This past month was by far my most hectic period in quite some time. Whisky November was truly special, and I will be writing about each event between now and the New Year.
I hosted two whisky classes at our Flagship liquor store in Downtown Halifax, a whisky dinner in Tantallon, a special presentation of six Tomatin malts to the whisky club and numerous sampling events at many NSLC stores.
Thanks to all involved for your amazing support.
While I arrange all my notes from these events to appear in my posts, I would like to recommend a single malt whisky for the holidays. I do spend time analysing world prices on single malts and there are some great deals. However, there are also many that are simply well overpriced!
Tomatin 12 year old is great value for such an outstanding single malt. I suggest you buy two bottles for over the holidays. One to keep for yourself while enjoying all those old movies and nibbling on a bounty bar. You can’t beat a coconut and chocolate pairing with this malt! One bottle for guests that like a wee dram and will be impressed you have a malt that tastes expensive.
You should taste coconut, vanilla and toffee initially, with notes of Christmas cake, dried fruits coming into play and more fruits and a touch of spice on the finish.
I will be writing much more on this fine distillery in my upcoming posts.
I am pleased to announce we are planning a whisky tour of Scotland in 2018. Over the years, I have been asked by so many guests at my whisky classes and friends to take them on a whisky tour. I have an amazing six day itinerary all worked out with the help of an excellent tour company in Scotland and just working on the final touches before announcing in early 2018.
This will include time in Speyside, home to over 70% of all Scottish distilleries and famous for the water used from the River Spey & two full days on the spectacular island of Islay. So many distilleries on one small island, you will think you have landed in whisky paradise!
There are numerous botanicals used in making a great gin. You will find four in almost all of them with Juniper Berries being mandatory.
The big gin companies source juniper berries from all over the world and take special care in making sure they have enough supply. Often, they will keep enough inventory for two years just in case they encounter a poor harvest. They do rely on perfect weather conditions much like grapes for making an excellent wine.
Coriander Seeds are the second most important and add a spice or citrus note depending on where they are sourced.
Angelica Root provides a woody note and Orris root will hold all the botanicals together in perfect harmony.
Citrus peel, and an array of spices are also to be found. Most gins have at least 10 botanicals in their recipes.
I had the privilege over the summer months to promote both The House of Bombay gins and Citadelle from France.
Both Bombay Sapphire and Citadelle are perfect for the Ultimate G & T.
The Ultimate G & T Recipe:
1 ½ to 2 ounces of quality gin
Fresh Ice Cubes
3 to 4 ounces of Fever Tree Tonic
Distillation –We have raw spirit made from, wheat or maize placed into a copper still. The botanicals are added and left to steep overnight. Once brought to boiling point the vapours will rise up the still before making their way to a condenser. The condenser is full of pipes containing very cold water. There the vapours will turn into liquid.
With the art of slow distillation, the distillery will takes its time allowing the vapours to rise slowly with certain botanicals in the vapours being heavier than others. Citrus will head to the condenser first followed by wood notes and Juniper is heavy and will be last.
You will find most gin distilleries just like a single malt whisky distillery will have different swan necks & Lynne arms. It all depends on if they are creating a light gin to work amazingly with cocktails & mixers or a more complex gin. If the arm is turned down to the condenser its going to be a heavier gin. At the Bombay distillery, the arm goes up with a hanging basket full of botanicals to be vapour infused which gives a lighter style on their Sapphire gin.
We then move to the spirit safe and the middle cut which is just like a Single malt whisky process. No heads or tails will be used which will go back for next distillation.
Excellent water is super important at the end of the distillation for bringing down the spirit to bottle strength.
Bombay source from Snowdonia in Wales while Martin Miller brings water in from Iceland.
The onion style still is usually the choice and no fire today but rather heat jackets.
Citadelle Gin from France still uses open fire.
I have often heard people refer to the term “Mother’s Ruin” with the assumption that drinking gin will make you depressed or extremely emotional. Tests have proved this is not the case and in fact if anything most drinkers are surprisingly happy while drinking gin.
The term is up for debate according to Wikipedia. However, if you look at the history of gin around the time of the gin revolution in the early seventeen hundreds its quite easy to see how the term was originated.
The Hogarth print clearly shows the times in London with the relaxed laws on selling and drinking gin. It was literally all age groups and many mothers were divulging in the gin craze.
Mothers would lose their children to excessive drinking of gin, causing lethal accidents, violent acts and crime which would see many finish on the gallows! Mother’s Ruin!
Back around the time of the gin revolution, not only was it easy to make, cheap to drink, but another added incentive – it was promoted as being healthy for you, particularly with Malaria and Typhoid rampant. But also, easier to give birth, improve your eyesight, coughs and colds remedy and very good for the brain, which improved one’s memory.
All this from the properties found in Juniper berries, which were the only guaranteed botanical to be used in all gins!
