Family of Hounds
Before we start, we should probably make it clear that we really like Family of Hounds Gin.
Juniper bounces out of the bottle with a confidence we’ve not seen in years of new releases, trilling loudly with no regard for the new, strange, cool or sometimes silly ‘star’ botanicals of modern gins. Instead, Family of Hounds’ Italian roots are felt throughout, with the liquid performing nothing short of an opera – grand, loud and entirely unabashed.
And now, with those pleasantries out of the way, we’re going to hit founders Andrea and Lina Fregerio with a truth bomb: its fluorescent orange branding is as polarising as what it’s most reminiscent of – EasyJet. Some will admire its simple, to the point nature, while others will deride its simplicity for a lack of any finesse. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to ignore the aesthetic of the bottle and brand when contemplating a review. The bottle we have here incidentally, is the standard Oslo shape so frequent on the market, with some grey dogs – almost khaki in colour – layered on top of each other, like camo designed by Cruella herself.
Even the typeface, in bold capital letters, is strangely military in its appearance. Word has it that the bottle has changed even in this short time (the Gin only launched in May 2017), but – judging by pictures – it’s gone from not great to marginally less bad, with the dogs’ Army greyness replaced by mere outlines, leaving a great deal of blank space. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again (and again and again): if a bottle is clear, it will disappear. Why pick the invisible gin out of the line up on a bar when there is some truly beautiful packaging on offer?
But hey, looks aren’t everything; every frog is a prince inside, right? As fond co-workers of a dog who, to put it kindly, has a particularly “acquired” look, we know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that character, temperament and trusty reliability are all things to not just look out for, but fall in love with. Besides, the pooches on the bottle of Family of Hounds Gin – as out of place on a gin bottle as they are – have a story to tell.
Andrea, an Italian and his English wife, Lina, live in Monaco with their two dogs, Spot, an adopted greyhound, and Magda, an adopted galgo. The dogs have influenced and enriched their lives to no end, as while they had been meeting people in the local area, they hadn’t really been making friends. Walking the dogs, however, they became part of a community, hence their ‘drinking with the pack’ mantra.
Andrea and Lina were primarily red wine drinkers, who spent their holidays trailing through the vineyards of Italy and France. Their spirit drinking was pretty much confined to vodka, and even then without much regard to what was slipping down their gullets. It wasn’t until they took a trip to a country estate in England in 2013 that they discovered their mutual love for a good G&T. This grew into an obsession, and before they knew it, talk turned to making their own.
When working on the gin, the duo tasted their way through a plethora of brands, trying to isolate the flavours and sensations they were looking to create. They teamed up with an old distillery based in the Piemonte region of Italy and the Master Distiller, Mario, listened to their thoughts, eventually helping them to build a recipe that consisted of juniper, lemon and orange peel, pink grapefruit, lavender, thyme, cardamom, ginger and coriander. The latter three ingredients were sourced from Asia, but the rest are all native to Italy.
Family of Hounds Gin to taste…
We mentioned the presence of juniper earlier and it really is loud. Earthy, piny and rich, it acts as something of a dance floor (a jazzy, light up disco dance floor, at that) upon which the other botanicals spin and whirl. Loud, in-your-face orange peel leads the citrus trio, though lemon and pink grapefruit don’t dally too far behind. There’s a bold lavender coating over the whole thing, too, and in this instance it can never decide whether it wants to be floral or herbal, slip-sliding between the two in a never ending jig.
All of those elements are still present on the sip, though they mesh together in a much more cohesive fashion. Juniper and cardamom rise up together, forging a strange bond that can only really be described as a curried Christmas tree. The citrus trio stirs the pot like a coven of witches, never fading as a loud, lemony coriander grabs them by the wands and drags them to the end of the sip. A flush of lavender arrives for the finale, summoning back the juniper pine and filling the mouth with a loud, fresh, forest taste. What a ride!
When tonic is added, a dustier aroma emerges, with the spices gaining a bit more footing and the orange peel taking on a more pithy flavour. The acerbic nature of tonic drives the orange, lemon and grapefruit up the wall, actually, pushing them to such heights that it’s almost a surprise the herbal nature of the gin gets a chance to shine. It does, though; the mouth is left with a prevailing, almost bruising sense of pine.
Andrea suggests grapefruit as a garnish, but we’d add something a little different – some cranberries, perhaps, would complement the tartness of the fruits in Family of Hounds Gin, but which would also bring some levity.
As far as cocktails go, with its juniper core Family of Hounds Gin makes for a pretty decent workhorse. You could put it in any classic gin to good effect, though we think it would make an exemplary Martini.
For those willing to embrace the age old adage ‘beauty is on the inside,’ Family of Hounds is a gin to seek out, and happily, it is one of two: there is also an Export Gin at 46% ABV and there are other spirits in the works, too. The duo is looking to build a full pack of spirits, with a Vermouth in the works and a Grappa and Vodka to follow soon after.
The gin is currently available in Italy, Monaco and France, and Family of Hounds are in discussions with importers from the UK, the US, Singapore and Greece. While we’re sure of our love of the gin inside each bottle, we’re genuinely unsure of how this could go as many will look down at the basic branding with thinly veiled contempt. Trust us, though; the gin is good and worth trying, and while we think the branding is boring at best, ugly at worst, there’s a small chance that this clunky look will steer them right; it’s bound to appeal to the dog lovers of the world, anyway… right?
For more information about Family of Hounds, visit their website: familyofhounds.com
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