The wild landscape and history of Northumberland make it a perfect place to venture into the botanical brews market. The main ingredient, juniper, can be found around the Northumberland landscape; juniper is one of only 3 native British Isles conifers; think heather moorland near the Cheviot Hills, boggy land supplying a home for bog rosemary and cranberry (the British equivalent being smaller than American cranberries) and elderflower trees scattered around the county with their summery floral aroma. Northumberland is not immune to gin fever that has taken hold of the UK. Already well-established distillers and brewers, such as Lindisfarne Mead, have turned their heads to gin liqueurs alongside mead, the famous drink of the monks. Gin has not been this popular since the 18th century, in a chaotic mix of unrestrained drinking and distilling leading to degeneracy in the working classes, and immortalised in Gin Lane by William Hogarth in 1751. Maybe we should leave the distilling to the professionals!
The 6 Types of Gin
By looking into the gin world there is a lot of variety, similar to what you’d discover when looking at whisky and ale. Each type of gin is best in different circumstances; what’s best straight over ice, with a mixer à la G&T, or made up as a cocktail.
- London Dry Gin
A juniper-forward gin. London Gin is, in most cases, very dry and floral notes are results of botanicals added during 2nd or 3rd distillation process. Enjoy it at its best in martinis try a Dirty or Gibson martini. London Gin is generally more affordable and easily available and has a low sugar content 0.01g per litre
- Plymouth/Navy Gin
Slightly fruity, full-bodied and very aromatic due to focusing more on various botanicals, aside from juniper. It is generally stronger than London Dry Gin. Preferably served over ice with tonic and a wedge of lemon.
- Genever / Dutch Gin
The original gin and is named after the illustrious juniper berries. First created as a medicine to cleanse blood (good old juniper berries). It is made in a similar way to whisky, and, similarly, preferred to drink straight. History fact: where the phrase ‘Dutch courage’ comes from. Best enjoyed just as it is.
- Old Tom Gin
Old Tom Gin usually has citrus notes and is a sweeter-style gin and is good for use in classic cocktails. Try a Tom Collins; Old Tom Gin, soda water, lemon peel and sugar syrup.
- New American/ International Style Gin
Risen through the gin renaissance. More of a focus on unusual botanicals other than juniper which allows local terroir to shine. Try in a Negroni cocktail: 1 part gin, 1 part vermouth rosso, 1 part Campari and orange peel garnish.
- Sloe Gin
Although not technically a gin, as it is made with sloe berries instead of juniper. It has a deep red/purple colour and is sweeter than most gins. Like original gin, sloe gin promises versatile drinking, alone, with mixers, in cocktails and hot or cold. Offset the sweetness by adding a citrusy mixer ideally lemon-based.
In 2018, gin’s popularity has seen it expand to focus on more floral and fruit-flavoured notes, with many companies now offering gin-based fruit liqueurs. With this in high demand, the trend of offering alternative mixers has also exploded. Think citrus fruits; lemon, grapefruit and orange which bring out the botanical flavours in the gin. Premium mixers are also available for those who really want taste sensations.
Local and seasonally developed gins are also at the forefront of the gin movement this year, reflecting consumers ideals in focusing on supporting local businesses. Gin is excelling in the beautiful summer we are enjoying when people look for a refreshing alcoholic alternative. The best way to enjoy your favourite gin is to make sure your glass is chilled before serving to enhance the botanical flavours and keep the drink light, crisp and refreshing.
Gin Stars of Northumberland
Although most of these companies are relatively new, many are already receiving national acclaim. Raise a chilled glass to the gin entrepreneurs in Northumberland.
A small batch gin, made by the Pilgrim Spirit Company. Looking like an ancient apothecary bottle, as if it had been brought over by the Romans themselves when Emperor Hadrian visited in AD122, Hadrian’s Wall Gin strives to manifest the lasting impact Roman culture has had in Britain. The botanicals, introduced to us by the Romans, this are chamomile, coriander, bay leaves, pimento and garden mint. This results in a blend of 2 distinctive cultures of Italian flavours and British history
Recommended drink: Torn mint leaves muddled with raspberries and ice, shot of Hadrians Wall Gin and topped with soda water to make a refreshing long cool drink.
Beginning in 2016, Holy Island Gin encompasses ‘the spirit of high tide’. Focusing on the fact that Holy Island is a tidal island, the high tide offers the island a chance to escape from the mainland and enjoy peace; this gin offers the calm that Holy Island embodies. The gin is distilled and bottled on Holy Island, which has a rich history of alcohol production (think Lindisfarne Mead). There are 11 botanicals, including juniper, rose petal and elderberries, in this gin to create a sweet, floral finish.
Based in Rock, just outside of Alnwick, Alnwick Gin states its smooth profile is due to being made in small batches. The gin is made by The Northumberland Spirit Company. The gin contains 11 botanicals with the key flavours being juniper, rosehip, lavender and fennel which are foraged locally. The gin is bottled in striking stoneware bottles, looking medieval and acts as a tribute to the ancient town of Alnwick itself.
Recommended drink: For a citrusy G & T why not try Alnwick Gin with a pink grapefruit flavoured tonic and plenty of ice
Made by the Moorland Spirit Company, Hepple Gin is a gin like no other. Due to its lengthy 3-step distillation process, Hepple Gin is routinely pipped as a clean and smooth-tasting gin and been widely acknowledged as a gin for gin idealists. The distilling system utilises a copper pot for smoothness, a glass vacuum still for freshness and supercritical extraction for depth of flavour – creating a spirit of exceptional freshness and clarity. It is made in the classic style of a London Dry Gin with the experimentation and local botanical influences a New American style has.
In the Northumberland village of Hepple, an abundance of land, freshwater and access to interesting local botanicals; juniper, bog myrtle and Douglas Fir. These locally foraged botanicals are complemented by the fresh Mediterranean flavours of Amalfi lemon, liquorice and coriander seeds. As well as using local juniper berries, there has been a successful restoration project in order to keep the juniper plants indigenous to Northumberland.
Sloe Crafts is in the quaint village of Thropton, in the south-western area of Northumberland. Sloe Crafts have been making Sloe Gin for generations by the Farr family and is made using local resources and inspiration from farm and locality. The sloe berries gathered from local hedgerows, which is nearby Northumberland National Park. The sloe gin is available in miniatures as well as 200ml bottles. Sloe berries, also known as blackthorn berries, are ready to be harvested in Autumn, making gin’s fruity sister more of a seasonal drink.
Recommended drink: Sloe Royale – 3/4 fill a champagne flute with prosecco and top up with a shot of Sloe Crafts sloe gin. Garnish with rosemary.
Is it Cocktail Hour Already?
There are so many ways to enjoy your favourite tipple. Share with us on social media how you enjoy your gin! Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Once you’ve enjoyed your fill of Northumberland gins, why not check out the gins from Scottish Borders?