A Fine Gin & Tonic – the Perfect Summer Drink

A bottle of Duck and Crutch together with some of the botanicals used to make it.

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.

George in the shed with Agnes in the background…

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.

George preparing the botanicals for Duck and Crutch gin.

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?

 

Duck and Crutch gin is available from Jeroboams, Harvey Nichols, Gin Kiosk, Craftr and from Duck and Crutch themselves.

 

Wine of the Week 69 – a sumptuous red for winter

Winter seems to be in the air, so my thoughts are turning to red wine again.  I am still hoping for a late Indian Summer though, which would give me a chance to get out some of the mouthwatering white wines that are sitting in the rack looking up at me expectantly.

Regular readers will know of my love and fascination with all things Iberian and Spanish – especially the wines. Recently I presented a tasting of the less usual wines of Spain and everything I showed went down very well. Indeed a couple of the wines have already been Wines of the Week and they are really good – click here and here.

Many of you will know about Priorat, one of Spain’s – and the world’s – greatest wine region and certainly one of the most expensive. This amazing, rugged landscape specialises in producing richly mineral red wines that are usually made from blends based on Grenache, or Garnacha as the Spanish call it and Garnatxa as the Catalans call it. A few of the red wines are Carignan  / Cariñena / Samsó dominated blends, while a small number of producers craft superb white wines from grapes like Garnacha Blanca and Macabeo, as well as Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.

Wine map of Spain, see Montsant in the north east - click for a larger view

Wine map of Spain, see Montsant in the north east – click for a larger view

Priorat is one of only two regions to hold Spain’s highest classification, Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) – it is Denominació d’Origen Qualificada or DOQ in Catalan. The only other region to have this so far is Rioja.

Priorat is tiny and the wines expensive, but luckily for us it is almost completely surrounded by another wonderful wine region – Montsant. This region is only a relatively humble DO or Denominación de Origen – but then so is Ribera del Duero – but it can produce wines of real quality. Recently I tasted a superb Montsant, that was so good I showed it at my tasting and everyone loved it so much that I decided to make it my Wine of the Week.

Montsant's rugged, but beautiful landscape.

The Joan d’Anguera estate in Montsant’s rugged, but beautiful landscape.

Joan and Josep Anguera.

Joan and Josep Anguera.

Planella2012 Planella Montsant
Joan d’Anguera
D.O. Montsant
Catalunya, Spain

The story here is an old and familiar one, the d’Anguera family have farmed these wild hillsides for centuries, scratching a living by providing grapes for the cooperative. However in the 1970s Josep d’Anguera decided to get more ambitious, perhaps he was influenced by the Priorate pioneers, or perhaps he just realised the potential of his land, but he planted Syrah and that had a really positive effect on his wines. It certainly made them easier to sell, but also tamed and softened the more rustic grapes in the blends, although now they are reducing the amount of Syrah in their blends in favour of the traditional local grapes. Today the estate is run by Josep’s sons, Josep and Joan and they too are forward thinking and ambitious and from 2008 to 2012 they were in conversion to biodynamic viticulture – 2012 was their first biodynamic vintage.

50% Cariñena / Samsó / Carignan, 45% Syrah and 5% Garnacha / Garnatxa / Grenache. Fermentation in concrete vats using indigenous yeasts. Aged for 12 months in old French oak barrels.

The colour is rich and opaque, while the nose gives lifted aromas of sweet dark fruit, warming spice, wild herbs and smoke. The palate is mouth filling, mouth coating and wondrously smooth. The texture is very seductive, as is the intense ripe fruit, blackberry, mulberry and nuggets of raspberry and cherry.  Savoury, spicy, smoky characters balance the fruit, together with a light touch of spicy oak and a seam of slatey minerality. The tannins are very smooth and ripe, adding to that seductive, sumptuous feel. This is a terrific wine that will wow anyone who tastes it – 91/100 points.

This is a lovely food friendly style, try it with anything meaty or hearty, especially cassoulet, pot roasts or slow roast garlicky lamb.

Available in the UK for around £13-£16 per bottle, from James Nicholson (NI), Forest Wines, Harvey Nichols, L’Art du Vin, No 2 Pound Street, Prohibition Wines, Salusbury Wine Store, St Andrews Wine Company.
For US stockists, click here.