The Greenall’s Sloe Gin Experience
It’s been a good year for Greenall’s, which has pointed itself firmly in the direction of the premium end of the market with a brand new, etched glass look that makes the entire range worthy of plucking from the supermarket shelf and plonking down at the most prestigious of house parties. Back in September we were lucky enough to be invited up to its birthplace, G&J Distillers in Warrington, to see the brand new Sloe Gin rolling off the bottling line, and to get a sample. Or two. Or three…
We were met in the distillery’s reception by enduringly brilliant Master Distiller Joanne Moore, the woman responsible for the design of the Greenall’s Gin range, as well as Opihr, Bloom, Thomas Dakin, Berkeley Square…
The first stop on the tour was the bottling plant. It’s an incredibly impressive space, with the sound of whirring machinery and clinking glass filling the air as thousands and thousands of bottles are filled, labelled and sealed each day. We were like kids in a candy store as we watched the Sloe Gin bottles fill, marvelling at the sheer speed of the machinery, which was pushing through 24 bottles a minute (and that’s the slow one!). All 3,600 bottles of Greenall’s Sloe Gin were bottled on the day we visited, but that, of course, is a mere fragment of the process.
To make the Sloe Gin, Moore adds tonnes of Bulgarian sloes to Greenall’s Original London Dry Gin and leaves them to macerate for eight weeks. In the first week, the great vats of spirit are hand turned every day. After that, they are turned just once a week. The berries are not prodded, pricked of poked as those who make the tipple at home might expect – the skin is permeable, so they are added in whole and left to fend for themselves.
Once maceration is completed, the liquid is gravity fed from its original container, leaving all of the berries behind. The leftover liquid is mixed by hand, then put through a pump and continuously mixed for around four hours. Sugar is added to sweeten the Sloe Gin up and bring it closer to the liqueur territory of 26%.
As far as Sloe Gins go, this is a cracker. Stewed red fruits hit the nose, with marzipan hints delivering a Christmas cake sensation. So inviting is the smell that it’s nigh on impossible not to immediately lift the glass to one’s mouth.
Happily, the taste lives up to those nose-made promises. Syrupy sweet, but with tart, slightly under-ripe berry notes exploding across the tongue, it’s complex and intriguing. There’s a dry note beneath it all from the Dry Gin’s signature spices, but that sugar coating means it is never a harsh, burning thing – just intriguing and characterful. Those marzipan notes come through, too, bringing a boozy candied feel that tastes – if time were to have a taste – like Christmas morning.
It’s genuinely delicious. We love a good Sloe Gin around here, and while we’re always honest about our desires for the regular Greenall’s to have a bit more ABV about it, the actual recipe for the gin itself is fantastically classic, so when it’s served up in a liqueur it works particularly well. Moore, as ever, has created something well worth racing to get your hands on.
Moore herself is of that brash, honest, northern ilk. We might have been wowed (or even cowed) by her gin making skills, but she is a beacon of modesty, only cashing in her credentials a few times a year, when it comes to sourcing the botanicals that go into all of her products. “I’m like the man from Del Monte,” she laughed. “I refuse to know the price ahead of selecting anything.” Instead, she tastes all the crop available relatively blindly, picking everything for its quality, rather than its price.
That in itself is worth mentioning, because in the fight to call themselves craft, many Gin makers and drinkers discredit the work of big-scale producers. The G&J team really do care about their products, though. The spirits they produce must maintain the same quality throughout and achieving this on the scale they do requires a level of process and meticulous attention to detail.
During our tour, the whole team were on hand to meet us, to talk us through their work and to share their passion. We sat down to a sloe-inspired lunch and were served goblets of endlessly inventive Sloe Gin cocktails. As it’s a style of gin that we struggle to serve any way other than neat, we thought we’d share some of the cocktail recipes with you. Our advice? Grab a bottle and get creating…
25ml Apricot Brandy
25ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
25ml Lime Juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain in an iced coupette glass. Garnish with a floating lime wheel.
Take It Sloe Toddy
50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
100ml Cloudy Apply Juice
50ml Orange JUice
Pour sloe gin into a toddy cup/glass. Warm juices, along with the cinnamon stick and cloves, gently for around 5 minutes until infused. Pour the warmed liquid into the Greenall’s Sloe Gin. Garnish with an orange wheel and a cinnamon stick.
Sweet & Sloe
40ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
20ml Amaretto Liqueur
150ml Cranberry Juice
2 lime wedges
Pour Sloe Gin over ice into a highball glass. Squeeze in the lime wedges. Add the amaretto and cranberry juice. Stir, then garnish with a lime peel twist.
The new Greenall’s Sloe Gin will be available to customers in the UK through Amazon from November. RRP £18.
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