There are, quite frankly, too many gins and not enough time.
I’m not complaining – I love seeing new gins appear, new ideas, new distillation methods – but the growth in the number of gins, means that although my gin pokemon list grows larger, I just can’t drink fast enough.
And much as I would like to say I get oodles of gin in the post, I don’t. Gin pokemon is getting to be an expensive hobby. It’s either try the gins as and when, treating myself to the odd bottle when I can, or spending around a month living in The Old Bell. I know which my liver would prefer.
Here’s where Gin Explorer has come to my rescue. A monthly subscription box featuring four different gins, mixers and other goodies that wings it’s way through your letter box. The gins are in 50ml measures so you can share a single each, or as I don’t share, four doubles all for me. At £24.99 a time, it doesn’t feel expensive and you can use the code FEBEXPLORER at the check out until 31 March to save £5 on your first box. Oh and there’s no tie-in so you cancel when you need to (and re-start again if you start to miss it).
New gins, new tonics and I don’t even have to get dressed and throw my face on to try them.
It’s like a graze box for gin lovers.
March saw the first box arrive neatly on my doorstep – and whilst I’d like to claim I wasn’t like a child at Christmas, I’d be lying. There was that same sort of nervousness in my tummy – excited to know what surprises lay in store, but also worried I’d be left with a bunch of gins I knew really well already – the equivalent of new school socks from your nan sitting under your tree.
I took a deep breath and leant in.
Underneath the tissue paper lay a notebook for my gin notes, my ‘Travel Information’, all with a lovely vintage feel. Think Amelia Earhart meets Katharine Hepburn in the African Queen. The information contained is a guide to the goodies in your box.
There’s the welcome and details on your tonics, then a section on your gins including garnish recommendations and histories, before it opens out into a map, showing the origins of some of the botanicals (and a cheeky little cocktail recommendation.
My tonics were two from the London based Franklin & Sons – both a Natural Indian and a Natural light. Established in 1886 by two brothers who originally trained as carpenters. They began it seems with a selection of soft drinks including ginger beer, potash water, seltzer water, diversifying into other soft drinks when the Temperance movement became popular.
They grew, outlasting local rivals and began growing their wholesale business offering other drinks such as cider, until the 1950s and 1960s which saw breweries dictating to pubs the soft drinks they could stock – leading to their wholesale business selling Coca-Cola and Schweppes.
The change in our tastes over the last few years has led to the company that exists today, and it appears that the tonic waters are relatively new (at least in their current forms) as are many of the other soft drinks. Fascinating articles on their history can be found here, and here.
As for the gins:
Of the four, there was only one I’ve sampled before, meaning three more for my gin pokemon list!
The Strathearn Oaked Highland Gin is one that I’ve tried before, and needs no introduction. Aged in oak after distillation, it’s one of the better aged gins, with a backbone of juniper that meets a smoky salted caramel tone. However, it’s aged nature means it’s a bit of a ‘Marmite’ gin, the vanilla, whisky tones don’t work for everyone. As a whisky drinker, I’m in comfortable territory.
Silverback gin from Gorilla Spirits was a whisper of an idea from Andy Daniels back in 2010. In 2014 he founded Gorilla Spirits and following commissioning of their still Mugwaneza (Mugs for short) in Hampshire in late 2015, his gin (and vodka) became a reality.
As for the gin, hints of sweetness, coriander, orange on the nose, the juniper takes a bit of a background seat. The mouthfeel has a roundness to it, with a good amount of citrus and a hint of juniper on the finish – it’s got a sweetness to it, which means it doesn’t need any extra sugar, and so I paired it with the light tonic, and a frozen slice of orange.
Porters Gin takes us from the south to the north, to Aberdeen. Ben. Josh and Alex use cold distillation (utilising a vacuum to boil at lower temperatures) which allows them to keep the gentler lighter flavours of their botanicals. Their gin uses a multitude of citrus, making it probably my favourite gin of the March box (I’m a sucker for citrus flavours) but it still maintains a good juniper backbone, the juniper being a little more floral for the gentler distillation method.
I also preferred this one tonic-less – however, once paired with the more bitter and sweeter Indian Tonic, it had a light acidity that made the mouth water. A perfect aperitif G&T.
The final gin was Beckett’s – which took us back down the country to London. Distilled using just six botanicals, it utilises local juniper from Box Hill and mint from Kingston-upon-Thames, and work with the National Trust and the Forestry Commission to not only maintain the juniper stores from the site in Surrey but to help repopulate Juniper Top.
Flavour wise, as a London Dry gin this has juniper to the fore, but it’s balanced with the freshness of the mint and the citrus from the orange and lime peel, backed up with a lemon hint from the coriander.
Overall, Gin Explorer, I’m a bit hooked. Not only do you deliver quality gins, but I know that it’s easy to link through to Gin Festival to buy the ones that really appeal. I also don’t need to worry that you’re going to send me a full bottle of something that I know well, or I can pick up in Sainsbury’s.
And I love that there’s no tie-in, so if it’s a tight month, you can put it on hold and come back when you can afford to.
Roll on April.
With thanks to Gin Explorer for the sample box, I bloody love it.