On 29th November, CRG members and guests gathered in the Picture Room of the Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, as guests of ‘Bottletop’ Tony Trace.
The occasion was to be a tonic tasting, tutored by Tony’s son-in-law James Mowbray-Pratt, National Account Manager for Fever-Tree. Strangely, though, gin got involved, and James was joined by Chris Bryant-Mansell, brand ambassador for Hayman’s Gin. Together they put on a fun, fascinating and sometimes eye-opening show, offering up 12 gins designed to deliver an insight into gin through the ages.
Starting with the 16th century, Bols was presented as a representation of how original Dutch genever may have tasted. Moving into the 18th century, the next gin demonstrated the origins of ‘Dutch Courage’, and the type of brew that may have fortified troops of the time. We were then treated – and we use the expression loosely – to ‘Parliamentary Brandy’, a concoction brewed up specially (in micro batches, we hope!) to give an insight into the roughness of the gin being consumed in quantities during the ‘gin craze’. Fortunately, we were taught to ‘reset’ our palates by smelling the back of our hand…
We then moved to the sweeter ‘Old Tom’, as revived in recent years by Hayman’s, through ‘gin cups’, mixtures involving various added herbs, spices and flavourings (Sipsmiths London Cup used as an example), and sloe gin.
Then on into the 19th century, and coining of the expression ‘London Dry’, as greater regulation and standards were put in place, and the new column still enabled more consistent production. Hayman’s was used to represent the London Dry style, and also navy strength (57.2%), represented via two brands, ‘Navy Strength’ and ‘Royal Dock’.
We were then fast forwarded to more modern times, to gins that have led the way in some of the new techniques that have helped spark the new ‘gin craze’: the vapour-infused Bombay Sapphire, pioneers of small batch distilling Sipsmith, dual distilled and flavour-added Hendrick’s, and Pink Pepper, vacuum-distilled by an Australian in Cognac.
Throughout the evening we were asked to score the gins, and maybe the results will become known. But it is hard to imagine that the Grand Champion of the evening was not gin number 12. Jonathan Jeyes explained the direct links between Roaring Forties, our 40th-Anniversary gin, and those produced for our 10th and 25th anniversaries. And then we tasted, and all marked our scorecards (at least) 10/10.
A massive vote of thanks to Tony, James and Chris. This was a memorable and imaginative evening in exquisite surroundings, in great company.
For the final event of the CRG’s 40th year, we remain in Clubland, moving around the corner, to Boodle’s for our annual dinner…