Spirit Cartel Introduces The True Spirit Of London

C.O.L.D London DrySpirit Cartel, home to the dauntless spirit specialists, adds quintessentially British, City of London Distillery Gins to its portfolio of fine liquors. The renowned small-batch micro-distillery opened in 2012 inside entrepreneur Jonathan Clark’s cocktail bar, and was the first working distillery to open in the heart of the City of London for 200 years.

Making life a whole lot more interesting for gin lovers and connoisseurs alike, the distillery produces a range of five small batch premium gins: London Dry Gin at 41.3% ABV, Christopher Wren Gin created by former Tanqueray distiller Tom Nichols at 45.3% ABV, Old Tom Gin at 43.3% ABV, Sloe Gin at 28% ABV and the limited Square Mile Gin at a sublime 47.3% ABV.

Using artisan techniques and the finest botanicals, City of London Gins are distilled using the traditional ‘one shot’ method. The finished product: uniquely smooth liquid, refreshing complex flavours and double gold award winning gins that add a unique distinction to any drink.

The exquisite packaging design references the distillery’s location in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral and demonstrates the brand’s pride in their City of London location, making the bottle equal in class to the liquid inside. This striking bottle is also a stunning addition to any back bar.

Jonathan Clark, Founder of City of London Distillery, says: “Knowing Spirit Cartel’s history with their other brands, I was still a little dazed even whilst the celebratory-deal-sealed G&Ts were being sipped. The distillery and our gins are a great success in the UK and we look forward to this continuing with the help of our new family”.

Charles Marshall, Spirit Cartel Consiglieri, says: “The addition of City of London Distillery will further strengthen our presence in the gin market and complement our portfolio of premium brands that include Don Q rum and Four Roses bourbon. They’re a perfect fit for the Cartel with their attention to detail, as well as the slight off-the-wall essence to the things they do. We’re pretty thrilled to have them on board and look forward to telling their story and working with Jonathan and the team at C.O.L.D., as well as getting Tom (Nichol) into the trade.”

City of London Distillery gins have an RRP ranging from £35 – £45 and are available in the on-trade, through most of the wholesalers, and in the off-trade in Harrods and other premium purveyors of fine spirits.

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Shake, Rattle and Stir on the London Gin Journey

The Curious

Being based in Manchester, I’m well versed with the bar scene of both the city centre and the surrounding area. Whether it’s promoting a specific bar to the wider world, launching a product in an established venue, or hosting a master class within a newcomer, I’m always in and around, getting to know the trends that ultimately the consumers are asking for. The nature of my work though, means that I get to hear a lot about the rest of the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to travel and tour the likes of Edinburgh, Leeds and Liverpool, checking out bars and restaurants that I hear so much about, and experiencing how the rest of the UK works. London can also count on the list, but over the years I’ve had many more meetings within, than sitting down, with a crafted drink in my hand and actually taking in the surroundings. My delight in hearing that I had an invite to do such a thing, meant I jumped on the train, and headed to my first London Gin Journey.

Why gin? Well gin is undoubtedly a category I work a lot with. Bartenders love the varieties and styles available to them, whilst consumers, both men and women, enjoy many a Gin and Tonic, Martini or Negroni. Gin also has much of its history within London itself. Becoming widely known once the Dutch born William of Orange came to the English throne during the Glorious Revolution (Holland being the birth place of gin), gin has ultimately had its fair share of ups and downs. Etchings from William Hogarth and his ‘Beer Street and Gin Lane’ piece were common to see, deriding the spirit of gin and blaming the so-called ‘gin craze’ on Britain’s social problems. The force behind this? The government. Unable to control the production, they introduced the Gin Act of 1751, forcing distillers to sell to licensed retailers. But it’s not all downhill, with the introduction of column stills to create what we know call London Dry. This process made it more practical and popular, and over the years, inventive ways to drink your favourite brand came into practice, giving rise to the cocktail renaissance that we still see today.

Such history can be found just about anywhere, but to be introduced by a man with such passion and devotion to his trade, is ultimately what the Gin Journey is all about. Leon Dalloway has adapted a method of introducing not only gin to London, but also a variety of drinking dens, and recipes to embrace. Leon himself is a former bartender, tending many a venue in Manchester before jumping at the chance at representing the relatively new gin brand of Martin Miller’s. From his travels of promoting, he moved to London in March last year and worked for the City of London Distillery, learning about the craft of gin and to hone his skills and knowledge. It is here that he thought about sharing his passion, and ultimately decided to go it alone, creating his business named Shake, Rattle and Stir. Its ideology is to bring fun, interesting booze knowledge to the people through events, with the Gin Journey concept being its first.

