When it comes to gin, it seems we like the backstory almost as much as the spirit itself. Give us a story alongside what we’re sipping and we feel drawn in, part of it, invested in it.
And the latest gin to hit the market from Swinton in Salford, has that – Hidden Gem starts with a couple, Carmel and Joe. Their love for a G&T merged into something more when their home wine making met inspiration from Forest Gin and their appearance on Countryfile, and fellow Salford booze makers, Seven Bro7hers and Sis4ers Distillery.
Inspired, they played with recipes for their gin at their kitchen table, and eventually settled on a recipe that uses 19 botanicals. These include rosemary and apple (from their garden when in season), juniper, orris, angelica, citrus (including orange), liquorice, milk thistle, honey and several others that they won’t reveal.
As for the name, that’s steeped in family history. Named after the 16th Century red brick St Mary’s Church, known as The Hidden Gem, it’s where Carmel’s grandparents met at a lunchtime mass service. Her grandmother, Brigid, had moved to Salford from Ireland, and her grandfather Edward, was en route to America from Ireland. Edward saw Brigid, and it was love at first sight – but Edward was due to sail the following evening to join his brothers in Chicago.
Returning to Mass the following day, he left it to fate. If he saw her, and asked her out and she said yes, he would stay. If she said no, he would sail on.
They had four children, and thirty three grandchildren. And the Gem theme continues, because G,E and M are the initials of Joe and Carmel’s own children.
Oh and their still is named Meg.
As for the gin, it’s made using both maceration (botanicals added directly to the still) and vapour distillation (botanicals held in a ‘teabag’ in the top of the still), meaning that some are strong and richer in flavour and others gentler and lighter. A method that works well given the number of botanicals, and the strength of some. Given it’s heavy and oily nature, the rosemary could easily have been overly strong, but instead, it’s there as earthy herbal notes. The honey, adds a toasted note that you’ll also find in Zymurgorium’s Manchester Gin, and the milk thistle adds an round rich mouthfeel which works well with the sweetness a copper still gives.
Their recommended garnish is rosemary, but as evidenced as we sampled it at the launch event at Atlas Bar in Manchester, it’s quite a flexible spirit, the layers of botanicals lending it to fruity notes with an apple garnish. It’s definitely a spirit to get a little creative with.
If you want to try it for yourself, it’s currently available in Atlas Bar, Seven Bro7hers Beerhouse, and House of Hops, amongst others.