Ultimate Gin Cabinet: Olivier Ward
As Gin geeks, it’s easy for us to sit here and eulogise about the many great brands that are available in the gin category. So often we see articles and adverts encouraging people to buy more gin; to get hold of the latest release, a seasonal exclusive etc… We’ve certainly seen the effect of this on purchasing habits over the past two years, with domestic gin collections building from an average of one or two bottles per household towards three or four. Expansion is happening across the board, too… based on the Ginfographic surveys year on year, those who have statistically always had between five and ten gins in their cabinet are now housing collections any gin bar would be proud of.
The question is, do you really need that many at home? In short, yes – but that comes with a caveat. We feel that while large home collections are great, a heavily curated one is also something to be praised. Surely a changing selection is better than just hoarding dozens and dozens of gins and only using them once or twice.
To explore this a little further, we’re starting a mini series around the Ultimate Gin Cabinet. We’ll be speaking to industry experts and renowned geeks and forcing them to whittle their lovingly curated collection down to just five. This is Desert Island Gins…
We’re kicking off the series with our Editor, Olivier, with his thoughts on what would make the Ultimate Gin Cabinet.
Truth be told, I have nine gins at home. It’s a one a one in, one out system that even the most harsh, meat-headed nightclub bouncer would appreciate. Narrowing this down to just five is quite a tough ask and one that I feel would leave a daily drinker like myself with a mild sense of panic should I have to implement it in reality.
On a larger scale my home selection is based off not just having the best gin for every occasion, but having a collection of gins that represent what I value most in any product; Who, how and where it was made. Conscious consumption is a drum that needs to be beaten both often and loudly and I won’t buy a gin, nor serve it at home, if it doesn’t fulfil wider values that I aspire to promote. I can’t separate my love of a flavour to my thoughts about the people behind it, the production that goes into it or the way it looks as a brand. The people, provenance and creativity that goes into a spirit is what captivates me and, in my opinion, makes Gin the greatest spirit of all.
One last confession before the list begins – No, none of these are cheap. That’s not to say there aren’t many amazing cheap gins, but I am a person who obsesses over this category and so while value for what you pay for is paramount, base price is less of an issue in my book.
Every gin selection needs at least two gins that can be used as workhorses. Not everyday in the mundane sense, but everyday in that they need to deliver across a spectrum of moods and cocktails. For me, that’s a gin that is as at home in a Red Snapper as in a G&T or a Martini. It’s the pair of black jeans, the white shirt, or “day to day to day to day” work shoes so to speak – those that are worth investing a little into, but that have to be reasonably priced, because their usage means they’ll be replaced frequently.
For this, I’d choose Plymouth Gin and Hernö London Dry above all else. Plymouth isn’t just a timeless classic that delivers time and again in a multitude of cocktails, it also has an incredible amount of cultural heritage too. From the East India Trading Company to Sinatra, from soaring highs to murky lows; it’s been there, survived and leaves a huge tale to tell. If you are looking through old cocktail recipes, chances are it’ll be name checked quite often (especially if you’re flicking through the Savoy Cocktail Book). It’s a fantastic gin that is hard to fault and way under valued for what it has done for gin over the decades and as a key player in today’s busy category.
Hernö Gin is something I have a soft spot for. It’s not just the flavours of meadowsweet and gentle citrus that draw me in either. It is the fact that the team behind it have quietly, humbly, yet confidently been getting on with creating a distillery portfolio that is genuinely world class. It’s taken a few years to develop the brand into what it is today, with steady progress building upon tough lessons learned. Each quarter not only does it improve and grow, it reaches a new milestone. It continues to balance risk and put new ideas out there, but without compromising integrity. It’s long been a distillery whom I feel almost a strange sense of pride for; one that has grown from one a man band to what it is today, with a human journey that has been incredible to watch unfold. It helps that the gin is, arguably, one of the best on the world too…
The Specific Occasion:
There are times when you know what you want to make or when you want something specific to make your drink with. There are times when you need a gin with some oomph or even that special signature botanical characteristic. Be it for the killer Negroni, the Martini to whisk you away after a long week or the gin that will convert a gin sceptic into an evangelist. My go to’s for such matters of national importance are St George Terroir and Tarquin’s Seadog Navy Gin.
St George’s Terroir isn’t just the the creation of one the most articulate and thought provoking distillers working in the US, it’s also a gin that perfectly captures the essence of a place and presents it in each and every drop. Many gins achieve a “transportive” quality, but none with quite the same panache as this and none with the ability to mesmerise my senses into such a moment of utter theatre.
On the other hand – Tarquin’s Seadog Navy Strength Gin is possibly one of my favourite gins of all time. It grabs my juniper loving soul and embraces it with generous lashing of pine and citrus. It is a gin that has literally everything in the wider context too. Small batch production by a team that are both charming and easy going, transparent with what they do, collaborative in their philosophies and progressive in their attitudes to what is possible to make. As a gin, it’s also a neat juxtaposition to the flagship offering (with its higher proof and more assertive flavours a contrast to the subtleties of Tarquin’s Gin) so a great example of a team with a very considered brand understanding.
The Odd Ball:
I’m going with an odd ball to complete the selection. Not because it ranks up there as one of my ultimate top five gins, but more because there is such a huge array of gin styles and flavours out there, that to go for a classic to complete this selection wouldn’t be representative of the diversity and fun there is to be had with Gin.
The oddball that I’ve chosen is Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin. It struck a chord with me and has remained consistently within pouring grasp ever since my first sip. It’s a clever nod to the distillery’s provenance (the Barossa Valley is famed for its wine) as well as showcasing real innovation by combining wine and gin cultures together. Combined with Mediterranean Tonic and an Orange wedge, it is impossible to not feel the Australian warmth flood in. As a wider distillery, Four Pillars are worth supporting too – they are trailblazing a new era for craft gins down under and in their wake they have created a huge opportunity for an entire category to flourish.
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