Crossbill

Took a trip into town today to visit Gerry’s Wines & Spirits – a landmark off licence if ever such a thing existed. Perched down one end of Old Compton Street in Soho, this is a shop I have walked past a hundred times or more but, until today, never entered. Their window displays are very alluring, no matter what your tipple.

gerrys1There are plenty of rarities to pick from at Gerry’s and I was tempted to buy bottle of the fabulous Brighton Gin, as I’ve not seen it for sale anywhere but here and really want to get another bottle so I can do a review. On top of my not-yet-tasted gin list is Bluebottle, as it has twice been recommended to me and as yet I have never seen it for sale, so I entered Gerry’s in the hope that they had some inside.

No such luck, but the geezer (an appropriate word in this instance) inside, an amiable chap, was happy to chew the fat, and talked me into buying a bottle of Crossbill Gin. He enthused about the craft and small copper-pot operation the distiller has in the highlands of Scotland, he even went so far as to bring up the Crossbill web site on his phone to illustrate his enthusiasm. He had to go off downstairs to get another bottle as they had run out in the main shop, and I was left to ‘watch the shop’ while he went. I had to double check we hadn’t been transported to some village in the Cotswolds, we hadn’t, this was still Soho, and some of my faith in good old human nature was restored.

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Crossbill is, according to the company web site, a celebration of juniper and rosehip. The packaging is simple and clean, and I do like a cork top. Both on the nose and on first sip you definitely get a good juniper punch, supplied by 100% Scottish Juniper berries. It was apparently Scottish juniper berries that were originally shipped to Holland where they were turned into Gin’s original ancestor Jenever.

The Crossbill micro distillery sits within five minutes of the forest in the Cairngorms where the wild juniper berries are harvested. There is no doubt that a great deal of care and attention is taken with this gin, and the result is very pleasing. It is stronger than average at 43.8%, and certainly more expensive at £38 a bottle (70cl)crossbill

My Gin and tonic was, as a result, not quite to my taste at a 1:2 ratio, it tasted a little too heavy on the pine and, what I suspect to be, the rosehip. But after I upped my ratio to 1:3 as your average Gin & Tonic drinker would, then the balance was far better and the Crossbill far more amiable. I like a little more sweetness and a little less earthiness to my gin, but I suspect that for those who like it the other way around, this would be a really big hit. I struggle to find anything outside of the provenance that would provoke me into recommending it with as much gusto as the wine merchant who sold it to me, but I certainly would not dissuade you from buying a bottle either, assuming the price tag didn’t put you off.

Update: A couple of weeks later and I’m actually upping my recommendation, I still say you need a fair amount of tonic to make it a truly lovely drink, but I’ve taken to adding a slice of pink grapefruit peel and now it is among my favourites.

Crossbill Small Batch Highland Dry Gin – £38 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating 4/5

 

 

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Broker’s Gin

My last review, for Blackdown Gin, was not favourable at all, so I approached Broker’s Gin in some trepidation – the last thing I wanted was to have invested in another below par drink. The bottle itself does not stand out on the shelves, clear glass, tall and slender with a white label and umbrella carrying, bowler-hatted gent featuring there upon. The distinction comes from a small plastic bowler hat that sits atop the screw-top lid. I’m not keen on gimmicks or novelties at the best of times, but on the serious matter of gin this probably would have put me off if I’d noticed it before I’d got the bottle home. But learning not to judge a gin by its bottle has become a recurring theme in this blog, so perhaps I would have bought it anyway.

BrokersIt is presumed, by at least one writer, that the bowler hat is mostly aimed at the American market, where perhaps a bowler is likely to shout ‘London’ at potential buyers. Anyway, I have decided I really don’t mind the bowler hat, and my daughter has now put it on one of her Barbie dolls and so everyone is happy.

Broker’s is, as I understand it, actually distilled in Birmingham, having been outsourced for the first few years the makers set up their own 2-pot distillery and now do the whole works. One of my gin guides, with which I often disagree, gives Broker’s its highest rating for Gin & Tonic. On this occasion however, the gin guide and I do part ways, this is a thoroughly marvellous gin, it is incredibly smooth, yet tastes distinctly of juniper as a gin really should. There are no great secrets or surprises in the ten botanicals used, just ten typical ingredients that they have clearly honed to near-perfect proportions. It is incredibly moreish, an aftertaste that is so heavenly you simply have to have another.

I am not alone in my praise, this is a multiple award-winning gin. At only around £21 a bottle (70cl 40%) it is fantastic value too – a holy grail of reasonably priced gins perhaps. I recommend this gin very highly indeed, no caveats, no buts, just a straight recommendation to buy and enjoy with lots of ice and some Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water.

