THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Gin – associated with tonic, to be sipped while reclining on a deckchair in the sun.
Sounds like the dream of every gardener we have ever met!
In this post we discuss:
- What we learnt about the botanicals in gin.
- The Gin rated the best in the world
- The 4 Major Botanicals every gin is based on – including the one that is legally required!
- World Gin Day
- What Winston Churchill said about Gin
- The best UK gin we have tried so far.
Last August we met the wonderful Jekka McVicar and she said something so interesting about how gin is made, that it really inspired us to look closer at this popular tipple.
She said that in times gone by…
“People would make a drink of the most prolific herb – so formerly in London, Angelica, which grew along the banks of the Thames, would be made into gin. Juniper was a luxury item rarely used.”
Read the whole post of our inspiring meeting with Jekka McVicar.
Nowadays Juniper is considered the core botanical in gin, but what Jekka said makes sense – when times are tough you have to use what you’ve got.
She also said that as the Angelica that grew along the banks of the Thames was displaced, its production moved out to the river banks of Norfolk. A plant that loves damp places!
Learning that Angelica was the main ingredient due to its proliferation along the banks of the Thames, helps us make the connections with the London-centric names of the UK gins we buy today.
Most in our list below are named after places in London, while we also assume the more ferocious ‘Navy’ strength gins based on ‘old recipes’ are going to be that way because they have been distilled with plenty of Angelica.
The Gin Rated THE BEST IN THE WORLD
Is this one, made in the UK then mixed with Icelandic water.
See more of Martin Miller’s Westbourne Gin, the best gin the world (apparently….)
But What Are The Core Ingredients In Gin?
There are 4 main botanicals, and legally you must have Juniper involved in the process or it cannot be called distilled gin.
Angelica is next, which we spoke about above. Angelica is also used in Absinthe. (The last time I drank Absinthe I forgot how to walk. So I just had to sit and drink more absinthe…. pugnacious stuff….!)
Next comes Coriander, something you probably use quite often when cooking. Pungent, and adds a lovely extra layer of flavour to your drink.
Lastly, comes the hard working Orris Root, which you may know better as the roots of the iris plants in your garden. This botanical is used to ‘fix’ the other flavours, so they are not lost during the distilling process.
Liken its job to the ones the worms do in your soil – worms give you a healthy soil for your plants to grow in, and you only realise how important they are when you don’t have them anymore.
Lose the Orris Root from your gin, and you realise how the other botanicals no longer work.
World Gin Day
In 2017 world gin day, the day you go to town and really enjoy a glass of the stuff, is June 10th.
What Winston Churchill Said…
“The Gin and Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the Doctors in the Empire.”
We have had great fun testing these UK gins over the last six months (I’m sure you can imagine!) so read below for our helpful guide on what you should be filling your glass with at Gin O’Clock….
What are the Best UK Gins for 2017?
The first is one most people know – Hendricks. It can be seen on every shelf in every bar across the UK, it has an easy flavour profile on the palate and goes down well. Too well, perhaps? Start with this if you want great quality…
Feeling adventurous? Great! Take a sip of Tarquin’s.
We spent a fantastic Christmas Eve in Cornwall trying this, alongside a few others from Cornwall. It was not my favourite, but each batch is made by Tarquin himself, he puts a huge amount of care into it and writes his own tasting notes on the fantastic bottles.
It is a gin with personality, a product really ‘of its place’ – buy it, support it, keep care and attention like this in business!
Want another Cornish made number to compare it with?
Curio was gorgeous, as it had been blended with Samphire. What a treat – and Samphire is good for you, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah it is, however you consume it….
The next few are from London. London was not the originator of gin though, the Dutch first made it. The UK just stole the idea… and perfected it, if the following brands are to go by:
Boxer is dry, and can rightly consider itself the most innovative when it comes to packaging.
It is supplied by Greenbox Drinks who have ‘thought outside the bottle’ and reduced their packaging by 95%, the weight they transport by 45% and the transported volume by 63%. Just by refilling your existing bottle. It means they have completely by-passed the carbon cost of recycling glass.
Amazing work, fantastic idea – great drink.
Butler’s Gin, produced in Hackney Wick, is infused with lemongrass and cardamom. Fine.
Tanqueray is a gin we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. But a bottle was ordered today and will be enjoyed upon arrival. As long as the sun is over the yard arm….
Reviews are great though. Take a closer look at Tanqueray.
Update – the Tanqueray has arrived!
And it really is lovely….
Another London dry is SW4 gin – a hard one to Google and find, because you are basically typing in a postcode – but don’t let that put you off. It has 12 botanicals and gets made in batches of 500 litres, so get in quick to make sure you can try it – SW4.
This gin is unusual and on our ‘still to try’ list – Shetland Reel Gin Ocean Sent – the ocean sent part coming from the seaweed.
Don’t ask us to pronounce this one – it is difficult enough to spell it – but Welsh company Da Mhile is an organic spirit maker that is leading the way in producing high quality, chemical free drinks. Please do check them out and support them,as those who support organic farming are helping us make a more resilient, diverse UK.
Last of all is a Scottish distiller…
Rock Rose has regionality and its terroir at heart, using botanicals like sea buckthorn and rowan berries to give a ‘wee taste of Caithness.’ Can you taste the difference?
Other UK Gins You May Love…
Brighton Gin is another who needs a shout out, produced by two ladies in – yeah, you guessed it, Brighton.
Bombay Sapphire – well known, well loved and made in Hampshire, close to where I grew up. The difficulties of growing unusual or tender plants to use as flavourings in this gin have been spoken about by the head gardener of the firms glasshouses. He tries his best to keep healthy all of the exotic plants that go into flavouring this popular gin, but have you ever tried to grow cassia in the UK?
Feeling A Little Pink?
The boozy berries of Pinkster Gin is a tad different – we tried this last November at the Wealden Fair show we did, and it was most satisfying. So much so we took a bottle home with us at the end of the show, then bought another for a friend at Christmas. The recipe calls for raspberries, giving the gin tis distinctive look…
Check out Pinkster Gin.
We also loved The Wrecking Coast Gin. Happy hour has never been so happy as the time spent with this Cornish tipple…
Hopefully this look through UK gins has given you something to think about, then hopefully taste. We were inspired by Jekka McVicar, who is such a great gardener and teacher, to explore this palette of plants and how they can be used further.
To have then found spirits made with such wide ranging ingredients as samphire, seaweed and raspberries made us grin from ear to ear. As did the time spent tasting them!
What is going to be the next great gin? What botanicals do we now grow in the UK, in enough quantity to make a viable use for them?
What do you grow in your garden that has a use like this?
Thanks for reading – take another look at our favourite gin, made in the UK.
I will be bringing a show about gardening to the Faversham Fringe on Wednesday, August 28th at 8.30pm. More details and tickets here – Faversham Fringe, The Grinning Gardener.
I recently wrote a piece for Topiarius magazine, the flagship publication of the European Boxwood & Topiary Society – of which Modern Mint is both a member and big supporter. Check out the EBTS here. They frequently run courses and talks too, so worth keeping an eye on. Below is the piece I wrote about the tools I use when making topiary and pruning trees…. Darren’s Piece In Topiarius Magazine I use Okatsune Secateurs, which I started pruning with when working on a large orchard in Hampshire. My Felco’s were too difficult to open with cold hands, but the chunky …
Just inc are you are free in the following dates in June, you can visit my mentor Charlotte Molesworth’s topiary garden… Check out the dates the garden is open here. And you can of course join both Charlotte and I for a topiary workshop in the garden in July, as well as September. Hope to see you there!