*Name: Malfy GQDI - Gin Di Qualita Distillato (41% ABV)
Distilled: Italy, at the family distillery of it's makers, in Moncalieri, just outside Torino. It is distilled in a stainless steel vacuum still, and the family in question are the Vergnano family: Carlo, his wife Piera and their children Rita and Valter.
Encountered: The short answer is 'in M&S' but the long and possibly more interesting answer is that I started seeing pictures of Malfy gin on Instagram, and I was drawn to the beautiful bright blue and yellow colours of the bottle, which call to mind sunshine and beautiful skies and seas. I had no idea what the gin would taste like but I thought that I would like some just for the colours! Then I came across a bottle in my local M&S food hall and I was so happy! The bottle came home with me immediately (I paid for it, obvs).
Flavours According To Me: This gin absolutely BURSTS with the flavour of beautiful Italian lemons and it's like summer is exploding in your mouth as soon as you take a sip. It is extremely crisp and wonderfully sharp and sweet, although not sickly in the slightest. It calls to mind the taste of Limoncello*, a drink I like very much indeed, or lemon sorbet, a food I like even more! The juniper comes afterwards, and while it is there, I feel that this is definitely another gin that is made for people who don't really like gin, because it's ALMOST not like gin at all.
*Limoncello, incidentally, originates from Southern Italy and uses lemons taken from coastal regions such as the Amalfi coast - just as the lemons for Malfy are!
Actual flavours: Malfy uses Italian lemons grown in coastal regions such as the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. There are 6 other botanicals including the juniper, also Italian of course.
Extra Good Stuff: The back of the bottle tells a story that I really like:
'My uncle used to "enjoy the view" looking over the Italian seacoast with his gin and tonic. He would slice a lemon from his favourite tree and splash it in his drink. Malfy marries the finest Italian coastal lemons with our family's unique gin recipe to help you "enjoy the view".
And to help us along with enjoying the view, Malfy put loads of beautiful coastal Italian scenes, drenched in sunshine, on their Instagram page. So maybe look at those when drinking this gin, so you can pretend you are in the Med rather than Medway. Or you know, wherever you happen to be.
Trivia: Malfy claim that gin began in Italy - invented by 11th Century monks on the Salerno coast. I haven't done the research required to discover if gin actually DID begin in Italy or not, because I'm committed to the gin cause, but slightly pushed for time. Still, it's nice to think of Italian monks adding 'ginepro' (juniper) to their alcohol and producing gin, before the rest of the world caught on. They probably couldn't post photos of the results on Instagram.
You Can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: ....but if you could, this one would be a winner. The light blue and bright yellow colours are eye catching and dazzling. The cork is shot through the middle with a light blue wax seal and the shape is of a pleasing, squat and rounded persuasion that makes one think of apothecary bottles and therefore harks back to the olden days. All in all, it's a happy display that fronts this even happier tasting gin.
Did I Like It?: Now, I don't want to get carried away or anything but if I'm absolutely honest, I think this is my new favourite gin. My previous favourite was Monkey 47, but that German delicacy has been toppled, in favour of sunshine and Italian lemons. I bought my 70cl bottle of Malfy in April and there is only about a third left. I know I should save some and drink it only on special occasions but I can't help it - it's too delicious, and goes especially well with this lovely spring weather we've been having (in between the rain showers!).
Can You Buy It?: Yes, as mentioned above, you can get your hands on a bottle at branches of Marks and Spencer, or you can buy it from the official website, although it will re-direct you to a different online shop, depending on what country you reside in.
Gin For Tea Rating: This is a tricky one. My instinct is to give it a 10, precisely because I love it so much. However, I did write above that this isn't a traditional gin, and that's true. In fact, it's SO un-gin like, and more akin to limoncello, that you can sip it quite easily. The juniper comes through, but not strongly. If I tasted it blindfold, I'm not sure I would identify that it is a gin. So taking that into account, I'm giving it a 7/10. Everything about it is delightful. But it's not really gin as I know it.
Photographs Copyright Christina Owen 2017
Click on the links throughout the post to learn more than I can teach you with my witterings!
Name: Bulldog London Dry Gin (40% ABV)
Distilled: In England, which you could have guessed from the name. Calls to mind the British Bulldog. Or Winston Churchill...
