There are generally not many gin producers who make a range of four different gins and there are generally not many gin producers in Switzerland. But nginious! break both of those generalisations, and they also made the flight over to the UK to come to Forest Hill and present their range to gin club members in The Hill bar on Dartmouth Road.
Our nginious! host was the producer himself, Oliver Ullrich, a very smart, precise and calmly spoken individual who was full of interesting information about how his range of gins materialised from imagined ideas and discussions he’d been able to have with others in the drinks industry.
Oliver was most insistent that we taste the gins in the order that he presented them, starting with the Summer Gin, then the Swiss Blended, followed by the Cocchi and finally the Smoked & Salted. In the same way that you probably wouldn’t want to eat your pudding before your starter, or your stilton before you’ve uttered the words “I couldn’t eat another thing… ooh, cheese!”
The summer gin is fresh and light and easy to drink. Be warned, none of the nginious! gin’s are cheap, but this one has the additional benefit of being at lowest end of the scale. You do need a fairly neutral tonic water, “too much” Fever-Tree indian starts at about a 1:1 ratio, at which point the gin almost entirely drops out. A slice of peach and a basil leaf makes this very refreshing and a perfect summer drink.
The Swiss Gin is more robust, and perhaps the closest to a traditional gin on the nginious! menu, and a far bigger flavour than its summer cousin. A twist of grapefruit and you have a really fine gin and, for me, this is the point we leave gin behind and head off into the crazy sunset of ‘other’.
‘Other’ is not necessarily a criticism, more of a warning. The remaining two stablemates are wonderful, the very idea of soaking your gin in vermouth barrels from piedmont is very splendid, this is no novelty idea, it is clever and it really works. The Cocchi, as they call it, stops short of being a Martini, but I suspect it would make a damn fine one. There were lots of details about the final soaking time and I have to confess at this point I was tucking into the salmon from the special menu they had laid on for us at The Hill, who really did bend over backwards to lay on excellent service for the evening.
Finally, nginious! Smoked & Salted gin was presented to us. We sipped neat and then with ice, and finally with tonic. It seemed the more we added, the less I got from it. I would treat Smoked & Salted as a fortified wine – it doesn’t need anything, least of all ice, just sip it and enjoy the complex flavours as they roll around your palate. There were also some delicious Smoked & Salted chocolate caramel brownies to end the night.
Apart from the fact I do not like having to type nginious! or say nginious! or explain nginious! after every time I say it, I like them very much, and their gins, and their packaging, which is a whole story in itself. The bottles are fabulous, and a new web site is apparently in the pipeline, and much needed as it does a dis-service to their otherwise excellent branding.
These gins are presented with confidence and panache, and the range of flavours is strong enough to make each one clearly distinctive. If you do get the opportunity to catch them at a gin tasting event then do, I would highly recommend it.