As some of you know, I’m a sucker for local produce. But one spirit that came on board at a recent venture of mine is a premium Cheshire gin named Hunters. Two men are behind the brand – Ian Cass who is a veteran of the on-trade and Jon Jones who is well-known in the off-trade. But how, in such a short space of time, has all this hype come about?
Hunters was conceived in Cheshire and made at the Langley Distillery. It’s produced by re-distilling neutral spirit with natural botanicals including juniper berries, citrus peel, angelica, orris root, orange peel and coriander seeds. All these are heated during its single batch distillation using a traditional copper pot still. Each botanical is individually marinated within neutral grain spirit before being distilled.
So how does this local gin fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Hunters – 43.3%
Citrus dominates on the nose with a slight spice following. Slight hit of the spice on the palate, although this develops quickly. Herb flavours come through with a slight dryness to finish. Lingers.
So a rather spicy offering, but does it work well within a cocktail?
Hunters White Lady
50 ml Hunters
25 ml Triple Sec
25 ml Fresh lemon juice
5 ml Egg white
Shake, double strain and garnish with a lemon twist.
Hunters can be found in many bars, restaurants and pubs in and around Cheshire and Manchester, and only being less than a year old, I’d expect to see it in many more by the team it reaches its birthday. Or just pick one up for yourself.
Once known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’, gin has becomes the must have for the sophisticated ‘Drink Less, Drink Better’ generation.
Brought to the UK by William of Orange in 1689, by the middle of the 18th century, gin was blamed for leaving many of London’s poorest citizens in a state of catatonic inebriation. The ‘Gin craze’ eventually saw the poorest people ruined by gin made from cheap grain.
But now another William – William Chase – is restoring gin to its former glory across Britain with the introduction of Williams Great British Extra Dry Gin – or “GB Gin” for short.
“GB Gin is the first single estate English gin to be created in over 200 years,” says Williams Gin founder, William Chase. “Our first challenge as distillers was to create the world’s best vodka – Chase Vodka. And now we have used that as the base for the world’s finest dry gin.”
‘We take our spirits very seriously and this is a very, very fine gin so that you can sip it neat but it’s also perfect for creating a well-balanced gin and tonic or a sweet martini,” he says.
Gin is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the UK which, according to William Chase, is all about consumers drinking less but being more discerning about quality. It is believed that consumers of premium quality vodkas are now driving the increased sale of gin in the UK. Gin sales have increasing by 11.6% to 304,750 cases over the last year according to the International Wine & Spirit Research. UK gin now makes up 7.9% of the home gin sector. “Bartenders in Britain have fallen in love with gin again,” says William Chase. “Also, traditionally it was women who drank gin, but now more and more men are drinking it. Discerning customers are developing a love for the flavour of gin in cocktails over vodka.” Chase believes that gin had become a no-go area for a lot of people due to the way it was produced.
“Gin was being shunned by a lot of people to its provenance,” explains Chase. “Historically, it was a cheap product made from poor quality grain that couldn’t be used for anything else.” “Our success is because we’re a real distiller, not a large company churning out stuff made from low quality ingredients or just simply redistilling neutral gran spirit. We make it with love from our own distilled spirit made from potatoes grown, fermented, distilled and bottled on our family farm deep in the middle of England.” “We use Juniper buds and berries to ensure the driest gin possible, followed to 10 fine botanicals, which include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander,cardamom, cloves, liquorish and lemon.” “On the nose, you experience dry juniper with zesty citrus. Juniper, dark chocolate and citrus zest is upfront on the palate, followed by warm spicy notes in cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger,” he said. GB Gin has been very well received in markets throughout the world and nowhere is this truer than in Spain – which is the world’s biggest consumer of gin.
“Great British Gin has become a Great British export,” says Chase.
So with a new style to add to their portfolio, how does it fare? Well below I give to you my tasting notes –
Williams Great British Extra Dry Gin – 40%
Warm notes of cinnamon mix well with faint juniper aromas on the nose. Extremely soft on the palate with a kick of spice once it hits the throat. A little dry with the bold notes of citrus but the warmth of the cinnamon comes through a little more. Very long.
