I’ve done a few wine tastings in my time – as you do – and even the occasional champagne tasting, but I jumped at the chance to sign up for a Gin Tasting evening recently. I mean, really. A chance to *ahem* sample 4 craft gins, guided by an expert taster – it’s practically educational.
The evening was organised by Shelley Dowsett – an experienced events organiser, a consummate gin lover and all-round good egg. And it was beautifully put together. From the G’n’T that greeted us when we go there, to the gin-bottle lights on the tables, to the little bowls of garnishes and nibbles, to the teeny-tiny bottles that held the gins we were tasting – all lovely.
The venue was great, too. I’d not visited the Red Lion in Stanstead Abbotts before, but I’m now very much looking forward to finding an excuse to go back. It’s a big pub, given the size of the village, and after talking to the locals on my table, it’s clear that it’s a much-loved part of the community there. There’s the main bar, and then there’s a restaurant – which I was assured served properly good Italian food. The landlords, Mel and Mas, certainly seemed to know everyone and were very welcoming.
So, the gin. We – and it was a sold-out event – were guided through 4 very different gins by Dave Overall, who you’ll find online as ‘Gin and Tonic Reviews’ and who reviews and writes up 3 or 4 gins every week. His own personal collection runs to about 300 bottles, and he appears to know just about all there is to know – but talks about it all in an unpretentious, down-to-earth way that didn’t leave you guessing about what he was on about.
What amazed me was the sheer variety of gins he’d brought with him – and even the range within the 4 we tasted. The first one – Bulldog – came in a suitably fierce-looking bottle but was surprisingly ‘floral’ in taste (get me!), and had a sort of undertone of lavender.
The second one – and my absolute favourite of the night – was Gin Mare. It’s distilled with rosemary, thyme, basil and (get this) olives, which makes it more savoury than some gins – and had me and my gin-tasting friend Lucy wanting to eat focaccia and olives. It’s like an Italian holiday – only without the flights and, er, the sunshine. Neat bottles, too.
The Sipsmith London Dry was a more traditional gin – lots of juniper taste and very recognisable. Delicious, though. The final gin of the night was very different – Opihir is distilled with Indian spices like cardamom, turmeric and so on, and we tried it with a garnish of fresh chili. Quite the kick. Dave suggested fresh ginger as a garnish, too, and I bet that’s gorgeous. On my table, we agreed that it would be lovely in the winter – after we’d spent the summer drinking the Gin Mare.
Luckily, Shelley has more tasting events planned. She’s hosting a cocktail night, again at the Red Lion, on 19 June – and you should definitely get tickets early if you want to go. Her events seems to sell out before you can say ‘mine’s a large one.’ Or you can do the gin thing on 29 May – the bank holiday weekend! – at the White Horse in Wareside.
So, I’m now pretending to talk knowledgeably about gin – and I’m being a bit more daring in my purchasing than my usual. Good stuff, all in all!
Find Shelley Dowsett and her delicious events at facebook.com/bespokefrankevents.
Thank you to Amanda Warner at AW Photography for the images.