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 1 – Janare Colle di Tilio Fiano

colle_di_tilio2012 Janare Colle di Tilio
Fiano Sannio D.O.C./D.O.P.
Campania, Italy
This rather confusingly, but elegantly, labelled wine was a great find as it is utterly delicious, effortlessly classy and goes with fish perfectly.

It is made by La Guardiense which is a large cooperative in Italy’s Campania region, Benevento in fact, where a great many exciting wines seem to be made – read about more here. Their main label is the stylishly packaged Janare range whose aim is to protect the local grapes – especially the wonderful Falanghina and Aglianico and to perfect modern style wines made from them. The Janare Cru range of wines, of which this wine is part, come from specific places so are more terroir wines than varietal wines.

wine map of southern Italy - click for a larger view

wine map of southern Italy – click for a larger view

Fiano is a wonderful grape that comes from Campania and it usually offers nice weight and roundness, even some waxy characters as well as lovely aromatics, often with a honeyed and floral quality. Apparently Fiano was originally called Vitis Apiana, which means vine beloved of bees. The grape is traditionally famous for producing Fiano di Avellino D.O.C./D.O.P. wines, well Sannio is just 12 km or so to the north of there and shares similarly volcanic soils to produce enticingly mineral, yet rich wines.

It is unusual for me to be confused by a wine, but none of the terms on the label are explained at all, so if I had not known that Fiano was a grape I would have really been struggling. So, it needed bit of decoding, Colle di Tilio is an area in Sannio which was a historical and geographical region of Italy, inhabited  by people known as the Samnites in Roman times. Today it is the region around Benevento in Campania. As the wine is made in Sannio from Fiano it is a Fiano Sannio D.O.C – D.O.P. in the modern parlance.

None of which matters at all. All that is important is, do I like and do I think you will?

Well, yes, I do like, enjoy and admire this wine – I think it’s really rather fine.

The nose is aromatic, floral and lemony with lemon pith herbs and enticing stony mineral notes together with that touch of honey so beloved of bees.
Actually it smells like a being in a garden in the Mediterranean in summer.
The palate gives a wonderful combination of crisp mineralality, lively, bracing acidity and some texture, rich lemony fruit which means it has poise, elegance, richness and a bracing quality, all of which makes it dry, medium-bodied and full-flavoured.

All that means balance, finesse and elegance and it is a lovely dry white wine and quite superb with a bit of swordfish – 89/100 points.

Which brings me to where you can buy it:

The Wine Society stock it for the stunning low price of £8.95 – hence the high mark.

If you are not a member of the Wine Society then Jeroboams sell it for £12.50 per bottle, which is still well worth it.

I hope you like this new Wine Of the Week feature, let me know? I will try and publish a weekly post about anything interesting that has come my way, please leave a comment.

 

 

In Praise of Larger Bottles


Champagne vineyards in the Marne valley

The other day I really had to pinch myself. I was sure that I was dreaming, but no I really did have the opportunity to taste four different vintages of Champagne Perrier Jouët’s Belle Époque – what is more they were from jeroboams, equivalent to 4 bottles each. Continue reading

Specialist Jeroboam ageing machine that cost €1

I enjoy looking at cellar equipment and I loved this at Pago de Tharsys, a piece of specialist equipment to age their jeroboams of Cava.

It does the job brilliantly and yet only cost them a Euro – actually they have 2, so it was €2 well spent as the finished wine is very good indeed!

CIMG0514