IMG_20140311_204444To me, this is perfect. The chance to see five of London’s best bars, try five different gin brands, and see them as the base for a crafted recipe, all whilst being hosted by someone who can rival the likes of gin maestro Alan Winchester, Jared Brown or Jamie Baxter.

Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair was to be the first port of call. Nestled within the back streets, it ultimately looks like the gin palaces of yesteryear. Taking inspiration from the hero of Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, its decor of artefacts (including entomology displays, helmets, hunting trophies, palm trees, birdcages and even a hot-air balloon) surround the bar area, itself nestled with small stools and low tables. I suppose in a way, it would be fitting to the venue that you start with a gin that has had to travel to be a part of the evening. Elephant Gin hails from Germany and uses 14 botanicals within, including African ingredients Baobab, the Buchu plant, Devil’s Claw and African Wormwood. At 45%, it gives off a light floral nose, with citrus tones following a lavender aroma. A sharp start on the palate, with the citrus flavours becoming oily, yet also quite warming. From these aromas and flavours, it would make perfect sense to enjoy the ‘The Cape of Good Hope’; a combination of Elephant gin, fresh pressed pear juice, lemon juice, rosemary and buchu syrup, lavender tincture and whites.

Leon’s previous place of work came next on the gin journey, taking place at the City of London Distillery in the City of London. Boasting 270 different gin brands on its bar, and the working distillery that produces our next gin in full view, it’s an experience that can rarely be summed up in such an evening. Modern, sleek and very cool are some that spring to mind though, and with a City of London gin and Fever Tree tonic in hand, the grapefruit garnish really brings out the notes of the gin. The brand on its own gives off lots of flavours on the nose, with citrus, dry herbs and liquorice most noticeable. The palate enjoys a spicy start, with a sharp, bold, rich flavour of liquorice and grapefruit zest. Develops a long, warm finish, that’s slightly dry.

Riding within a gin carriage to our next venue, coming to a halt as we overlook the Thames on the historic Tower Wharf at the Tower of London. The Perkin Reveller welcomed us with a table ready for a feat, as the most appropriate brand for the restaurant came in the form of Beefeater. Sparse glass and white walls are evident, although the name not so much (apparently named after the cook’s apprentice in ‘Canterbury Tales’), but with a glass of Beefeater 24, and Leon diving into one of the world’s best known gin brands, you take it all in with open arms. The gin itself is soft on the nose with plenty of grapefruit coming through. Incredibly soft on the palate, with small bursts of liquorice, grapefruit, orange and the heat from coriander. Creates a long, lingering finish with a little tingle to remind you. Once again, matched with a rather delectable recipe named ‘Spring Revival’; Pineapple, Black Pepper and Sage infused Beefeater, freshly pressed pineapple juice, house grenadine, accent of house anise tincture garnished with house a pineapple chutney and Lancashire Bomber cheese topped cracker.
Being invited to a restaurant ultimately means the food portion of the gin journey, tucking in to a menu that included smoked mackerel, blue cheese soufflé, pork belly or roast chicken breast amongst other British and European dishes.

IMG_20140311_220534Shoreditch would be the area of London for our last two venues, the first being Worship Street Whistling Shop. This cellar bar mixes the Victorian era with the American speakeasy, complete with bath tub for gin and shelves with botanicals, herbs and spices. Dodd’s gin, from the London Distillery Company that first came out last year, was to be showcased, alongside what the bar call the ‘Ultimate Gin and Tonic’; Dodd’s Gin and house tonic flavoured with black cardamom, bay leaf, lavender, raspberry, cassia and chinchona served in a medicinal style bottle, complete with a bespoke label. The gin itself has subtle juniper on the nose with fresh raspberry lingering around near the end. Warm on the start of the palate, developing a slight spice with honey thick texture. The juniper is more dominant alongside dashes of lime zest. Short, sharp bursts on the long finish. Perfect for the home-made tonic. Sitting in the back room of the bar, it’s hard not to walk around and check out the nooks and crannies that the guys from Fluid Movement have inserted. Its idea and concept really do transport you back to Victorian era, and a shame to most to leave. But leave me must, and ventured to our last outing of the gin journey.

