Spitfire Heritage Gin leads sky-high nationwide toast on Armed Forces Day

Spitfire Heritage Gin Rhubarb Patrol Armed Forces Day Liverpool

This time last year I shared news of a new gin, Spitfire Heritage Gin in an exclusive “look out for this” kind of way just before it went on sale in Wine Rack. I mention it again because two things have happened.

Number 1 Thing: Spitfire’s distillers have now brought out a new vodka – Supermarine Vodka (RRP £45, www.spitfireheritagedistillers.com) which is named after the company that created the Spitfire. The vodka – which is the base of the gin before the botanicals are added –  is getting rave reviews.

My exclusive tasting revealed a vodka which is soft, lusciously creamy, rich, balanced and laced with vanilla. I sipped on its own with chunks of ice. You don’t need anything else.

Number 2 Thing: Spitfire Heritage Gin (also RRP £45 from Wine Rack shops – and now in-store and online at Harrods) supports the Spitfire Heritage Trust and I was invited to a cross-country Armed Forces Day toast on June 24 as tribute to our servicemen and women.

The historic Sky Toast began at the 34th floor of a restaurant in Liverpool, the Panoramic, when Susan Morgan MBE, the Royal Navy’s longest-serving female sailor,  raised a glass with guests. It was a special day for Liverpool, with the city hosting The National Event.

Susan Morgan and David Beaufort-Dysart Spitfire Heritage sky toast
Susan Morgan and Panoramic34’s general manager David Beaufort-Dysart

The toast then rolled down to Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse and Bar in Birmingham where Bridget Donaldson, who has won the RAF Cadets’ most prestigious award, the Dacre Brooch, picked up the celebratory baton.

Finally, at the Coca Cola London Eye, Ian Hewitt, Spitfire Heritage Gin co-owner and founder, introduced Dame Mary Richardson. Dame Mary is patron of The Spitfire Heritage Trust and she raised the toast as a London Eye capsule soared upwards.

Across the country people raised a glass and in Liverpool we were lucky enough to enjoy a gin cocktail (or two).  The Panoramic had created a special cocktail to mark the occasion – The Rhubarb Patrol. This is so named for the strafing sorties carried out by Spitfires over France in the war.

Very nice it was too; a special creation using rhubarb puree,  rhubarb bitters, egg white, Grenadine, sours, sugar and Spitfire Hertage Gin.   It was amazing to sip this cocktail and look out at the wonderful city of Liverpool and the World Heritage Three Graces beneath us. The gin itself uses botanicals as a tribute to wartime pilots; borage (for courage), rosemary (for remembrance), English rose petals (for the flowers of Britain who flew so bravely) and blood orange.

Over at Marco Pierre White’s another special cocktail had been created – The Spitfire Clover Club – using 25ml Spitfire Heritage Gin, 15ml lemon juice, 15ml raspberry syrup and an egg white.

It was a spirit-raising day in more ways than one.

FLASHBACK: Spitfire Heritage Gin takes British icon to new heights

It rained the day I went to Chatsworth but at least I found some wines for summer

Chatsworth summer beans

I haven’t worked out what the weather is supposed to be doing as one minute I’m absolutely roasting, and the next the dog refuses to go out because of the rain. In that spirit of confusion, here’s some white and red wines for summer which can be flexible for a barbecue or offer a hug as you stare at a downpour.

Whites for a summer’s afternoon (sunny or not)

I popped over to the  RHS Chatsworth Flower Show  where Villa Maria Wines were showcasing the very good eco-friendly, sustainable work they are doing back in their New Zealand vineyards. Here’s a handful of pictures … and don’t you just love the beans at the top of this post?! (They’re nothing to do with wine or Villa Maria – but I spotted them at Chatsworth and love them.)

There was an extra bonus as Villa Maria were serving little tasters of their wines. Well you know, I couldn’t say no. Here’s three of them.

Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2016 (£7.99 in a buy six price, or £10.49 per single bottle, Majestic, 12% abv) is a straw colour with floral notes of spring blossom and freesia, with pear apple and lime; the acidity is good and refreshing and it lifts along flavours of pineapple and juicy lime. Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Grigio 2016 (Waitrose, £10.99, 13% abv) has red apple on the nose, pear and stone fruit, and is soft and supple in the mouth with flavours of ripe apples and pears and a flash of cinnamon. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough (£8.61 in a buy six price or £11.49 per single bottle, Majestic, 13% abv) This has reflections of  gooseberries and sorrel together with good acidity. A friend who was with me said “it is quite winey”. Enough said, you don’t need me.

I had to show you this picture from Chatsworth. I said to my friend, ooo look, a sheep.  IT’S A COW she said. Bottoms Up.

Bottoms up Chatsworth Garden Festival

Two barbecue (or rainy day) reds

Santa Rita National Gallery Series Pinot Noir 2016 (£8.50, Sainsbury’s 13.5% abv) is one of a special release of wines from Chilean wine producer Vina Santa Rita. The National Gallery wines (which also include sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot) will use images from the gallery on their labels over the next three years. The pinot noir label depicts Camille Pissarro’s ‘The Boulevard Montmartre at Night’.

This wine has aromas of fresh raspberries and strawberries squished into a summer pudding, with spice and vanilla taking the lead on the palate, with the fruit saying I’m here!! Don’t forget me!!  A percentage of the profits of each bottle will go to the National Gallery.

Domaine Jones Grenache Noir 2014 Côtes Catalanes (£12.50, The Wine Society 14.5% abv)  Rich plums and hedgerow fruit can deliver a cuddle if  the summer forgets to make an appearance. The wine adds in a shake of spice, a grip of tannin and oh, if I must contribute I’ll cook a steak with a peppery sauce (no cream, mind) and I’ll then forgive the sun for not shining.

A Gin Makeover

In this day of craft gins and all kinds of hullabaloo around the gin industry then perhaps Greenall’s Gin has felt the time is right to shout about its roots. Greenall’s Gin (RRP £21 a litre, widely available) was created by Thomas Dakin in 1761 and the brand has now released a new bottle inspired by those available 250 years ago. It has 1761 embossed on the neck, together with a Greenalls crest. If you serve the gin simply with two slices of lime, and tonic, and lots of ice, then what’s not to like.

*Prices correct when published – June 2017 – in over 20 Trinity Mirror regional newspapers including:

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express