Encountered: I bought this in Sainsbury's. I'm going to be honest. I bought it because it was on special offer. £22 down to £18. I mean, come on, that's a bargain. I have always been put off buying a bottle of Bulldog in the past. I don't know why. Maybe it's because the bottle looks somewhat brash (more on that later) or maybe it's because at under £25, I've looked at it and thought 'well, that's so much cheaper than all these other gins....what's wrong with it??' Look, I didn't say I was smart. But one does tend to get led by branding, and also price. So I had avoided it until last week. Oh, what a mistake!
Flavours According to Me: I have decided to try and do this properly, and talk about noses and palates and finishes, even though I'm not completely sure when one ends and the next begins. As I tasted this gin, I thought I would give this thing a go - the complex world of proper, actual gin tasting. And here's what I got (bearing in mind that when it comes to these three elements, I'm sort of guessing which is which - although it seems obvious that the nose refers to all the upfront, in your face bits, including the scent, the palate is the middle bit and the finish is the taste you are left with): On the nose I didn't get much - a subtle, floral flavour that crept up on me. The palate was really creamy and delicious, and the finish was crisp and not-too-sweet, not-too-bitter. In other words, it was 'balanced'.
Actual Flavours: I did very well here. A label comes with the gin, which describes the experience you should be having at each stage of the tasting process. It states that the 'nose' is refined and delicate, the 'palate' is less dry, creamy and flavourful, and the 'finish' is smooth, crisp and balanced. I am therefore going to pat myself on the back, for getting at least some of these elements correct. In terms of botanicals, it's got some pretty unique stuff in it - white poppy, almond, dragon eye...as well as the things you commonly find in gin, like orris root, licorice and coriander.
Extra Good Stuff: The leaflet that comes with the gin has serving suggestions, including with cloudy lemonade and with elderflower cordial. Yum. Also, Bulldog gin is quadruple distilled for extra smoothness. It works. It is very smooth.
Trivia: Dragon's Eye is a cousin of the lychee fruit. Who knew eh?
You Can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: I don't like the bottle. I mean, there are elements of it that I like - the shape is curvy and attractive, and I like the studded dog collar round the neck of the bottle. But it's completely, black, with white text - making it look scary and abrasive. Also, the bottle being so dark means you can't see how much liquid is left inside, and this is definitely a negative point for me...how do you know when it's time to get some more?
Did I Like It?: Oh my, I LOVED it. I was incredibly stupid to pass over it thinking it would be no good. In fact, guys at Bulldog? Please never raise the price of this wonderful gin! It's actually affordable and it's really wonderful. I could drink this all day.
Can You Buy It?: As aforementioned, you can buy it in some branches of Sainsbury's (my local branch doesn't stock it, the one I bought it from was in Oxford) and I've also seen it in Waitrose. Failing that, buy it at Master of Malt for £21.95.
Gin For Tea Rating: 9 teacups out of 10. Put it this way, it's up there. I can't wait to drink more. I highly recommend it to all gin fans. DO NOT look at it on the shelf and think 'that looks intimidating, I better not buy that.' It is NOT intimidating, it tastes nothing like it looks. It tastes like a creamy gin daydream. Get some immediately.
Name: Bath Gin - Gin of a Different Persuasion (40% ABV)
Distilled: By the Bath Gin Company at a distillery underneath The Canary Gin Bar and shop, in central Bath. You know, that quaint English city where everything is essentially the way it was in the 1700's, except with a Waitrose.
Encountered: I found The Canary Gin Bar while sitting in my hotel in Bath whilst on a recent business trip, looking at the maps app on my phone. Names of nearby places pop up, and when I saw 'gin bar' on my radar, only 3 streets away, I realised I was going to have to overcome my fear of going to bars alone and investigate this place. So I did, and it was great, and I asked the bartender to give me a local gin, and Bath Gin is what I got! There are various different flavours, including a sloe gin, but I opted for the original - flavoured with lime leaves and wormwood.
Flavours According To Me: Light, airy, like a summers day in a regency garden. Georgian women in floaty skirts, blue sky with puffy clouds and flowers. Lots of them. I'm still crap at describing flavours. Sorry about that. I'm trying to do justice to the romance and history that drinking this particular gin put me in mind of, without sounding w*nky. But you know what, I don't care! Let's go full on pretentious! If it was a colour, it would be sky blue. If it was a musical instrument it would be...what did people play in the late 1700's? The harpsichord? Yes, it would be that. It is floral and sweet and innocent. And easy to drink! And actually, it doesn't taste pretentious at all, so there.
