Christine Austin tastes her way through as many summer gins as she can on a visit to the Wright Wine Company in Skipton

The Wright Wine Company in Skipton doesn’t just have a shelf-full of gin, they have a roomful and if you are not sure which one you might like, the staff are happy for you to taste before you buy.  ‘We have 487 gins on the shelves, with samples of around 200 gins open and ready for tasting’, said proprietor Julian Kaye.  ‘Customers can come in any day of the week and we try to help them find the style of gin they like, from straightforward dry gins through all the fruit-based gins.  We also have a range of local gins, produced here in Yorkshire’.

Gin has become one of the UK’s best-loved spirits with sales of 51 million bottles last year, and while the big brands will always be popular, the real driver in this rapidly growing market is the emergence of local, individually crafted gins.  There are now 315 distilleries in the UK now, more than double the number that were operating just five years ago.

The name gin comes from ‘genever’ the Dutch name for juniper and these berries remain a necessary ingredient in all gins.  These are usually sourced from Europe since there are not enough UK-grown juniper berries in the UK.  This situation may change in time, especially since one gin brand had the bright idea of sending out tiny juniper bushes to customers.   Obtained from that offer, my own juniper forest is now 9 inches tall and so far the bushes have not shown any sign of producing berries.  Perhaps when they do I shall buy a still and make my own gin.

Juniper is not the only flavouring ingredient and that is what makes one gin different from another.  Each has its own balance of botanicals such as lemon, bay leaves, fennel, coriander, bilberries and many other natural flavouring elements and it is this mix of ingredients, steeped in alcohol and then distilled that makes the difference between the brands.

Alcohol strength also makes a difference, by carrying more of the flavour elements into your glass.

One clear step in the story of gin is the new ‘foraged’ ingredients such as wild clover, elderberries and herbs that are local to a particular distillery and so give that gin its own unique, local taste. Even more popular are the new-wave fruit gins, based around flavours such as rhubarb, raspberry, orange and lemon.

While I failed to try all 200 of the gins offered by The Wright Wine Co, I did manage to taste through several flights, some of them neat and many mixed with a range of tonics.  These are some of my favourites.  Prices are as listed at The Wright Wine Co. and if you can’t get out to Skipton, you should be able to find many of these gins at retailers across the county, in particular at Latitude in Leeds and Field and Fawcett in York.

 

CLASSIC GINS

Masons Gin

Established by Karl and Cathy Mason, who never actually intended to have their own brand but after reviewing gins for a while, the temptation to make their own was too great.  Now operating out of The Craft Yard in Bedale, they steep their own selection of botanicals in spirit and distil them in their own 300 litre still and the spirit is cut with Harrogate spring water.  The key flavours in Masons Dry Gin are juniper, bay leaves, fennel and coriander but I also picked up a note of liquorice in the mix.

They also make a Lavender Edition with delicate floral notes and the now-famous Yorkshire Tea edition that captures the essence of tea together with citrus notes.

Masons Dry Gin (£35.50) is best served with Fever-tree Premium Indian Tonic, ice and a slice of grapefruit.

Whittaker’s Gin

Working out of Nidderdale the Whittaker family has transformed an old pig shed into a distillery and they are making a range of gins, using juniper, coriander and angelica root as well as bilberries and bog myrtle which add a spicy aroma and savoury notes.

Whittaker’s Original (£34.50) is a classic-tasting gin, with bright, citrus notes.  I also like their Pink Particular (£34.50) made with hibiscus and pink peppercorns which add a spicy note and herbal twist.

 

Sheep Town Gin

Made by Whittaker’s especially for The Wright Wine Co., this is bottled at 48% strength which not only gives a pleasant kick, it also carries the flavours of juniper, bog myrtle and bilberries perfectly. £38.50.

 

FORAGED GINS

Pollination

Using botanicals such as gorse flowers and pine tips, gathered in the Dyfi biosphere in Wales, this is an impressive, delicate, herbal style of gin. It is made in limited quantities to preserve the balance of the biosphere.  £35 for 50cl.

Hibernation

A partner gin to Pollination, with flavours from autumn-gathered botanicals such as crab apples, blackberries and lingonberries. The finished gin is aged in white port casks, which adds a creamy depth to the flavour. £43 for 50cl.

FRUIT GINS

Perfect for summer-drinking, especially with a top-up of Fever Tree’s lemon Tonic or their Mediterranean Tonic.  Find these at good wine merchants or at Waitrose.

Malfy con Arancia

Made in Italy with blood orange, lemon, coriander and angelica this is summer in a glass.  Serve it with ice and a slice of orange, this is seductively easy to drink. £29

Malfy con Limone

This is the clean, fresh lemon version in the Malfy range.  Bitingly refreshing, it has a streak of thyme and ginger on the palate.  Use Mediterranean tonic and serve with a slice of lemon. £29

 

Aber Falls Rhubarb and Ginger

Made in Wales, this is a creamy style of gin, with a taste of a warm spiced rhubarb crumble.  Try it with Indian tonic and a lime wedge garnish. £27.50

GLASSES AND GARNISH

Presentation is everything when serving a gin and tonic. Straight-sided tall glasses allow a good mix of gin with the tonic, while large balloon glasses can be filled with ice for a long drink.  Pick flowers from the garden and freeze them in ice-cubes for decoration, and prepare slivers of citrus peel for added flavour and style.

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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