Once again finding sanctuary in the ever-impressive Magnum Wine Shop in Swindon, I’m eagerly awaiting my selection of gins for the last winter tasting of the season. I’m now somewhat of a regular at Magnum’s gin tastings- it’s a fantastic way to gain a detailed insight into the delicate process of making the nation’s most fashionable tipple. Kudos once again to Magnum’s entourage of Brian, Alan, Sarah, and Colin, for delivering yet another quality evening.
As per usual we’ll be starting simply with a classic London dry, and progress to sampling some more exotic flavours. For the gin aficionados among you, feel free to give me some recommendations in the comments section, as I’m always looking to expand my collection.
A bespoke London Dry crafted with eight botanicals, Silver Fox fulfils the brief as the innocuous gin of the evening. Five times distilled in a copper pot using 100% English grain spirit, the flavour is both balanced and creamy in equal measure, with a slight hint of citrus on the nose. Inspired by rural England, creator Tony Holdsworth delivers a classically flavoured gin using orris root and coriander that is soft on the palette, but somewhat tame in comparison to the bigger flavours of the evening.
Cannonball Edinburgh Gin
At a whopping 57% ABV, there was some slight trepidation surrounding this particular gin. Cannonball is styled as an old-school ‘navy strength’ gin, (hence the high alcohol content) created in the Scottish capital by the Edinburgh Gin distillery. Concerned I might well end up on the floor after sampling a splash of Cannonball, I was surprised to find that the overall tasting of the gin was smooth and well rounded, with an impressively spicy nose. Possessing a generous measure of Szechuan pepper, with a dash of lemon and double helpings of juniper, the heady dose of botanicals work effectively to balance the alcohol. The spicy flavouring can be toned down by adding a drop of tonic (we used Fever Tree) which lengthens out the taste considerably. An unexpected easy drinking gin that works well for a punchy martini.
Silent Pool is a delicately crafted gin possessing a collection of over twenty-four botanicals, blended in harmony to deliver an exciting, complex flavour. Created in Surrey, with as many locally sourced botanicals as possible, there’s a charming appeal to Silent Pool, particularly in its romantic taste that brings the English countryside to mind. Floral notes are grounded by the earthy tones of cassia bark and cubeb, (a tropical shrub belonging to the pepper family) while lashings of honey bring a soft finish. Delicious with or without tonic, with an added twist of orange peel.
Handcrafted in the heart of Devon, Salcombe offers a particularly elegant taste, achieved through its subtle hit of citrus on the nose and mouth. Unlike mass produced gins, Salcombe Distilling Co actually peel their citrus fruits every morning to ensure that citrus oils are captured at their peak. This gives a wonderfully refreshing finish, balanced perfectly with the floral tones of camomile and bay leaf. Distilled with English wheat spirit and fresh Dartmoor water, the end result is one which evokes a sense of precision and quality. A fantastic little gin that will make a welcome addition to any gin lover’s collection.
The surprise crowd pleaser, Le Gin offers a ballsy, no-frills approach to gin. Created by Christian Drouin distillery, Le Gin is blended with a hearty splash of Calvados, giving definition to the fresh apple based notes. Infused with ginger, vanilla, cardamom and rose, this particular gin certainly brings plenty to the table. However, I did find that my palette was somewhat overwhelmed by the pungent botanicals, and therefore a bit too harsh for my own personal taste. Heavy on the nose with a warming finish, it’s a highly distinctive gin that certainly fits the bill for a winter tipple.
Whittaker’s Pink Peculier
Peculiar by name, peculiar by nature, this award-winning gin offers a contemporary twist on the classic London Dry through its subtle use of pink peppercorns, pink hibiscus and cardamom. Crafted by Toby Whittaker and his family on their farm near Harrogate, using their trusted single pot still named Jezebel, there’s a reassuring quality to this gin that will lead you back for more. Distinct pepper and floral notes take the lead, but without being overbearing. Indeed, the finish is smooth and satisfying, with pleasing hint of refreshing citrus. I’m not usually a fan of pink peppercorn gins, but I have to concede that Whittaker’s have got it absolutely spot on.
It’s safe to say that there’s been a few bold characters on the menu tonight. This selection has been particularly rich in variety, with plenty of unusual blends to get stuck into. While consistent in style and taste, I’d have to say that my overall (predictable) winner would have to be Salcombe, with Silent Pool coming a very close second.
As ever, I’d absolutely urge you to pop down to Swindon’s Old Town and check out Magnum Wine Shop. Whether you’re into gin, wine, beer or whisky, there’s a dazzling array of goodies on offer. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Gin Tastings at Magnum Wine Shop take place on Friday evenings, with tickets priced at £20. Visit http://magnumwineshop.co.uk/ for more information.