Actual Flavours: English Coriander and bitter orange featuring alongside the Juniper, and the web site characterises it as a 'light, aromatic and balanced Gin'. Which is exactly what I was trying to say.
Extra Good Stuff: There's a Jane Austen theme here, which I like. She lived in Bath, and part of her novel Persuasion is set there. I grew up with a mother who named her first cat after Emma and I went to Winchester University, meaning I got to graduate in the cathedral next to Austen's grave. And I still love that 1995 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. In fact, I'm totally going to watch that again. Right now. But my point is - the Jane Austen theme is a good and fitting one for a native Bath gin.
Also, the gin bar I happened to discover also has a martini bar upstairs!
Trivia: The Bath Gin Company have created a character named Virginia Austen, whose voice narrates the story of Bath Gin on its website and social media pages. Also: 2017 marks 200 years since Jane Austen's death. So we should all raise a glass to her!
You Can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: Jane Austen is winking from the label. I love this. Even though I suspect she had never tasted gin. Or maybe she had? Who knows? Maybe she was more of a rebel than history would have us believe. She did have quite the wicked wit after all!*
*She said of Bath in a letter to her sister in 1801: 'The first view of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; I think I see more distinctly through rain. The sun was got behind everything and the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown was all vapour, shadow, smoke and confusion'.
Did I Like It?: I liked it very much. I liked the taste, I liked the historical theme which fits the location of its origin very well, and I liked the circumstances by which I came to discover it. There's a lot to be said for having a quiet, solo drink in a small bar in a side street, in one of the most beautiful and historical cities in England. And I bought a bottle. So it's safe to say I liked it very much indeed.
Can You Buy It?: You can buy it directly from the Canary Gin Bar shop if you happen to be in Bath (2-3 Queen Street) or from the Online shop if you happen not to be. A full sized bottle costs £36 but you can get a little one for £6.75 if you just want to take it for a test run. For the slightly pricier sum of £215 you can buy a whole travelling case full of Bath Gin - it comes with coupe glasses, tonic and garnish and by the time you've finished drinking it, you won't care that you've spent so much on it.
Gin For Tea Rating: I give Bath Gin a quaint 8 out of 10 teacups full of gin, each one being drunk by a sophisticated regency lady in a fancy dress. Their little fingers sticking out as they drink. In short, it is a charming gin and drinking it is a happy experience.
Name: Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin (40% ABV)
Distilled:'The oldest distillery in England' according to the Opihr Gin web site. Some quick Googling helps me to discover that the oldest distiller of gin is G&J Distillers in Warrington, North West England. They distil Greenall's London Dry Gin among others.
Encountered: My brother bought this for me for Christmas. I had never heard of it and was therefore very impressed, and excited to try it. Thank you David!
Flavours According to Me: Spicy! Like coriander, which is the only spice I can think of right now that this scent and taste, reminiscent of Indian spices, reminds me of. And I'm thinking: oh please let me have got it right! I so often get flavours wrong, or miss them altogether. Such is the (lack of) sophistication of my palate. Also, it both smells and tastes like pilau rice, which is at once interesting and a little scary, as I am always freaked out by drink that tastes like food (beer is the biggest offender - it is liquid bread.) It doesn't taste like gin to me, if I'm honest. It's certainly not traditional.
Actual Flavours: There is coriander in it! Hooray! Coriander from Morocco apparently, as well as spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia and black pepper from India. Apparently what I am smelling when I take a sniff over the uncorked neck of the bottle is cumin and cardamom. The taste is heavy, but not too heavy. And unlike some spicy gins I have tasted, there is no unpleasant, hard after taste. It's just the right side of unusual, before 'unusual' becomes 'upsetting'.
Extra Good Stuff: The web site includes tasting notes, which is always handy. And it's a good web site. There's also a cocktail list there as well. As a side note - the only annoying thing about researching gin online is that every 2 minutes you are forced to enter your date of birth into a web site before it will let you enter. Yes, I'm over 18. But I could be lying.
