The year 2015 will be seen as the year that Manchester itself has gained its own city based gin. Although initial production will be housed from the relatively local, yet one of the oldest gin distilleries in the world, G&J Distillers in Warrington, the new brand of Thomas Dakin gin will be a Mancunian brand complete with its own distillery within the city limits.
With the launch night been and gone, I was able to gain a glimpse of the gin itself, complete with Joanne Moore, Master Distiller at G&J Distillers, hosting an intimate tasting session. Thomas Dakin, if you are not aware, is the creator, founder and brain-child behind G&J Distillers itself, way back in 1761. It is only right then that the new expression be named after the man who started out in the distilling world when he was just 25 years old. Choosing Warrington due to its prosperous links between Liverpool and Manchester, joined together by the canal network and offering quick export of his produce to the country, Thomas Dakin became a pioneer when gin itself was seen as the ‘mothers ruin’ and the sabotage of its reputation through the likes of William Hogarth’s famous print ‘Gin Lane’.
It comes as no surprise then that over 250 years later, Greenall’s gin is still available and enjoyed to this day, after the Greenall family became the owners of Mr Dakin’s original recipe back in 1860. Since then expressions such as BLOOM, Berkeley Square and Opihr have been introduced under the stewardship of Joanne, and now what could be her finest hour, her research of Thomas Dakin himself sees his name emblazoned upon a label for the world to see.
With eleven botanicals within, including juniper, orange zest, coriander seeds, grapefruit, cubebs, liquorice root, angelica and the unique red cole (or horseradish as it’s more commonly known) the gin is created in the traditional, classic way, as seen back in 1761 within a baby pot still. The pot still itself will be uprooted and transported to its new premises, scheduled for the end of this year.
But how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Thomas Dakin – 42%
Soft red cole, with hints of ripe grapefruit rind and coriander coming through. Sharp upon the palate, with a growing dry spice of liquorice and coriander. Fresh kicks of the grapefruit appear, alongside savoury notes of the juniper and the warmth of the red cole to give a long, bold finish.
A fantastic savoury styled gin, one which would work perfect for these two recipes –
Tom and Tonic
50 ml Thomas Dakin
125 ml Fever Tree tonic water
Pour the gin over a full glass of ice and top with the tonic water. Twist a 5cm strip of orange peel onto the top and garnish with a sprig of coriander.
Thomas Dakin Negroni
30 ml Thomas Dakin
30 ml Sweet Vermouth
30 ml Campari
Combine all the ingredients within a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with an orange peel.
Liverpool and Leeds have had their own respective gins for a year or two now, and Manchester has come onto the scene with a point of difference, standing out against the normal botanicals seen as working well the traditional flavours seen back in the 1700’s. One for the drinks cabinet for sure, and expect to see this in many bars in and around Manchester.
The first SLOE BLOOM Gin, from the creator of the premium BLOOM London Dry Gin, has been launched. Master Distiller Joanne Moore has created a new version of her floral BLOOM Gin, using hand-picked sloe berries steeped in the highest quality BLOOM Gin, distilled in a traditional copper pot still.
BLOOM Gin is made in a distillery in Cheshire which has been producing fine gin by hand for over 250 years and the sloe berries are macerated in the spirit giving a richly coloured, delicious twist to the the floral gin which can be drunk neat, on the rocks or as an ingredient in cocktails.
SLOE BLOOM is a limited edition and exclusively available from Harvey Nichols’ seven stores and online, as well as at Taste of Christmas 21 – 24 November, Tobacco Dock, London.
Cocktail Ideas –
SLOE BLOOM FIZZ
50ml SLOE BLOOM Gin
Top with Prosecco and serve in a chilled champagne glass
SLOE BLOOM PUNCH
50ml SLOE BLOOM Gin
Dash of lemon juice
Dash of apricot brandy, peach bitters and top with cranberry juice
Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, fine strain into a cocktail glass.
SLOE BLOOM WINTER GARDEN
50ml SLOE BLOOM Gin
20ml Triple Sec
20 lime juice
40 ml cranberry juice
Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, fine strain into a cocktail glass.
