Gin for the win – again. Oh, and some vodka!!

I have blogged before about my love of gin, and since then a fabulous shop stocking, amongst other things, a huge range of gin has opened in our village.  I believe it was a complete coincidence that such a shop opened so close to where we live, and there wasn’t a demographic study completed to securitise funding against the future gin consumption of the local area………  Gin & Pickles is great for a coffee and cake, when it’s too early for gin, and gin and a cheese & meat platter later in the day.

Gin & Pickles has also hosted some gin tastings which I’ve gone to. The first couple I went to were hosted by The Gintleman, as in my first gin blog, and thankfully I’ve always consumed so much gin, lots of the information is forgotten between tastings!  The most recent gin tasting was by Chase Distillery.  This was a fortnight before my birthday – and the lovely brand ambassador, Tilly, mentioned that you could do tours of the distillery – and that they have a sister hotel that you can go to for a meal or even an overnight stay before or after your tour – and they will ferry you between the two places.  This seemed an ideal birthday present from my husband to me (which obviously I sorted out myself #controlfreak) and last week we headed off for our tour of Chase and overnight stay at Verzon House.

We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and had a welcome drink – a gin and tonic, natch!

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Welcome drinks – gins, of course!

 

We were then whisked 20 minutes away in a mini bus to the Chase estate.

The tours can be anything up to 15 people – but there were only 5 on ours.  There was us, a guy who had just started work for Chase, and then a couple from Devon.  (Turns out they were actually originally Brummies like us – but had moved to Devon to run a hotel).  We were a lively bunch – but that definitely added to the tour.

It was incredibly interesting – and almost emotional – I was so proud of them growing the potatoes which they make initially into vodka (using spring water from on site and wood to power the wood burning stoves from the site too) – which then is either flavoured as vodka, or distilled with juniper to become gin!  So when people say they like vodka but don’t like gin, it’s often because they don’t like the taste of juniper (or in my sister’s case, we realised it was the tonic with the gin that was the issue – she’s now a gin and rose lemonade kind of girl!)  But for people to say they like gin but don’t like vodka is a bit weird!

We got to smell and taste the output at different stages which was ‘interesting’ – my husband was not backward in some of his descriptions (it tastes like petrol etc!)

It’s also amazing to think that every bottle of booze with the Chase name on it goes through that distillery – Fat Betty and Ginny are working super hard (these are machines rather than staff members, of which there are 54 now – the new bloke on our tour being the 54th!!)

After we’d looked at all of the gin memorabilia, including the entire range of bottles – and smelt lots of botanicals, and posed for photos in front of Fat Betty – we then got to go downstairs and try LOTS of the produce!  Given we already own most of the gins, we tried lots of the vodkas – and I am a total convert.  The straight potato vodka is lush – just so smooth compared to teenage experiences with cheaper grain based vodkas!  And the flavoured ones wonderful – we came home with quite a few!!!   The bottles we acquired being presented in potato bags was a fab touch.

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We were then escorted back to Verzon House to prepare for dinner.

The hotel room was lovely – although somewhat warm (not helped by the husband having a boiling hot bath in the middle of the bedroom!)  There is quite a lot of stuffed animal art on the walls – it didn’t bother us (although the husband impersonating all of them got a little wearing!) but we did wonder what a vegetarian might think if they stayed there?!

The food was AMAZING!  The cocktails were great too.  There wasn’t a huge amount of atmosphere in the restaurant, but it was a mid week stay in March – so not many tables.  All of the staff were really attentive and did a great job.

Breakfast the next morning was served in the bar rather than the restaurant – and we were the only guests – but it was plentiful and tasty.  I’d recently been converted to the product of another sister company, Willy’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and thought I’d miss my daily dose whilst away – but they had some with breakfast! The husband wasn’t converted though…….

Overall it was a fabulous experience and one we’d highly recommend.  There is a shop at the distillery so you can get products at bargain prices – but you really should do the tour as well! And you can get almost the entire range at Gin & Pickles too – to save the drive to Herefordshire.

 

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Our purchases!

 

This is not a sponsored post, we bought and paid for everything at all of the places mentioned above, I’m just sharing the love of gin – and now vodka! Cheers! 

 

 

 

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Gin for the win!

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).

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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!!

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This is in no way a sponsored post – I’m just sharing the love of gin!

 

 

My name is Libby and I like a drink…..

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My name is Libby and I like a drink!

Prosecco and gin are probably the favourites but wine (white, pink, red, green, fortified), beer, cider, spirits (except perhaps Pernod after an ‘incident’ with it at the Glen Bar at Southampton University in the early 90s that resulted in me throwing up in a soon to be boyfriend’s sink in his university room – but maybe after a quarter of a century I should try it (the Pernod, not the vomiting) again?) are all imbibed on a reasonably frequent basis.

The husband is also a fan of a post work beverage – and it had got to the point where we were drinking most nights.  I’d spoken to a GP friend about alcohol in general – and her view was you need to have at least 3 dry days/ nights a week to not have an issue – and we weren’t hitting that target.  It’s not like we were hiding vodka bottles in the airing cupboard, or needing a glass of wine to start the day – but still we knew we were drinking too much.

We’ve tried the ‘not drinking in the week’ thing – but more often than not something would crop up – bad day at work, kids being a pain, seeing friends – that would result in a bottle being cracked – and ‘the week’ would become a random Tuesday.

I’m also trying to lose some weight – and whilst my eating is fairly good, and I exercise at least 3 times a week – I have been stuck at the same weight for ages – probably due to the huge amount of empty calories in booze!  I wouldn’t dream of sitting on the sofa eating a huge box of chocolates (well, I would dream of it – but I wouldn’t do it) – but necking a bottle of wine would have a similar calorific effect.

So – last weekend we decided we’d stop drinking completely – and 7 days later we’re still going strong.  I think the fact that we’re both doing it has really helped – and the fact that the standard of non alcoholic beers and wines has dramatically improved over recent years.

My liver seems to think I’m pregnant again (which I’m not!) but some R&R for it must be very welcome.  I was rarely waking up with a hangover – but to wake up without a slight fuzziness is great.

I’ve managed to be strong willed in the pub with friends for an afternoon, at friends’ for Sunday lunch and at an 18th birthday party – as well as just at home in the evenings.  Strictly without fizz was a revelation this weekend.

I’m not sure how long this abstemiousness will last (we’re off to Disneyland Paris for half term – and the thought of Disney or French people, let alone a combination of both, without booze, does not sound tempting) – but we shall see.

And in the meantime I will be smug and teetotal.

The husband sent me a text last week saying as the alcohol free week was going ok, he thought he’d go vegan too – I think he was joking………….