Last week, one lovely reader asked about gin. She’d walked into a bar, ordered a gin & tonic, was asked which gin and panicked. So, her question: is there really that much of a difference apart from the price tag? Answer: the basic recipe is the same i.e. neutral base spirit with added botanicals. But it’s the particular botanicals used that make a big difference to the end result. To be called gin, one of the main botanical ingredients must be juniper (smells a bit like pine) but the rest is up to the producer. Which is why you’ll find citrusy gins, floral gins, spicy gins, juniper-heavy gins…and that’s before we get into sloe gins, flavoured gins and barrel-aged gins. The trick is to experiment, find your preferred style and get stuck in. I seem to change my gin preference according to the weather: lighter styles in summer, weightier in winter. So, with more snow potentially on the way I’m currently on the aged gin (see this week’s reviews below for more details).
As for the tonic, I know it’s not for everyone but I’ve just topped up on a homeopathic remedy. After a free trial I’m now on my second bespoke bottle. Seriously no idea how it works but I’m feeling decidedly kickass and definitely sleeping better. And I promise that’s nothing to do with the aged gin.
Current sparkling in the fridge: Tesco Finest 1531 Blanquette de Limoux
Price: £9.00 - Buy From Tesco
From the Limoux region in southern France, Blanquette de Limoux claims to be France’s oldest sparkling wine. It’s made in the traditional method, getting its fizz via a second fermentation in the bottle (just like champagne). Made from local grape Mauzac, along with some Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, this one’s all apples and pears. And bubbles, obviously. Much drier than Prosecco, too. Properly refreshing.
Current red in the rack: Veramonte Carmenere
Price: £7.99 - Buy From Ocado
Currently with £3 off the normal price*, this is a beautifully made, oak aged red wine that tastes far smarter than its £8 price tag. Made from the grippy Carmenere grape grown in Chile’s Colchagua region, its rough edges have been smoothed out after spending eight months ageing in barrels. Think Bordeaux, but warmer. (*Get in quick, price goes back up in five days’ time).
Current gin on the side: Elephant Aged Gin
Price: £49.95 - Buy From Master of Malt
This is the aged gin I was going on about, new from Elephant Gin. (Just so you know, 15% of profits go to elephant conservation. I love that). Anyway this is, rather fittingly, a big beast. Ageing the gin in oak adds weight and flavour, especially spice and vanilla. I tried it over ice, as suggested. It nearly took my head off. To be honest, I preferred it mixed with a small slug of tonic. Expensive, but a real treat.