I like gin. I am blaming this on my mother, as back in the 70s drinking alcohol during pregnancy wasn’t frowned upon – and she liked a gin!
A couple of years ago Mum and Dad bought us a trip to the Sipsmith’s Distillery in London. It was an interesting way to spend a couple of hours – but the gin consumption was very limited – and you had to stand up in the distillery for the duration of the presentation. This sounds a bit of a first world problem – but was exhausting. So it was good – but not great.
Since then I’ve had a number of gin and gin related presents off them – and then for this birthday they bought me a gin tasting session at Loki in Birmingham – which we did last weekend.
I’d not been to Loki before, and from outside it looks like an unassuming shop in the Great Western Arcade in Birmingham. Once inside it’s amazing! There are hundreds of different bottles of wine and other alcoholic beverages – but the difference is, you can taste them! There are 5 different machines, each holding 8 bottles of wine at exactly the right temperature – and you can select a taster, a small glass or a large glass of any! Perfect for trying out new wines before committing to a whole bottle.
But I digress – we weren’t there for wine – we were there for gin!
The Gin Connoisseurs Course was run upstairs by Carl Hawkins – or as he is more commonly know, The Gintleman. (Do not fear – I will not recount all of the ‘hilarious’ gin puns – I don’t want to steal Carl’s thunder should any of you decide to go on one of his courses!!) Some of you may have heard of the Jekyll and Hyde pub – or gin parlour as it markets itself – in Birmingham, and this was Carl’s baby some years ago. He’s also worked with a number of the local gin brands – so he knows his stuff!
There were 19 people (sitting down, so already a higher scorer than the Sipsmith’s tour!) around the room – and I would guess we were pretty much in the middle of the age range. Initially everyone was very reserved and quiet (apart from my husband, obviously!)
Lined up on the tables there were 8 different gins and 8 different tonics that we were going to try – with 8 different garnishes too!
Carl started off with an introduction to the origins and history of gin. Some of this we’d heard on the Sipsmith’s tour – but Carl was a great raconteur and it was really interesting. I’m a total geek – so learning about the origins of phrases like ‘mother’s ruin’, ‘Dutch courage’ and ‘blind drunk’ was really interesting.
Then we started on the gins!
Thankfully we’d been given a card with all of the gin / tonic / garnish combos we were going to sample (which is a good job – as after about 4 I would have been struggling to write!!) Then, in the manner of speed dating, we had to rate our neat gin (by circling the number of choice) and subsquently rating it again with the tonic and garnish added (by marking the number with a cross).
We started with a huge 58.8% proof navy gin (which was V V strong, but I may have undermarked!) and then carried on.
Of the 8, there was only one I’d tried before – Gin Mare, another present from my parents (honestly – it looks like they’re encouraging my gin habit?!?) – but there are plenty I would now try again.
And the range of tonics – and in one case Ginger Beer – was great. As Carl pointed out – a large proportion of your gin and tonic is tonic – so why buy a fancy pants gin and then put a cheap tonic into it? (My ‘favourites’ at Ocado now include Fevertree and Double Dutch tonic variations!)
Everyone loosened up after about gin 4 – and it was a really lovely afternoon.
Admittedly as the gin consumption progressed we were undecided between popping to Greggs next door for a sausage roll – or the deli across the road for posh cheese, meat and pastries to soak up the booze – the deli won #classy.
Having attended the course we were able to get a discount back downstairs in Loki – and left with a bottle of Malfi Lemon Gin (think limoncello on steroids), a bottle of Warner Edwards Rhubarb gin – and a nice bottle of red wine for good measure!
All in all I would thoroughly recommend Loki and The Gintleman to anyone – it was a fabulous afternoon. I’ve also seen that The Gintleman does tastings in your own home – so that’s definitely something to consider in the future!!
This is in no way a sponsored post – I’m just sharing the love of gin!