For those who don’t know me well, I’m a bit of gin enthusiast. No matter what the occasion, a G&T has always been my tipple of choice, and seems so for many others these days. Once again coming into vogue, there’s been a huge rise in its popularity over the past couple of years, with plenty of micro distilleries now popping up across the UK alone. There are however gaps in my knowledge- that’s where my good friends at Magnum Wine Shop come in.
Situated in Swindon’s quaint Old Town, Magnum Wine Shop is beautiful treasure trove offering everything from wine, fizz, and whisky from all over the world. It’s also pretty much a mecca for gin fans; stocking well over 100 different variations, Magnum frequently holds gin tastings throughout the year, as well as evenings dedicated to wine, rum, and other alcoholic delights.
Tonight, the shop is hosting yet another event dedicated to gin; titled ‘Gins of Autumn III’, there’s a nice selection on the list. Starting with a classic London dry, we’ll begin to digress from the typical botanicals in favour of sweeter, more experimental notes. Throughout the evening, I’ll be rating each gin accordingly, though my own sense of judgement may rapidly lose its potency depending on how inebriated I become. Let’s see how it goes shall we?
- Fifty Pounds
A vintage London dry, this gin was probably the smoothest of the evening. Its name is a reference to the Fifty Pounds Act, in which London distillers were forced to abide by a levy of £50 if wanting produce and sell gin. Fifty Pounds uses traditional methods in its production, resulting in a finer spirit created in smaller, more exclusive batches. It apparently takes quite a while for the gin to be bottled too- it rests for a total of three weeks, while brands like Gordons just wait till it cools before being bottled. Containing all the standard botanicals of juniper, angelica root, with a hint of liquorice, Fifty Pounds is probably the easiest to drink, but predictably inoffensive.
Made in the same distillery as Fifty Pounds, Jensen’s is a slightly sweeter, nineteenth century style gin that follows a similar production process to its neighbour. Similar in style to Fifty Pounds, Jensen’s attempts to replicate the old-school charm of London Dry, accentuating the base notes of juniper through its careful use of pepper. It’s not particularly unique in flavour, but delicate and well balanced enough to be enjoyable with or without tonic. An ideal gin for a Dry Martini.
This was my personal favourite. Using a copper pot still and a recipe using cardamom and orange peel, angelica and plenty of coriander, this Belgian gin apparently takes its name from an alchemist searching for the elixir of life. A great example of a classic London Dry, Copperhead has a versatility that proves it worth as a great year-round gin, which manages to be warming yet surprisingly refreshing. Slightly sweeter on the nose, with plenty of citrus on the palate, it’s a marvellous gin that’s perfect for those with a sweeter tooth.
- Garden Tiger
The winner of the celebrated Whisky Exchange Spirit of the Year 2017, Garden Tiger is the new gin on the block. Since going on sale a mere six months ago, this gin has rapidly gained notoriety around the UK, with its mix of thirty-four botanicals proving a complex and intriguing flavour. Made in Cirencester, Gloucestershire by the ever-talented Barney Wilczak, the sheer quantity of botanicals fills the still in which the gin is created, therefore limiting the number of bottles per batch. However, the care and precision in the craft of Garden Tiger is evident in rich taste of organic blood orange, spices and pine, which work in harmony to give a beautiful, well balanced taste. Garden Tiger certainly deserves the hype, and fits the bill perfectly as a great Autumn/ Winter gin.
Created in Dorset by Soapbox Spirits by Lukasz Dwornik and Martin Jennings, Pothercary is perhaps a more exclusive gin in the UK, with only a handful of bars serving this more experimental drink. Winning the Double Gold at the San Francisco Spirit Awards, this gin is very distinctive in its lavender tones, which do unfortunately border on the heavy side. Attempts to lift the flavour through lemon and tilia flowers do nothing but intensify the overall taste on the palate, making it the most controversial gin of the evening. Turning a slight cloudy white colour when mixed with tonic, it’s strong and herby with a taste that lasts on your tongue. It was a bit too much for my personal taste, but if you’re into florals, it’s right up your street.
- Poetic License
This gin is a Northern Dry, from a small batch distillery based in Sunderland. Possessing an abundance of juniper balanced with green cardamom for a gentle warming spice, the taste is unusual yet familiar in equal measure. Lime and eucalyptus accompany the usual tones of a classic dry gin, giving a slight heady finish. Drank neat, there’s a distinct menthol flavour that pack a punch- but when adding tonic (we used a drop of Fever Tree) the taste shifts dramatically into sweeter, fruity taste, toning down the heat of the eucalyptus. Bold and dynamic, Poetic License certainly proves it worth as memorable, suitably warming gin.
Overall, the gins on tonight’s list have been consistent in quality, character and taste. While Pothercary was a little too strong for me, it’s still fantastic to try some more unusual flavours that attempt to depart from tradition in favour of something more unique. Copperhead has to be the winner for me though, as I’m partial to anything that has a sweeter finish.
If your based in Swindon, I’d highly recommend attending these tasting sessions at Magnum Wine Shop. Staff are incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and can guarantee you a fantastic evening. Tonight I’ve drank an awful lot of gin, danced around the shop with bottles on my head, and learnt a fair bit about how my favourite tipples are created. All in all, I’d deem it a very successful evening.