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Vertigo call themselves a ‘fine dining experience’, but with a lunch tine offer of two courses for £10, I opted to give them a go and see the hype that surrounds this 5 floor venue. Located between Albert’s Square and Deansgate, the former Japanese restaurant of Ithaca has been going strong for a couple of years now, with head chef Ian Armstrong taking the reigns in the kitchen and supplying a menu of English cuisine to a modern decor setting. With a wine list that matches there offerings to the food menu, I opted for a glass of Aves del Sur ‘Golondrina’, a Merlot from the Maule Valley region of Chile (£4.50 175ml). Fantastic aromas of dark cherry that flows into a wonderfully smooth palate of dark fruits and subtle hints of soft vanilla. It created a long finish that softened surprisingly more when paired with the flavours of my Tomato Chicken and Chorizo Casserole with broad beans, peas and baby onions. Piping hot throughout with a simple yet thought out presentation, it was a dish that was perfect for a lunch time appetite. A Chocolate Sponge followed with chantilly cream and fresh cherries which emphasised the Chilean wine to a new degree and although small, its rich complexity makes up for it.
The place itself, as mentioned, has a modern style to it, with velvet drapes hanging from the floor to ceiling windows which itself is entwined with diamond styled wall coverings. This gives it its fine dining experience, but not that ‘fake, tacky feel’ that can ultimately make or break some venues. Its attention to detail on the layout to the room itself, to the glassware on the tables, really makes you feel like you’re in a 5* hotel, with service to match. A knowledgeable server with enough talk to not only yourself, but to others gives that dining experience that most customers crave for, and ultimately expect.
Ambient music doesn’t drown out his recommendations either, with daily soup and fish of the day well presented. Choices of starters including Watermelon and Feta Salad, Caramalised Baby Onion Tart and Tomato and Red Onion Bruchetta have you spoilt for choice, with main courses of Vegetable Rosti, Moules Marinier or a 6oz Cheshire Sirloin Steak to really get the taste buds going. A Raspberry Eton Mess, Fresh Fruit Salad and your traditional Cheese and Biscuits round off their Lunch and Early Evening menu, with the table next to me ordering the latter which although sounding average, looked fantastic.
A thoroughly enjoyable lunch, with an offer that is certainly worth its price. I recommend highly.
To book a table at Vertigo, visit their website here.
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Hayman’s. A name etched into the history of gin, but perhaps not your normal ‘go-to’ gin brand when hunting on the shelves of your local supermarket. Hayman’s is seen more as the silent assassin. They don’t shout, but ask any bartender and they will love at least one of the expressions that Hayman’s create, and be happy to pour you a glass.
But why should you deviate away from your past brands of choice?
Well Hayman’s has a rather simple history, and can have its name etched amongst one of the worlds most well-know gin brands – Beefeater. The original company of Hayman Distillers was founded in 1863 by a gentleman named James Burrough, the great Grandfather of the current Chairman, Christopher Hayman. It was Mr Burrough who created the world-renowned Beefeater gin, as well as a range of other gin and cordials such as Ye Olde Chelsey gin, after purchasing the gin rectifying company John Taylor and Sons.
After expanding their name into the US in the early 1900’s, World War 2 hit and Hayman’s gin, like everyone else, were hit hard. Step forward Neville Hayman, an accountant by profession, who joined the board to represent his wife Marjorie, James Burrough’s granddaughter. He helped re-structure the business to ensure it can survive the aftermath of World War 2, and saw the reduction in some of the styles that were making Hayman’s gin famous, including Old Tom Gin and Sloe Gin. 1969 saw James Burrough’s great-grandson Christopher Hayman join the company, who is still at the help today, and appointed Operations Director and responsible for the Distillation and Production of Beefeater gin in 1977.
James Burrough PLC was to Whitbread in 1987, but Christopher Hayman retained the archive of recipes which were used as a spring board to create the new Hayman’s products and continue to distill and blend traditionally both gin and other white spirits. Between 1988 and 1999, Christopher Hayman purchased back James Burrough FAD (Fine Alcohols Division) and renamed it Hayman Distillers, who then became part of a consortium who bought Thames Distillers in Clapham – 1 of 2 Gin distilleries in London at the time.
