When The Big Green Gummi Bear came home and said that he’d arranged for us to go to a gin tasting, I was somewhat surprised.
Neither of us drink gin!
However, having bought tickets for the event, it would’ve been rude not to.
I was a little unsure of what to expect as the date approached.
When we arrived at the boat club, our host for the evening had a long table set up beautifully with plastic martini glasses, each with a slice of fruit in it, divided into four groups – one for each type of gin he’s brought along for sampling.
(“Whew”, thought my inner self. Being a light weight when it comes to drinking alcohol, I thought, “I can cope with four small gins of an evening.”)
The event began with a brief history of the drink. I learned a few interesting facts.
Gin is the shortened form of the Old English word genever and derived from the Latin juniperus meaning juniper, one of the main constituents of the drink. Gin was originally drunk for its medicinal properties. It can be traced as far back as the Ancient Egyptians circa 1550BC and is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus as being a remedy for stomach complaints. Roman historian Pliny the Elder also wrote about the therapeutic benefits of the juniper berry based spirit around 78AD.
To bring things up-to-date, in the 17th Century the Dutch had developed a juniper based spirit and also begun to add other botanical ingredients to enhance the flavour. Dutch soldiers were given a measure of this drink to give them strength before they went into battle, hence the term “Dutch courage.”
Gin first grew in popularity in Britain in the mid-17th Century when William of Orange came to the throne and, if you’re not a fan of gin, you could argue, it all went downhill from there.
Gin was initially allowed to be distilled without a license. This resulted in a craze for the drink before The Gin Acts of 1736 and 1751 brought its production under stricter control.
Gin’s reputation as “Mother’s ruin” comes from this era too as women often made and sold gin in small quantities from their homes. William Hogarth produced a hard-hitting anti-gin engraving in 1751, Gin Lane. It contrasted with his engraving Beer Street which portrays beer as being better for you and your well-being.
Gin enjoyed mixed fortunes as a drink right up until Prohibition. The price if spirits rocketed during Prohibition so in order to make a drink last longer, folk began to mix it with other things. Voila! – the gin based cocktail was born! The most common is of course the gin and tonic.
So, what gins were on offer for us to taste.
There were four different botanical gin brands.
Blackwoods was the first on offer. A Scottish gin infused with handpicked Shetland botanicals. These gave it a citrusy taste. Not too unpleasant.
Brecon gin was next from the Brecon Beacons in Wales. This one was served to us with a strawberry in the bottom of the glass. It was distinctly different from the first. This one was my least favourite of the evening. It was too fruity and reminded me of cough medicine. The Big Green Gummi Bear’s face when he ate the gin-soaked strawberry was interesting though!
Boe gin from Stirling, Scotland was the third brand available for tasting. I was surprised to find a thin slice of apple in the glass. This one I liked! There was a cleaner slightly spiced taste to it. I could enjoy drinking this one (and the slice of apple was quite tasty too!)
Ophir was the final of the four brands. This one is branded as an oriental spiced gin and was most definitely the prettiest bottle. The taste here was more exotic, almost curry like. I preferred it to the first two brands but overall it was too bizarre a spiced flavour for my delicate tastebuds.
So, all four had been tasted and debated and enjoyed.
Have I been converted to being a gin drinker? Probably not, although we did enjoy a few a more from the club’s bar over the rest of the evening.
Something that did make me sit up and take note though was the announcement at the end of the tasting session that the gentleman would be back in a few months to do a prosecco and champagne tasting.
The Big Green Gummi Bear better get tickets for that one!