Two Birds Gin – a review

This review is a bit late. I actually first experienced Two Birds gin in October after the lovely Morgan Rees bought me some as a present (October 10th for those wondering when to send gifts). Then I started my blog and got distracted by other gins and unemployment and new job and working all bank holiday weekend in Liverpool. But a conversation with my manager prompted me to get my act together and do this. Plus I was scared because I have so little left and I’m dreading the moment when it runs out 😦

So. Two Birds. Another small batch gin, this one made in batches of around 100 bottles in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. As well as their London Dry gin, they also make a Vodka and Absinthe (plus some fun flavoured Vodkas depending on the season). This is the bottle that started my love of pretty designs on bottles.

(Note: the bottle doesn’t normally come with a polka dot bow. This is Morgan’s version of wrapping and I enjoy it too much to remove it)

The bottle is a screw top so whilst you don’t get the satisfying noise of a cork popping out the bottle, it is much quicker to break your way in (an important factor in my gin drinking life). The smell from the bottle is dry with the juniper coming through as the predominant note. I did the standard mixing it with water to release the botanicals and, unusually for the gins I’ve been drinking recently, you don’t get a hit of citrus. It tastes smooth on the tongue, no nasty screwed up faces ensue when drinking. It leaves a warm lingering tastes in the mouth and the dryness comes through leaving you wanting more.

Time for the G&T test.


For the test I’m using Tesco Low Calorie Tonic Water. This isn’t to be sniffed at. Tesco do a great range of tonics from normal tonic water to some flavoured with cucumber, jasmine and elderflower. They also do a great bitter lemon, and they are 4 for £1.50. And, most importantly of all, it isn’t Britvic.

Moving on. It is reminiscent of the Blackwater No.5 Gin in that it is smooth and fresh as you drink it. Whilst it doesn’t have the big punchy characteristics of some other gins, the smooth quality makes it very quaffable (it is seriously running low in the bottle). I usually love a citrus garnish but I don’t feel this needs it. Quite dry on the tongue (a good point in my books), Two Birds leaves you wanting more. I imagine it would work well in a cocktail or as a good base to any mixer as the simple flavourings would allow any added flavours to come through.

The gin is made with four botanicals (and juniper) which helps to explain why there is less going on, but bottled at 40% and a 70cl bottle setting you back a mere £28, I think this is a good buy. This gin will be great as an everyday G&T but it is special enough to feel like a treat. Plus look at the bottle. How beautiful will that look on the shelf filled with fairy lights (the current fate of all my empty gin bottles).

You can order Two Birds spirits from their website here, and you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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Tarquin’s Gin – a review

I spent most of March unemployed. This meant I was pretty bored and feeling a bit down. So my Dad decided he would try to cheer me up and sent me a present. A box bearing the marks of Southwestern Distillery arrived. Underneath a mountain of packing chips was a bottle of Tarquin’s Gin and a card.

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IMG_5013I had mentioned this gin to my Dad before as he lives down in Falmouth and I knew it was made nearby. Only after receiving the gin did I look it up – it is made 36 miles from his house. Good local gin. For those that don’t know, Tarquin’s Gin is made by Southwestern Distillery in Wadebridge on the north(ish) coast of Cornwall. They make their gin in batches of no more than 300 bottles at the time, each bottle corked, sealed, labelled and waxed by hand. Each bottle comes with a unique batch number and information about that batch’s individual tasting notes. The key botanicals in play here are hand-picked Devon violets and orange zest. These aren’t my favourite things in the world so I’m a bit cautious about what I’m about to drink.