Broker’s Premium London Dry Gin  – £21 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating 5/5

 

Blackdown Gin

I guess eventually it had to happen, that I would find a gin that I didn’t like. This is an award-winning gin, a highly crafted gin (distilled 7 times, using 11 botanicals) and it is very nicely packaged and priced at around £30 a bottle for 70cl (37.5%).

I bought the bottle several weeks ago and, in an attempt to enjoy it, have tried hard to find a way to mix it into a decent drink, but I’ve given up; this is not the gin for me.Blackdown

It does not work in my usual 50:50 / 33:66 gin to tonic proportions, it does not seem to work with any Fever-Tree tonic (I tried four) or the Fentiman’s Tonic Water. It didn’t exactly ruin a martini, but it certainly wasn’t something I could recommend.

Perhaps I am just not a fan of Silver Birch Sap, which is used as one of the botanicals in Blackdown, and unique to them as far as I can tell. So, I am sorry to say, I found this to be a fairly bland drink, and the flavours I did get were metalic and disappointing.

Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin – £30 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating: 1/5

 

Gin Mare

I’d been avoiding Gin Mare. I’d been judging the book by the cover, no, not even that, I had been judging the book by its name: Gin Mare. I wondered if they had missed a letter, or perhaps omitted an accent, possibly I was pronouncing it incorrectly, or, surely, something that meant that it was not simply called Gin Mare. But over time I have had various conversations with shops and suppliers and other gin drinkers and the general consensus is that the pronunciation for Mare should be assumed to follow José and there should be an accent on the final ‘e’.  I still wish it was less confusing, but then the old book adage has been proven, and so has another one to boot: The proof of the pudding is in the eating, or in this case, I suppose, the drinking.

Gin Mare is a Spanish gin, and the Mediterranean feel of olive trees and orange groves is there on the nose. To say it suits turning into a Martini is a certain understatement, to my mind it was made for a splash of vermouth and a couple of olives.

As a gin and tonic drink it is incredibly smooth – you do not want to over-do gin_marethe tonic at all. I took my first sip in a pub and then discarded most of my tonic. I taste many gins in pubs and bars, rarely does it lead me to buy a bottle the next time I see it, but on this occasion it did and my purchase, two weeks later, is all consumed. It is such an easy drink, and manages to be two things – it is totally and wonderfully different and yet it remains unequivocally a gin.

I love the bottle, it is, like the gin, unique, with its weighty grooved blue glass bottom and clear glass body tapering up to a screw-top lid – this bottle has been crafted and is as polished as its contents. 70cl at 42.7%, botanicals steeped and soaked separately, in some cases for over a year, then expertly blended. It comes at a price of course, and that price is £36 if you’re lucky. But you feel like you are purchasing a drink of class and of craft, a complex, giving drink that takes no effort to drink and even less to appreciate.

Gin Mare Mediterranean Gin  – £36 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating: 4.5/5

Purchase Gin Mare online at The Gin Box Shop

Prices correct at time of blog posting.

Blind Taste Test – Fever Tree Tonics

On the opening page of this web site I site Fever-Tree as being the main factor that altered my relationship with Gin and Tonic. So I thought do a post on Fever-Tree, but didn’t want it to just be the same old same old thing (deliberately double same olds). An experiment was designed to compare the following four Fever-Tree tonics – Indian, Naturally Light, Elderflower and Mediterranean.

fevertree

We, the other half and I, conducted a blind taste test on these three remarkably different tonics with two different Gins, one we like – Copper House, and one we do not particularly care for – Blackdown.

Both the gin and their respective tonic waters were measured equally, so we had eight identical proportioned glasses, with no garnish except for an equal amount of ice;  even the glasses themselves were the same.

The results were unexpected – I assumed my preference would be for the standard Indian, with the Mediterranean coming second, but in the end the Indian tonic fell into overall second place behind the Elderflower. We both found that the Elderflower was our favourite with the Copper House and it then scored well with the Blackdown  On balance the Indian Tonic came out in second overall place, with the Mediterranean just edging the Naturally Light into fourth place.

I intend to try the Elderflower Tonic Water with more gins from now on, I’m interested to see how it might marry with a variety of different gins and see if perhaps, as it did with the Blackdown, it might elevate some of the gins that I have been less impressed with.

It has also taught me not to believe everything you read – the Ginventory App, of which I am a big fan, recommends the Fever-Tree Mediterranean with Adnams Copper House, and yet when blind taste testing I scored it lowest out of the four mixers.

So having been surprised by the result, I will be conducting more varied blind tests with a bigger samples in blog posts to come. The moral of this post is, however, don’t make your mind up about what your preferred tonic might be – instead be a little adventurous – mix it up. Literally.