Callooh Callay, with its extensive back bar, complete with cubby-hole’s of bottles nestled into the walls, is a venue that I’ve always wanted to visit, and didn’t disappoint. When you are served one of Leon’s signature brands, Martin Miller’s, and hear of the thought and legacy that the now unfortunately, recently passed away Martin Miller had, it makes you truly appreciate the effort that producers put in to impress both sides of the bar. For example, once Martin Miller’s has been distilled with the likes of Tuscan juniper, cassia bark, angelica, Florentine orris, coriander, Seville citrus peel, nutmeg, cinnamon and liquorice root, it is then shipped to Iceland, where it is mixed with Icelandic spring water. The gin, the London Dry variety, has a dominating citrus notes on the nose, but subtle floral aromas follow slowly. Rather mellow on the palate, with a slight dryness. It gives off some interesting citrus flavours with juniper overtones with a hint of peppercorn on the odd occasion. A slow-fading after-taste of floral and citrus. To cap the evening off, and a first for me, we were presented with a Converse shoe, which within had crushed ice holding our final drink, ‘The Curious Gincident about the Grog and the High-Top’; Martin Miller’s Gin, rosehip cordial, fresh grapefruit juice, topped with prosecco.

Elephant GinIt only took a few hours, but I had experienced five bars, two of which I had never heard of before, five gins, one of which I’d never had the chance to sample, and five unique cocktails which I still talk about to Mancunians to this day. The settings were superb, and from a Northern point of view, we have nothing that rivals this. No distilleries within bars, no Victorian themed venues that house bath tubs of gin, no hidden drinking dens featuring artefacts from around the world. I suppose that what makes London stand a part from the rest of the UK, but to be fair, I would tip my hat any day towards them. Each venue was relatively busy, on a Tuesday of all days, yet the service was spot on, and our host in Leon made sure than nothing was too much trouble. And  you know he’s having as much fun as you are when he’s handing out prizes in his pop-quiz in between venues.

Shake Rattle and Stir’s Gin Journey is a fascinating evening, whether you work in the trade or not. And at £50 per person, you know you will be getting a lot more for your money than if you decided to venture out unguided.

Hats off to you Leon.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

City of London Tasting Notes

COLD

As mentioned in previous articles of late, England is on a role in the gin category, with many a distillery popping up in the past few years to showcase there brand to the gin-loving public. One of these distilleries is the City of London Distillery (or COLD for short), and have done things a little differently than the rest.

How different though?

Well first of all, the site of the City of London Distillery is not where you’d expect it to be located. Amongst Bride Lane near Blackfriars is a basement. A basement that holds both a distillery AND a fully functioning bar. And separating the two? Windows. So you can have a drink whilst watching Master Distiller Jamie Baxter hard at work to create his citrus based gin. Impressive to think that behind you is the gin that you’re drinking being created. I’ve always said to people that if you ever get the chance to go to a distillery, take in everything you see. It puts everything into perspective of the spirits you enjoy, and it’s very rare to come across one that has a bar so close to the action.

COLDJamie got himself into the business of City of London Distillery after meeting venue owner Jonathan Clark back in April 2012, who had an idea of creating a venue in which the story of gin could be told from beginning to end. With Jamie’s expertise (he established Chase distillery) and Jonathan’s vision, they set to work over the next seven months to renovate the basement and fit the two stills inside, thus making it the first distillery in the City of London for more than 200 years. The two stills house and create two different spirits – vodka and gin. The neutral spirit is bought in from an outside source (as with most other producers), but Jamie is on hand to create a rectified vodka, and then using the vodka as a base, the now available City of London dry gin. 15th November of 2012 saw the first time that Jamie was able to start his distillation process, despite the bar being open to the public before-hand for a few hours a day.
Jamie and Jonathan recruited the London Bar Consultants to run the gin-heavy bar, with a range of tonics and garnishes it’s a great chance to explore the gin category. A cocktail menu of gin cocktails is available, alongside a couple of non-gin based creations to cater for all. 

The City of London dry gin itself has seven botanicals – juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, liquorice root, fresh orange, fresh lemon and pink grapefruit. But how do they fare when housed within Jamie’s creation? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes – 

City of London Dry – 40%

Lots of flavours on the nose, with citrus, dry herbs and liquorice most noticeable. The palate enjoys a spicy start, with a sharp, bold, rich flavour of liquorice and grapefruit zest. Develops a long, warm finish, that’s slightly dry. A cracking gin to enjoy on its own.

City of London dry gin is a great addition to any experience in your favourite bar. Expect to find this in not only the gin palaces, but in the more broader ranges of back-bars, or even in your own drinks cabinet. Jamie and Jonathan have done an excellent job in not only turning around a former comedy club in 7 months, virtually by hand, but creating and winning rave reviews for their small-batch brand. I can’t see this going away any time soon.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.