IMG_5016Now the best part – drinking it. Peeling off a wax seal is one of the most satisfying feelings. The first smell that hits you is a strong citrus note – good start in my books. I pour out a measure with an equal amount of water. It smells like flowers, the citrus notes dropping off for the violet to come through. It smells quite sweet, which I’m not used to experiencing with a gin. I take my first sip. It’s very easy on the tongue for want of a better phrase. It doesn’t taste harsh or too strong (bottled at 42%). The zest comes through at the front of the mouth, giving way to the aromatics. It’s one of the most flavoursome gins I’ve ever had, there’s lots of tastes going on in my mouth. To quote my brilliant notes that I wrote: “Good hit to it. Definitely drinking gin. Not so powerful it’s overwhelming.” I clearly have a career in drink tasting ahead of me.

Deciding that I shouldn’t just drink straight gin, I mix a new drink with some tonic – because the real test of a gin is how it works as a G&T. To quote my rather brilliant notes again, “lovely stuff”. A hint of palma violets (can be added to the list of drinks that taste like sweets alongside Southern Comfort and Lemonade). My batch (104) has the tasting notes of candied oranges, and there is certainly a hint of it at the back of the throat. Not so much it is overpowering – which is good because (as we all know) I’m not an orange fan. But this tastes nice, the bitterness cuts through the sweet violets and balances quite nicely. It produces a very distinct flavour which, on first tasting I wasn’t super keen on. But I always believe in giving things a second chance, and once I had got used to the taste I found myself rather enjoying it.

Aside from the taste, the other thing that makes Tarquin’s Gin unique is that they have launched Taste with Tarquin.

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To celebrate the unique tasting notes of each batch, they played with Apple’s FaceTime code so we can have a chat with Tarquin (sort of). I tried calling when I first tasted the gin but couldn’t get through. On my third attempt the call connected. Then the connection dropped. Twice. But once it finally worked it was good fun. It starts with Tarquin talking about Southwestern Distillery and what makes them different. Then you battle with voice recognition software to tell them your batch number. Tarquin (who, by the way, is rather beautiful) finds your bottle, pours a glass and tells you – well, pretty much what it says on the bottle. He told me my bottle tasted of orange. He wasn’t wrong. Then you have a chance to leave a video message. I think I accidentally left one going “your gin tastes like sweeeeeeeeeeetiiieeeeesssss thanks!” You’re welcome Tarquin.

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Slightly disappointing FaceTime adventure aside, it’s a bloody good gin. If you’re into floral, aromatic gins then this is for you. According to their website, Tarquin’s isn’t available in Brighton yet, but is widely available around Devon and Cornwall and some places in London – you can find stockists here.

Southwestern Distillery are also on Twitter and Facebook.

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Blackwater No. 5 Gin – a review

A few weeks ago I made a wonderful life choice that my bank account doesn’t quite agree with. I signed up to Craft Gin Club, getting a premium, craft gin delivered to my door monthly (well, I get it every 3 months because I can’t quite afford the £40 fee every month). I was very excited when they tweeted a photo of a van packed full of boxes, and even more so when I received my edition of Ginned! which said more about the gin I was about to get to taste.

As some background, Blackwater Distillery is based in Ireland, on the banks of the Blackwater River (unsurprisingly). Their gin (Blackwater No. 5) is new, the first commercial batch came off the still on February 9th, and is the first craft gin to come out of Ireland.

Let’s start with the bottle. What a beautiful bottle it is. The picture you see through the bottle depicts the 90 degree turn that the river makes. The design is simple yet so effective. I currently up cycle my nicer (empty) alcohol bottles by filling them with fairy lights, but that’s not going to happen to this one. Once this is finished and I’ve finished sobbing about my loss, this will sit as it is, the stunning label standing as decoration on its own.

Now I’ve finished nerding over the label, let’s move on to the gin. And oh what a gin it is.

So I returned to my pretentious tasting method as first demonstrated in my review of Brighton Gin. I added equal amounts of gin and water to a cup to release the aromas. The first thing I can smell is the juniper and citrus notes. It smells very clean – and most importantly for my untrained nose, no nasty sharp alcohol smells (something I haven’t missed since my student days of Asda value vodka. Even the thought of that brings back bad memories). The first sip is very smooth. Just the simple taste of juniper and citrus. They claim that they have liquorice botanicals in it, which I can’t taste but I’m fine with that as I’m not a liquorice fan, but there is a satisfying tang at the back of the mouth.

