Olivia took us through the history of gin as covered in her book. We went through the up and downs, as gin flipped into and out of fashion with the upper classes in different periods. Its Jekyll & Hyde nature was especially brought out in Hogarth’s prints, Gin Lane and Beer Street:
As he was commissioned by the beer industry to produce these prints, its not unsurprising that the people in Beer Street are happy and healthy, whilst those in Gin Lane are ill and imoral.
(note the mother almost dropping her baby!)
Then we moved on to trying the gins handpicked for the Nicholson’s menu, keeping in touch with their heritage. Nicholson’s actually started out as a distiller in 1873 extending credit to gin drinkers, which led to their growth as pub owning brewers, as they confiscated people’s property for defaulting on their gin bills! It also means that they have a lot of historic pubs including The Clanchan in Soho.
Isn’t it a pretty menu?!
So the gins….
First up – Chase distillers Williams Great British Extra Dry Gin:
This gin is made from a potato base spirit.
We learnt all about Will Chase and his extreme entrepreneurship, mainly centred around potatoes! His potato based vodka won awards, even though it doesn’t make money from it. The gin was made with an apple distillate originally and the Spanish gin market loved it, however they wanted a gin that would hold up to a large tonic or punch, the result was Extra Dry gin and Will wanted to make sure the British branding continued stood out! The extra dryness comes from using both juniper buds and berries in the distillation process.
At The Oliver Conquest they serve this with a slice of apple to bring out the apple flavour, however Chase recommend serving with lemon and ginger to bring out the other botanicals. Its definitely a richer style of gin, a rich nose, followed by citrus zest and the warm spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The other botanicals include almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon.
Next up – with the surprising twist of being served with ginger ale – was Opihr.
Adnams is also an old brewery house that also makes gin. They use the Copper House distillery, where the old brewery was, hence the name. They use the London Dry method of distilling – all the botanicals need to be in the pot still to produce a London Dry gin, other methods that infuse the flavours in (like Williams GB Extra Dry) can’t be called London Dry. Adnams are very proud of their efficient brew house and distillery – the hot water from the distillation process is used to clean barrels of beer.
The botanicals include sweet orange peel, juniper, cardamom, hibiscus, orris root and coriander. The gin has a clean citrus taste, and they recommend serving with fever tree tonic and orange peel. Again another easy to drink one!
The final gin of the tasting Bombay Sapphire:
Pretty glasses too!
Bombay Sapphire can be credited with bringing about the new style of gin, vying with vodka for market share. The Bombay dry in a white bottle traded until the 1980’s, when the change in the product came about and the iconic blue bottle was introduced with the new flavour, and what a marketing idea that was! Even my mum bought it as she thought the actual gin would be blue lol!
The new gin had two more botanicals in it – peppers from Java and Indonesia that add a floral resonance. The gin has citrus and pine on the nose, the lemon flavour from the coriander seed. On tasting you get the combination of almonds and a spicy sweet earthiness, the combination of cassia bark and liquorice.
The distillery at Laverstoke Mill is all about the ecology and is aiming for zero emissions in 5 years. They start by buying the grain rectified spirit in, and use good quality botanicals, all fresh which is the best level for their flavour profile. Laverstoke is set up for visits, so Gin Club has it on our list of outings!