For a few years now, the white spirit of the moment has been gin. Most bartenders are very happy about this, and so am I. Don’t get me wrong: good vodka is a wonderful thing. But gin is just more interesting. Fiddling around with the botanicals – the flavourings, led by juniper, that give gin its unique flavour – allows distillers to produce an infinite range of drinks.
Distillers are rising to the challenge. They’re doing it in some highly unlikely places. And better still, they’re trying to create something distinctive, not just what we call in the drinks trade a JANG (Just Another New Gin).
Three that have impressed me of late all come from geographically unlikely places. Like, for instance, Suffolk. Adnams Copper House Distilled Gin, from the venerable firm in Southwold, has what I can only call a slightly resinous quality, and can only assume is caused by their use of hibiscus flowers alongside five traditional botanicals. For me, this was a case of love at first sip. It might be for you, too. £26.99 from cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk, and you can add it your wine order.
Number two: Caorunn Scottish Gin, featuring some really unusual botanicals from its native land. The botanicals in question: rowan berry, bog myrtle, dandelion and coul blush apple. This is alongside some traditional botanicals, mind you – so you know you’re drinking gin. But you will puzzle pleasantly over the other flavours, among which the rowan berries seem to dominate. Sold by some Waitrose and Tesco stores, by Oddbins, and by a number of independents including Harvey Nicks, for between £25 and around £30.
And finally, Warner Edwards Harrington’s Dry Gin. I would wager that this is the first gin to be distilled in Northamptonshire. I like this one for its outstanding balance, and for the note of cardamom in the botanical mix, and for the bright, fresh whiff of elderflower – not usually a flavour I love, but I love it here.
Available from www.warneredwards.com for £33, and it makes a mean G&T. Which is, needless to say, something we should all be thinking about as the weather warms up.