The idea for Dublin City Gin was born of two friends – Stephen Glennon and Ciaran Reilly – on a cold winter’s night in 2012. Gin-soaked, flavour-obsessed and keen to work together, the duo decided, after a couple of tipples, that the time to create a gin that celebrates their favourite place on earth, Dublin, was now.
Glennon, a German-Italian translator and Reilly, an engineer, set straight to work creating a recipe, getting hold of a mini still and playing around with distillation. They knew that such a rudimentary set up wouldn’t allow them to create their end product, but it helped them to gain a good understanding of botanicals and the way in which they interact.
The duo knew they wanted the core three – juniper, coriander and angelica – to form the base of their gin, but the other four botanicals, orris root, cardamom, rhubarb and grapefruit came about via a huge amount of trial and error.
In many ways, this is in our opinion both a blessing and a curse, ultimately bringing us to Dublin City Gin’s major problem: Peter Mulryan is a fantastic distiller. His gins – even when they veer down a fruity path – are wonderful contributions to the category, each sticking close to the juniper heart of gin, though with a keen sense of adventure. By using Mulryan as a producer, Dublin City Gin all but guaranteed a tasty product, but his very stamp on it also takes provenance right out of the picture, meaning that the Dublin name is nothing but branding.
Other than the duo behind the idea, the only real Dublin connection is the rhubarb, which is currently grown in the city (the rest of the ingredients come from slightly more exotic locations). To many, shouting the name of the city so loudly when its connection is little more than passing could be construed as somewhat disingenuous.
That said, Dublin City Gin shouldn’t be cast out of your sights just yet. Glennon and Reilly are the first to point out the fact that the gin is made at the Blackwater Distillery; they’re both brand new to the booze industry and are improvising greatly.
They were also very involved in the initial trials at Blackwater; the trio worked together to create five different gins when working up the recipe for Dublin City Gin, using varying quantities of all seven botanicals in each. The decision to use the eventual recipe was unanimous, so Mulryan set to work.
Glennon and Reilly chose to make Dublin City Gin using a whey base, opting for this unusual (in these parts, anyway, but far more common in New Zealand) spirit because of the creaminess it brings with it. The juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, and rhubarb are added into the still with the base spirit and left to macerate overnight, with the grapefruit and cardamom added in just ahead of distillation. The gin is made using a one shot method, with each batch producing around 300 70cl bottles.
Dublin City Gin to taste…
When sipped neat, cardamom rushes the tongue, dominating the palate right up to the finish, where fresh, crisp rhubarb comes through. Juniper and grapefruit are more sparse here; citric pine simmers beneath the sip like electricity, you know its there doing its bit, but you can’t quite see or feel it.
When topped up with tonic water the gin becomes a sweeter affair and the grapefruit becomes much louder, supported by the coriander seed’s more citrus leaning notes. Cardamom is still very much the dominant botanical here, with rhubarb – just as it did when sipped neat – not emerging until the finish (though in a slightly more pronounced capacity). A sliver of grapefruit peel would help accentuate the brighter notes in a G&T, while a more warming orange slice may be interesting to use to contrast the cardamom.
This would be an interesting gin to try food pairing with, as it is flavour intense, but in a very savoury, almost curried manner. It’s a very similar gin to its compatriot, Bertha’s Revenge, another whey based gin with a heavy cardamom lean. Fans of either would like the other, undoubtedly.
Dublin City Gin is packaged in a tall, wide necked bottle bearing a blue sticker front and back. The logo is fun; it represents the smiling, laughing, joyful side of the city. It supports the brands ethos well, too – it’s about dancing in the rain and having fun no matter what, embracing the craic and making the most out of life. It’s cute but it’s not premium – glossed stickers rarely are. It may sound like hair-splitting, but in such a ferocious market place, brands and smaller producers need as much help as they can get to add a little je ne sais quoi to the overall product. When one is relying on building a brand without a home, it’s an absolutely essential element and arguably, when inspected with this context in mind, Dublin City Gin may fall a little short.
While there is a lot of talk about the emergence of the Irish market, it would seem that time and current circumstances, unfortunately, are not on Dublin City Gin’s side. The Gin scene is clearly picking up rapidly in Ireland; there are already several great gins coming out of the country – Blackwater, Bertha’s Revenge, Drumshanbo, Dingle… it’s an ever-growing list, and while Glennon and Reilly have loose plans to build their own distillery, they’re in great danger of missing the fast-building wave unless they hurry. Given this seems unlikely to occur for them in 2017, they might find that not having a home will be an unwanted anchor, halting the pace of their brand’s progress to such an extend that they could be leapfrogged by others in the months to come.
The quality of a gin is core, but narrative, provenance and transparency are key factors in an ever-enlightened age. While Dublin City Gin is already doing a good job of the social media side of things (especially given the fact that neither Glennon nor Reilly have given up their full-time jobs to focus on this yet), its going to struggle to carve itself out as the Irish gin to pay attention to while it’s still third party distilled, and nowhere near Dublin.
Glennon’s German-speaking skills have given Dublin City Gin a hands up with exports into that market, but elsewhere in Europe there’s a lag. The post-Brexit pound crash also means that the gin is going to struggle in the UK market, as it would have to be discounted quite significantly to price match the brands over here.
The most logical step would be for Dublin City Gin to attack the American market whilst it is still fairly low on other Irish competitors. There’s a vast quantity of Irish-Americans living in the States that would love a taste of home and with its Irish whey base and local rhubarb make-up, Dublin City Gin could fill that hole.
We for one hope it works out for them, as Dublin City Gin is both tasty, interesting as well as full of potential and while the chaps behind this brand are novices, they’re approaching the project with huge amounts of passion and enthusiasm. If it can gain a foothold over the next six months, Dublin City Gin will prosper, but much like the man depicted on the label – they may need to dance on rooftops and find an umbrella to weather a few storms along the way…
For more information about Dublin City Gin, visit the website: dublincitygin.com
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