Jawbox Classic Dry Gin
A Jawbox, more commonly known as a Belfast Sink, was a staple in Northern Irish households of old, used to wash near enough anything “from dishes, clothes, bikes, children and even sometimes their husbands,” said Jawbox Classic Dry Gin founder Gerry White. The sink was a busy place, with a lot of life and chatter revolving around it and as such has served to be one of Belfast’s most lasting legacies.
Jawbox Classic Dry Gin, then, was named in tribute. “Having worked in bars for over thirty years I have always had the firm belief that people don’t come into a bar to get drunk, they come in to socialise, to tell their tales, share their gossip and listen to others over a drink,” explained Gerry. “We used to do that around a Jawbox, and now you can, only in the form of Jawbox Gin!”
Jawbox Classic Dry Gin is made in Echinville Distillery, which opened in 2014 and was the allegedly the first to be granted a license to distil spirits in Northern Ireland for 130 years. The gin was conceived by Gerry White, who was inspired both by his time behind the bar and an influx of new gins. “About six years ago I had the idea to… create a Northern Irish gin, but thought it was maybe just a pipe dream. Three years later and the idea hadn’t shifted, so I decided to go for it,” he told us. “A lot of new gins were coming on the market at the time, which although were amazing, to me didn’t taste how gin should.”
From concept to production, the gin took three years (six, if you include the initial mulling period). Initially, there were more steps backwards than forwards, with meeting after meeting achieving little progress. Eventually, though, things started to move and once Gerry and the distillery began working together on the flavour profile of the gin, the challenges he faced switched from exhausting to satisfying.
Eleven botanicals make up Jawbox Classic Dry Gin’s recipe: juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, grains of paradise, liquorice root, cubebs, cardamom, cassia quills, black mountain heather and lemon peel. Three of these – a secret three – are vapour distilled, though Gerry informs us that they are a trio particularly sensitive to the effects of steeping.
The spirit with which the gin is made is created onsite, from Barley grown on the Echinville estate (more on this notion of Single Estate later). To make the gin, all of the botanicals, bar the secret three, are steeped overnight in the warmed spirit, then distilled slowly in one of Echinville’s stills (of which there are three – so production size is dependent upon which is used) under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Graeme Millar.
Jawbox Classic Dry Gin to taste…
Jawbox Classic Dry Gin’s classic feel comes through to the mouth, with the lemon peel and coriander seed lead citrus combining with the cubebs and cardamom spice to hold the juniper aloft. Liquorice brings sweetness and a viscous mouthfeel across the board, but the resinous, waxy juniper reigns supreme here – bringing an almost savoury feel to proceedings. It is a traditional gin in all the right ways and would work just as well in an East London bar as it would in your nana’s booze cupboard. Bottled at 43% ABV, the flavours stand up well to mixers yet, tasted neat remains smooth and sipable.
It’s a gin that would work fantastically well in a G&T with a sprig of rosemary to accentuate juniper’s herbal qualities, but as with all classic gins – lime peel or other citrus also work to compliment the gin’s inherent traditional dry tones. We also particularly enjoyed Jawbox in classic cocktails, like a French 75 and a Negroni.
There are a lot of names involved in this gin – distribution comes from We Are Giants and Drinksology is behind the design and presentation. In terms of composition, the bottle itself does stand out – the Victorian-style label is black with white and gold detailing and the neck features Gerry’s signature. The words ‘single estate’ are not hard to miss, and this aspect of the production is clearly a pride point for the creators. It is emblazoned on the label, across all marketing and boldly given as a part of their USP.
That said, it’s also a point of contestation. Unfortunately, we feel it’s a rather mute point when it comes to Jawbox, as while we are hugely impressed by the locality and provenance of the grain and the the fact that the distillery works from farm to bottle, the statement glazes over the fact that this is only one aspect of the production. The wheat and water come from the estate, but all the other ingredients used to get the flavour profile of Jawbox Gin are sourced elsewhere. Juniper, coriander seed, cardamom etc. are all sourced from miles away, mainly from other countries. In fact, not a single one of the botanicals are grown onsite. If this constitutes Single Estate then the industry is on a very slippery slope, as it would be hard to argue the reverse for those who only grow one botanical yet source their NGS from further afield…
We are the first to champion the fact that Echinville Distillery is going a huge amount of the production and that more distillers should follow suit in order to go grain to glass, but some transparency over the wider picture in regards to “Single Estate” gin would be more useful to consumers than blatantly misleading and sweeping statements.
We’re keen to see how Jawbox Classic Dry Gin performs – it’s a good, classic gin with strong branding and a creator with years of experience in in the industry. It ought to do well and we hope it does. Much like the sink it was named after, Jawbox has every right to become part of the Belfast’s story and in time, might well become as iconic.
For more information about Jawbox Classic Dry Gin, visit their website: www.JawboxGin.com
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