Gin tasting is right up my street. And I needed help getting back.

Gin tasting Dace Crosby

I’m very lucky in lots of ways.

I have nice friends who sometimes ask me to join them at  tastings of delicious alcoholic things poured into glasses. I’m generally in a rush to get there and not in a rush to leave.

Pals asked me to meet them at Dace Tearooms in Crosby for a gin tasting. Dace is  just a little walk away from where I live, so all was good on the arrival front. But it was a little bit of a struggle activating the legs on the departure front and I needed a lift home.

That’s what comes of sipping gin in its many variations, alongside the ample amount of mixers and fruit “dippings” proprietor Chris Dace provided to enhance the six gins on offer.

Gin tasting: The menu

Here’s the six gins in the order they were tasted. I’ve followed Chris’ botanical notes from the night, found links and indicated prices which I’ve Googled from  t’Interweb.
Oh, and there’s a comment or two from tasters overheard nearby.

spitfire heritage gin Dace gin tastingSpitfire Heritage Gin

Botanicals: Juniper, two types of orange,  almonds, borage, coriander, rosemary, star anise, rose petals
Our thoughts: Aromas of almond oil  and oranges; earthy and interesting.
Price: mid-£40s
(includes Wine Rack stores and Master of Malt)
www.spitfireheritagegin.com

Ish London Dry GInIsh London Dry Gin

Botanicals: Juniper, angelica root, coriander, orris root, orange peel, nutmeg, cassia bark, liquorice, cinnamon, lemon peel.
Our thoughts: Well it was -ish. Mizzled wet slate slabs from the Lake District.
(I don’t make these things up, honest)
Price: I’ve found from mid-£20s to mid-£30s
(includes The Drink Shop)
www.ishgin.com

Hunters Cheshire Gin Dace gin tastingHunters Premium Cheshire Gin

Botanicals: Juniper,  orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, apples, lemon peel, coriander seeds.
Our thoughts: Eerm, not sure how to say this, but Shake n Vac?  (not my comment!)  A bit of tannin too. And quity spicy.
Price: I’ve found from mid-£20s to mid-£30s
(includes Master of Malt)
www.huntersgin.com

pickerings-original-1947-ginPickerings Original 1947 Gin

Botanicals: Juniper, cardamom, coriander, clove, cinnamon, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime.
Our thoughts: Ooo aniseed. That would be from the fennel and anise then??
Price: Around £29
(includes 31Dover.com)
www.pickeringsgin.com

ormskirk-ginOrmskirk Gin

Botanicals: Juniper, coriander, ginger, orris root, lemon peel, angelica, cardamom, cassia.
Our thoughts: Ginger on the front foot here with citrus as a curve ball.
Price: Around £39.50
mygin.co.uk

Ungava Canadian Gin Ungava Canadian Premium Gin

Botanicals: Nordic juniper, wild rosehips, cloudberry, crowberry, arctic blend, Labrador tea, (and secret ingredients!)
Our thoughts: We liked this one.  Flowers and fruit making a statement and some complexity.
Price: Around £29 – £32.
(includes Shop4Whisky.com)
www.ungava-gin.com

The gin tasting venue

A nod to Chris for being an informative host on the evening. Chris worked at Formby Golf Club as house manager and while there, he completed his WSET intermediate and diploma courses.
He opened Dace Tearooms (132-134 College Road) with his wife in February 2014.
Chris runs a monthly wine tasting and every two months or so, he hosts a gin tasting.

Upcoming 2016 dates include:
Malbec wine tasting Sept 30
Rum tasting October 14
Gin tasting November 4

Contact Chris at 0151 924 9185, or check out the tea room Facebook page – follow them on Twitter @dacecrosby  – or Instagram  @dace_tearoom

Watch this and you’ll crave a G&T …..

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Spitfire Heritage Gin takes spirit of icon to soar to new heights

Spitfire Heritage Gin

There’s a new gin on the block, Spitfire Heritage Gin. Yeh, right, you say. There’s new gins created every day.  A butterfly flutters its wings somewhere in the world and lo! there’s a new gin.

There’s certainly wings involved in this new single estate botanical gin as it is inspired by the wartime terrier of the skies … the Spitfire.

Judging by first impressions it could soar to dizzy heights.

Spitfire Heritage Gin is the brainchild of Lancastrian Ian Hewitt, a designer by trade and inspirational by nature.  Just four months ago, Christmas 2015, he and his wife Sarah began to tease out an idea of creating a new gin with the spirit of the Spitfire at its heart.

You might think they had their heads in the clouds, but a few weeks later a master distiller has created the gin; wartime-retro branding has been designed and printed; and best of all, Spitfire Heritage Gin has won a UK and international distributor and is to be sold by Wine Rack (RRP £45).

