I have a confession to make.
For all my northern heritage, accent, and love, I wasn’t born up north. In truth, far from it. I was born way, way down south in Dorset. Christchurch to be precise.
Now before you get too pissed off at me, I was only there for a short period of time – I don’t even remember it (except being bollocked for nearly hitting the neighbours kid on the head with a trowel, because apparently he was a little shit, and even then I don’t remember what he did to make me go to do it).
And since then I’ve lived the rest of my life, all mumble mumble years of it in the north, back where my family is from, married a northern bloke, and have a Yorkshire accent when I cross the border that would put half the cast of Emmerdale to shame.
But it’s no surprise that before I even write about this gin, I’ve a little soft spot for it. It’s made just up the road from where I was born, it’s the first/only gin distillery in Dorset, and it not only makes a tasty gin, but as you’ll see, Conker also make a cracking Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur.
The chap behind the Conker Spirit is Rupert Holloway – once a Chartered Surveyor, in late 2013 he had decided that it simply wasn’t for him, he wanted to do something different. And that apparently was gin. With no gin in the area (indeed no history of gin that I’m aware of) he decided to do something local something with the flavours and character of Dorset at heart. Working with David Smith (of Summer Fruit Cup fame), he developed a recipe that encompasses local botanicals blended with some of the more usual suspects.
The gin itself uses juniper, coriander, angelica, Seville orange, orris root and cassia – along with local samphire, elderberries and gorseflower. Using two stills – Aunt Fanny and Pumpkin, they are distilled after a 12 hour maceration period with a base grain spirit.
Neat, the nose doesn’t give very much away. Soft citrus, florals, something soft and sweet, like pear drops or candy floss. On the palate it’s got a good juniper and citrus bite, hints of orange and pepper. It’s juicy. The sweet candyfloss is there, but I’m left with thoughts of juicy orange flesh lingering on my tongue.
In a G&T there’s actually a little more bite, and lots more savoury herbacious notes coming through, before it softens into a juicy sweetness. Herbal and saline notes linger after. That juiciness throughout makes it a properly refreshing G&T. One that you almost want to guzzle down to chase your thirst.
The coffee liqueur is a rather different beast. Tired of the few options available when it came to coffee based spirits – often heavily sweetened – Rupert wanted to create something that showcased the coffee, rather than overwhelming it. Or indeed simply being a reflection of what we think coffee should taste like.
But as many have realised, this isn’t an easy thing to do.
Conker have worked with another local company, the Beanpress Coffee Co., and have selected a blend of Brazilian and Ethiopian coffee beans which go to create a cold brew that is in turn blended with just a touch of demerara sugar, as well as the grain spirit to create their liqueur.
Again, like the gin, the nose barely hints at the flavour profile. It’s light filled with toffee, florals and a little dark chocolate. But on the palate – oh my. A big hit of coffee, chocolate, cola nuts, liquorice. Juiciness again, hints of orange, and a rich backbone of dark chocolate.
This is a seriously sexy cold brew liqueur and if you’re a fan of coffee, I’d definitely suggest you get yourself a bottle. I can’t decide what to do with it first. Mix with it, Bake with it, or just plain and simply, drink.