There’s something lovely about being able to trace the provenance of a spirit.
A number of gins use bought in spirit from a major manufacturer. And let me state now, that there is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact some of my favourite gins buy in neutral grain spirit and simply re-distill (or rectify) that spirit into gin. Additionally, I’m pretty sure if you ask the majority of punters at a gin tasting or festival, they will feel similarly.
But the effect a spirit can have on a gin can be quite profound. The toasted honey notes from Zymurgorium‘s Manchester Gin for example come from the mead used to create the spirit, and similarly that of gin from Arbikie. It offers an extra element to the gin that gives it something unique.
That said, my introduction to Copper Rivet Distillery was by them claiming that they were the only distillery in the UK to offer grain to glass provenance. As mentioned above, that’s simply not true. There are plenty around if you know where to look. And let’s be honest, given it’s part of the story of their spirit, they’re more than happy to tell you.
But this of course made me curious. So bought a small bottle of their gin and their vodka.
If you’re going to brag, I’m going to see how good it really is, and given the vodka would give me an idea of the effect that the initial spirit has on the gin, I felt it was worth investing in both.
So what’s the story?
Based in Chatham, Kent, Copper Rivet Distillery was an idea in 2005 of the Russell family. In 2012, they met their Master Distiller Abhi, and in 2015 they spot the site of their distillery – Pumphouse Number 5 (part of the historic docks in Chatham). Finally, they began distilling in 2016.
They now produce a number of spirits, but for the sake of this review, we’re looking at two – Vela Vodka, and Dockyard Gin. Their whisky is still maturing (available 2020) and so until then, I’ll wait to compare their new make whisky and the aged version.
Hey, I have a finite budget.
Vela Vodka uses early harvest Kentish wheat, barley and rye. The resulting spirit is then charcoal filtered after distillation. Whilst there is some argument about the positive effects of charcoal filtration on spirits, there is an alternative argument that it can remove flavour. However, this is not a unique process, and traditionally Russian vodkas were filtered through charcoal to remove impurities.
But enough waffle, time to taste.
On the nose, there’s the classic rye sweetness, but it’s softened by creamy notes from the wheat and barley. On the palate it’s sweet, with hints of vanilla, caramel and cream.
Aside from botanicals (juniper, elderflower, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, green cardamom, grains of paradise, angelica and orris), and that it uses local chalk filtered water (much like the vodka, I also presume), I have very little additional to tell you about Dockyard Gin. I suspect, as with the vodka, they save information on the still name, process, maceration time etc for their tours.
On the nose, the cardamom bounces up, the juniper takes a back seat and florals from the elderflower play about, with a hint of citrus. On the palate the cardamom again takes centre stage, with vanilla notes, and again the juniper sits underneath. Florals sit across the top of the spirit, along with the citrus on the finish.
In a G&T, the spicier notes are softened, as is the cardamom, citrus and elderflower are still present, but gentled, the vanilla too.
Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was the presence of vanilla and creamy notes in both spirits. These obviously speak of the grains used in the process, and, perhaps, the chalk filtered water in Kent. I have to suspect that it’s more likely from the blend of grains used, but I’ll have to save up my pennies for a visit to the distillery to find out.