Nikka Coffey Gin

Japanesy does it

Happy New Year one and all!

Who would have thought DJT would let us make it out of 2017 in one piece? Not only can we celebrate survival and a little festive (added) plumpness, we also get to read the barely sweary brilliance which is “Fire and Fury“. The most surprising part? That any of it comes as a surprise…

In an effort to rekindle some Christmas vibes and try to keep warm, we tucked into something zesty in the office today. Pizza. And gin. Taking a walk on the citrus side we explored the Nikka Coffey Gin made by pre-eminent producers of fantastic Japanese whisky – Nikka. Gin from a whisky distillery – how do they do that? Well, they have a couple of great big Coffey stills (can you see where they got the name?) which they use to produce whisky and vodka. And then the vodka gets all friendly with 11 botanicals to craft an excellent gin.

The second of three uniquely Japanesy gins to land in the UK last year, it is presented at a pokey 47% abv and bristles with notes of exciting local botanicals: yuzu, amanatsu (bless you) and sansho pepper. After sampling it in the nude (the gin, not us) we built on the citrus by serving it with a small slice of pink grapefruit and Fever Tree’s “Billy Basic” tonic.

It kicks 臀部.

The fruity top notes are joined by a smooth pepperiness which suggests it might be fun to garnish it on the one warm sunny day of 2018 with a grind of pink pepper and a little squeeze of lime. Definitely a gin that could make a feisty yet sippable (?) / sip-worthy (?) martini should the need arise.

Wake us up after the impeachment and in the meantime – kanpai!

Hidden Curiosity Gin

Showing our Hidden Curiosities

We were curious. And now we know!

In a week where London has mostly been shrouded in mist and murk we decided to reveal our inner Hidden Curiosities. And what a strange word curiosities is. Just look at it. All sorts of i and s action in there.

Anyway. We discovered this little gem in the hind-quarters of London’s most social and eclectic offie – Gerry’s Wines on Old Compton Street. Having tripped over the eager beaver flogging sumptuous, smooth and delightfully bottled “Hackney Gin” from Our/London, we found ourselves nestled near gins.

Packaged in a tiny but cute square bottle (50ml size) we loved the typography and the back-of-label illustration. Upon further investigation it touts 20 “intriguing” botanicals. We guess at least 6 are not really packed with intrigue at all. Just along for the Murder Mystery weekend and pretending to be all shady and complex. The lovely folk who make it are based in the Surrey Hills: not an area renowned to be nature’s home of intrigue.

Curiosities jammed into this broad-shouldered pert package of citrus-y crispness include Japanese yuzu and a veritable rainbow of peppercorns. We found ourselves to be fresh out of yuzu for a garnish (poor stock-keeping it must be said). Crying shame. So we went for basic Fever Tree tonic and some pink grapefruit peel. BAM. Three drinks later; no one is keen to hide any degree of curiosity at all. So that all went well then… Well worth exploring it as a super dry martini too.

Bangkok, the home of Thai gin

It’s a couple of months since we started Dry July and gave up the sauce. But in honour of Lord Brace taking leave of London and heading to the Far East, we bid him fare-thee-well with some gin. Thai gin. That’s right. Gin. From. Bangkok…

We were fortunate to be speaking at, and sponsoring, the inaugural IFC Asia earlier this year. It was an inspiring opportunity to learn more about the amazing fundraising going on across Asia. Given we were in Bangkok we escaped for an hour to check out some Iron Balls. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be a polished beautiful tall strapping and bronzed… distillery.

Nestled in a back street, the bar and distillery makes a fruity and cheeky gin called Iron Balls. They show the versatility of their spirit with a small menu of great mixer : garnish combinations.

With a welcome as warm as the city, though less sweaty, we enjoyed a chat about all-things gin, and bought a little of it back to Blighty.

Aside from being utterly impossible to pour from the squat uniquely orb-esque bottle, this gin rocks. It slaps you in the face with a barrage of fruit and coconut. These show hints of its ancestry: they first make pineapple and coconut wine, then distil a vodka from it, and then craft their gin from that homemade (do you see what we did there?) spirit. You can read a proper grown-up story all about it here.

