AN INTRODUCTION TO DRY GIN
From its beginnings bestowing bravery on Holland's soldiers during the Hundred Years War (a possible origin of the phrase 'Dutch Courage') to its vast popularity in the cocktail bars and garden parties of the present day, gin has had a chequered history. For centuries juniper - the berry used to give gin its distinctive flavour - has been held responsible for any number of health benefits, from improving the memory to warding off the Black Death! It's not all good news though - during the seventeenth century, England's annual consumption of the juniper-based spirit reached a liver-wrenching gallon per person - and that includes the kids! Today we value quality over quantity, and our national spirit provides endless possibilities for innovative distillers.
Gin takes its signature flavour from the juniper berry - a dark-skinned fruit whose fifty species find their homes in soils as far flung as those in the Himalayas, Central America, and South Africa.
This aromatic berry has a long history of use in warding off disease and cultivating good health (as I'm sure many of us who indulge in the odd 'medicinal' gin and tonic will attest!), having been used for purposes as various as aiding childbirth, preventing the Black Death, rubbing on the genitals as a contraceptive, and even as a tool for improving the memory!
Over time, these medicines grew in popularity and in Holland found a new guise as the spirit Genever - a kind of proto-gin made from juniper-infused distilled wine. The legend goes that Dutch soldiers were given a daily dose of their national spirit, which instilled them with a fortitude and bravery that astonished their English allies, and gave rise to the term 'Dutch Courage'.
TO SAY THAT ENGLAND TOOK TO GIN WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT IN THE LEAST...
The spirit swept its way through the nation, leaving a trail of addiction and destruction in its wake. London was the heart of the problem during the 'Gin Years' during which consumption reached an annual gallon per man, woman and child! The English were drinking so much gin that there were fears that bakers would not find the grain they needed to make their bread, as it was all being swept up by the many - mostly illegal - distilleries throughout the capital. Added to the spirit to make these bootleg gins could be juniper, sugar, turpentine and even sulphuric acid!
Hogarth's Gin Lane etching on the left, created between 1750-1751, depicts this period in time.
COTSWOLD LONDON DRY GIN
We've always been proud of our local heritage here at the Oxford Wine Company, and the Cotswold Distillery have given us one more good reason with their Cotswold Dry Gin - voted Best London Dry Gin in the 2016 World Gin Awards! The spirit is based on the classic London Dry recipe of juniper, coriander and angelica root, but is given a unique Cotswold twist with the addition of lavender and bay, black pepper and cardamom. Before release the gin is finished with naturally refined Cotswold spring water. Try a measure of this in your next gin and tonic, preferably against the backdrop of the beautiful Cotswold countryside. A good reason to shop local if ever we heard one!
COTSWOLDS LONDON DRY GIN BOTANICALS
BOXER DRY GIN
Distilled from the finest grain the East of England has to offer, and given its aromatics by a 108-year-old copper pot still named Angela, Boxer is a real mix of time-honoured technique and modern innovative thinking. The initial process used to create Boxer follows the classic London Dry process, fixing the aromas of juniper, bergamot, sweet lemon, Seville orange, angelica (and many more!) to the base spirit. What makes Boxer different, though, is the last, unique step in the recipe. Fresh, wild juniper is steamed at source in the Himalayas to extract its essential oil and added to the gin, alongside a raw, citrus bergamot oil. This variation to the classic London Dry formula adds a vibrancy, clarity and freshness to the spirit, making for a truly invigorating G&T!
BOXER DRY GIN BOTANICALS
SAFFRON DRY GIN
From a recipe discovered in the archives of Dijon's best known distillery - Maison Boudier - comes Saffron Gin. Its striking orange hue comes from the addition of the world's most expensive spice, harvested from the stamen of the crocus flower. An unbelievable 150,000 flowers and 40 hours of manual labour are needed to produce just one kilogram of the crimson-coloured seasoning! Other botanicals used are the essential juniper, alongside coriander, lemon, orange peel and more. This gin makes a delicious and exotic alternative to the traditional gin and tonic, served over ice with a slice of orange.
SAFFRON DRY GIN BOTANICALS
No.3 LONDON DRY GIN
Named after the original premises of its creators and the oldest wine merchant in the country - Berry Bros. & Rudd; No. 3 London Dry Gin is an unashamed celebration of the traditional London Dry recipe. Made using just six key botanicals - the three fruits of juniper, orange and grapefruit - and the three spices of angelica root, coriander seed and cardamom, and produced at a 300-year-old Dutch distillery, No. 3 was created to provide a truly traditional taste. And proving that three really is the magic number, this gin has gone on to win the trophy at the International Spirits Competition a total of - yes, you guessed it - three times!