Warner Edwards Gins
We’ve covered the story of Warner Edwards and their phenomenally successful Harrington Dry Gin separately (click here for the post), but we’re equally enamoured with their ever-growing flavoured gin range. From mainstays Sloe, Elderflower and Rhubarb to their limited edition Botanical Garden range, we’ve covered them here…
Warner Edwards Sloe Gin:
Warner Edwards‘ first scurry into the world of fruit gins began in the winter of 2013 when Tom Warner and Sion Edwards set their sights on Sloe Gin. Coming in at 30% ABV, this rather sweet syrupy fruit infusion was made with Northamptonshire sloe berries and includes a rather interesting back-story. The sloes were collected from hedgerows nearby by hordes of families and locals who responded to Warner Edwards’ Hedgerow Harvest Volunteer action call. In return for the sloes collected, the pickers received a bottle of gin or W.E. vouchers alongside other paraphernalia. They managed to collect about 3 and a half tonnes of sloes needed for their gin; a monumental amount derived entirely through community spirit.
Just smelling the Harrington Sloe Gin, it’s easy to see why it’s such a crowd pleaser. Red fruit notes and bright cherries burst out. While ruby red in colour, the taste is much deeper as the gin has a lingering complexity. Almonds, marzipan and sloe berries seem to be intertwined with a rounded sweetness and fresh citrus. It’s definitely one to try in cocktails as the slightly higher ABV (for a Sloe Gin) helps it keep it’s flavour when mixed with full bodied liqueurs too. While there have since been other batches since the initial Sloe Gin, all share similar tasting notes.
Warner Edwards Elderflower Gin:
Their second fruit infusion began in the spring of 2013. The Warner Edwards duo were already looking out for the elderflower blossoming before coming up with the idea of creating an elderflower infused gin. Merely a few months later – using the plants from both Tom and Sion’s farm – they meshed the Welsh and English elderflower petals together and added them to their gin after distillation, creating about two thousand bottles of Elderflower infused Gin.
Having sold out within a couple of months, they repeated the bottling in the summer of 2014 and following the continued demand ever since, it is set to be a regular seasonal gin fixture. The Warner Edwards Elderflower infused Gin is sugary to taste with the delicate floral notes making their way to the fore as part of a viscous, rich gin. It’s not cloying nor sickeningly sweet, the underlying botanicals in the base gin and the 40% ABV prevent it from being a liqueur. Rather it’s a light gin perfect for those looking for something a little different for summer drinks.
It’s been great to see the development of new releases from a team who have taken their background and love of farming and applied it to where they source their botanicals. The focus isn’t just on new botanicals grown in the UK, but where they have come from and who grows them. In the case of their latest fruit based release which first appeared on shelves in the Summer of 2014 – they turned their attention to rhubarb with regal provenance. It’s quite a complicated story to track it back but… for those of you who like us enjoy a good story, it goes something like this…
Warner Edwards Rhubarb Gin:
The Victoria Rhubarb Gin Warner Edwards have made, takes its eponymous botanical from a farmer who grows it on a crown estate. Originally however, the rhubarb was grown in the gardens of Queen Victoria during the 1800’s. The plants were transferred to the President’s residence in Ireland some decades later and during the 1930’s some of the plants were taken to a private garden owned by MR McCarthy (he worked at the President’s residence as a secretary). The plants were there until the 1980’s at which point he and his wife had to leave their estate to go to a nursing home. It was at this point that the current grower took ownership of the plant and it is now grown on a Crown Estate property in Lincolnshire, closing the story off in a nice circle and bringing it back to it’s royal roots!
Does this royal lineage matter and can you taste it…? Probably not. Much more important is that it has been cultivated over many years and always grown in a traditional Victorian garden style nourished by lots of organic matter. Rather than being grown using more modern commercial techniques (think chemical sprays, artificial fertilisers and evil corporations), this “garden style” greatly enriches the soil where the rhubarb is grown and improves the flavours over the years.
Using their flagship Harrington Dry Gin as a base, Warner Edwards then infused rhubarb after distillation. To be a little more precise – W.E. use their still to soften the plant (gently heating it for a few hours) and then extract the juice through traditional pressing methods. This tasty reddish coloured liquid is combined with the gin and a little sugar to balance the acidity. The process is slightly different to the Sloe and Elderflower Gin, as they mix the pressed liquid as opposed to the actual fruit / flower / vegetable.