Trivia: 'Opihr' is pronounced 'o-peer' and the word doesn't exist. However, if you change the letters around ever so slightly, you get 'Ophir', which is a region mentioned in the Bible. It was quite wealthy, and King Solomon received a hefty gift from Ophir every 3 years - it included sandalwood, gold, ivory, pearls, apes and peacocks. Which incidentally, is all I want for my next birthday.
You Can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: I love the squat, square shape of this bottle. I love how fancy it is, like it's going to a carnival. It even has a red and gold rope around it's neck. Elephants in red and gold grace the label, and it has a map of the ancient spice route from Indonesia to Morocco via India on the back of the bottle. You can see it from the front - enlarged and floating, distorted by the liquid inside. The whole bottle screams 'Exotic!' Also, if you're into your bottle shape trivia, this sort of squat bottle is called a 'sumo' bottle. I will now research the names of every shape of bottle and get back to you.
Did I Like it?: I thought it was the best of the spicy gins I've tried - it manages to be interestingly spicy but not overwhelming, and even though I tend to enjoy floral or fruity gins more than spicy gins, I'll definitely be finishing off this bottle. Dan, who I've managed to get into gin purely by not shutting up about it, loves a spicy gin and he really loves Opihr.
Can You Buy It?: You can get Opihr in Waitrose apparently. Also in Tesco, Morrisons and Harvey Nichols. Posh. You can find your nearest stockist here (another great feature of the web site!)
Gin For Tea Rating: A solid 6 out of 10 teacups. As I said above, Opihr, to my mind anyway, isn't really a gin. But it's lovely all the same, and very creative. Quite a lot of peppery joy in a glass.
Name: Brooklyn Gin (40% ABV)
Distilled: New York (the clue's in the name!)
Encountered: I was looking for a bottle of gin I hadn't come across before to buy with a gift voucher for M&S. It's not often I get to be so posh as to shop in the Marks and Spencer food hall. On that day I wanted an impressive looking gin bottle to display on my gin shelf. Brooklyn Gin was it. Look at it! Look how gorgeous it is!
Flavours According To Me: I'm no expert yet (I'm working on it) but it doesn't taste of much. It tastes really...stripped back. There's the juniper flavour coming through really strongly. So strongly in fact that it makes me wince. And then...nothing. That's it, that's all I got. It's a harsh flavour, sweetened with nothing whatsoever, as far as I can tell. A brave move.
Actual Flavours: Juniper and citrus peel - that's all the bottle is giving away, that's all the web site is giving away and that's all I can find on various review sites. So I was right, it's a stripped back flavour. The big selling point appears to be that the juniper berries are hand cracked and the citrus is hand peeled. I think that's probably true of a lot of small batch gins though. The citrus presumeably exists in the mix to sweeten the juniper flavour but it doesn't work. I couldn't taste the citrus at all. I tried, I really did.
Extra Good Stuff: The Brooklyn Gin web site explains that the berries are hand cracked and the citrus fruit hand cut to create a more vibrant flavour than if the fruit had been frozen or dried. And that does work well - if I'm wincing as I'm sipping, it's because there's a BIG, sharp taste going on there. And gin should be sharp.
Trivia: The web site gives you nine cocktail recipes that you can make with Brooklyn gin. I like the look of the Parchment Fizz, which contains absinthe and pear brandy. I can imagine sitting in a New York speakeasy in the twenties, drinking any of these cocktails. The prohibition era of the 1920's in America was full of poor quality, homemade spirits that killed people. This is where the term 'bathtub gin' came from. Luckily, this stuff is much better quality!
You Can't Judge a Bottle by It's Cover: So by this point you might have gathered that Brooklyn Gin is not an immediate winner with me, where taste is concered. But oh my, just LOOK at that bottle. Angular shape, exquiste blue glass and a copper inlay for the label. It looks decadent. It looks very 1920's. I am in love with it.
Did I Like It?: I'm hoping it's a grower. I mean, it's won multiple awards in America so obviously it's a great tasting gin. But for my particular pallette it just felt too harsh, with not enough to soften it or make it truly interesting.
Can You Buy It?: You can buy it on Amazon for about £40 or in branches of M&S for £37. It's an expensive one for sure, but if you're a collector of rare or small batch gins, especially those in fantastic bottles, it's worth having.
