garage before he settled upon a recipe he felt would “respect the art of the London Dry whilst adding a new modern twist”. There was then a further year of researching bottles, labels and stoppers and building a brand that reflected his love of the sea, travel and enterprise.