“I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else, I’m feeling supersonic, give me a gin and tonic”: Oasis
Gin is the scoundrel of spirits. It’s got a bad reputation: not as sophisticated as whisky, or as glamorous as vodka, but we British love it.
Londoners have a particular penchant for the spirit; so much so that gin was our first drug craze in the early 18th century, when widespread and extreme drunkenness took a grip of the capital. This Gin Craze required legislation in the form of The Gin Act of 1736, which dropped a heavy tax on gin retailers, in an attempt to curb and control production and consumption. This really pissed Londoners off; so they rioted. On the upside, the quality of the gin was substantially improved, as previously most of it had been quite dangerous, and could literally rob you of your sight, hence the expression 'blind drunk'.
Then, the British Army, and middle class on tour in India, started to drink gin and tonic (quinine) to prevent and cure malaria. The cocktail was refreshing, and began to be associated with hot climates. This made gin and tonic a fashionable drink.
However, over time, gin started to suffer from being the choice of stuffy suburban folk. This negative perception has dominated over the last few decades, lubricating a well oiled slide in sales to vodka. The large drinks companies reduced the ABV of their gins for tax purposes, with accountants muttering that no one would notice. The great ad campaigns stopped. Gin was back in the gutter: it wasn’t cool, and no one wanted to admit to drinking it anymore. Except old people, and young people who aspired to be old; a strange finding from a focus group I attended a long time ago.
Now, there’s a thriving craft gin renaissance going on, people are producing high-quality, artisan, small-batch gin. Friends of The Obsessive have launched their own brands of gin, and they’re going down rather well.
Yerburgh’s (pronounced Yar-borough) Jam Jar Gin is the creation of the lovely couple, Dan and Faye Thwaites. They have an old kitchen garden in which Faye grows a variety of produce, some of which ends up in their delicious jam. They then decided that they would start experimenting with different gin infusions with fruits and herbs from their garden. They performed their taste experiments in old jam jars. Soon, the house was covered in jars of gin, quietly infusing away.
Their objective was to create a gin that tasted like the best of a British summer. They worked with experts to develop the taste, and when they’d finally achieved that refreshing taste of raspberries and cream, they turned to crowdfunding to raise the capital to create their business. The Obsessive pledged, and received a gallon of gin in return; which is a lot of gin.
Jam Jar Gin is distilled in South London and comes in a classic Mason glass jar, which is tough, durable and re-usable. Jam Jar gin weighs in at a whopping 43% ABV. Its citric bite and long creamy finish won a Global Gin Masters Silver Medal in the super-premium category, just two months after the production of the first batch. As the jar lid label says, "make something bloody marvellous", and they have.
The other Obsessive gin is Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin.
Pat and Julie sold up their London home and moved west to an old North Devon chapel in need of restoration. Pat grew up enjoying a wealth of Indian aromatic and spiced food; flavours that are a passion for him.
Pat is an industrious bloke: he built a small smokehouse to cure fish, meat, cheese, garlic and nuts that he sold to local hotels, bars and restaurants. Then, his attention turned to infusing vodka, and then onto his favourite spirit, gin. Through trial and error, using family and friends as guinea pigs, he developed a distinctive flavoured gin. When his local landlord said, “I’d buy that and make it the house gin”, Pat decided to "give it a go". So, he bought his own copper still.
“I think we must have been through over 40 botanicals until we arrived at our select 11. Of course juniper & coriander had to make up the base, and the rest came over a period of time; adding small amounts to our base mix in varying quantities, tasting, then adding a bit more or starting all over again, until 2 years and 23 recipes later, we hit our perfect balance.”
Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin uses a combination of 11 traditional and exotic botanicals, producing complex layers of citrus and pepper notes, finely balanced with the distinct flavours of juniper and coriander. Hibiscus and kaffir lime leaves have been artfully entwined with these traditional aromatics.
The gin is filtered at every stage of the production process, and pot-distilled in their copper alembic still. It’s lovingly hand-blended, bottled and labelled by Pat and Julie, in exclusive 100 litre batches. The end product of all this hard work is a 42% ABV, smooth, full-bodied and elegant spirit.