Copper Rivet night at Forest Hill Gin Club

New brands are entering the burgeoning gin market all the time, but one of the newest is ‘Dockyard Gin’ made by Copper Rivet Distillery, that opened its doors less than four months ago in Chatham. Forest Hill Gin Club were lucky enough to get in early and three members of the Copper Rivet team came and presented to an assembled crowd that took over the All Inn One pub on Perry Vale.

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We arrived nice and early, as they were still setting up, and grabbed some food from the restaurant, currently being occupied by a residency from Sydenham’s award-winning French foodies ‘La Petite Bouchée’. Julia, Richard and their All Inn One team were their typical hospitable selves and the stage was set for another gin-infused evening where those of us seating at our corner table insisted to each other that we would not get too drunk, we all had highly important things to do in the morning, or, things anyway.

dockyard5The talk started with a brief surrounding the details of how the distillery had formed and the kitchen experiments that had turned into massive plans in a grade-two listed building at the side of the river Medway. Copper Rivet do things a little differently, partnering with local farmers to grow the right grains so they can make their own mash – in order that they can control not only the botanicals used to flavour the gin, but the taste of the ethanol used as well. We were given samples of both the vodka they produce and their alcohol base during the course of the evening and of course, a taster of the gin itself.

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The commitment to finding the right balance and the right taste was as clear as the liquids we imbibed, and their passion for gin was obvious. There was no marketing gimmick, no finding a way to produce a high margin gin at 40%; the investment has been in the attention to detail rather than the idea of making money and it shows. No need to go to a talk by Copper Rivet to unearth this information, just find a glass of Dockyard Gin and taste how wonderful it is. The ‘perfect serve’ comes in a highball rather than copa balon glass, with a slice of pink grapefruit, plenty of ice and bottle of fever tree tonic water. The connoisseurs among you might want to use a copa balon however – three or four large ice cubes and a splash of tonic is all you need to really make this wonderful gin zing.

Needless to say, my table of gin drinkers and their good intentions slid promptly down the slippery road to Friday morning hangover. Caz, who had two interviews the following day was the worst culprit, but at least Tom stayed sober long enough to take some of the photos that accompany this piece (thanks Tom!)

The distillery is open for you to visit, and a whisky is on its way… although of course with whisky you need to allow a few years, so don’t expect to be tasting that until at least 2020. But do go and see them in Chatham – they are nice people with wonderful gin (and a damn smooth vodka too!)

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G’Vine Floraison Gin

Happy new year gin drinkers, let me kick you off with a little French fancy, a floral number from the fine folk across the channel, or, la Manche as I believe they like to call it once you’ve alighted from your ferry.

I am not madly keen about floral things generally, and without giving the review away too early, I can tell you that this has ended up being no exception, although I will say that, of the floral gins I have had, this one is so floral that it is perhaps my favourite among that particular branch of the gin tree.

It is unconventional, perhaps it is not surprising that our oft-rivals have not decided to head down the London Dry route (or root if I am keeping my Tree metaphor, which I’m not) but they do seem to have taken it to some extreme. The base is not a standard mash, but distilled from grapes instead; we can probably agree that, generally speaking, the French know what to do with their grapes and so can not be surprised at that. g_vine_floraison_70cl_1

‘Unconventional’, it should be noted, is also not my word but theirs – ‘Traditionally Unconventional’ in fact according to words upon the heavy based clear bottle, which is pleasing both to eye and touch. Ten fruit botanicals are listed on the label, but on the nose you get nothing much more than a hint of turpentine, which is a little off-putting to say the least. Neat, or over ice, it is not much better, certainly not a sipping gin, but the addition of a little tonic does improve it, and, having tried it with a few variations, I can tell you that good old Schweppes Indian Tonic water works far better than any of the five or six other ‘premium’ tonics I have experimented with. Which just goes to show that you need to keep an open mind about all things, even the tonic.

I can’t really recommend it, but neither can I say it is unpleasant. Furthermore I am not sure that the deep mid winter is the time for such drinks. Perhaps a balmy summer’s evening, with plenty of Schweppes and a garden full of flowers in bloom, buzzing bees and the like, is a more suitable setting, or perhaps, if you are fond of all things floral, then you should ignore me and give it a go whatever the season.

The French are, of course, experts when it comes to all sorts of other drinks – beers, wines, brandy, and so perhaps one day we can add gin to the list, but just not today. For now, spend your £30 on a nice bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape or two cheap bottles of champagne – either will be a better use of your money.

G’Vine Floraison Small Batch Distilled Gin – £29 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating – 2/5