Gin reviews: Here’s eight gins to pour with a clunk of ice (but not all at once)

gin and tonic gin reviews

I thoroughly enjoy the chemistry between a gin and a tonic and I bet you do too. Here’s some gins that get a tick from me.

Memories of baking and pies

Mrs Cuthbert’s Parma Violet Cupcake (RRP £13.99, for 50cl, Amazon) is one of a new range of baking-themed gin liqueurs.

They were inspired by the founder’s late Auntie Dorothy – a.k.a. Mrs Cuthbert. She was a baker in the 40s and 50s and also a big fan of gin.

Included in the range are Mrs Cuthbert’s Rhubarb & Custard Crumble, Mrs Cuthbert’s Lemon Drizzle and Mrs Cuthbert’s Cherry Bakewell. Yummie!

The liqueur I tried is a lovely rich violet colour. It is distilled with six botanicals including citrus and star anise. The nose is cake-like, sweet and perfumed, with hums of vanilla and violet.

Pour it with tonic, or create a violet treat by topping it up with prosecco. I preferred it neat, with a cube of ice.

I was chatting with a pal the other day and we said that gooseberries were a distant memory. When I was growing up gooseberry pie was “a thing”. Maybe it still is but that passes me by.

A day after that chat I read about the new Slingsby Gooseberry Gin (£39.99, spiritofharrogate.co.uk and World Duty Free shops).

The Slingsby creators were inspired by New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc after visiting the country.  They wanted to “develop a gin that encapsulated the tangy sharpness of the gooseberry”.

Did they succeed? There’s a lightness of gooseberry, nettles, citrus and woodland in the rain. I  dipped in my nose again and sensed a subtlety of orange peel. The flavours are crisp with green fruit and citrus, and are tangy and fresh.

Pretty in pink

If you’re looking for the prettiest of bottles then the City of London Distillery Rhubarb & Rose Gin (£34.99, Sainsbury) ticks the box. The embossed glass is shouting out to have one of those fairy light attachments.  Then, in a future life,  the bottle will sparkle and shine when the gin is but a memory.

This gin reflects our love affair with the classic British rhubarb and roses. This pairing brings a cloud of subtle aromas notes  at the top of the glass, as juniper takes the lead role. Floral notes of an English garden rose peep in. The fruit  of rhubarb isn’t far behind. It is pretty. It is pretty moreish.

Another pink delight is Whitley Neill Pink Grapefruit Gin (RRP £20, exclusively at Asda). I’m told this gin is inspired by the citrus groves of Spain. It is infused with Iberian Pink Grapefruit. Other botanicals include orange, lemon peel, lime flowers, cloves and chamomile.

Whitley Neill gin creations are loved by many. I can see this one being much the same. It has an enticing sweet citrus nose which follows through on to the palate. I served it with a plain tonic and it was a fresh, relaxing glass at the end of a long day.

Botanicals are the thing

Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin (£34.95, thewhiskyexchange.com) has a thumbs-up in my household.  It is created in Rampur Distillery in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The producers chose seven 11 botanicals to represent several regions of India. These include coriander, vetiver, orange peel and even Darjeeling green tea leaves.

The aroma of Jaisalmer (pronounced jess-al-meer) is complex, but juniper shines through, This gives the gin a traditional backbone. It softens and oozes delight served with tonic and ice.

I was interested to read that Wiltshire’s Single Estate Ramsbury Gin (£31.95, 31dover.com) is created within a mini ecosystem.

A biomass boiler generates the heat to distill the spirit. This boiler is fed by trees from Ramsbury’s forest. A wildlife habitat is created by waste water filtering through a reed bed.  Then Ramsbury’s livestock are fed bi-products.

Sip this gin and you’ll know you’re doing the earth a favour.

The gin is distilled with nine botanicals, including fresh quince. It is an elegant, smooth gin. Those quince notes are balanced within a fresh, citrus nose. The flavour is moreish with spice and the ever-present juniper.

Tradition and fruit bombs

Over in Asda, Extra Special Triple Distilled Premium Gin (£16) is at the heart of the retailer’s gin liqueurs. The gin came third in a Which? blind-tasting of gins under £20.  You don’t really need me to add anything. But you know I will.
It is fresh, crisp and as precise as a crystal cut glass and makes a tasty traditional gin and tonic.

The Infusionist Passion Fruit Gin Liqueur (£9.99, 50cl, Aldi) is a lush affair.  The aromas are an indulgent fruit bomb of tropical fruit. It’s such a wow on the nose, you can easily forget to sip it.

 The richness of the fruit is offset by a slash of acidity and the strength of the alcohol. It doesn’t need tonic, just pour it over a couple of chunks of ice. If you’re feeling fizztastic, top it up with some prosecco.

Aldi will be releasing a whole new range of these gin liqueurs from April 26 2019, including Parma Violet Shimmer Gin, Coconut & Vanilla Rum Liqueur, Mango, Papaya & Yuzu Vodka Liqueur and Rhubarb, Pink Grapefruit & Black Pepper Gin Liqueur.

Chin. Chin.