After a few sips I felt I should make a G&T to really test it/not just drink straight gin all evening. I had run out of Fevertree tonic so plumped for the solid Schweppes and a lime wedge for good measure. It made one of the best gin and tonics I’ve ever had. The coriander tastes come through more clearly when mixed with the tonic. It’s clean, smooth and simple. Exactly what a G&T needs to be. I love the citrus taste (I usually make gin and bitter lemon at home because I’m an old lady). Very drinkable. Worryingly drinkable as I can see an evening disappearing into that bottle with no problem at all.

The gin is currently listed on the Blackwater Distillery website but it isn’t available to order so I can’t encourage you to buy it quite yet, but when this comes out, get one. I think this gin will suit all palettes – except possibly those people who enjoy the strong alcohol flavour of a drink. But for those that want a lovely, uncomplicated drink to sip on in an evening, this is it.

If this is the standard that I will be getting with every delivery, then I would love for someone to fund the monthly subscription for me (and buy me a drinks trolley as our kitchen is overflowing…)

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Brighton Gin – a review

I’ve been following Brighton Gin for a while now and have been eagerly awaiting my first bottle. After glimpses and a few delays, Brighton Gin finally launched in shops. As I went to Stockholm. Cue four days of me whimpering over Twitter as the reviews trickled in, waiting to fly home to get my hands on a bottle. Yesterday, after work, I trekked for twenty minutes in the wrong direction to get my hands on a bottle. At £39.99 this is the most I’ve ever spent on gin. I was anxious. I’d heard it tasted of orange. I hate orange. The long walk home filled my head with images of me spitting gin across my kitchen, crying over the first gin I’ve ever hated.

My fears were unfounded.

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We decided that, for the launch of my blog, we should do the tasting thing properly. We went to Ginmonger for their ‘How to Taste Gin’ notes. We felt slightly like pretentious twats stood in our not-very-fancy kitchen, using my novelty reindeer shot glass from Stockholm as a measure and swirling gin around our cheap wine glasses and sniffing deeply to “carry the fragrances to the nerve ends at the top of your nose”. It smelt like gin (in a good way). Then we took a mouthful.

Tangy on the front of the tongue. Subtle and smooth from start to finish. Previous experiences of drinking straight gin haven’t gone well for me, they usually end with a coughing fit and me claiming that it tastes like a bad idea and nail varnish remover. None of this happened. It was rather delicious. To make sure we weren’t going insane we kept repeating the process. Sip, swill, let it sit on the tongue then swallow. Lovely stuff.

Once that was finished and we were a little giddy from excitement, we added tonic (Fevertree, light Indian tonic). We were worried that it would lose the citrusy tanginess that it had when straight. Our fears were once again unfounded. Mixed with tonic made it a beautiful drink that I could happily have all day long (except I wouldn’t, because apparently it’s not socially acceptable to drink gin all day). It had a very subtle flavour that made it very easy to drink, but kept enough of a tang to make it interesting.

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Overall, it is a wonderful gin that is smooth enough to drink every day. I, personally, will be saving this for slightly more special occasions but this is purely a price tag issue. If I were able to afford a £40 bottle of gin as my every day gin I would. But alas, it is back to the Gordon’s for me… until tonight when I have invited another gin lover round to try some.

And if anyone wants to buy me some, Christmas is coming up and I have a large empty stocking hanging over my radiator…

Thanks to Jenny Bernarde for tasting the gin with me and for her second opinions and yummy noises.

You can find out about Brighton Gin here:
Www.brightongin.com
@brightongin

You can also hear my daily witterings about food, drink and general life over on Twitter @jennifermclaren