"Like a great fool, I went ashore with them, and they gave me some cursed stuff they called gin—such blasphemy I never heard...this was the unchristianest beastliest liquor I ever tasted…” — Edward John Trelawny, Adventures of a Younger Son
Who would have thought it? Gin, a drink once considered a threat to Georgian society, is busily taking over our shelves. A recent flurry of arrivals has seen the number of gins on our list almost hit the half-century (47 to be precise). That's something like a four-fold increase in just over the last three years!
Gin is really enjoying its time in the sun at the moment. I'm sure that some of this is down to a resurgence of interest in cocktails, both classic and new. A good part is undoubtedly down to the fact that there are so many more people making gin today than even just five years ago. But the most important reason has to be just how delicious many of the gins being made at the moment are, in every different style you can imagine.
"You can no more keep a martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there. The proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth and one of the shortest-lived." - Bernard DeVoto
It's a drink that encourages the tinkerer, the innovator, the pusher of boundaries. Unless you're intending to make a proper 'London Dry Gin' or Plymouth Gin there aren't all that many rules you have to stick by. Pretty much the only stipulation is that the predominant flavour has to be juniper. And even that isn't too much of a cast iron rule as anyone who has experienced the heady coconut and grapefruit flavours of Hoxton Gin will know.
With wine you have one possible ingredient, grapes. Whiskey takes you up to two, water and grain. With gin the limit is your imagination and access to ingredients. The delicious Monkey 47 gin boasts and impressive (and tidily coincidental) 47 different botanicals whereas the equally delicious Crossbill gin which suffers not one jot from only having two botanicals (Scottish rosehips and juniper). And there's no reason why gin can't be oak-aged either just like wine, just look at the Rum Aged Bathtub gin (from the appropriately named 'Batshit Mental Ideas' range).
This week's additions to the range are:
Dodd's Gin (42.25), produced in Battersea from organic botanicals using a small traditional still for much of the production but introducing a high-tech cold vacuum still to preserve the flavour of the more delicate ingredients.
Eden Mill Love Gin (35.00) from the St. Andrew's Brewery and distillery, featuring hibiscus and rose petals.
Elephant Gin (35.89) - While gin may have originated from Holland and found a home in the UK there's great gin to be had from around the globe. Heck, the world's bestselling gin is one most of us in Europe have never heard of - Ginebra San Miguel which calls the Philippines home and where they sell most of their 22 million cases a year (by comparison Gordon's sells something like 4 million cases worldwide). But I digress, Elephant Gin is made in Germany and features plenty of botanicals unique to Africa. 15% from the sales of each bottle goes to supporting wildlife projects in Africa.
Fillier's Oude Graanjenever (5 year old) (35.50) is just the kind of thing the King William III bought with him in 1688 to corrupt his new subjects (even if this particular example is Belgian), this is a traditional European style gin. Oude in the name means that this is 'old school' Jenever that uses a higher proportion of distilled malt wine than the lighter Jonge style. The Jenever is then aged in American oak barrels giving a very distinctive malty, smoky, almost whisky-like edge to the subtle juniper flavours. Delicious sipped on its own, probably not one for gin and tonics.
Herno Navy Strength Gin 50cl (47.00) Fantastic demonstration that great gin can be found in seemingly unlikely corners of the globe. This fine, fine gin comes from a tiny Swedish distillery and is bottled at 57.0%, full Navy Strength (meaning that gunpowder soaked in it would still ignite).
Strane Navy Strength London Dry Gin 50cl (62.00) Another Swedish offering, this time from the Smogen Whisky Distillery. I've no idea what the Swedish obsession with Navy Strength is but when the gin is this good I'm not complaining.