Gin of the Month: January

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Hailing from the small Island of Colonsay off the west coast of Scotland, Wild Island Gin is one of two types produced on the island. Pretty impressive for an island with a population of 124! The original Wild Island Gin was launched in December 2016 and this month’s Gin of the Month - Wild Island's Sacred Tree - followed in its footsteps a year later. 

The Sacred Tree Gin is produced using hand foraged botanicals from the Island. The botanicals include Brambles, Redcurrants, Rosehip, Crab Apples, Elderberries and Rowan Berries. Overall, there are 22 botanicals listed, which make the flavours quite complex and deep. It's fruitiness is made quite apparent in the initial smelling of the gin. 

Before I continue, a special mention must be made to the beautiful bottle; its simplicity combined with a few splashes of colour make it a great addition to any gin bar or shelf - anywhere on display, really. Top tip from us: once you've finished, try decorate the bottle with some fairy lights inside - I promise you it will look awesome! 

The gin itself is 43.4% ABV - which is the average Fahrenheit temperature of Colonsay in the winter months. We liked this fact and it’s a great wee nugget of knowledge to share with friends to make you sound like you really know your gin! First off, we tried it neat, without a garnish and we felt it was rather strong and overpowering. However, try it neat with a slice of red apple and a frozen blackberry and you really start to open up the flavours with a little added sweetness to compliment the tart fruity flavours of the gin. It certainly goes to show how important garnishes really are! 

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In terms of the ‘Perfect Serve’, we think this gin is very versatile. It would work great in simple G&Ts but also be a fantastic base for cocktails. We tried just a light tonic with it: this complimented the subtle flavours of the gin and it wasn’t too overpowering. Remember: with any mixers, add to your own taste - just because you have a whole bottle of tonic doesn’t mean you need to use it all. There are so many different gins out there with different, delicate and intricate flavours, too much or indeed, the wrong tonic, can drown out the gin... and we wouldn't want that. 

We also tried Elderflower tonic which gave the gin a smooth and refreshing taste. We can imagine - as we sit here in the strange period between Christmas and New Year in Edinburgh - this would be nice in a long glass with lots of ice in the summer... oh, if only! This sweeter tonic compliments the flavours of Sacred Tree perfectly. If you fancy an even sweeter drink, why not try it with a splash of apple juice? The beauty of the gin is it is so versatile that you can test out a whole host of mixers and garnishes to suit your own, individual tastes. There are similarities in the botanicals between Sacred Tree and the crab apple and rowan berries in Caorunn and the blackberries in Brockmans, so, if you like them then we suggest you try out this one! 

Overall the Sacred Tree took a few tastes to really appreciate as we were maybe used to more citrus based gins. The complexity means for some it may take a few variations and trials with different mixers to know what really suits your taste. We recommend that if you are having an evening of Gin tasting, go with Sacred Tree first to fully appreciate the flavours.

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The Gin Fayre: A Newbies Guide

We were back in our home town of St Andrews just a few weeks ago for The Gin Fayre: Christmas Special and we thought we'd give our new resident bloggers, Mike and Steph, the opportunity to get involved and try out a Gin Fayre for the very first time! So, they jumped on the train from Edinburgh for a GINdulgent day out by the sea... Here's what they thought! 


Steph: We recently attended The Gin Fayre: Christmas Special in St Andrews and had such a great time testing out the gins and meeting the geniuses behind each bottle. This guide is for anyone who is planning on attending any future Gin Fayre and wants to know what to expect... 

 

1. Be open minded

Sometimes the description in the programme or the description of the gin makes you think “hmm I don't think I'll like that gin”. We recommend you stay open minded, try a gin: after all, what's the worst that could happen? Generally, we are not whisky drinkers, but actually loved the smell and taste of Firkin Gin which is whisky based - so much so we bought a bottle! Some of the gins that were there at the event we had tried before and thought we didn't like but actually on second taste we loved! It just goes to show that it’s always worth another go!

 

2. Ask Questions

Don’t be scared or shy! The stall holders at the gin fayre were the nicest people. They are not just there to sell you a bottle of gin, they are there to provide you with an experience. Remember these guys know the gin inside out, ask them about recommended serves, the distilling process, the story behind the company. That’s why they are there, they also won’t be offended if you don’t like their gin.  We met some really interesting people and learnt so much more about gin in general.

 

3. Take Note

On that note of speaking to people, be sure to either take photos of garnishes or serves. Or even better take notes either in the programme or on your phone. Sober you will thank you later, when you try and construct that perfect serve. You’ll be trying to remember whether it was orange or grapefruit that went with this gin and the name of that gin you thought your friend would really like.

