Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings have launched a series of evenings called The Guide To Bluffing to help those who find it difficult to navigate social situations. The Carouser’s very-own pirate, Mandy Morello, finds out what they have to say in their guide to gin.
This hot spring evening around ten of us are wedged into a small room at the back of Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings. The walls are bright and are reflecting the piercing sunshine from outside, causing a thirst that’s unimaginable. The host, Emma from Gin Monkey walks in with a huge smile and an impressive rack. She is employed to bestow her fountain of all gin knowledge upon us, in what I would call a perfect gin accent (well-spoken).
We begin with the basics. Emma introduces the main ingredient of gin – juniper. Without this key botanical, gin is simply not gin. Juniper berries are small cones that look like blueberries and grown in hotter parts of the world, which might be why the spirit is more popular in the summer. Juniper is infused into the spirit to get those perfume-style qualities.
The love for gin began in the 17th Century when Dutch soldiers were reported to take hip flasks of gin to battle. This is where the term “Dutch courage” was coined. Promptly, the English caught on and began what is known as the gin craze. London then adopted gin as it own, making it one of the most popular spirits for Brits.
We are to try four gins to get an idea of what types are available on the market today. Before, we need to know how to get the most out of our palette. Emma explains that you must use the first sip like mouth wash so your tongue gets accustomed to the taste. Then you can use the next sip for exploring and discovering the flavour. Thankfully she doesn’t ask us to spit anything out after tasting. She’s a swallower.
Keeping in tune with gin’s origins, Bols Genevet is the first gin on the menu. The Dutch gin’s recipe is based on an 1820’s original and has a malt-like flavour. I go to sniff and receive a shooting pain up my nose like taking a line of ecstacy. I stir, wondering if it’s something to do with my hay fever, sniffing too hard or the heat from the room that’s effecting my snorting abilities. I can’t handle the nose but I conclude that this Dutch Jenver gin is spunky.
The second is much lighter on the nose. Jensens Old Tom is based on a recipe taken from London’s gin craze when bathtubs were being used to distill their drinks. Although this sounds vile, the old tom recipe has since been revived for the new craft trend making them not as hard to come by. It’s much crisper to drink and looks crystal clear. It has a slightly soapy smell with hints of pine reflecting the clean-cut flavour.
We move on to another old-fashioned style with the Beefeater London Dry Gin. Emma expresses that you shouldn’t put lime with this one as it destroys the flavour. Even though it’s well-known, she strongly advocates this is not another knock-off London Dry. It tastes fresh with some citrus notes and an soothing body that allows me to forget the harsh spring warmth. Although this is distilled in London, Emma explains that you can make a London Dry anywhere in the country because it’s not properly regulated for the city’s exclusivity.
I notice the surrounding drinkers have become lost in their own gin craze now and had began chattering amongst themselves as Emma spoke. I begin to hear a lot of posh accents around the table, making me more conscious of my Penzance pirate accent. In an attempt to relieve some thoughts about etiquette, I grab the Fords and pour myself a large taster. Some people across the table from me scoff at my inability to measure the correct amount. I hadn’t seen any rules so I laugh and knock it back. Fords Gin is one of the newer gins which smells and tastes like a bouquet. It’s hard to stand out in the gin world but Fords has managed just that with its delicate and innovative style.
Last but not least is the cucumber and rose infused Scottish Hendricks. Hendricks seems like a fashionable gin in the sense that it likes to be dressed well. Whether it’s with slices of cucumbers or chilled in teapots, it never presented like a simple G&T. It’s an elaborate gin that performs ballet on the tongue with a breezy elegance.
As I decide my favourite, I realise people are starting to get up and go. Everyone politely said goodbye after the gins had proved to be the perfect topic of conversation. Emma had done a wonderful job of guiding us through gin whilst keeping it informal and interesting. There are many types of gin that weren’t covered but I suppose we would have been there all night if she went through them all. I wouldn’t have minded!
If you don’t know about gin and want to be able to hold a conversation on the subject when you’re “mingling” then this is the perfect guide to gin.
Tickets were £25 per person.