Local gins to get us through lockdown #3
Dry January can trot on this year. There's only one way to get through lockdown #3 – anaesthetised with gin. Fortunately, I have sacrificed my liver to ensure you drink only the best of Berkshire.
Kick off 2021 with a ginteresting grand tour of Berkshire. Make mine a double.
An award-winning tipple created by Mr Gin himself, Johnny Neill, of Marylebone and Whitley Neill fame. Berkshire Botanical is a relative newcomer on the gin scene but has certainly impressed the judges. This year its Berkshire Dry won a gold medal at the IWSC awards (the booze world’s Olympics) and there are three tasty flavoured gins – Dandelion and Burdock ; Raspberry and Rhubarb and Sloe Gin if you’re not a purist. The botanicals used in gin are based on the flora and fauna found on the 9,000-acre Yattendon Estate where they are distilled and the we’re loving the sartorially dressed woodland animals on the label.
If you know Pinkneys Green near Maidenhead, you’ll know cricket is a big deal around these parts. While we won’t be bowled over by the village’s sporting prowess any time soon, we can enjoy a round of cucumber sarnies and the local tipple, Cricketers Gin. Three of this London Dry gin’s botanicals can be found on its doorstep – Wild Marjoram, Milk Thistle and Blackberries – which are then balanced with orange, spicy coriander and a hint of liquorice. Hop over to the website and shop til you drop, £37 for 75cl. Best served with 150ml of Fever Tree tonic to 50ml of gin with a slice of orange.
Hey, Pink Lady! Hickies from Kenickie just ain’t ladylike, so get your kicks and keep classy with a Royal Berkshire Pink Gin. Flavoured gins are massive have seen a a staggering 751% rise in sales. But be warned, many of them are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, but not this one. Royal Berkshire Pink Gin is distilled on our doorstep and infused with British raspberries – giving it it’s fruity, fresh flavour and millennial pink hue. It’s also relatively low in alcohol so you could almost claim drinking this gin will make you skinny. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it (*wink). Serve with lots of ice, tonic and a few raspberries.
From an 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 the awards keep rolling in. The Muddy fave is Country Garden, a blooming marvellous blend of floral botanicals that tastes like summer without a hint of soapiness, thanks to the dry herbal finish. Serve it up with lots of ice, Elderflower tonic and garnish with juniper berries and a sprig of rosemary. £42 for 70cl.
Tarbay Botanist is a Windsor small-batch gin made from botanicals that are either home grown or locally sourced and organic. The result is three gins – each containing 12 botanicals – the standard Dry Windsor Batch; a spicy Fireside Batch and a fresh Country Garden. The Fireside Batch is the perfect winter warmer, with flavours of orange, cinnamon and spices. Serve with tonic or ginger beer for a fiery kick.
Gallop to East Berkshire – Windsor to be exact – and you’ll get 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. Best served with Indian tonic and a slice of orange.
Highclere Castle Gin launched last year and was even in the Baftas goody bag. Distilled above an ancient underground water source, Highclere Castle Gin is a traditional London Dry using a blend of botanicals grown on the Highclere Estate – juniper, obvs, with a hint of lavender, lime flower, and orange peel. It’s available online and in selected local Waitrose store – £37.95 for 70cl. Keep it classic with tonic and a lime wedge. Now Carson, be a love a top us up, we’re gasping.
BREAK FOR THE BORDERS…
Go west, and slam the breaks on in Marlborough for Ramsbury Single Estate Gin. Even you’re trying to reduce your booze miles, then you’ll love Ramsbury’s sustainable approach – they grow their own wheat for their gin (and can even tell you which field a batch was grown) and its defining Quince botanical is grown next to the estate lake. Then there’s all the other eco wizardry – copper stills heated by a biomass boiler fed by their own sustainable woodland, spent grains feed the farm animals and the waste water is cleaned by a wildlife-friendly reed bed system which then feeds into our lake. Leaving just a teeny tiny footprint. Serve with your favourite tonic and garnish with apple and lime.
Cross Stream Gin
Can we claim Marlow as on us? I think Muddy Bucks & Oxon would put up quite a fight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tickle our tastebuds with a Marlow-produced gin. Cross Stream Distillery is owned by husband and wife team Charles and Chloe and they have created a London Dry Gin that packs a good punch of citrus and a subtle hint of spice. Best served with lots of ice, premium Indian Tonic Water and a slice of pink grapefruit – £45 for 70cl.
GOLD! The World Gin Awards 2020 has been handing out the gold medals and The River Test Distillery’s silky smoother Mayfly Gin claimed the top prize. Distilled on the banks of Hampshire’s River Test (famous for its fly fishing) this silky smooth, London Dry is made using pure chalk-filtered water that comes from the aquifer feeding into the river. It’s no wonder JR Hartley lost his copy of Fly Fishing, he was probably drinking this all day.
Bombay Sapphire, Laverstoke Mill
Stagger 14 miles into Hampshire and you’ll come across the beautiful Bombay Sapphire Distillery. 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.
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.