Manchester finally has its own gin.
Dakin set up what was to become Greenalls Distillery in Bridge Street in Warrington in 1761. Warrington at the time, though not a port as the home of most other registered distilleries were, was a crossroads to the north. With trade coming in from Liverpool, up from London, and down from Newcastle, and Scotland, it was a useful stop off point.
It was also a useful stop for travellers too – stagecoaches to and from London passed through and would stop at the local inns for a rest, to change horses or even stay overnight. Those travellers, passengers, traders all enjoyed a sip or two of gin.
They also enjoyed a cordial or two, one available at the time provided inspiration for two of the botanicals in Thomas Dakin Gin. In her research Joanne Moore, Master Distiller, discovered a cordial made of orange and red cole, also known to you and I as horseradish.
Fast forward to 1860 and the Greenall family who had been brewing locally since 1762, leased the distillery from the family before buying it lock stock and, er, barrel in 1870.
Though currently made on site at Greenalls, the exciting news is that this will be Manchester’s own gin, once it moves to it’s own distillery site in the city.
And no, they’re not telling us where. Or when.
But when they do move production, much like other city distilleries across the country, there’ll be a visitors centre so that gin geeks like me can go and have a nosey around, talk to those making the gin and of course, see the still in situ. The still produces around 4000 litres of spirit. Many more than the few hundred of our other local gins, Batch and Forest Gin, but nonetheless, given the size of Greenalls, this is a smaller amount.
I suspect this may spark a discussion about the definition of ‘craft’ and ‘small batch’, much as it already has done within the worlds of beer and whisky.
Though the gin is available now, it’s not quite in the city yet. Though at the event we were all invited to sign a piece of artwork that will be going up on the wall there.
But in the meantime, let’s return to the important bit, the gin.
Of the eleven botanicals, the ever secretive distillers are not going to tell us all, but rather let us know of eight: juniper, orange peel, English coriander seed, angelica, grapefruit, cubeb, liquorice and the aforementioned red cole. This leaves us with three to ponder, and after a sample or two, I wouldn’t be surprised to find savory, and orris in there too.
This is a distinctly savoury gin – which for someone like me, who would pick cheese over chocolate, makes me a very happy gin lover. On the nose, you get the pepper from the cubebs, that traditional pine from the juniper, and the angelica is there waiting for you. Intriguingly, the red cole and the cubeb give it a spike in scent that can make it hard to see past. I could get notes of green peppercorns and a rich grassiness that reminded me a little of parsley.
On the palate, the red cole gives it the flavour of radish, without the heat – you’d be forgiven for thinking it sounds like I’m drinking a salad, but through the juniper, the sweet lemony coriander and the citrus, the angelica and soft herbals are there bringing a fresh earthy quality. That’s the key, they’re soft herbs, the only heavier notes come from the juniper and the liquorice gives it a definite soft, creamy, lightly sweet finish.
With tonic – and they recommend Fever-Tree of course, there’s a little more radish going on, not unlike mooli or daikon. At the launch the G&T was served with coriander and lemon, which I’m presuming is the recommended serve. Personally, I must admit that much as I love coriander (and I do, Mr GFB despairs of how much I put in a Thai curry), I found that it overpowered the drink. I’m curious to have a little play and see what I think works when I can get my grubby little fingers on a bottle proper.
However, the horseradish based cocktail paired with one of Aidan Byrne’s classic oxtail doughnuts went down a treat with the guests, as did the red snapper canape – for the sweet toothed, the Manchester Bee cocktail proved a hit.
This could be a love/hate gin. Personally, it suits my palate well, but I know some who are going to baulk at the idea, before a sip passes their lips.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so if you fancy a bottle of your own, Harvey Nichols in Manchester have some in stock ready for you to buy, and within a couple of weeks, I expect you’ll see that red label on bar shelves and taste it’s savoury notes in cocktails.
So, Manchester. Let me know what you think.