Gin For Tea Rating: Out of ten teacups, I give it a 6. With some of the gin slopped out of the teacups. But the teacups are bone china and are being drunk by ladies in flapper dresses. Most of this score is for the bottle. The taste, as I say, may be one that grows on me. Time will tell.
Name: Monkey 47 (47% ABV)
Distilled: The Black Forest, Germany (otherwise known as Schwarzwald)
Encountered: At a posh bar in equally posh Winchester, southern England. I asked what gins they had and chose Monkey 47 from the list because it had 'monkey' in the title. Because - monkeys.
Flavours According to Me: REALLY FRUITY! While also being sharp at the same time. It's not like any gin I've tasted yet. You wouldn't think fruitiness would go well with the dryness of gin, yet it does in this case.
Actual Flavours: I wasn't wrong about the fruity. Monkey 47 contains plenty of fruit (including Lingonberry - a curious but pleasingly different choice) and plenty of every thing else, as it has 47 different botanicals in it. As well as all the usual suspects (cassis, cinnamon, bitter orange, lemon, lime, angelica root etc), I was happy to learn that Cranberry features in this particular gin. Which makes a lot of sense, given that cranberries produce a dry, sharp flavour that compliments the dryness and sharpness of juniper very well. It's actually surprising that we don't see it in more gin recipes.
Monkey 47 is also lovely and floral - containing plants I'd never heard of before - scarlet bee balm to name one, and lavender to name something that everyone's heard of. There's also sage, rose hip, jasmine, honeysuckle, elder flower and dog rose, to name but a few. It's a veritable garden of flavour.
Extra Good Stuff: What extra do you really need when it comes to a gin that has had every possible flavour on earth (or at least, in Germany) shoved into it? If you want to pass a fun and quirky, gin-themed few minutes though, check out the official web site, which is full of bizarre mini news stories centred around The Black Forest, and appears totally bonkers.
Trivia: So, here's the story of Monkey 47 gin as I understand it (read it in a book) - there once was an RAF pilot named Montgomery Collins, who moved to the Black Forest after World War II was over, (or sometimes during the 1950's, depending on which source you listen to) to set up a watchmaking business. Only, he didn't know a thing about watches, so he ended up running a guest house. He named the guest house 'The Wild Monkey' after a monkey he had sponsored at Berlin Zoo.
At this point I need to break off and say that this man is my hero. I can only dream of this level of weird and wacky adventure. Anyway, back to the story.
So, the guest house did alright, and at some point, Collins took to distilling fruit spirits, which included gin. After that the story gets hazy, and we do not know what happened to him, except to say that many years later, a case of gin labelled 'Max the Monkey Black Forest Dry Gin' was discovered by a German man in Detroit (I'm not sure about the logistics or the geography here but go with it), who decided to move back home to the Black Forest, set up shop and create his own gin, based on that of the strange ex-RAF monkey appreciating watchmaking, guest house running master distiller. He called it Monkey 47 (for the 47 botanicals in it) and created a limited amount of the stuff, releasing it in 2010. As he hadn't any experience of actually making gin, he recruited someone to help him. It then won prizes internationally, and so it carried on, and carries on today. Phew!
This is the kind of story that makes me feel hopeful that I too can one day become a master gin maker. Apparently experience isn't always needed. Unless you are going to the business of making watches.
You can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: The Monkey 47 bottle is rounded, squat and made of brown glass. It looks like a medicine bottle you might have on the shelf in the kitchen in 1435 or similar. I like the thought of that - curing all ills with alcohol infused with all the plants, fruits and spices under the sun. The label looks like an oversized postage stamp, and hooray! It has a monkey on it.
Did I Like It? This is my favourite gin so far. It's distinctive - it stands out. The more botanicals in a gin, the more chance of all the flavours getting lost. But this one is good. It works. I have asked for a bottle of it for Christmas.
Can You Buy It? You can! Which bodes well for me this Christmas, although given that it appears to be retailing online for between £36 and £40 (Amazon is selling it for £34, but there's a delivery charge), I might not want to hold my breath.
Gin For Tea Rating: Out of ten gin-filled teacups, I give Monkey 47 a rating of 9. That's a lot of teacups full of gin. It was certainly very, very nice indeed. And given that it's quite strong, I felt more than a little squiffy afterwards.