The result is stunning. On its own, the Victoria Rhubarb Gin has a pleasing acidity and is delightfully light (given it’s still a 40% ABV gin). There are hints of lemon with an earthy sweetness. Unsurprisingly, the rhubarb is BIG, but not at the expense of the underlying gin, which can be uncovered if you take a little time to taste the spirit. It is also undeniable that the base gin plays its part in balancing out the overall flavour. The Victoria Rhubarb Gin makes a ridiculously good Martini too, especially for those just being introduced to this classic cocktail, as the soft rhubarb and gentle touch of sugar really rounds the edges. Add a dash of orange bitters if you make one as the citrus brings out that warm crisp note inherent in both the gin and the rhubarb.
Bottled at 40% ABV, W.E. continued their handcrafted touches as they numbered, labelled and wax-sealed each bottle on site. Only 8,000 bottles of the limited-edition gin were initially produced. The small number meant that it technically began as a limited edition, like their Elderflower and Sloe Gins, but they hoped to produce enough of it in the future so that whilst seasonally made they have enough to stock shelves and gin cabinets year round. Since the initial run, the gin has proven to be one of their most popular bottlings and can now be found in shops all over the UK.
Also worthy to note – the design of the bottle pays homage to Queen Victoria and is based on the Penny Black postage stamp. For non-UK audiences – The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in Britain on 1 May 1840 and features a profile of Queen Victoria. They are revered items in stamp collecting circles and now referenced in gin! The Warner Edwards team took this association one step further by bottling each with a wax seal and a red seal reminiscent of the Victorian postage system (as opposed to using their usual blue / black).
It’s not always possible to have such a meticulously considered point of origin for every botanical used in creating a gin, but it is possible in some circumstances – especially when it comes from suppliers located just down the road from a distillery. Craft distillers who claim to walk the walk, should take a look at what’s been achieved here across the trio of expressions from Warner Edwards and ask themselves whether they have gone from grain to glass in the same way. It’s not just an ideal, it should be part of the process of any true craft distillery. The results speak for themselves flavour wise, but the added research, time and effort gives this trio of gins that added authenticity.
The Botanical Garden Range:
Back in April 2016, Warner Edwards won the final of HSBC Elevator Pitch, receiving a grand prize of £150,000 which was to be ploughed into the business. At the time, Tom Warner said: “This is a real game-changer for our business and will enable us to turbo-charge our growth plans.”
That turbo charging – at least in part – has involved scaling up the botanical garden established by Warner’s late mother, Adele, an endeavour that has launched a whole new venture for the brand – the Botanical Garden range. The first release is Melissa Gin, named for the Latin name of lemon balm. The recipe itself is a new recipe in its own right, not just the addition of a botanical to their usual Harriton Dry formula. Moreover, it is made as a concentrate – more in this in bit… The star botanical grows in abundance at the farm, and provides a unique twist on citrus, adding a leafy, lively gentle taste.
To nose, a mossy green comes to the fore, reminiscent of a sprawling garden after a much needed rain. Juniper holds firm, but it’s achingly sweet, as though the pine had drowned in a lemony honey.
To taste, that sweetness rushes the tongue, bringing with it an unexpected, though minor, hint of chocolate. There is an undeniable underlying spiciness here brought about by nutmeg and cardamom, but it never seeks to overwhelm the gin. Rather, lemon balm’s minty genealogy is well felt, which adds a cooling counter to the spices that lead to an all round well-balanced drink. A citrus twang comes through stongly on the finish, as though the lemon balm had bided its time to sing, knowing it was the headline act.
In all honesty, this isn’t a gin that would work particularly well in many cocktails as its flavour profile is so unique that it could easily overpower other ingredients. In a G&T, though, it’s big, bold and brilliant and as such fully deserving of the dual-garnish copa glass treatment. In particular, the sherberty quality of lemon balm as a botanical really comes through stongly. A small handful of juniper berries along with a twist of lemon and a simple tonic makes for a very tasty G&T.
This is just the first gin from a very promising range and we’re very excited to see what comes next. Now, regarding that concentrate production methodology. To create this gin, they add Neutral Grain Spirit after distilation, then cut to to bottling strength (the concentrate method) as opposed to just cutting with water straight away (the one shot method). This is a departure for the team and different to how they make their other gins, thus the resaon we bring it up. We feel that Melissa Gin is no less smooth or botanically intense (in fact maybe the contrary is true) as the rest of the range, showing that so long as it’s done with care, both production methods can work just as well.
For more information about Warner Edwards Gin, visit their website: www.warneredwards.com
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