International Women’s Day: I speak to Nyetimber’s winemaker Cherie Spriggs

Cherie Spriggs, Head Winemaker of Nyetimber in the Nyetimber vineyard - International Women's Day

Nyetimber’s head winemaker Cherie Spriggs, won the 2018 International Wine Challenge Sparkling Winemaker of the Year. Now that’s a big thing. It’s the first time the award has gone outside the Champagne region.

Here I am bigging up Cherie not just because of the award’s kudos, but because on March 8th 2019 International Women’s Day is being marked around the world. I wanted to find out more about Cherie’s wine journey.

She agreed to exclusively answer my questions, to share her love of winemaking, for International Women’s Day.


How winemaker Cherie Spriggs began her wine journey

Cherie was born and raised in Canada and she told me: “My interest began during my biochemistry degree, when I met my now husband Brad and his parents introduced us to the joy of wine.

“They used to have this tradition on Friday evenings where they would take the phone off the hook, sit down together, and open a nice bottle of wine.”

Cherie went on to complete a master’s degree at the Wine Research Centre in Vancouver and then qualified as an oenologist in Australia.

Says Cherie: “Working as a winemaker gives me the wonderful opportunity to blend my love of science with the creative aspects which are so important to the production of exceptional sparkling wine.”

Brad (also a winemaker) and Cherie contacted Nyetimber “to apply for their dream jobs” and they’ve worked there ever since.

Video: Cherie Spriggs and husband Brad Greatrix

Joy at winning IWC Sparkling winemaker award

Cherie says she was “overwhelmingly flattered” to win the award.

She says: “To win and be given recognition was truly an honour. The win was for everyone that works at Nyetimber, who day after day provide inspiration, as well as endless passion, drive and commitment to exceed expectations, all in the pursuit of perfection.

“It was not only a great achievement for Nyetimber, but also gives an indication on the direction this industry is headed in.”

Cherie Spriggs, Head Winemaker of Nyetimber International Women's Day
Cherie Spriggs, Head Winemaker at Nyetimber

She continues: “We should all be proud that England was the first country in the world to take this award from Champagne. It also represented the first time ever a woman has won the award, and I’m very proud of that too.”

Does it make a difference to be a woman winemaker in the industry?

Says Cherie: “The only time I think about being a woman in the wine industry is when people ask.

“It’s true that the old-world winemaking countries have traditionally had many more men than women, but in the new world winemaking regions there are a variety of female winemakers and while perhaps this isn’t balanced yet it’s certainly heading in the right direction.

“I’m working in an industry that ultimately the goal is about making something for joy, for pleasure, for celebration.

“That’s why I do what I do.”e challenges of making sparkling wine in England?

Nyetimber creates wines from grapes grown across Sussex, Hampshire and Kent and has been at the forefront of the English sparkling wine advance on the wine world,

The area, says Cherie, is “ideal for producing sparkling wine, sharing many characteristics with some of the best sparkling wine vineyards around the world”.

Explains Cherie: “Climate variability is probably the main challenge of making wine in England.

“We have to deal with complications such as warmer than average winters or seasonal frosts in spring that can affect the growing cycle of our vines, however a lot of work goes in to being able to react quickly to these adverse conditions in order to protect the quality of our harvest as much as possible.

Cherie Spriggs, Head Winemaker Nyetimber
Cherie Spriggs, award-winning maker of English sparkling

“No matter the challenge that the English climate may pose, we do not compromise on quality.

“We didn’t produce any wine from the 2012 vintage as it was too cold and wet for the grapes to ripen and develop the flavours we require to make world-class sparkling wine.

“This decision was a difficult one, not just for me but for our whole team, however we all knew that quality was and is paramount. 

“My first obligation as Head Winemaker is to ensure the continued quality of Nyetimber’s wines, and we came to the decision that the grapes from 2012 could not deliver the standards we had achieved previously and have in the years following this.”

English sparkling wines are getting better and better

Says Cherie: “The south of England, and the Nyetimber vineyards across Sussex, Hampshire and Kent, are ideal for producing sparkling wine, sharing many characteristics with some of the best sparkling wine vineyards around the world.

“Greensand or chalk soils in each of our nine sites allow our vines to flourish, and the cooler climate allows for the slow ripening of our grapes, letting us achieve the optimum levels of ripeness and acidity, as well as the complexity and finesse for which Nyetimber wines are renowned.”


Try Cherie’s wines …

The other day I was at a tasting run by wholesaler Liberty Wines. The sparkling wine which floated my boat more than any other was Nyetimber Rosé MV  (£44.99 or £30.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic. At Waitrose, it is £29.99, down from £39.99, until March 19.)

Nyetimber Rosé MV -Cherie Spriggs - International Womens Day

As well as the rosé (which I love, and Cherie describes as a sophisticated expression of red fruit) you can find Nyetimber Classic Cuvee MV (£38.99 or £34.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic, or £34.99 at Waitrose).

Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2013 (RRP £45.99) will soon be available in Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Lea and Sandeman


Go to internationalwomensday.com to follow updates, and nyetimber.com for more on Cherie’s thoughts on her winemaking philosophy.