A Berkshire gin crawl
Have paracetamol on standby and sample local gins within staggering distance – we may even sway over the borders *hic*. Ready for your first double?
No sign of the gin bubble bursting any time soon and there’s some rather luscious local gins being distilled right on our doorstop. So in the interest of research, we’ve lined up the balloon glasses, loaded up the ice bucket and have more lemon, lime, rosemary and pink grapefruit than your local Waitrose and we’re off on a Berkshire gin crawl. Have the paracetamol on standby, this could get messy…
Lumber’s Bartholomew Gins
Launched last year, from its outrageously cool distillery and tasting room in The Newbury Pub, 137 Gin has got industry pros sitting up like meerkats. Four varieties were created – Country Garden, Navy Strength, London Dry and Berkshire Dry – and three made it to the finals of the prestigious Gin Guide Awards. The Muddy fave is Country Garden, which is a blend of floral botanicals that tastes like summer without a hint of soapiness, thanks to the dry herbal finish. Serve it up with lots ice, Elderflower tonic and garnish with juniper berries and a sprig of rosemary. Fancy something classic? The Berkshire Dry with its mix of spices and citrus flavours is great for traditionalist. It also went down a storm at the Muddy Awards winners drinks. £42 for 70cl.
Bombay Sapphire, Laverstoke Mill
Head 14 miles south of Newbury and you’ll arrive at the beautiful Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Yes, I know we’ve lurched over the border into Hampshire, but detours are inevitable and we’re taking the scenic route. Bombay Sapphire remains a family business despite its global fame and the iconic blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire, has been distilled in Laverstoke Mill, Whitchurch, since 2011. The gin’s look conjures up images of faraway lands and the flavour has hints of the 10 botanicals contained within. With 40% ABV and costing around £27.50 for a litre it’s a great value option.
Now we’re bombing 37 miles down the M3 and heading for Windsor. You’ve been given your marching orders to try Horse Guards London Dry with its classic combo of juniper, coriander, angelica, orange peel, grapefruit peel and cardamom. Named after the Horse Guards, part of the Household Cavalry (King Charles II’s elite heavies), this award-winning gin is refined, elegant and quintessentially British, and has been crafted to perfection. It’s almost guaranteed to put hairs on your chest and gloss on your hooves. £35 for 70cl.
Literally within staggering distance of the Berkshire border is Mr Hobb’s Gin… just the thorny issue of the river. Hobbs of Henley, better known for its boat business, jumped on the gin bandwagon in 2017. Taking a family recipe that dated back to 1870, created by the late, great Harry Hobbs (a bon viveur), Jonnie and Suzy Hobbs took five of the original botanicals and added Lime Flower and Lemon Peel to give it a citrus twist, the 7th is top secret. Beginning with fragrant floral notes and soft marshmallow, zesty citrus adds clarity and bite amongst savoury juniper and sharp Orris root. They’ve since added Raspberry & Elderflower and Rhubarb & Ginger to the line up.
Trundle 33 miles down river and you find yourself in the picture perfect village of Streatley. Berkshire Blend is a non-alcoholic gin alternative. No need to throw the garnishes at me, this, my friends, is a game changer. If you’re tee-total, attempting a dry spell, or you’re the designated driver, this is a booze free belter that tastes like the real deal. A cucumber and citrus base with spice top notes. Alcohol free. Allergen free. Sugar free. Once you’ve tried the signature Berkshire Blend and tonic, you can thank me later. Plus 5% of all profits are donated to the charity, Mind.
So brand spanking new the website’s still in development, but Berkshire Botanical is the new kid on the Berkshire block. Created by Mr Gin himself, Johnny Neill (of Marylebone Gin and Whitley Neill fame) installed his pot still ‘Harry’, named after his son, in the Royal Oak pub and created a Berkshire gin based on the flora and fauna found on the 9,000-acre Yattendon Estate. The result is a Dry Gin with 9 botanicals including Norway Spruce which can be found across the Estate – it being one of the largest growers of Christmas trees in the UK! A sloe gin is to follow towards the autumn/winter with more innovative varities to follow taking their shape from the countryside surroundings.
One for the road? Oh, go one then. Make your way to at Newbury Racecourse for Gin Thursdays (loving the sound of that) – every, er, Thursday night throughout July for a cheeky double and a night of racing..