It works brilliantly with exciting citrus garnishes – mandarin, mango and pineapple – as well as pepper or ginger and lemongrass. Even apple!

It is a little shy so we went for a “strong” pour rather than mucking about – and mixed it with basic Fevertree Tonic. Good times, or ไชโย as they type in BKK.

If you find yourself in Bangkok – look up the bar!

Gin of the week: Boodles

It’s more humid than Singapore on Old Street right now. Genuinely. A rocking 78% mugginess rating and an excellent reason, not that we needed one, for a refreshing drink designed to fight such sweltering climates, fortify the body and enliven the mind. So we present this week’s gin – modelled by our visiting canine companion, Gnarly – for your pleasure: Boodles London Dry Gin.

After the recent tasting disaster of Nordés, we were on the look out for a strong contender we could rely on to win over the office. What better, then, than a gin first concocted over a century and a half ago and recently enjoying a UK renaissance? It’s been said Boodles was the favourite gin of Winston Churchill (it’s named after a London gentleman’s club which counted him among its members), so if you like your drinks to carry the seal of approval of great wartime leaders, then look no further. Ian Fleming is supposed to have been a big fan too, which raises the question: why did this winning recipe disappear off our shelves for so long? Boodles only re-emerged in the UK market in 2013, despite being produced here and having been readily available in the USA and Japan for ages. We’ll have to forgive and forget. Boodles is back at long last, and we salute its glorious return.

No need for exotic tonics with this one – a standard bottle of anything will do – and, as always, we went in without garnish. In a word, it’s great. A real old-school, no frills gin with plenty of juniper and everything else balanced masterfully. There’s no citrus in there, allowing plenty of room for a bit of lemon or lime if you fancy it. Even the gin-sceptics among us had to acknowledge Boodles’s charm. It’s a traditional thing done right. With our gin collection becoming dominated by quirky and experimental new brands that often turn out to be novelty failures, it’s reassuring to find a gin that just gets the job done with elegant simplicity.

A 9/10 for Boodles. Pop over for one when you can.

Gin of the week: Nordés

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has crossed the threshold of HomeMade in recent months that we’re rather partial to a gin and tonic. At the start of last December, we inaugurated the world’s first* “advent cal-gin-der”, in an attempt to run down our burgeoning stock of spirit (yes, it’s barely a pun, but it was for a good cause). The curious result of this well intentioned drinking project is that our supply has roughly doubled. Go figure. So here we now are with fifty bottles of mother’s ruin and many thirsty HomeMaders. It’s going to be a long slog, but we thought you might like to join us on the journey.

So, here it is, our first gin of the week: Nordés Atlantic Galician Gin. Named, according to its maritime-themed bottle, after a mythical northerly wind which blows through Galicia, thought to bring good weather and, it claims, decent gin. That’s pretty much on a par with the standard overblown marketing spiel found stuck to the back of overpriced spirits, so we were off to a strong start.

The first sniff of this rare delight led to immediate disagreement. Several noses were flatly unimpressed, and delivered withering rebukes of “mouthwash” and “aftershave” – they won’t be invited back. But some of us took to the unusually sweet fragrance of Nordés, and after a second, full-lunged sniff, a pairing with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic was prescribed by our resident prescriber of tonics.

Our tasting tradition, elaborated over the past few weeks, is now to go in ungarnishedly – it feels fairer that way, and we’re all for a controlled experiment. This evening, however, everyone agreed that Nordés could have done with a little citrus to cut through its oily texture. “It tastes like sweets,” blurted out someone at the back of the room, and it’s hard to deny it. There’s a bizarre bubblegum taste in Nordés that gets in the way of its being obviously gin. It led to a few furrowed eyebrows and, eventually, a general shrug of resignation. It’s not horrible, but we don’t think it’s going to win Galicia any awards. Unless there’s an award for the only gin made in Galicia, in which case it could do quite well.

So it’s a round 5/10 for Nordés. Give it a try if it’s free and at hand, but for £37 a bottle this Iberian offering fails to pull its weight.