Is a gin made with lobster acceptable? Matthew Steeples suggests such an abomination is anything but; and then selects his five favourite gins
Like it or not, gin is a traditional drink; it has never really conquered vodka’s dominance in America and women claim it makes them depressed. Most certainly, gin is a drink that’ll never start a revolution.
Many – myself most definitely not included – still cringe at the mere mention of gin. Though, whilst I am a self-confessed addict, I enjoy gin only if it is served exactly the way I prefer: A large measure in a short tumbler glass, with lots of ice, a little tonic and without any unnecessary garnishes. To others, though, it is seen as a ‘fusty’ spirit and one typically associated with such people as Denis Thatcher, Jaguar driving golfers and more traditionally Hogarth and ‘Mother’s Ruin’. Now, in spite of all of this, gin is most definitely ‘in’ – in the trendier parts of London at least.
Primarily, with thanks to first Bombay Sapphire in 1987 and then Hendrick’s (more of that abomination of a ‘product’ later) in 1999, gin has gradually regained its position as a drink to be seen consuming. The hipsters have ditched their passion for the whisky heavy Mad Men favourite – the Old Fashioned – and moved on to the dry gin dominated Bramble in the year of the death of its creator, Dick Bradsell. At the same time, it’s also out with gin as the drink of people like the long dead poet Philip Larkin and it’s in with it as the modern drink of choice of fashionistas such as Kate Moss; gin is swinging and as a result five new brands are said to be launching a week in 2016.
Sadly, with this newfound excitement, have come gins that aren’t actually gins: They are ‘flavoured vodka’s and they ignore the traditional classification that a gin must have juniper as their dominant botanical. Amongst examples of such unpleasantness are Hoxton – which has a most repugnant coconut flavouring – and Brockmans – which is rather similar to Ribena and is all about blackberry and blueberry ‘infusions’.
To me, these ‘non-gins’ (and I include cucumber dominated Hendrick’s here) are nothing but imposters but at the recent Imbibe Show at Olympia, I came across far worse. New offerings were showcased plentifully and mostly without purpose – amongst them was one from Glasgow and one from Sussex – but what caught my attention was a stand offering gins that weren’t pitched, as all new brands seem to pretentiously do so now, as either premium or super-premium. Here, instead, were gins that their creators bizarrely claimed to be maritime gins.
Offered by a firm named Intriguing Brands – whose somewhat unintriguing director, Paul Mills, likes to give out a business card with a Union Jack adorning its rear – one ‘gin’ from their ‘collection’ was made with oysters whilst another, laughably called Lobstar, was described as “a true gastronomic outsider”. Every bottle, its creator Kristof Marannes remarked “contains 250g of pure lobster” whilst of it, a firm named Spirits by Design state: “In the nose you get the surprising smell of a bisque, lobster soap”. Such a product might have gone down well at the premiere of Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz’s 2015 film The Lobster, but frankly I’d rather drink bleach. My conclusions on the taste: “Anything but a catch”.
And now for something a little more positive; my five favourite gins:
The only gin in the world crafted by someone with a PhD in gin and owned by the world’s finest wine merchants, Berry Bros & Rudd.
Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry
47% ABV, from the Lake District and featuring a fresh aroma balanced with a dry yet bitter resinous taste.
Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength
Packs a punch and has all the character of my late friend, Martin, its truly Dickensianally rakish creator.
A new gin from Belgium with something about Poirot to its palate. Traditional but with a twist that encourages curiosity.
The perfect ‘everyday gin’ (if you can’t find one of the above).
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Any views on tonic? I buy the Co-op diet version. Am I fit to live in Chelsea?