I recently had the pleasure of visiting a branch of Waitrose in the sprawling metropolis that some call London. Presented with a near-bewildering array of gins that I have yet to try I picked Adnams Copperhouse Gin. This was originally brought to my attention by @BlackPlastic who raved about it, and came very close to buying me a bottle on more than one occasion.
Adnams, once famous for beers such as Broadside and SSB, seem to have branched-out significantly in recent years. With the opening of their Copper House Distillery in November 2010, both Vodka and Gin have recently joined the Adnams portfolio.
Adnams Copper House Gin is a distilled gin, and unlike many gin producers, they make it from scratch. East Anglian malted barley is brewed into a “beer wash” before being stripped into a “low wine” and then rectified into pure spirit and re-distilled with the botanicals into gin, all under the mastery of Head Distiller, John McCarthy.
Speaking of botanicals, Adnams Copper House claims six; these are…
- Juniper berries
- Lemon peel
- Orange peel
- Orris root
- Hibiscus flowers
The bottle is stoppered with a cork and is stamped from an increasingly popular mould, with a round footprint and thick glass bottom. The (pseudo) copper-foil wrapping at the top of the bottle is a nice touch and the simple label is elegant and understated.
Uncorking was about as pleasing as it gets (squeak-pop) and the scent from the bottle-top is that of juniper and sweet creamy notes.
Sampled neat, this is a savoury, herbacious, oily gin with a good juniper pay-load. It has a great depth of complexity to it that reminds me strongly of Tanqueray 10. In fact, so convinced was I that the herbaceous resinous notes were chamomile, I refused to believe the first source of information I found which listed the botanicals (sorry Summerfruitcup, I should have known better than to doubt you).
Mixing Copper House with Fever-Tree tonic (3:1 ratio) produces a tremendously aromatic G&T. The phantom chamomile shines through and this G&T furnishes you with a fresh attack and a long lingering roller-coaster after-taste that seems to cycle through half of the herb-garden. There is an underlying earthy sweetness that holds back the astringency slightly, but is far from being enough to make this a sweet G&T.
I have no idea what hibiscus tastes like (I did work my way through a box of hibiscus and rosehip tea several years ago, but that doesn’t seem to have helped), so there is a strong possibility that the slightly frankincensey-chamomile tang is wholly from this flower.
My only criticism of Adnams Copper House Gin would be that every time I have drank more than one G&T in an evening, I have experienced very disturbed sleep. At first I though it just a bad night, as sometimes happens, but as I worked my way through the bottle, a pattern emerged. Doing a little digging revealed that in some, hibiscus tea can have a mild hallucinogenic and intoxicating effect; to be honest, I was drinking gin, so was damn-well expecting to become intoxicated, and I didn’t notice any hallucinations , so maybe this is a complete dead-end. Still, the correlation between poor sleep and Copperhouse consumption is a strong one.
Still, who needs sleep every night? Adnams Copper House Gin is a fine product and I will certainly be buying more. I need to get my hands on some Adnams First Rate Gin (update: which, you can probably tell from the review, I subsequently did) – by all accounts, the classier, more expensive sister of Copper House.
I don’t really own many books on boozing. I do have a copy of Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, and a few books by the god of home-brew, C J J Berry himself, but on the whole, my bookshelves are mostly dominated by sci-fi and pop-science.
When I was contacted asking if I would like a copy of How to Drink at Christmas by Victoria Moore, I was a little hesitant, simply because I had visions of it being one of these niche books that simply gathers dust on the shelf forever more. However, I did a little research on the title and though I would give it a go.
Victoria Moore is currently the Telegraph’s wine writer and has written for the BBC, Daily Mail and Guardian.
The book is presented in traditional festive colours (red white and gold) and is a small-format hardback that will fit in a large pocket. It may be a cliché, but let’s not judge a book by its cover.
With section headings like “Ice Freakery”, “Drinks for Drivers” and “A Sip of Something by the Fire”, there are some intriguing entries.
The various sections relevant to making a G&T (not only a part on making the G&T, but choice of tonic, choice of gin and getting the best from your ice and fruit) are succinct and well constructed. There is no preaching about your gin:tonic ratios or other dogmatic tripe that you sometimes find thrown around; there seems to be an underlying recognition that everyone’s tastes vary and this is a pattern that is reflected throughout the whole book.
There is also a refreshing pragmatism threading the book that opines things like supermarket own-label bottles where the quality of a spirit isn’t going to be a big factor, and packets of frozen fruit from the supermarket freezer shelves.
The book is dotted with fascinating facts and I certainly learned a thing or two in the reading; I now know more about champagne and brandy, and have an appreciation of the frightening toll that counterfeit vodka has on the poorer populace of Russia (an estimated 42,000 deaths per year!).
The presented spectrum of winter cocktails is a good mix of the traditionally clichéd (the snowball and eggnog) right through to off-beat pick-me-ups for those moments when you need a break from the feasting (for example, the Rosemary and Lemon Infusion).
Many of the cocktail recipes are broken down into drinks for “small numbers” and “larger parties” in an elegant recognition that the number of guests can often dictate how much effort you can put into serving drinks. There is also a section on “drinks for drivers” which not only focuses on keeping them sober, but also not making them stand out like sore thumbs.
The section on Christmas Day not only presents some great advice about choosing the right beverage for your food, but challenges some of the traditional pairings, like port & stilton, and smoked salmon & champagne.
All-in-all, I am a pleased that I accepted a copy of How to Drink at Christmas and I can definitely see it influencing my choice of beverages in the run-up to Christmas.