Ginvent Gin: the making of 2017’s edition
We’re sorry to say that if you’re after a succinct tasting note or a snappy one liner on the 2017 edition of Ginvent Gin, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. Ginvent Gin is a complicated beast, stuffed full of Christmas tree and crammed with storytelling.
Ginvent Gin is our yearly opportunity to demonstrate the trends running through the Gin category (and to embellish them, ever so slightly, like a gin obsessed glitter cannon) – to illustrate a movement underway and show off our insight with each tasty bottle we send out.
The first edition, released in 2015, was a collaboration with Tarquin’s Gin. We dove headfirst into the foraging trend that had been doing the rounds, heading down to Cornwall to pick pinch little bits of plant life here and there. The Hedgerow Gin that came as a result of that trip was an utter delight, and we’re only sad we didn’t keep more of it back.
Last year, we saw the move towards seasonal and limited editions come into full force (this has taken off even more this year), so we went all-out, balls-to-the-wall Christmassy on it, bringing in chocolate and berries and winter spices. If Santa made Gin…
This year, we’ve taken three of the trends that we’ve spotted bubbling under the surface – ones we’re sure will grow to be big, mainstream things next year – and distilled them into the 2017 Ginvent Gin. Those trends are: absolute one offs, the continued rise of the hobbyist (and the ever reducing scale of distilleries, from small, to micro, to nano, to… well… arts and crafts on a Sunday) and, finally, the increasing rise in absolutely batshit mental botanicals making their way into gins. Here goes…
Absolute One Offs:
Batches of gin have reduced greatly in recent years, with limited edition runs now run of the mill. We’ve witnessed more and more makers come aboard with new ways to customise each and every bottle they sell, from the likes of Archie Rose offering customers the chance to make their own blends online, to Two Birds, Edinburgh, Burleigh’s, City of London and more inviting gin fans behinds the scenes to make their very own bottles of gin. Add in subscription like Sipsmith’s Sipping Service and Adnam’s forthcoming Gin Club, in which one one-time-only spirits make their way to people’s front rooms without them even having to leave the house and you get a picture of an increasingly bespoke Gin world.
Evidently, making such small batches isn’t prohibitive for most distilleries, and there’s been a great amount of weird and wonderful one offs accordingly. From Gin School-made bottlings to distillery-led experiments, Gin has become a much more interactive, hands-on drink than ever before, and you can expect many more distilleries to use their cellar doors to express their creativity and test out new ideas.
Referring someone to a hobbyist rather than a distiller may come across a little derisive, but it’s said with love! We’ve seen a huge rise in nano-distilling over the past year; the same rules and licenses apply as with commercial-scale production, but it’s done in a part time way and in very modest proportions by makers who share a similar mentality to, say, amateur photographers.
That’s not to say that they don’t take the sport seriously – they do! Nor is it to say that the liquid they produce is any less good than that of full-timers – it’s just that brand building isn’t part of their current plans. They’re doing it for the sheer joy of making something themselves and are content to produce a few hundred bottles per week. They’re in it for the farmer’s markets, for the interaction with customers… They’re the grass roots of distilling, comparable to garage brewers in the US and Schnapps makers in Germany and Austria.
Expect many more of these dreamers to be cropping up with their creations in local fairs and markets. We’ve heard of countless people doing it already, and hundreds of applications for licenses of this scale have been made this year.
If we’re being brutally honest here, we’ll say that there have been some utterly stupid things making their way into gin this year, from sea salt, to gold flakes, to glitter to obscure flowers. Seemingly, half of Australia and South-Africa’s myrtle/fynbos hybrids have been making their way into more and more must-distil lists, so gin went a little bit in the direction of weird. Some have been great, both bizarre and quite wonderful additions. Others not so much…
We’re all for them if they add to the conversation in a positive way and result in gins that taste better for their presence. Gin is an ever changing landscape, with an ebb and flow progressing towards and away with from a traditional, simple, juniper-forward stance so change is very much part of its existence. We’ve got no issue with a bizarre botanical making the cut, so long as its adding to a flavour experience, rather than marketing!
So, the question is: how are these reflected in Ginvent Gin? Let’s begin with one-offs. This is a one-time only deal, packaged in hand-painted ceramic bottles. Every Christmas tree adorning the bottle will vary as our elf (/designer) puts his brush to work. 200 bottles, 200 tress. There is no stencil, no cut and paste – each individually numbered bottle features a whimsical take on a Christmas tree and is a mini work of art in its own right.
This also ties in with hobbyists and nano-distilling. Each batch was made 25-litres at a time, and only 300-litres in total have been produced (for the calendars and the bottles). They all follow the same recipe direction, but no two batches are the same, with minor differences in outcome from a slightly more pronounced red fruit, to a louder rosemary finish or a flush of crispy, lemony Christmas tree pine at the finish.
And talking of Christmas trees – we macerated branches of fresh spruce and distilled it into our gin, which, when coupled with chocolate, puts us right in the realm of the weirdo botanical. It was a bit of a folly at first, and we thought it might tie in nicely with gin’s juniper core, given its piny nature, but ended up being a whole difference beast…
Ginvent Gin to Taste:
The recipe for Ginvent is both convoluted and simple. A bit of this and a bit of that went into it, deliberately leaving room for interpretation by its many varied drinkers.
The 2017 edition picks off where 2016 left off, with a very similar DNA: there are elderberries, chocolate, juniper, blackberry, cranberry and blueberries, liquorice, angelica, coriander, sweet orange peel and festive spices in the works, but this year we chucked in rosemary, Christmas tree, caraway seeds and star anise. As a result, you can expect a soft, sweet lead in on the tongue, with elderberry, red fruit and chocolate filling the mouth before a lemony, crispy Christmas tree jumps into the palate. These are pushed away by the spices, with cassia lighting a small fire and star anise adding a cooling, mulled pinch to proceedings.
The aim was never to have a Christmas tree in a glass – rather, we wanted to create something characterful and balanced. We wanted it to be wintery and warming, and – of course – as green as can be, with a firm juniper underpinning it all. We want, for one brief second, the drinker to be transported to the centre of a snow globe; to enjoy the sensation of sipping on mulled fruits and chewing on Christmas trees. We want it to be at the heart of the trends taking place right now, with some more evident to see in certain batches, while others come to the fore at other times.
We love a rosemary sprig to garnish in a G&T, as well as a handful of blueberries. Those looking to up the spruce can always take some sheers to their Christmas tree. What’s a bit of tinsel between friends? An orange wedge and blackberries also work particularly well to bring out the softer elements but for those of you who like to dance with spice – look no further than a few leaves of fresh Bay Laurel.
That’s enough of a glimpse behind the scenes here at Gin Foundry HQ for now. Ginvent Gin will be limited to 200 bottles, available via Gin Kiosk and Master of Malt on the 1st of December.
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