Have you ever been to a distillery? Have you ever looked into your favourite brand and wondered where it comes from? Have you ever wondered if every name you see out in bars or shops comes from its own distillery? It’s probably something you wouldn’t know and to be fair not many people do. There’s no harm however in knowing little facts about a spirit that your drinking or indeed favour. Say, for example, the knowledge that Sipsmith are the first distillery to be registered in London since Beefeater way back in 1820, or the fact that Glenmorangie is produced using the tallest stills in Scotland. Little bits of info like that can begin a discussion between friends, possibly even appreciate the drink you have in your hand that little bit more, or maybe even start an adventure into learning just that little bit more.
That’s how I got started.
The idea of learning not only to understand the finished spirit itself, but to appreciate and admire the craft and history that some of these brands take the up-most care in providing. One such distillery comes to mind when you talk about heritage and its diversity, and that’s G&J Distillers. For myself, it’s a name that echoes well round the North West of England due to its location. Based in Birchwood, Warrington, just 20 miles south-west of Manchester, it has been the home of G&J Distillers since 1760 when a distiller going by the name of Thomas Dakin acquired the premises on Bridge Street. He waited till 1761 though to start his new venture due to the production of gin beforehand being illegal in response to the poor grain harvests and the need for bread over gin being a greater and more pressing demand.
In the early years of Thomas Dakin’s new gin production, the outcome was basic, with gin being bottled in bulk jars to publicans and wholesalers. This didn’t stop the business from growing however and became known for its superior quality compared to the London-based gins. What we have come to associate with though came about after Thomas Dakin’s death. The name G&J Greenall was established in 1860 when the distillery was leased to Edward Greenall (the ‘G and J’ actually evolved from the initials of Edward Greenall’s younger brother Gilbert and John). Fast forward to November 1923 and the company came under the ownership of Greenall Whitley, and moved down to Loushers Lane in 1960 in line with the companies bicentenary.
In later years, the introduction of Vladivar vodka broadened the use of the G&J Greenall distillery (apparently with some fantastic marketing to go with it). More recently though, the appointment of Joanne Moore, who incidentally is only the seventh Master Distiller in the 250 year history of Greenall’s Gin, has developed two premium gins in Berkeley Square and BLOOM, a spiced offering in Opihr, limited-editions such as Sloe BLOOM and BLOOM Strawberry Cup, Greenall’s Sloe and Wild Berry, as well as keeping the original Greenall’s gin as popular as ever. The business changed ownership in August 2011 and is now part of the international drinks group Quintessential Brands.
Which brings me back to my original point – five different names, all produced at the same distillery. You would never have guessed from the name alone or even possibly by the bottle itself. Only when you dig a little deeper do you find the connection. By digging though, you also come across names such as Richmond gin, Cristalnaya vodka, Pinkster gin, Bulldog gin, Moskova vodka and Bombay Sapphire. Yes even the blue-bottle itself was produced in Warrington up until 2014.
Today though I’m concentrating on the core range of G&J Distillers. So below, I give to you a brief history and development as well as tasting notes on each.
Greenall’s – 40%
Produced using eight different botanicals – juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, angelica, orris, liquorice, cassia bark and bitter almonds. These eight are macerated in wheat
neutral spirit and water in a pot still for at least 24 hours prior to distillation. This gives it a freshness on the nose with a citrus aroma coming through. It mellows quickly with a rather dry scent. Soft on the palate however with a smooth, buttery texture that gives off a warmth when swallowed. Dry finish with a small hint of spice.
Greenall’s Sloe – 26%
Using the traditional flavour of British sloe berries alongside the eight original botanicals. Very rich with plenty of spicy sloe berry notes coming through on the nose. Thick, heavy flavours of lively spice, juniper and vanilla on the palate, offering a smooth finish, albeit it short.
Greenall’s Wild Berry – 37.5%
Inspired from blackberries growing in the English hedgerows, combined with ripe raspberries and infused with the original Greenall’s.
Light, thin notes of blackberry coming through on the nose. Slight sour raspberry follows, with a small sweetness that seems to bind it all together. Light with a developing warmth on the palate. Heavy blackberry notes, with a ripe spice on the dry finish.
Based on a traditional London Dry Gin recipe and created in a traditional pot still, Bloom takes its inspiration from the classic aromas of England and its well-recognised country gardens and fields. It adds its distinct botanicals of honeysuckle, chamomile and pomelo to the mix to create a fragrant nose with hints of strawberry coming through after the dominating chamomile aromas. A slight kick on the palate to begin with but mellows quickly and has a dominating citrus flavour that creates a long, smooth, mouth-watering finish.