Juniper berries were considered a magical potion for just about any ailment according to doctors.
So, there you have it. Gin makes you happy and is healthy for you. Of course, drunk in moderation.
Next Post – London Dry Gin
Gin is steeped in history probably more than any other alcoholic beverage.
The gin story starts when in 1688 a new king took over the throne of England.
King William the third, William of Orange a Dutchman. Why would a Dutchman become king of England, you may ask? No wonder the British historical TV dramas are so popular full of intrigue and corruption.
A short Summary:
William III was connected to the English throne by his mother, Mary, who was the daughter of Charles I. He married with Mary, his first cousin and daughter of his maternal uncle James.
James became king of England and was Catholic. Since the majority of England was protestant, James was unpopular and there was fear the ambition of the French (Catholic) king Louis XIV, with whom the Dutch were at war.
English nobles invited William to invade England and take over the throne. Meanwhile the Dutch Republic, of which William was the Prince of Orange and “Stadhouder”, could use a powerful protestant force against the French.
So, William beat James at the battle of the Boyne and became king of England, Ireland and Scotland.
The King considered importing Genever the national drink of Holland
This was a malted spirit with barley that would go through a process like beer and then a distillation with the botanicals and often aged. Its sounds delicious and halfway towards a single malt whisky, but really not a popular drink outside of Holland.
However, the king found the English farmers had plenty of excess grain that was not fit for food and so what better turn to use in making spirit. He made the laws so relaxed, with far less tax than on beer, every man and his dog started distilling gin in London. The farmers were happy and so too was the nation.
With really no rules on who could produce gin and no license required unlike taverns etc. by 1751 there were 17,000 gin houses in London with a population of 600,000. Open 24/7 until 1839.
By 1720 90% of spirits were distilled in London and could be sold by anyone. That means 12 million gallons of raw spirit were being distilled in a city of 600K the equivalent of every man, woman and child drinking over half a litre of gin per week.
Here is a recipe from 1730.
120 gallons (550 litres) of raw spirit, a splash of turpentine, half ounce of sulphuric acid, lime, rosewater, almonds and alum which is dying compound, I guess for color. Sounds delicious!
Next post – the myth of Mother’s Ruin
I have been so busy in the month of June promoting gin. However, lets go back to the month of May to bring you all up to date.
I had just completed a successful whisky and cheese tasting at the Port store in Downtown Halifax. We always go to questions and answers for the last 20 minutes of all my whisky events. The main question was “Mike when is the next one?” Summer time tends to be quiet in the world of whisky and when I replied, “probably October” many in the tasting asked if I could educate them on gin. After all, it’s the most talked about acholic beverage at the moment surpassing, craft beer! Well, I do have my professional spirits certificate from London and so technically I can teach all the spirits category
“Let me get back to you,” I informed the class.
Turns out this made total sense, since I love a good G & T and the only area of gin I had not covered in my course was to visit a distillery and see it being made. I have offered classes on single malt whisky for almost 20 years and I believe people enjoy the authenticity I provide at each whisky event. I have visited many distilleries in Scotland over the years and without speaking to some of the staff at each unique distillery I would never have the special knowledge I convey at each event.
I was already going back to England in May to visit family and decided to book a connoisseur tour at the Edinburgh Gin distillery.
Knowing I would see gin being made first hand, I decided to pick a date and promote an event in Halifax for when I returned. The date was set for June 08 and while I was still in England it sold out!
The Gin Experience is now a complete module I feature at all my gin events, covering history, distillation techniques, botanicals, tastings with a Tom Collins, a Gin & Tonic and three or four premium gins sipped neat over ice.
My next series of posts will be The Gin Experience broken down into each category.
Many thanks to all the staff at The Edinburgh Gin distillery and our amazing tour director. I have incorporated many facts I learnt on the trip on how to make an incredible range of craft gins into the Gin Experience.
I have been busy this winter promoting all my books and hosting many whisky events. A big thank you to all that attended the Port store whisky discovery event and to Oceanstone Resort for an amazing whisky dinner.
Starting in June, I will switch my attention to the world of gin, with many events lined up for the summertime.
June 10th is world gin day and a chance for you all to explore the many gins now available. I will be starting a “Mike’s Gin Diary in May. Keep checking my blog for more information on gin. Certain gins are made to be a perfect marriage in a cocktail, a G & T or just to sip over ice. I will let you know which are the best gins for your favourite drink.
I don’t imagine any writing from me this year, although with all this talk of gin, I may just have Raymond Armstrong my character in my Whisky novel series suddenly develop a passion for gin.
You can find an in depth interview of yours truly in the February edition of Opal Publishing.
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Thank you so much to the great team at Opal.
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Featuring my first novel Tight Spiral during SuperBowl week, along with information on my other books and interviews with me. Hope you enjoy.
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Colleen S. Myers