My luck continued with winning two tickets to Gin School at the Old House in September, which I finally redeemed with their session on Infusions and thus brings me to my first venture into Spirits. Gintastic!
I am a big fan of gin, it’s a bit of a family favourite amongst the women – only Gordon’s though. My first non-Gordon’s venture in the gin world was discovered during a trip to the Penderyn Whisky Distillery with an old Northern Irish boyfriend. It was here I was pleasantly surprised to sample ‘Brecon Gin’, a bottle I’m still yet to finish, nearly 4 years on, as I’m so partial to it. However, since coming to Sheffield I’ve frequently enjoyed venturing into the Old House’s large collection with particular interest in the use of unusual garnishes to compliment different gins.
The session consisted of about twenty of us with four gins to sample and a side of stilton and crackers. We were also presented with one of the Old House’s Gin Journals, an exciting but clever way of getting us to try a number of their grand selection! Finally, we were all sent off with the recipes used for the three infusions that the staff had made themselves and a sloe gin recipe.
First up was the classic infusion, Sloe gin. Having missed the sloe season, we were given Plymouth Sloe Gin. This has got to be one of the best Sloe Gin’s I’ve had, it’s smooth, sweet and not too overpowering. Sloe gin is best drunk neat and in front of a roaring fire. End of.
So on to the rest of the infusions, which were all made by our hosts using the base of Beefeater because it’s well rounded. The second gin was my favourite of the evening: a Thai-inspired Chilli and Lemongrass gin. Birds Eye chillis, lemongrass and cardamon produce a wonderfully clean and fresh way to spice up your gin and tonic. I wouldn’t consider myself able to cope with a lot of heat, but I was the only one on our table who rated it so highly and ended up drinking my companion’s too! Paired with Fentiman’s tonic, it just complimented what I expect from a gin and tonic: fresh, clean and refreshing. The cardamon is quite prominent with considerable heat from the chillis. The lemon is much more subtle for me and was comparable to a slice of lemon as a garnish.
The third infusion is the most bizarre sounding, Stilton and Apricot infusion. This infusion is meant to be more complimentary for food and for this tasting we were provided with a slab of stilton on each table to share. It’s the only cloudy gin out of the four – though no lumps of stilton! The apricot gives it a distinctive and encompassing sweetness and the stilton mellows it out giving it a good body. This combination is much more complimentary for food – however it just didn’t fit with my concept of gin, which I found much more in the Chilli and Lemongrass. It definitely wasn’t unpleasant, just obviously too much for me to get my head around!
The fourth was a Christmas inspired infusion, containing cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, basically all the flavours of Christmas. This was the definite favourite from the group. You could make this one pretty quickly – a two week turn around. On taste, I thought it was nice, but it lacked the depth of the others. There was a lot of orange zest with slight spice and obviously Christmas is coming up but unfortunately I just felt like a bit of Scrooge! But who am I to argue with popular opinion?! Best served with a little water or ice.
It was a great evening and even just going as a pair we had great conversation with the couple opposite us. It was really informative, “gintresting”, and all the touches in presentation really made it a lovely event. Definitely a date for your diary!
Speaking of dates:
22nd January 2015: European Gins
19th February 2015: Gin Cocktails
Cheers! Forgive the puns, couldn’t resist!