Master Distiller Joanne Moore has created a new version of her floral BLOOM Gin, using hand-picked sloe berries steeped in BLOOM Gin and distilled in a traditional copper pot still. Ripe, fresh sloe berries with hints of sweetness on the nose. Light on the palate, with a delicate experience of the sloe berries and a developing feel of soft honey. Lingering and fresh.
Joanne Moore has created a new version of her floral BLOOM Gin by steeping fresh English strawberries in BLOOM London Dry Gin.
Fresh strawberry on the nose, with a sweet underline and a slight hint of chamomile that seems to smooth the aromas. Slightly sharp on the palate, with the citrus of the strawberry coming through. Notes of the honeysuckle create a velvet feel, with the lightness of the fruits creating a lingering after-taste. A little dry and sweet.
Berkeley Square– 40%
With a category that is constantly evolving, Joanne Moore took to challenge the perception of gin consumption by creating a tipple that can be enjoyed neat. This resulted in the combination of eight botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica, cubebs, basil, lavender, sage & kieffer lime leaves. This creates a light, earthy scent on the nose with a gentle herb aroma following through. A rather smooth offering on the palate with a slight spice that changes to a rich sweetness with hints of basil lingering. A dry end with a re-emergence of spice.
Hints of dry spice on the nose with the coriander dominating mostly. Soft beginning on the palate but develops slowly into a warmth of black pepper and cubebs. Not too spicy, but definitely present as it creates a long finish with a touch of dryness.
With rather different offerings from G&J Distillers, it only seems right to showcase different cocktail recipes to either enjoy at home or ask your bartender to create –
Greenall’s Gin and Tonic
25 ml Greenall’s Gin
50 ml Fentimans Tonic
2 wedges of lime
Take a chilled highball glass, fill with fresh ice cubes. Take of the wedges of lime and squeeze the juice over the ice to infuse the citrus flavours. Pour Greenall’s Gin slowly over the ice and lime juice. Follow with a high quality tonic using double the amount of tonic as Greenall’s Gin. Stir gently to ensure all the flavours are combined and garnish with a wedge of lime and serve.
BLOOM Gin and Tonic with Strawberries
50 ml BLOOM Gin
200 ml Fentimans tonic water
Quarter 3 strawberries and place at the bottom of a tall glass. Add ice and pour BLOOM London Dry Gin Over ice. Top with Fentimans botanically brewed tonic water.
or maybe even
Berkeley Square on the Rocks
50 ml Berkeley Sqaure
Basil leaves / lemon
Take a tumbler and add ice. Pour Berkeley Square Gin over ice and garnish with basil leaves or lemon.
Ok, so rather three very simple ideas. But sometimes a spirit doesn’t have to be mixed in a complicated way to really enhance and enjoy the flavours. The fresh strawberries added to the BLOOM compliment the chamomile and honey, whilst the basil leaves combined with Berkeley Square really draws out the notes of basil you originally experience on your palate.
I’m a firm believer in expanding your horizons with what you drink. After all, it is YOUR drink, not a bartenders. The work that Joanne Moore has done to diverse yet maintain the portfolio of G&J Distillers has done wonders to the consumer market. Even adding pre-mixers seems to be going strong – a sometimes risky move. However, the range gives an idea of the basics, yet creates something unique – something that nods back to the origins of Thomas Deacon’s time.
And to know that one distillery produces these products, and even supported the likes of Bombay Sapphire in its time, really gives you a wide-eye opening experience into the scale that companies work themselves on.
There’s always a quirky spirit to find these days, especially if your browsing the shelves either in your bar, supermarket or online. But what would you say to a bottle that had a spiked collar neck and has the word ‘Bulldog’ in striking letters? Would you think it was a hard-hitting spirit with a bite of attitude? Would you believe me if I said this were to be a gin? Not your usual quaint, relaxing sort of branding, or indeed tipple, and definitely goes against the norm of the less ruthless category in the market. Bulldog gin though is redefining the barriers of people’s perceptions.
Created by former investment manager and gin and tonic lover, Mr Anshuman Vohra used his experiences of travelling around the globe and combined with them with the expertise of G&J Distillers, based in Warrington, to source 12 botanicals from 8 different countries to create a ‘smooth and harmonious flavour’, something that he apparently felt lacked in other gins. With a bottle that was designed to strike the bold philosophy behind the brand, and a name taken from Sir Winston Churchill and the British ‘Bulldog spirit’ that he was known for, Bulldog has been striving since its humble beginning back in 2007 to being distributed all over the world, and most recently hitting the shores of the USA.