 

4. What’s the Story?  

Gins all have a story. They were made for a reason. Some of them perhaps started off as a get rich quick scheme, others were made to fill a gap in the market, others have love stories behind them. I love learning about why gins were made and where the inspiration came from. For example, a new gin we tried was Granite North which took 80 tests to get right and has really fresh grapefruit flavour,  it’s a great gin to have straight.

 

5. Head to the bar

Has anyone ever said it was a bad idea to head to the bar? Yes, the samples are good but sometimes it's better to get a full G and T (other mixers are available) to really appreciate the drink. It’s also really hard to add the right amount of tonic to the wee sample cups without drowning it and then ending up just drinking a whole lotta tonic. If anything you can pick up some good cocktail tips and ideas!

 

6. Find out where it’s stocked

Although you can always buy a bottle or two on the day but sometimes it's not practical and so you think you’ll come back to it. Some gins aren't available in every shop like Harris Gin, who limit it’s stockists to make it more exclusive. Ask where you can get it if you want to buy it later. Although if you are stuck, you can buy a lot of the gins in The Gin Fayre shop!

 

7. Attend a master class

We attended the Minus 33 master class.  It was a great way to find out the history of the gin by the creator himself and the story of his many experiments distilling in the lab and surveying to find out what people liked about gins, leading, eventually, to create the final product.  Understanding what’s in the gin helps you know how best to drink it!

 

8. Don't pre-drink

Sadly we learnt this the hard way last time. We went for a cheeky G&T before an event once. There is a lot of gin on offer: if you drink too much of it you forget and it doesn't end well.  So take it easy!

 

9. Eat

The food was amazing from County Hog Roasts. We tried the Hog Roast with Haggis roll. It's good to snack throughout for a good gin break, especially when it’s so tasty! Also on offer at the St Andrews Fayre was a whole selection of Gin based foods including Gin Loaf, Fudge and Cake. Just in case you hadn’t had enough gin!

 

10. Take your time!

Finally, this is the most important one. It's not a rush: take your time, sit down, catch up, take stock of your faves. Otherwise, you'll forget flavours and they’ll all be forgotten in a haze. The atmosphere is buzzing at the Gin Fayre and it’s a perfect place to people watch!

 

So, there it is. That's our top tips for how to successfully navigate a Gin Fayre, the main message is get a group of friends together, even the ones who say they don’t like gin (they are just drinking it wrong), go along and have FUN!

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Gin of the Month: December

Our resident gin bloggers, Steph & Mike review a deliciously festive treat...

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ABLEFORTH'S BATHTUB
SLOE GIN

This month’s festive tipple comes from the Kent based Ableforth distillers, which originated back in 2011 – and that means in this day and age, they are veterans in the fast paced gin market. They’ve amassed a tasty selection over the past few years but since it’s Christmas, this month we’ve got their Bathtub Sloe Gin to review. Ableforth spirits have a distinctive packaging: all wrapped in brown paper, sealed with twine and wax at the neck, all done by hand. This quirky but stylish design gives a very prohibition, Boardwalk Empire feel. This aligns with the origins of the homemade amateur spirits movement in 1920s America when spirits were illegally made in people's bathtubs - to varying degrees of success - more on this later. Ableforth have six gins: an original, cask aged, navy strength, cask aged navy strength, Old Tom, and today’s taster: the sloe. The company have won a few awards recently and have a diverse range of spirits including rums, brandy, absinthe and fruit cups liqueurs. They all seem as unique and quirky, worth going on our “to try” list. 

On the nose, you can get cinnamon, clove, mulled wine, amaretto: it reminds us of walking through Edinburgh Christmas market - it’s very festive; like Christmas in a bottle. The sweet sloe berries also kick through - with over half a pound of them in each bottle - providing a very fruity smell and the distinctive dark red colour. As this is distilled as a liqueur (33.8% ABV) it can be enjoyed neat, with a cube of ice: it’s very smooth with no typical alcohol burn in the throat. Imagine sitting by a crackling fire (or the Fireplace video on Netflix…) when it’s dark, cold and windy outside and you’re sipping on your lovely warming drink, slowly getting merrier. Bliss! If you do want to add something and not get too merry too quick, it does work well with a good tonic water (we chose Fever Tree Original) but bear in mind, less is more. Don’t drown out the flavours with tonic. A slice of lemon in there balances all the sweet flavours; we did try the Fever Tree Sicilian Lemon Tonic but it was too overpowering and drowned out all the flavours. So we recommend sticking to an original or light tonic. Alternatively, if you’re not too keen on tonic, you could add a splash to your prosecco.

We really enjoyed Ableforth’s Bathtub Sloe Gin, which quite surprised us. After trying a few sloe gins before, we weren’t completely convinced. The versatility of this gin makes it an ideal addition to any festive get-together.