Wine Rack’s Head of Retail Operations, Haydn Hicks says of the gin: “A fantastic product and a great story that sells itself within the British psyche. An iconic brand that I believe will set new precedents in the industry.”

Pretty amazing.   And it all began with a book.

Ian, from Mawdesley, wrote a story for his own children,  the Ghost of Cameron Crowe, about a granddad who has a Spitfire hidden in his shed.

The Ghost of Cameron Crow -Spitfire Heritage Gin
The Ghost of Cameron Crow

When Ian decided to publish he checked technical details with Spitfire expert David Spencer Evans. That began a connection which saw them launch the Spitfire Heritage Trust and years later, with the Spitfire at its heart, it is helping communities and young people both in the UK and in Africa.

Through his work with the trust Ian has realised that the Spitfire is an icon which both resonates and motivates people across the world and all generations.

He told me: “A Spitfire is a very special thing. It hasn’t been tainted like the Union Jack, the flag of St George or the British Bulldog.

“People talk about 1966 and they go ooohhh aaahh, that was amazing when England won the Cup. But when the Spitfire won the  Battle of Britain, they didn’t win a cup. They won this nation’s right to continue under its own identity. That’s a bit more than a cup. And that’s why people still go glassy-eyed.”

The Spitfire is a very powerful brand and Ian asked himself what was the “quintessential English product” he could pin that to. His instinct was gin.

Spitfire Heritage Gin Ian Hewitt
Ian Hewitt

So began his journey to create Spitfire Heritage Gin but Ian wanted to do the Spitfire justice.

Says Ian:  “You can’t pay tribute to the Spitfire with a mediocre gin. That wouldn’t feel right. It would have a limited lifespan and would just be an all-right gin with a cool label. I didn’t want that. I wanted a top gin with a cool label.

“The Spitfire allows you to punch higher than your weight.  I started looking around to see who was making the best gin and was introduced to John Walters.”

John is an award-winning single estate distiller.  He was a geneticist and developed a wheat suited to the distilling industry.  He now grows wheat, harvests it, and distills it in Cambridgeshire.

Ian shared his vision with John.  He wanted a gin which harnessed the spirit of the 30s, a retro gin which would also represent the heritage of the Spitfire.

Distiller John embraced that vision and on February 29, Leap Year’s Day,  Ian and Sarah took their own leap into the future by tasting the new gin expression created by John. Botanicals include juniper, two types of orange, almonds and borage alongside coriander, rosemary, star anise and rose petals.

They loved it. Their dream was finally taking off.

The next step in the Spitfire Heritage Gin journey was the labelling and marketing. They brought in another partner Denise France, and the Hewitts turned to French artist Romain Hugault whose passion is aviation illustration.

Says Ian: “I commissioned him to come up with a character and Bunny was created. She’s an Air Transport Auxiliary girl – the  ATA girls delivered newly-built unarmed Spitfires by flying them to the wartime airbases, knowing that Messerschmitts were out there hunting Spitfires. They were amazing women.”

Spitfire Heritage Gin
Spitfire Heritage Gin

Bunny is Spitfire Heritage Gin’s launch label and over time Romaine will create more labels, and  in themselves they could become collectable.

Now then, down to business, what of the Spitfire Heritage Gin?

I sipped it with Ian, Sarah and Denise; and Ian was taking no prisoners. He asked us to start by tasting it neat.

He explained why. “I want to encourage people to start drinking gin with the reverence you assign to a whisky. This is delicious – there’s not many gins on the market that can stand to be drunk as pure as this.”

Ian is right. The gin is soft on the nose, an enticing citrus bomb within a liquorice cloud. Orange takes centre stage; my senses were pulled from memories of  Southern Comfort to Cointreau; to the orange tease you find inside some Christmas puddings. Natural borage oil helps to distribute the botanicals through the gin, so there isn’t a soapy, chemical “linger” on the nose which you can get from some gins.

Spitfire Heritage Gin
A twizzle of rosemary in Spitfire Heritage Gin

There’s a seek-me-out underlying citrus vibe in the mouth and when you stir the gin with a twig of rosemary, the herb notes tickle to life and rise in the glass, as if you’ve just brushed against them in a herb garden. The texture on the tastebuds is soft, velvety, with a  creamy nut-feel.

Sarah Hewitt is very happy. She says simply: “I love gin, it’s the best gin I’ve ever tasted. This has been such a short quick journey but  I feel proud. Very, very proud and delighted.”


Follow updates from Spitfire Heritage Gin via its Facebook page here or on www.spitfireheritagegin.com
Learn more about the Spitfire Heritage Trust and the work it is doing to support communities in Lesotho and the UK here.
Distributer is Hammonds of Knutsford