Three loud cheers for the many UK gin distilleries that have started producing alcohol-based hand sanitiser for key workers – Bristol’s Psychopomp, 58 Gin in east London, Harrogate Tipple, Chase Distillery and Salcombe Gin among them. It’s great to see such ingenuity directed towards this urgent problem.
I’m still discovering new and exciting gins made in the UK. Thankfully, many of them are in the classic juniper-led style, not overwhelmingly flavoured with something weird.
In late January, I visited York Gin, founded in 2016. Co-founder Emma Godivala believes it is the first legal distillery ever established within the city boundaries; her team uses a vapour infusion technique to produce a range of well-thought-out gins.
The original York Gin, a traditional London Dry style, uses only botanicals that would have been on the 17th-century spice route to the city, such as lemon, pepper and angelica, while the York Gin Roman Fruit is a ruby-red spirit that uses fruit infusions such as strawberries, raspberries, apples and hibiscus, specific varieties of which were brought by the Romans to the UK (verified by Professor Mary Beard, who advised the distillery). It is rendered completely dry.
There’s a punchy Navy Strength at 57%, but York Gin’s Old Tom was my favourite of all – like all Old Tom gins, it is slightly sweetened with sugar syrup, in this case one made with roses and herbs for extra richness and a fuller texture. I say “was” my favourite – a new addition now has my vote. Here it is, with two other recently unearthed gems.
York Gin Grey Lady, York
Named after a ghost said to haunt York’s Theatre Royal, the new Grey Lady is a masterpiece in subtlety, with a very pale blue-grey hue, and soft, delicate notes of citrus from the bergamot found in Earl Grey tea. It’s great on the rocks.
Isle of Raasay Gin, Hebrides
The first legally distilled gin on Raasay (though history tells of many illicit ones…), this new Scottish star uses local wild juniper and rhubarb root for a dry, smooth and subtly tangy style. Carries its strength well, too.
Willem Barentsz Handcrafted Gin, London
With jasmine and orange peel, this is aromatic, fresh and slightly sweet. Launched in 2016 by UK-based Michael Claessens, and named after a fellow Dutchman, 16th-century explorer Willem Barentsz.