Entering the new century, James Hayman, Christopher’s son, joined the team in 2004, with Hayman’s 1820 Gin Liqueur also making an appearance on the shelves. A year later, Miranda Hayman, Christopher’s daughter, also joins the team. The Old Tom made a comeback after nearly 60 years of absence, and the brand became exported to over 40 countries, and in 2013, came complete with new packaging and housed spirit from their new dedicated still ‘Marjorie’
So with a rather historical background, what do Hayman’s gin offer to their customers? Well below, I give to you some background information on each, as well as my tasting notes.
Hayman’s London Dry – 40%
A combination of 10 botanicals, including angelica roots from France and liquorice, create Hayman’s London Dry Gin, with the traditional London Dry style being carefully balanced with juniper, coriander, orange and lemon peel, orris root, cinnamon, cassia bark and nutmeg. After 24 hours of being steeped, it is then distilled in the traditional pot still ‘Marjorie’.
Fresh citrus lemon on the nose with a delicate mix of juniper flowing through. A clean flavour on the palate, with a slight tang on entry, however it smooths itself out into a slight dryness.
Hayman’s Old Tom – 40%
A botanically intensive gin from a recipe in the 1870’s, that delivers a more rounded experience than other styles of gin, this was the ‘Gin of Choice’ back in the 19th Century, with its popularity stretching back to the 18th Century.
On the nose, a subtle lavender aroma mixes well with a sweetened fruity nose. A clean smell of ginger, juniper and coriander follow through onto the palate with orange joining the mix. Very drinkable with a slight dryness on the aftertaste.
Hayman’s 1820 Gin Liqueur – 40%
The worlds first gin liqueur distilled to a specific gin recipe in a traditional pot still and then blended into a liqueur.
A smooth, clean and refreshing citrus aroma on the nose with a small hint of herbal essence. The sweetness on the palate brings out flavours of orange.
Hayman’s Sloe – 26%
A traditional English Liqueur made to a long-standing family recipe previously only available for private use. Wild English grown sloe berries are gently steeped for several months with Hayman’s Gin before being blended with natural sugar.
Very fresh and light on the nose with a good dose of sloe berry aroma. Rather light and refreshing on the palate with a bold beginning. Mellows out rather quickly, with cinnamon and citrus the noticeable flavours.
Hayman’s 1850 Reserve – 40%
Distilled to a recipe from the 1850’s, which is then cask rested for 3 to 4 weeks following the tradition of Gin Palace style Gin.
Lots of dry pepper on the nose but becomes smooth with a hint of spice. The smoothness continues onto the palate with a slight creamy offering that comes alive with spice. Very long after-taste.
Hayman’s Royal Dock – 57%
Represents the style of gin supplied by the Hayman family and previous generations under the mark “Senior Service Gin” to both the Royal Navy and the trade from 1863.
Very sharp nose with a slight citrus aroma leaving its mark. Smooth beginning on the palate, with a slight kick but mellow soon after. Rather long and clean that comes with a slight burn at the end, but still mouth-watering.
Hayman’s Family Reserve – 41.3%
Limited edition with each batch only producing 5000 bottles. The Family Reserve reflects the style sold in the ornate ‘Gin Palaces’ in London and other English cities in the 1800’s. It is rested in Scotch whisky barrels for three weeks in keeping with the tradition that gin was sold from the cask rather than the bottle, which was commonplace in England until the 1860’s.
Clean on the nose with delicate and subtle cracked pepper, oak and coriander aromas. Plenty of soft oak on the palate, with the sharp kicks of spice, coriander, fresh pepper and juniper combining well on the long, lively finish.
A fantastic range from England’s longest-serving gin distilling family, but what if you wanted to ask your bartender for a good cocktail?
Hayman’s Gin and Tonic
Highball / Rocks
50 ml Hayman’s London Dry
Slice of lime
Pour into a glass filled with ice and stir. Garnish with a slice of lime.
50 ml Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
25 ml Fresh lemon juice
Top with soda
Pour into a glass filled with ice and stir. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.
50 ml Hayman’s Sloe Gin
5 ml Sweet Italian Vermouth
Dash Orange Bitters
Stir ingredients together in a mixing glass over cubed ice until chilled. Strain and serve into a pre-chilled martini or wine goblet and garnish with orange zest or a twist.
25 ml Hayman’s Family Reserve Gin
25 ml Campari
25 ml Rosso Vermouth
Build in a tumbler glass over ice. Garnish with a curl of orange peel or slice.