St. George’s Day is on the horizon, and to celebrate we thought we’d take you on a trailblazing tour checking out as many examples of English-distilled gin excellence from our fantastic cities as it’s possible to cram into one blog post.
Gin is brilliant, isn’t it? It’s so good that seemingly everybody is trying their hand at creating their own editions and variants. While that may bring many a dubious product onto an already flooded market, the locality does also mean that regions, cultures and styles can easily be represented through intuitive botanical selection and an appreciation of regional customs and heritage.
This is certainly the case in a number of locations across England, with which gin shares such a rich and interesting history (there’s a whole style named after the capital, for goodness sake). In light of this fact, we thought a great way to mark the coming St. George’s Day on 23 April would be to showcase and champion just a handful of the sublime spirits created by a selection of brilliant English distillers. It should at least make a nice change of pace from having to sit through morris dancing and Punch and Judy* shows…
So, all aboard the MoM Rail** express train as it follows the route we’ve mapped from London to Maidstone, Brighton, Cornwall, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Durham and Norwich! (We don’t recommend you ever actually do this route using physical transportation. Buy some gins and use your imagination, instead. But if you ever do, make sure you document the trip!)
Welcome to The St. George’s Day Gin Tour!
City of London Dry Gin
We begin in the crafty capital with this gorgeous gin from The City of London Distillery, which is handily situated in the heart of the City of London. The location is a clearly a source of inspiration, as the shape of the bottle is modelled on St Paul’s Cathedral. The citrus-forward selection of botanicals showcases orange and pink grapefruit zest, followed by juniper, herbal notes from the coriander seed and a little liquorice. What a welcome way to begin our gin journey!
Next, we stop off for a quick Martini in Maidstone, Kent, with the excellent Maiden Gin. It was created in the historic Old Brewery building, making it part of the town’s proud brewing narrative that dates back to the mid-17th century. A selection of botanicals which include juniper, angelica root, cardamom, cassia bark, coriander seed, fresh orange zest, liquorice root, marshmallow root, meadowsweet and orris root create this mellow, subtly sweet tipple with an intensely local and folksy quality. I’m glad we stopped off here***.
Next up is Brighton, for a stick of rock, a few chips**** and a stylish G&T using a much-loved spirit from this much-loved city. The refreshing and intriguing Brighton Gin is made using a secret recipe. You can make a range a smashing cocktail thanks to its unique, milk thistle-led profile, and the distillers recommend garnishing your G&T with a quintessentially Brightonian stick of rock! That should pair well with the soft vanilla, mellow citrus and earthy, herbal elements of this Brighton beauty.
St. Ives Gin
Our second seaside stroll takes us to scenic Cornwall to visit the lovely folks at St. Ives, where we’ll savour a 99 Flake and maybe a gin popsicle if we’re feeling whimsical. It’s not just the views from the coastline we’ll be enjoying with this tipple, but the fruits of its garden, too, for Cornwall’s first small-batch cold compound gin was made using a blend of 13 botanicals sourced from local clifftops and cottage gardens. The result is a Cornish cracker that balances plenty of floral vanilla, sweet orange peel and some menthol thyme notes with smoky Cornish seaweed and pink peppercorns.
The next stop on our tremendous tour is Bristol, where we take in the spirit of independence through the handiwork of a Bristol-based bartender-and-service-professional collective. Such a group made this dry gin at a micro-distillery under a hotel in the city in a still named Hazel, using a host of classic botanicals such as citrus and angelica root. Released to be ‘a local gin for everybody’, notes of elegant elderflower, bright juniper, fresh citrus and drying cassia bark spice mean it should win over everyone onboard MoM Rail***** at least.
Our first port of call in the fabulous north of England is the outrageously good time that is Liverpool. We’re here for a drink and dance with an aromatic, organic gin produced close to the former, famed and sadly long-closed Bank Hall Distillery. Liverpool Gin is just like the city that bears its name: lively, lovely and superb with tonic water… wait, hang on. Regardless, the botanical selection features plenty of classics such as angelica, citrus, coriander and hand-picked juniper berries for a vibrant, fragrant gin with plenty of personality.
As we journey further north we find ourselves in the company of the terrific Leeds Gin, a particularly tasty tipple teeming with Yorkshire charm. It was crafted under the watchful eye of Sara Birkinshaw, who added juniper, coriander and ginger to Yorkshire forced rhubarb to form a botanical medley that sparkles in a G&T. Notes of dry juniper, aromatic cinnamon, candied orange and a pleasant mellow bitterness make this one of the most delicious things in Yorkshire since them puddings!
Our wonderful time in the north comes to a close with a dignified dram in the delightful town of Durham. Here, the small-batch Durham Gin is distilled with botanicals such as celery seed, elderflower, juniper, pink peppercorn and a secret mix of other herbs and spices, to create a balanced profile of light and fruity citrus sweetness, fragrant florals, drying spice and earthy roots.
Bullards Norwich Dry Gin
Our fantastic juniper journey concludes in Norwich, with an excellent East Anglian tipple that won World’s Best London Dry Gin in the World Drinks Awards in 2017. The name Bullards is one that has been synonymous with Norwich for some 180 years, but the brewery that first opened in the 19th century was only revived from a 30-year hiatus in 2015. Now it creates this distinctive gin which is handcrafted in small batches utilising the subtle fragrant influence of Tonka beans and a further nine secret botanicals to produce an intriguing, balanced and utterly delicious spirit that boasts notes of honey, juicy orange and coriander.
Well, there you have it! Obviously, you’re not obliged to take part in the whole tour, and you’re certainly not invited to look into the logistics of MoM Rail, but hopefully, this whistle-stop exploration has demonstrated the strength, vibrancy and diversity of the English gin scene. Be sure to try at least try one gin from a region or city you haven’t visited for a juniper-led taste of local life, you can even build your own tasting set with every edition listed, except for Bristol and St. Ives Gin. And happy St. George’s Day to all!
*This is an absolutely genuine and terrifying tradition that still exists.
**Which is definitely a thing. Don’t let people tell you otherwise.
***Particularly as I live Maidstone, and I’d forgotten my train driver hat (yes, I’m driving!).
****Watch out for the seagulls, the city’s unofficial bouncers.
*****It’s real, let it happen.