But what makes Bulldog command the attention of gin lovers?
As mentioned, Bulldog has a blend of 12 botanicals, a mix of traditional, and rather exotic ingredients, including Chinese dragon eye, Turkish white poppy seeds, Asian lotus leaves, Italian juniper, Moroccan coriander, German angelica, Spanish lemon, Chinese liquorice, Italian orris, Spanish almonds, Asian cassia and French lavender. The gin is distilled four times within copper pot stills, combined with Norfolk wheat from East Anglia and fresh water from Wales. This creates a consistent gin which is also certified Kosher and vegan-friendly.
So with a rather well-travelled creation, below I give to you my tasting notes –
Very smooth on the nose with a clean aroma and hint of citrus near the end. Rather soft on the palate with a good mix of juniper, coriander and lemon coming through. A lasting offering that becomes a little dry at the end.
Despite the exotic botanicals, below is a more British creation for you to try –
60 ml Bulldog
15 ml Grapefruit juice
30 ml Pomegranate juice
Combine Bulldog, grapefruit and pomegranate juice in a shaker filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with a strawberry slice.
So although seen as a rough and ready gin, its exotic combination of botanicals and the spirit of Sir Winston Churchill sees Bulldog gin as a welcomed newcomer who has seen its place in bars, and your drink cabinet, well deserved. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the day with Bulldog gin in the last couple of weeks, and featured within their tour of the G&J Distillers distillery to see first hand how the brand is created. From seeing the stills in action to the intricate machinery used for the packaging, it really does put it all into perspective. If you’re not 100% sure on experiencing Bulldog, check it out first hand. Once you see the level of work that goes into something so simple to create, it can shed a new light onto this dark bottle.
More photos from my Bulldog Distillery trip can be found via my Facebook page.
Last Thursday one of the most anticipated nights of my busy working year so far finally arrived – Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wine Tasting. Organised by Corks Out, the award-winning wine and spirit specialists chose the swanky 4* Park Royal Hotel near Warrington to host the next leg of Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines Roadshow.
“With over 9 million Daily Mail readers a week, Matthew has the most keenly followed wine column in the UK. He also writes a weekly piece for MoneyWeek and occasional articles for The Week and Decanter.
Matthew was made Honorary Australian of the Year in the UK in 2012 by the Australia Day Foundation. He was also voted the most influential wine writer in the UK by OLN in 2011.
He has won the highly prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Trophy for Wine Communicator of the Year. He is the wine buyer for Bibendum Restaurant, the Masala World group of Indian Restaurants (Chutney Mary, Amaya & Veeraswamy), all in London, and the private wine club Quintessentially Wine.
He is the author of thirteen wine books and the Founder and Patron of Touch Wine & Wine Rules – raising money for homeless charities in Australia.”
So he knows a thing or two about wine, so with nearly two months in the making, and even the first to buy a ticket, I turned up with an open mind and eagerness to try all 32 offerings (including sparkling wines, dessert wines and of course red, white and rose), laid out over two long tables. A Dartington crystal red wine glass was to be our snifter for the evening, and I headed straight for number 1 in the list.
The wines were laid out in numerical order in the way that Matthew Jukes recommended them to be tried, so below I give you my tasting notes on each with its RRP.
NV Jansz, Tasmania – £15.99
Noted as a ‘party glugger’, it has citrus and sweet strawberry notes on the nose, with a balance of crisp ripe fruit and tangy acidity on the palate to create a light ending.
A distinct biscuit like nose with a fresh green fruit flavour blending well. Lots of lemon on the palate, with a good dose of digestive biscuits with a moreish effect.
2011 Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills SA – £19.99
The nose encounters fresh grass aromas with hints of apple and lime following soon after. Bold crisp acidity, yet smooth on the palate, with a slight dryness at the end.
2010 Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Margaret River WA – £14.99
A great burst of green fruits on the nose including apple, lime and lemon which propels over to the palate, with the added addition of lemon grass. Theres a little sweetness as it lingers on.
