Five years ago I decided to surprise my other half by booking us a weekend away. I’d read something in one of the Sunday supplements about Southwold and The Swan Hotel, so rang them up and booked us in. We had a most wonderful weekend, and we fell in love with the town and the Adnams brewery that dominates not only this lovely little costal village, but also much of the surrounding area. We have returned many times to Adnams and stayed at various places (none of which have beaten the Swan as yet) but it was only on our last visit that we tried the two dry gins they offer: Copper House and First Rate.
Both of these gins are distilled in Southwold within the complex of buildings that make up the vast sprawling fantastic Adnams brewery. We were, on this most recent trip, staying with family in ‘The Brewer’s House’ right next to one of the oldest parts of the brewery at the back of the Swan Hotel. Unfortunately for us, at the time they were doing some building work in the brewery, so we could not go on one of their famous tours, but we’ll rectify that one day.
We tried the Copper House first, and then the First Rate; and immediately decided that, as nice as it was, the First Rate was second rate when it came to the two products. The First Rate is a lovely gin and taken in isolation I have no doubt we’d have been suitably happy with it, but when you have had the perfection of Copper House then it is very hard to favourably compare anything else to it. We bought a bottle from the Adnams shop before returning home, and were lucky enough to get a gift set of Copper House, First Rate and Sloe for Christmas from my sister. And now I have bought another bottle, specifically to see if still compares so favourably, and, more importantly, because it is on special offer at Waitrose.
Like First Rate, Copper House has won awards – it has won a bronze at San Francisco in 2014 and it is a regular medal winner at the International Wine & Spirit Awards, including picking up the very top award in 2013. In my humble opinion, these judges have made absolutely the right choice. Copper House is one of the finest gins I have ever had the pleasure to mix with ice and tonic. Copper House is made with six botanicals: Juniper Berries, Orris Root, Coriander Seed, Cardamom Pod, Sweet Orange Peel and Hibiscus Flower – with this final ingredient being the one that Adnams declare as the dimension that sets it apart. These botanicals are steeped in a mash made purely from East Anglian malted barley.
If I am going to find fault anywhere then I have to say that I am not keen on the packaging. Generally you can spot an Adnams product from a mile away, and as a marketing graduate I would like to pat their marketing department on the back – the recent revival of the brand can be in no small part down to the excellent and consistent quality of the branding. But I think they have got it wrong with some of the spirits, and Copper House is no exception to that. A bottle, 70cl at 40%, will generally set you back around £27 – which is a fairly premium price, but the branding does not say ‘this is a premium gin, an award winning gin’ it says ‘gin, from Adnams, made by the seaside’. Adnams describe it as a ‘vibrant new design’, which it may well be, but I don’t think it does them any favours.
Ginventory recommends Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic water, Ginto recommends Schweppes Orange Blossom & Lavender tonic, Q Tonic or the Spanish tonic water named Indi (that I have to confess I’d never heard of until today). I have tried Copper House with several tonics and prefer either the Fever Tree Indian tonic or the Fever Tree Elderflower, which I find really brings out the hibiscus.
It is an incredibly smooth gin, you never lose the traditional juniper taste, but you also get a sweet floral overtone that just sets it above so many of its competitors. In short, top notch. Don’t let the branding put you off, buy a bottle.
Adnams Copper House Dry Gin – £27 for 70cl
Gin & Tonic Rating: 5/5