Ultimate Gin Cabinet: Leah Gasson
In our Desert Island Gins/Ultimate Gin Cabinet series, we ask industry experts and renowned geeks to whittle their lovingly curated collection down to just five picks. This week we continue with Gin Foundry writer Leah Gasson.
The Gin world is a lot like Las Vegas (hear me out): In Vegas, visor-clad eighty-year-olds sit alongside drunk college students, honeymooning couples and tourists from all over the world. They’re all strange strangers, but here – in this seedy, neon landscape – they exist in harmony, sipping cheap Margaritas and loading the slot machines with endless reams of dollar bills. Gin sings the same song; It, too, welcomes anyone on to its island of misfit toys. It’s a spirit associated with grandmas and hipsters, with dusty bottles on back bars and with the downfall of society in the 1700s. Makers operating out of gargantuan distilleries are as welcome as those distilling from garden sheds, with each party conspiring to fill the landscape with weird and wonderful bottlings.
Gin is a spirit torn between tradition and change; it’s an ever-changing, ever-growing beast that’s evolving into this great, big indefinable thing. The category is widening and each new release seems to bring an entirely different interpretation. Over the course of the past year I’ve tried flower gins, fruit gins, honey gins, chocolate mint gins… Just last week, I sampled a gin that tasted like rainwater gathered from the forest floor. They all fit together, these weirdoes, working hard to make their industry the most interesting one in the booze world.
While these modern interpretations may upset traditionalists, it’s nigh on killed the phrase “I don’t like Gin,” because – with a cosmos of different flavours packed into bottles across the world – no two gins are the same. I like my gin cabinet to reflect that; I like to assess my (often put-upon) guests and pick a spirit from the deck that I just know they’ll love. With these, I do pretty well.
East London Liquor Company’s Dry Gin has my heart. It’s an all-guns-blazing, honest-to-goodness ginny gin, with lemon, grapefruit and (huge amounts of) cardamom all kept in place by their dark overlord, juniper. ELLC is a craft distillery through and through, constantly releasing new expressions and collaborating with like-minded peers. This is their base offering and at £22 it appeals to my skinflint nature more than anything else on earth. It’s a great gin for mixing, as comfortable in a G&T as it is in a Negroni, and its packaging is effortlessly cool.
Martin Miller’s Gin has a ludicrous method behind it. It’s made in the Midlands(ish), then shipped to Iceland to be cut down to size with local water. I’ve never believed in water purity. Not in the same sense as believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden… I mean, I know it exists, it’s just I never really thought it made that much of a difference so I’ve never made the effort with it. The inside of my kettle is borderline infectious…
Anyway, that all changed when I tried Martin Miller’s Gin, which is an exquisite example of smoothness, with a sharp citrus bite and great warmth. In the wrong hands cassia can feel like a spoonful of fire, but here it just adds depth and complexity. The gin is a clean, soft-as-silk sipper that is near perfect in a Martini and that crisp Icelandic water is undoubtedly (in part, at least) responsible.
Gin Foundry’s annual Ginfographic survey shows £40 to be something of a cliff edge for Gin drinkers. We’ll go that high if it’s really, truly worth it, but anything above that is a write off. Pink Pepper Gin – at £45 – is madly expensive and while I’d love to dismiss it out of hand, it’s also one of the more curious gins I’ve had the good fortune to try. Vanilla, honey and tonka provide a sweet, rich and viscous base, upon which dances a light, bright pepper. It’s a unique gin, but undeniably ginny in its nature, with a solid juniper presence humming underneath.
Pink Pepper is definitely a special occasion gin – one I like to roll out for a post-dinner Martini (when I’m in a particularly boastful mood). “Oh this… It’s like a patisserie window on a summer’s day; sweet, spiced and slightly sticky…”
Sabatini Gin is not as easy to get hold of as I’d like. It’s made in London, but uses herbs plucked from the Sabatini family’s garden in Tuscany. It’s clean and crisp, with olive leaves, thyme and lemon verbena bringing a decidedly luscious mouthfeel.
Gin isn’t an open book, but it is open to interpretation and the Sabatini family have done a remarkably good job of capturing the spirit and essence of their home and trapping it in a bottle. Like a delicious liquid genie, this gin grants all my juniper wishes, adding in a little touch of Mediterranean sunshine for good measure.
Something a little different…
I have a strange relationship with sloe gin. For me, it’s all work and no reward. I’ve spent many autumns harvesting sloes with my parents, only to return home at Christmas to a pair of guilt stricken faces. “We couldn’t wait,” they’d say, “we drank it when it was still pink…”. All those purple fingers for nothing.
I never even considered it as something to buy until I tried Elephant Sloe and went cross eyed with joy. It’s all currants and marzipans and Christmas cake. There’s very little sugar, so it’s tart and sharp, with sloes that feel as fresh as though you’d just picked them. Also, sloe is for life, not just for Christmas, so pouring a dollop of this in the bottom of a flute and topping up with Prosecco is almost certainly the best way to celebrate a summer evening.
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