Our suggested serve: a hint of Michael Buble (other Christmas albums are available), neat or with a splash of tonic, or even in an alternative hot toddy for those cold winter nights.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A little extra from us:

We did also sample the Original Bathtub Gin which has all the same botanicals without the sloe berries, but with an extra little sweet vanilla smell coming through. Traditionally, it was seen to be a cheap and easy way to make gin, by throwing all the botanicals in your still or ‘bathtub’ whilst distilling. This is a less common practice today, but it is good to see some distilliers sticking to tried and tested methods. The one thing about this process is that it leaves the gin with a slightly cloudier appearance - it doesn’t affect the taste, just adds a further quirk to the gin. On tasting the Original, there is an initial burn in your mouth, as you may expect from a 43.3% ABV spirit, but as the flavours come through it smooths out nicely with a definite spiced orange vibe.

Gin of the Month: NOVEMBER

Stephanie and Michael Whyte entered our competition earlier this month to be our Resident Gin Bloggers, and we loved their entry so much we decided to feature it for our Gin of the Month: November! Here it is:

 

Just by looking at the Pickering’s Navy Strength Bottle you already know it’s going to be a gin full of character. The bottle comes with its own mini bearskin hat, complete with a tiny chain. This is to mark the collaboration with Pickering's and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Pickering's is a quirky brand, based in Summerhall, Edinburgh. They are very innovative when it comes to their brand vision. Using distinctive red and white colouring, they have thought of everything including a motorbike converted into a gin bar! Launching in 2013, they were the first distillery in the Capital for over 150 years. In fact the gin is distilled in the former kennels of the former Royal Dick Vet School, we highly recommend the tour for the fascinating look at many unconventional but wonderful distilling, bottling and production processes.

The company is surprisingly small and it is nice to know that each bottle of gin’s distinct wax seal has been individually placed on your bottle: a delightful rustic and personal touch! A paper from a family relative dated July 1947 forms the basis of the gin’s secret recipe, kept for quite a few years before becoming what it is today. This Navy strength is one of three gins they have on offer: there’s the 1947 and Original gins but we personally love this one the most. You may argue it’s 57% alcohol levels may have something to do with this, but you really get the proper essence of the gin with all the flavours.

The gin has both sweet and spicy smells to it: think cinnamon, cardamon, oranges and lemons. It smells of autumn or marmalade on toast. Although very drinkable all year round. Some may be put off by the high percentage of alcohol in this and other Navy strength gins but it’s a really smooth, almost velvety drink. With the delicate balance of those sweet and spicy flavours it can easily be enjoyed neat. It’s a beautiful warming drink and wouldn’t taste out of place in a hot toddy. Pickering's say the smoothness of the gin comes from the custom designed still they have for making it - whatever it is, it worked!

In terms of the perfect serve, Pickering's recommend Light Tonic and a slice of Lime. We preferred to bring out more of the sweet and spicy flavours and so paired the gin with a slice of juicy orange and some pink peppercorns along with a light tonic. Having an aromatic tonic would also work well to bring out the juniper which is actually quite subtle in this gin. The slightly sweet and spicy peppercorns and citrusy orange flavours are complimentary to the gin and bring out the zesty warming flavours. The merits of a stronger gin like navy strength ones are that they can withstand a tonic and are not drowned out. For those of you who are not fans of tonic, try adding a splash of Apple Juice or Ginger Beer - remembering less is more!

       The Gin Fayre resident bloggers! 

       The Gin Fayre resident bloggers! 

 
             Pickering's Navy Strength

             Pickering's Navy Strength

 
                 Recommended serve

                 Recommended serve

Gin for the win!

Just last week we launched our resident Gin Blogger competition. Yep, we were looking for someone who knew their lemon from their lime, their orris root from your coriander seed... Basically, an all round gin-buff. We searched far and wide, across the highlands and the lowlands, across all the seas and shores and wow, we were blown away!

We had some *amazing* applications from all across the country - some from experienced writers, some who just fancied themselves as gin experts, and some who just liked the idea of free gin (I mean, who doesn't!). Our judges got their heads together and we are delighted to announce the winner of our competition is:

Stephanie & Michael Whyte

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The couple, who live in Edinburgh are absolutely delighted to win the competition with their review of Pickering's Navy Strength Gin (which will be featured as our November Gin of the Month shortly). But first, a little bit about them:

Stephanie and Michael Whyte are amateur gin enthusiasts based in Edinburgh. They share a love of all things gin - and have recently turned a family heirloom dresser into a gin bar. How ideal. They love to mix up new and exciting ways to enjoy their gin - and truly believe that it's not that you don't like gin, it's just that you're drinking it wrong! You can read more of Steph's writing on her own blog: www.juniperdaze.com/gin

Congratulations to you both! We simply cannot wait to hear all about your gintastic adventures... 