Name: Colombo Gin (43.1% ABV)
Distilled: London, UK (but once upon a time in Sri Lanka, where it was invented).
Encountered: I decided to take a chance and subscribe to a gin club. It's called I Love Gin and every month they are going to send me a different gin to try. My first delivery arrived last month. I ripped open the box excitedly, and there were two mini bottles of Colombo staring up at me (I like to think they were singing 'drink me!')
Flavours According To Me: It tastes very peppery, which you'd expect, as it's a Sri Lankan gin billed as being spicy!
Actual Flavours: The information leaflet that came with my I Love Gin box says it contains: Sri Lankan cinnamon bark, curry leaves and ginger root, as well as angelica, coriander and liquorice root (and juniper of course). Very spicy indeed!
Extra Good Stuff: Colombo is distilled using just 7 botanicals, most of which are native to India. Curry leaves in particular are a pretty unique ingredient for gin.
Trivia: Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city in Sri Lanka, which was known as Ceylon until 1972. A young Asian distiller decided to create Colombo Gin using local ingredients, to prove to British Customs and Excise officers that a good London Dry gin did not need to be distilled in London. Of course, he was right.
You Can't Judge a Bottle by It's Cover: The label looks regal - green, white and gold with an intricate design.
Did I Like It?: It went down very easily! I put the recommended black peppercorns in my gin and tonic to see if that brought out the flavour, despite being initially a bit reluctant (peppercorns in a drink?!), and surprisingly it worked very nicely. It takes a few minutes for the flavour of the peppercorns to infuse with the liquid. After that I got an extra little kick every time I took a sip. Try it!
Can You Buy It?: You can buy a bottle for £27.50 on the Gin Festival web site.
Gin For Tea Rating: A very respectable 7 teacups out of 10. I'm having a hard time giving any gin I've tasted so far below a seven. I just really, really like gin. And this was a good experience because it was delivered right to my doorstep, along with tonic water and rose lemonade too, so all I had to do was put it all in a glass and add the peppercorns! I really liked the spicy flavour and it went very well with the curry we had for dinner.
I also love being part of a gin subscription service! I'll write more about that another time.
Name: Loch Ness Gin (43.3% ABV)
Distilled: The first batch of this relatively new gin was distilled at the Strathearn Distillery. The second was distilled at the family estate of the couple who make it, once they had installed their very own still.
Encountered: At The Dores Inn on the shore of Loch Ness, (where we also had a very nice dinner!) during my road trip to the area last month.
Flavours According To Me: The first thing that came across was spice. It tasted warming and had a lovely kick to it - perfect after a chilly walk along the neighbouring stony beach, staring out at the mysterious Loch. My friend Erica had a sip and said she could taste bitter lemon (I didn't have a slice of lemon in the glass).
Actual Flavours: Interestingly, the makers of this small batch gin are keeping the botanicals a secret, preferring to let drinkers decide for themselves what they can taste. All botanicals are taken from around Loch Ness and the water used is also locally sourced.
Extra Good Stuff: When doing my research after coming across this lovely local brand, I discovered that it was only launched in August this year, meaning that when I sipped it in mid-September, I was drinking one of the very first batches!
Trivia: The couple who launched Loch Ness Gin also make Loch Ness Vodka and Loch Ness Rum, and the juniper for the gin gets picked by the couple during their days off!
You Can't Judge a Bottle By Its Cover: Beautiful, sophisticated black, with a stand-out orange font and a classy, understated Loch Ness Monster motif on the front - that, interestingly, resembles a Plesiosaur. A clue as to what form Nessie takes, by any chance?
Did I Like It?: Very much. I'd say it's more of a winter than a summer drink, and I can just imagine curling up with a glass of it to sip on a cold day. In winter, I'm sure something warming like this is very welcome in The Highlands!
Can You Buy It?: Yes, a bottle costs £45 on the official website. However, it should be noted that batches 1 and 2 have sold out, so you'll have to wait for batch 3!
Gin For Tea Rating: I'm awarding this mysterious gin a marvellous 8 gin-filled teacups out of 10. The flavours not being disclosed makes tasting Loch Ness Gin feel a bit like gazing out over the Loch, wondering where that monster is hiding - it's a little bit magical.
