Name: Cucumber Gin (40% ABV)
Distilled: Shrewsbury, Shropshire. It's made by the English Drinks Company, who also brought out a bottled cucumber flavoured water a while back. They REALLY like cucumber, huh?
Encountered: A miniature bottle got delivered to me as part of my Gin Subscription for July, from I Love Gin.com. I drank it from a tea cup, with tonic water and a sprig of mint, which had been freshly picked from my mum's garden. Very English countryside!
Flavours According To Me: Well, I'd be a bit s**t at this if I didn't give it a taste and immediately say 'cucumber', right? The name of the gin is a bit of a giveaway. Having said that, perhaps the distillers wouldn't be very good at their job if the gin failed to taste of cucumber. Luckily, I can taste it, so we're all doing alright. In fact, it's ALL I can taste. I took the bottle round and split it with my mum, because she'd been dropping glaring hints about me never sharing my gin boxes with her. It was a feat, seeing as the miniature only contains 5cl of the good stuff, but we managed it. She could only taste cucumber also. In a way, this means the gin is a success. But in order to be gin, in my eyes, you have to be able to taste the juniper, at least in the background. We couldn't.
Actual Flavours: Again, it's pretty obvious, but yes, the main botanical here is cucumber - at least, sharing the spotlight with juniper. Or, it's meant to be. I still maintain that I can't taste the juniper. There are other botanicals too, no doubt. Probably floral ones, because the overall effect is so light and soft.
Extra Good Stuff: Cucumber Gin won a Silver Award in the 2016 International Wines and Spirits Competition. Also, the cucumber water this company makes, named Qcumber, came about when the makers were enjoying gin with slices of cucumber in it - they wanted to take things one step further and make it ALL about the cucumber. It was created as an alternative to drinks like elder flower water, and apparently it goes very well in a nice cold Pimms!
Trivia: Have you heard the expression 'cool as a cucumber'? This derives from the fact that cucumber actually does cool the blood. It can also reduce facial swelling, which is why the good old cucumber-slices-over-the-eyes as part of a skincare regime works so well and is so popular. Cucumber can also eliminate bad breath and the scent of it can reduce stress. Cucumbers are made up of 95% water, meaning that eating a few slices can keep you as hydrated as a glass of water, and it they contain so many vitamins and minerals that eating them can reduce your need for vitamin supplements. So there you have it - the cucumber may be a hilarious shape, but it's health benefits make it positively angelic.
You Can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: The bottle is round and fat, with a short neck, and a label that get's straight to the point, screaming 'Cucumber Gin' in large letters, so you really can't miss what this drink is all about. I like it. Although I know it's an illusion, the roundness and fatness of the bottle says to me 'there's loads in here, get it down you'. I prefer this shape to a tall, thin bottle any day of the week.
Did I Like It?: I did and I didn't. I like cucumber a lot. Not to eat, but I like the flavour. Just...not too much of the flavour. You drink something like Hendricks, and the cucumber flavour comes out ni-ice and subtle. Here, it's overwhelming and waters down the whole experience. Even normal Indian tonic water didn't bring it back into any sort of balance with any other flavour. If you're a fan of drinking cucumber infused water in summertime, you'll really like this. And on a hot day, I can imagine it's really useful for drinking to cool down and feel more refreshed. But it's not for me.
Can You Buy It?: Yes, from several web sites but also from branches of Majestic Wine Warehouse, if you like to visit your drinks in person before you buy them.
Gin For Tea Rating: 4 teacups out of 10. Cucumber Gin is certainly a light and refreshing drink, perfect for summer and easy to banish to the back of the cupboard once autumn rolls around. For me though, it's not sharp enough and it doesn't taste anything like gin. As an innovative spirit though, it's done well - it does stand out from the crowd and it succeeds in that it's flavour is strong, and it does what it says on the bottle. Keep it in mind for your next garden party if you like this sort of thing. I won't be, though.
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.
Christina, 32, London. Likes gin.