As I was attending the first edition of The Spirit Show London earlier this month, I intentionally chose to focus on “other spirits” rather than running my usual whisky marathon. Even though I still regret not having enough time to have a closer look at each and every exhibitor showcasing their spirited work that day, here are 3 gins that really stood out for me!
Bishop’s Gin – Ponet Spirits
Half a millennium ago, give or take a couple of decades, Bishop John Ponet of Winchester was kicking up all sorts of fuss. He was a resistance theorist who dedicated himself to fighting the divine right of kings. He was a political thinker and staunchly anti-monarchy, sort of like the Morrissey of the 1500s… Bishop’s Gin is a tribute to this maverick, aiming to capture his character in spirit form and unleash it on the world.
The gin is owned by Ponet Spirits, which in turn is owned by Thierry Ponet, an ancestor of John Ponet. In 2014, after spending 15 years fully ensconced in London’s financial industry, Thierry headed home to Belgium. Keen to restore his family’s ancestry of distilling Genever, but influenced heavily by his time in London, Thierry decided to create a gin. Once they had a good idea of what they wanted Bishop’s Gin to be, the duo went to Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers.
Charles helped Thierry and Matthieu to select and fine tune Bishop’s Gin’s final botanical line up, which is formed of juniper, nasturtium, lemongrass, angelica, iris, almond, liquorice and lemon. The gin is made to a London Dry specification – so all ingredients are macerated and distilled together and as with all Thames-made gins, made in concentrate form, then have NGS added before being cut to bottling strength, in this case 40.7% ABV.
To taste, liquorice envelops the tongue almost instantly, coating it in a sweet film upon which the nasturtium flower sits. Lemon brings a fresh burst of citrus, while lemongrass brings its tangy warmth, before juniper sweeps everything out of the way to reign, dominating the finish and roaring with gusto. The lasting taste is one of pine and of flowers, with the watercress elements of the nasturtium creeping in, but ultimately being dominated by its sweeter side. (read more on Gin Foundry)
Formed in 2013, the Brighton Spirits Company was founded on a shared desire to create a gin worthy of the city’s creative and vibrant nature. Their flagship, Brighton Gin, launched in December 2014 and has since managed to accumulate fierce local support to become one of the Gins to watch for 2016.
The distilling operation is situated in the basement of a little pub outside the city centre and run by five Brightonian’s. Kathy Caton and Helen Chesshire are at the head of this still small operation, which completed its first run of 400 bottles late 2014. Caton is a former restaurateur while Chesshire is a spirits specialist & drinks PR (formerly in-house at Champagne Pol Roger). The remainder of the team is made up of a former drinks editor for The Daily Telegraph and GQ, an entrepreneur responsible for companies such as Small Batch Coffee, Velo and the former owner of WJ King Brewery.
The milk thistle is evident on the nose, blossoming ahead of a resinous juniper. Slightly reminiscent of Edinburgh Gin, the aroma of milk thistle adds depth to the overall aroma and its complex nature, both herbal yet creamy, compliments the gin’s core “Dry” characteristics well. To taste, the piney juniper takes the fore in Brighton Gin, with a touch of coriander seed and softer citrus underlying it all and emerging towards the finish.
The Brighton Gin team recommends pairing it with a slice of orange in a Gin & Tonic to accentuate the fresh orange peel. We agree, the warm citrus adds a soft touch while keeping the more distinct notes of milk thistle and juniper clear and upfront. (read more on Gin Foundry)
Mermaids Gin – Isle of Wight Distillery
“The Isle of Wight distillery was founded by friends Xavier Baker and Conrad Gauntlett (the former a brewer, the latter involved in wine production), both of whom had spent a long time mulling the possibility. This time was nothing compared to the somewhat nail biting period it took to get the project off the ground once they decided to press ahead – after getting their still commissioned and ready to go, the duo were met by a wall of bureaucracy, with it taking two years for the distilling licenses to be finalised.
The local botanicals involved in the gin’s production are elderflower, hand picked rock samphire and Boadicea hops, plucked from the Ventnor Botanic Garden. The other botanicals forming the line-up are juniper, coriander, fresh lemon zest, grains of paradise, angelica root, liquorice root and orris root.
Wight Mermaids Gin is refreshingly mild to taste. The bitter, citrusy hops underpin the whole flavour journey, carrying an almost bitter wheatiness with them. There is a hint of liquorice sweetness, though when sipped straight the grains of paradise drown out the rest of the pack. A splash of tonic lessens the spice’s strengths, bringing out the sweetness of the elderflower and the roots. Juniper comes through on the finish, flooding the mouth with pine and coating the tongue entirely.” (read more about this expression and others on Gin Foundry)
Cover Pic: juniperclub.co.uk