Free gin? Yeah, alright.

Do you know your lemon from your lime? Your orris root from your coriander seed? Your Old Tom from your London Dry? Are you ALWAYS the first to hit the shops looking for a new flavour? Does your kitchen cupboard resemble a spirit shop? Are your friends jealous of your gin-tastic knowledge? In fact, are they a bit bored of hearing about it...?

YES?! Well, this might be the competition for you. 

The Gin Fayre is on the hunt for a Gin Blogger. And we've decided to host a competition to find the best person for the job! We need someone in the know, someone who simply loves gin and cannot wait to try out new flavours. You'll be up to date with the industry and probably be on multiple waiting lists and mailing lists, just waiting for the latest small-batch releases. You'll be a connoisseur: you'll know the difference between distilling and compounding; the difference between a floral and spicy gin; what a juniper heavy gin really tastes like and what's the best way to drink certain gins. You'll know your perfect serves, but you'll also be willing to experiment. 

We want someone who can enlighten and inform our readers. The Gin Fayre offers everyone the opportunity to try meet the distillers and understand the gin they are drinking and we want to bring that experience online - from the comfort of their own sofa (gin in hand, obviously). In addition, you'll need to have an excellent command of the English language and be able to take a half-decent photograph to accompany the blog. 

In return, you'll receive an ENTIRELY FREE bottle of gin each month to review. 

So, do you fancy it? Awesome. 

To apply for this position, you'll need to send us the following:

  • A short (less than 50 words) bio about yourself;
  • A high-res image of yourself;
  • A full review of one of your favourite gins (no more than 500 words) 
  • Any accompanying pictures of the gin, ie. your perfect serve 

Please send submissions to: jasmine@noxviii.co.uk
Deadline: Monday 13th November, 2017 at 5pm
*By applying to this position, you agree to our competition terms and conditions

 
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This is just the be'gin'ning...

We've all got that friend who insists they don't like gin. Yes, you know the one. The one who says, 'I don't drink gin', when you invite them to accompany you to The Gin Fayre (as if that's a good enough reason to decline such an invite!) or insists on ordering something uncouth like a vodka lemonade when you offer to go to the bar. In my case, the one friend who drank too much of it one time and now is adamant that all gin tastes the same and brings back horrible memories of the sixth form prom. C'mon, that was 1978. Move on.

Things have changed. Gordon's has since been overthrown as the mighty ruler of the Gindom (although, it's still her Majesty's fave...) and gin has become a drink for everyone, and boy, there really is something for everyone. 

So, how do you like it? Dry? Sweet? Floral? Spicy? Flavoured? Sloe? Cask-aged?  

When I work behind the bar - as sometimes I quite like to do - I find myself asking that question a lot. I would say that 80% of the time, the answer is either 'Oooh, I don't know' or 'I usually drink [insert off the shelf supermarket brand here].' The true answer is people don't actually know until they have tried it - and often, you can try one brand that falls into one of the above categories and either love it or hate it. Gin really is that diverse. 

Gin of the Month: OCTOBER

Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my gin collection. There are two types of gin in my household. The first is what call the ‘every day gin*’. These are the bottles that sit at the front of the shelf; the ones that I reach to when my head is filled with other thoughts and I just want something that I know I like, will pair with anything and I can drink it, with or without garnish. They are my go-to gins. 

I have been quite happy with this collection of five or six gins for a good few months now, and if I'm honest with you, for a new gin to be added, it really does have to be spectacular. 

Enter: Greystone Gin by The Harewood Food & Drink Project

Well, let me tell you, this one is. Yes, it's official, Greystone Gin has made the shelf! Distilled by Harrogate's finest distilleries, Whittaker's, Greystone Gin offers perfectly balanced flavours and a smooth finish. The gin itself is part of The Harewood Food & Drink Project, which means many of the botanicals have been sourced from the estate itself - including mulberries from a the 100-year old tree growing by the lakeside and elderberries foraged on site.

This is a gin that smells and tastes like gin. On the nose, even opening the top just a fraction, you get a heavy hit of juniper, followed by the sharpness of elderberry. To taste, it is slightly peppery combined with the aromatic spices of the mulberry. 

The perfect pair? Harewood doesn't recommend a perfect pairing, but we certainly enjoy it with a squeeze of lime and a tonic of choice.

Greystone Gin is only available in a few select retailers around the Harewood Estate in Yorkshire, but we're delighted to say that it is the first product available for pre-order in our online store, so you can enjoy it too! 

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A flavourful, juniper heavy gin. Perfect with or without tonic.
Just how we like it!

Our verdict:

5/5