I don’t drink many spirits as I am – strangely – a bit wimpy about alcohol. So the only spirits that I do enjoy are those that we drink long with mixers, especially Campari and …gin.
Gin is my favourite drink that isn’t wine or beer and to my mind it is utterly perfect in the late summer and into the autumn. Over the years I have tasted a great many gins, but have kept to a few brands that I like – for me gin has to be aromatic and flavoursome – and not paid too much attention to the current gin revolution I am afraid – the exact opposite of how I want people to be with wine!
So, apart from the odd taste of something new now and again, the gin revolution of recent years has passed me by – which is a shame as there are such exciting gins out there.
My new favourite gin appeared in my life entirely by chance because my sons both know one of the people who makes it. It’s called Duck and Crutch and it is the most wonderfully artisan product imaginable. George and Hollie are the passionate team who make it and the inspiration came from a distilling experience to celebrate Hollie’s 27th birthday a couple of years ago. Hence the name, as Duck and Crutch is apparently the bingo call for 27.
It seems that experience led on to experiments at home with a copper 5 litre pot still, called Bunny, lots of vodka and different botanicals. Botanicals are the things that flavour gin by being put in a pot still with the base spirit, thus infusing the finished spirit with those tastes. Juniper is, of course the most important and famous botanical.
The next step was to go commercial, but really that is hardly the right word as the whole set up is barking – even though it is actually in Kensington. For a start it is just George and Hollie doing the work and it is made in a shed. What’s more it is a tiny shed, smaller than a double bed in fact, but as with any man George thoroughly enjoys the time he spends in his shed getting the gin just right. Everything is done by hand, literally everything as the shed does not even have plumbed water.
They eventually graduated to a larger, 40 litre, copper pot still called Agnes and are now able to produce a grand total of 42 bottles at a time.
It seems that Hollie and George love Indian food and some of the inspiration for the flavours of their gin came from that passion – and it shows. They start with a neutral grain spirit and then add the standard botanicals like coriander, angelica and citrus peel, but most importantly juniper. To these they add the more exotic, signature botanicals of Darjeeling tea, Bourbon vanilla, fresh thyme, fresh lemon, walnuts, nutmeg and cardamom. You can really see the the Indian influence, which is only fitting as it was there that the very British love of Gin and Tonic started during the days of the Raj.
All this love and care has produced a gin that oozes class and distinction. It is powerfully, yet elegantly aromatic with bright citrus notes, an enticing touch of smoky tea, some floral aromas, the warming spice notes of nutmeg and a deft background character of juniper and vanilla. The exotic Darjeeling flavours dominate the finish but are nicely balanced by the cut of citrus.
I do not often drink neat gin, but I did try this and the concentration of the flavours is quite amazing. I would not want to drink much of it neat, but it was fabulous, heady but smooth and strangely moreish.
Served, as God intended, with ice, lemon and Fever-Tree tonic the aromas explode onto your senses as though reinvigorated and concentrated. The flavours become more playful and refreshing, yet they are all still there – just as when you add water to Whisky.
This is serious gin, rich, rewarding and refreshing and I recommend it most highly. What’s more Hollie created the brand and the look of the product and what a look it is. Duck and Crutch comes in a stunning bottle that is very tactile and attractive, while the label is a little work of art.
I often get upset about the state of the world right now, but a Duck and Crutch with tonic seems to calm me down and makes me think that a world with such a wonderful gin in it can’t be all that bad – can it?