2010 Hart & Hunter Oakey Creek Semillon, Hunter Valley NSW – £22.95
A clean, refreshing nose, with hits of lemon zest and lime. A sweet taste on the palate with a tang of the citrus creating a short offering.
2010 Tower Estate Semillon, Hunter Valley NSW – £18.95
A clean nose with a subtle lemongrass and apple aroma, whilst the palate enjoyed a fresh, crisp with lots of fruit flavours dancing around and a small hint of spice.
2005 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon, Hunter Valley NSW – £10
A bold acidic nose with slight notes of passionfruit slowly making an appearance. The palate has flavours of strong citrus, but softens with a waxy texture on the tongue that leads to a dry aftertaste.
2010 Yalumba Y Series Viognier, SA – £10.50
Chosen out of 4 possible Viognier candidates, it has a slight sweetness on the nose with the combination of fresh ginger and honey. The sweetness carries over to the palate, with a slight boldness of pineapple that leads to a smooth finish.
2010 Fox Gordon Princess Fiano, Adelaide Hills SA – £15.99
A ripe, bold offering of pineapple and grapefruit on the nose, with tropical fruits and peach combining well to create a sweet, smooth aftertaste with a slow dryness.
2010 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley SA – £12.75
A slight oily scent on the nose, mixing with rich fruit. Very ripe on the palate that also has noticeable favours of lemon and lime.
2010 Skillogalee Riesling, Clare Valley SA – £18.50
Hints of garden orange on the nose that develops into more citrus flavours than orange on the palate, with a hint of blackberry. A great lingering finish.
2005 Peter Lehmann Reserve Wigan Riesling, Eden Valley SA – £18.50
Stong on the nose with lots of flavours of lime and citrus. Subtle lime on the palate however, with honey flavours combining well for an easy drinker.
2010 Chapel Hill Unwooded Chardonnay, McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills SA – £13.99
Clean citrus, with subtle flavours of fresh grass on the nose, with a slight tangy acidic flavour on the palate.
2010 Innocent Bystander Chardonnay, Yarra Valley VIC – £13.50
A fresh note of dried grass with a slight blend of hazelnut coming through. A bold palate venture of strong lemon with a slow hint of lime freshness on the aftertaste.
Lots of delicate notes of fresh nuts, with light cloves mixing well on the nose. A very fresh enjoyment for the palate, with lots of grapefruit and lime flavours creating a slight dryness on the aftertaste. Very drinkable.
2008 Giant Steps Tarraford Chardonnay, Yarra Valley VIC – £25.99
Notes of oak and a small hint of vanilla on the nose, with a silky, dry mix of pear and hazelnut on the palate.
2009 Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills SA – £29.99
Butter flavours on the nose with a dominant lemon note on the palate that has a subtle oakness on the finish that follows with a slight dryness.
2011 Turkey Flat Rose, Barossa Valley SA – £12.99
On the nose there are flavours of watermelon, cherry and raspberry that combine to create a sweetness that carries over onto the palate. The cherries and raspberry dominate, with a crisp and slightly dry aftertaste.
2010 Riposte by Tim Knappstein The Dagger Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills SA – £18.50
Red meat aromas come along strong, yet smooth out over the palate with plum and dark cherry flavours combining well to create a silky offering.
2009 Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir, Tasmania – £12.99
Lots of black cherry and violet aromas on the nose. Soft cherry flavours on the palate that results in a smooth yet dry finish.
An intense sweetness of treacle and toffee on the nose with a fantastic combination of toffee and oak on the palate. Creates a long-lasting aftertaste.
There were some absolute stunners available, with the Ocean Eight Chardonnay, Yalumba Y Series Viognier, Peter Lehmann Riesling, Jim Barry Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon and Campbells Topaque being personal favourites.
Seeing and tasting only a snippet of Matthews Top 100 list, I could see why he is one of the most respected in the business. He had fantastic charisma as he twice stood at the top of the room to explain the offerings we had in our glasses, with some fascinating facts, reasonings behind particular wines, and how to enjoy others. Two hours flew by, and i just managed to try the two dessert wines before the Corks Out staff were packing away, ready for Matthew to make his way to his next roadshow destination in Scotland.
This was an amazing insight into Australian wines, and if you ever have the chance to sample or purchase any of the above bottles, I can highly recommend with confidence that you will not be disappointed.
Go on, give Australia a go.
To see more photos from the wine tasting, as well as bottle images, click here.