5 Artisan Gins from Hants
“That woman’s got me drinking, look at the state I’m in/Give me 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 bottles of….
Gin, a subject close to my heart. Pull up a bar stool and let’s talk spirits. Used as medicine in the Middle Ages (erm, for kidney complaints…), then imbibed with zeal by eighteenth-century Londoners crazy for the cheap-as-chips liquor — it was flavoured with turpentine, not that anyone seemed to mind.
Hogarth’s grim depiction of The Gin Craze, a mother grinning vacantly as her child slips into the Thames, is burnt onto our collective consciousness (whether booze is to blame, or the poor dear hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in years is debatable #feelherpain).
So until recently the juniper-infused spirit has been synonymous with rabid immorality: dangerous; on the margins; eulogised by hard-drinking bands like The Pogues — yes, ten bottles in, only Sean MacGowan’s gravelly tones could really do justice to those lyrics.
But the smart-set, too, has always had a thing for gin: safaris, sundowners and Out of Africa. Meryl Streep sipping G&T on the savannah with only Mr Redford for company, jealous, me?
Geeky fact: in tropical British colonies, gin was used to mask the bitter flavour of quinine, which was the only effective anti-malarial compound. Quinine was dissolved in carbonated water to form tonic water; the resulting cocktail is gin and tonic, although modern tonic water contains only a trace of quinine as a flavouring. Thanks for that Wikipedia.
And the root of the epithet ‘Mother’s Ruin’? Who knows, frankly, who cares? But you cannot deny that us women, mums or no, do love a gin. I recently posted about swapping my mint tea for G&T at the end of a long day, and the likes and comments went on for weeks.
Moving on, unless you’ve been downing turps-laced moonshine and burying your head in the empties, you’ll know that Mother’s Ruin is uber-cool these days: less rack-em-up cheap, swill-it-down fast; more hipster flavours (watercress anyone?) and tasting rooms.
Happy, happy day that the county we know and love has grabbed this revival with both hands and produced some stonking artisan offerings. So without further ado, I bring you the Muddy Hants Guide to Hampshire Gin.
Gorilla Spirits trialled more than 100 different gins before hitting on the double medal winner Silverback in 2015. Distilled low and slow in the custom-made still, Mugwaneza (she who is contented: a belly full of gin? Yup, get it), it is a spectacularly good drink with soft citrus notes, followed by warm spice and a clean finish.
This brand-new gin is fresh and subtle infused with herbs from Leckford Estate. It is distilled in small batches on the banks of the River Test, gin-clear waters and all that: the iconic mayfly branding is spot on.
The Winchester Dry Gin is another small batch, craft distilled spirit from the Winchester Distillery. A truly Hampshire gin, it contains Alresford watercress which flourishes in the chalk streams for which the county is famous. The Romans called watercress ‘nasturtium’ or twisted nose, and the peppery oils in the plant stimulate the tastebuds. Other flavours include grapefruit, fennel seed and Longbarn lavender. A quick mention as well to Parsonage Farm who use Twisted Nose gin in their charcuterie, could you get more Hampshire than that?
This Lymington-based distiller and brewer produces two gins: New Forest Oak Aged and Lymington Gin which is a small-batch craft offering flavoured with angelica seeds foraged locally. It’s robust, flavoursome and infused with hops it won Hampshire Life Drinks Product of the year 2016. In the true spirit of Mother’s Day Dancing Cows are offering free tours of the distillery to anyone who spends over £25 with them this week. Someone knows its audience!
OK, slight cheat this one as we’re scooting over the border in Dorset, but I couldn’t do a local gin listing without mentioning this local superstar which won the Double Gold award at the terribly prestigious San Francisco spirits awards in 2016. The aromatic spirit features organic, hand-picked botanicals including lavender, Tilia flowers, black mulberries, juniper and lemon peel.
AND SOME GINIUS EVENTS…
to sweep all you punning Ginderellas off your feet!
“Nestled in the heart of Hampshire, lies a quaint little city with a voracious appetite for gin.” And so it goes on… gin punch, gin flavoured food, gin producers. If it’s gin you love, you’ll be a happy bunny here. Held in Winchester on 10th June 2017, World Gin Day (yes, it does exist). Plans are also a foot for a Ginchester Christmas Market to help you get into the festive spirit… sorry, couldn’t help that one.
Winchester Distillery Tours
Have a nose around Hampshire’s first artisan distillery which makes, erm, Twisted Nose (any more jokes to make about noses.. out of joint? Nosy parkers? Come one let’s get them out in the open, these puns are coming think and fast today). During the private session guests join, Paul Bowler, the master distiller to create your own bottle using juniper and an ever increasing selection of botanical distillates.
While the debate rages around the Bombay distillery true Hants Gin credentials… it’s not a Hampshire company, it doesn’t use Hampshire botanicals but by heck has it created a buzz around the county’s gin scene, and have you seen the stunning architecture by Heatherwick Studios? An apocalyptic, Victorian dream of swooping glass. If you’re after a special girls night-out, Bombay Sapphire run tours and cocktail making masterclasses.