Name: Brecon Special Reserve Gin (40% ABV)
Distilled: Penderyn distilleries in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales. They primarily make whisky there, but have a nice side line in gin and vodka.
Encountered: Caernarfon, North Wales. I asked for a nice gin at the bar of the Black Boy Inn and they introduced me to this, as a 'lovely local gin that we're very proud of'. Then I bought a miniature bottle from the gift shop next to that station on Anglesey with the reallllly long name. I brought it home to drink later. Now I wish I'd bought a bigger bottle.
Flavours According To Me: Warm and spicy. I can't do better than this yet, I'm still learning about tasting stuff. After a few more mouthfuls and some thoughtful lip smacking I am pretty sure I can taste Christmas, but then I realise that this is because of the spice. I could imagine drinking this with a mince pie, in front of an open fire. I can smell citrus, but I cannot pick it out when tasting.
Actual Flavours: Leaving aside the juniper, which is a given as this is the primary botanical in all gins, the Penderyn Distillery website tells me that Brecon Special Reserve contains coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg (there's the Christmassy taste!) as well as lemon and orange peel, liquorice and angelica. A closer inspection of my miniature bottle reveals that the bottle also lists the botanicals.
Extra Good Stuff: Brecon gin uses water from the Brecon Beacons National Park - so it really is actual Brecon gin through and through.
Trivia: There were no distilleries at all in Wales between 1910 and 1990. The Penderyn Distillery began distilling gin in 2000 and for a while, this was the ONLY Welsh gin. Nowadays, there are a handful of others to keep it company.
You Can't Judge a Bottle by It's Cover: The Brecon Gin bottle is tall and slender with a simple black and white label. The full sized bottles have small pictures of the botanicals dancing in a line down the front. It's pretty sophisticated and looks like it should be behind the bar in a fancy jazz club.
Did I Like It?: I did - but I had a glass of this gin with tonic on a warm, summers day at home. While I was doing the ironing, incidentally. So I was pretty hot. As this particular gin is so warming, I think I'll wait until winter to find that open fire and have another glass. I also put a lemon slice in the glass, to compliment the citrus present in the gin.
Can You Buy It?: You can - from the Penderyn website, and at £22.38 it's not too dear. There's also a Brecon Botanicals Gin which is slightly more expensive at £27.61.
Gin For Tea Rating: A solid 8 out of 10 teacups. I might be a little biased because of being part Welsh etc. I'm definitely going to have to get a bigger bottle.
Name: Merywen Gin
Distilled: North Wales, by North Star Distillery
Encountered: August 2016, The Black Boy Inn, Caernafon, Gwynedd, North Wales
Flavours According To Me: Sweet and sharp at the same time. Not fruity. Crisp. Can I tell what's in it? No, I'm rubbish at this sort of thing.
Actual Flavours: The bottle says it is infused with local flavours and local music. The North Star Distillery Website says it has botanicals including gorse and heather, hand picked from the hedgerows that surround the distillery.
Extra good stuff: Merywen is distilled with unfiltered water from the foothills of the Welsh Mountains. It's distilled in really small batches, and each bottle has the batch number written on it. The staff at the Black Boy were good enough to show me the bottle and they could tell me exactly what batch number they had without looking. They were proud to have it, and said that because it's produced in such small batches, it's really pretty rare and special to get hold of a bottle.
Trivia: 'Merywen' is Welsh for 'juniper berries'.
You Can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: The bottle looks pretty simple, with a red and white label. But turn it round and there's a few bars of a tune displayed on the side! Gin sheet music....these are tunes by local musicians, so that you can hear the beautiful music of Wales as you drink the gin made from Welsh ingredients. The batch and bottle numbers are handwritten for a really personal feel.
Did I Like it?: I loved that it was Welsh, and that I was drinking something local. I loved the ideas behind it, but I forgot the taste pretty fast.
Can You Buy It?: Yes, from this independent beer and wine shop in North Wales! It's called Stori Beers and Wines. They appear to deliver UK wide for a fee, and a bottle of Merywen costs £38.
Gin For Tea Rating: 7 teacups out of 10. Mainly because of the local music infusion. And the pretty name. And the experience of drinking rare Welsh gin in Wales.
Christina, 32, London. Likes gin.