Saturday 11th June 2016 is World Gin Day, and there are loads of seriously sexy artisan gins from across the UK that you can enjoy on the (hopefully!) long, lazy summer nights ahead of us. We wanted to discover Welsh gin in particular, especially as there's been an upsurge in distilleries over the last few years. It's exciting to learn Wales is most definitely part of the gin zeitgeist, and that there are some amazingly unique Welsh gins out there at the moment: here, then, are some of the runners and riders in the race to be the nation's newest favourite.
Dà Mhìle Distillery started life as a whiskey distillery, but the brand has since expanded and moved into its current premises in Llandysul, Ceredigion, where they make a variety of organic spirits and liqueurs. Their latest concoction, a seaweed gin, launched on St David's Day 2014, and is is made with a cut-down, hand selected variant of botanicals added to their small batch gin, which packs a punch at 42% ABV.
Designed to complement seafood, it is infused for three weeks with handpicked seaweed from the Celtic coast, giving it what the Distillery describes as a "lovely light green hue", before being triple filtered and bottled.
The website Master of Malt recommends you use it to create a Dirty Dà Mhìle Seaweed Martini: 1 part Dà Mhìle Seaweed Gin, 2 parts Sweet Vermouth and 1 part Olive Juice in a mixing glass with ice. Stir, then strain into a martini glass, and finish off with an olive.
Penderyn is already well-known for its whiskey, having launched in 2004 and garnering some serious accolades in the trade for its distinctive, smooth taste. In 2007 they added several other spirits to their brand, including their Brecon Gin. This gin is distinctly international in its scope, but firmly embedded in its locality: using botanicals from the four corners of the world and bottled using water from the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Their Brecon Botanicals, winner of the 2014 Gin Trophy at the International Spirits Challenge, is the newest member of the stable: 43% ABV, and comes in their decorated 70cl bottles. The flavour is a gentle juniper with a little citrus; saffron, bergamot, clove oil, cinnamon and cassia bark.
The gin works perfectly in a classic Martini: pour your gin and dry vermouth into a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir well, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Zest some lemon peel and, if you're feeling creative, garnish by twisting it in a spiral.
Price: £27.61. To purchase, visit their website: www.penderynstore.com
The inspiration for this unique range of gins is William Price, the Victorian eccentric and Druid, a Chartist and proponent of, amongst other things, equal democratic rights for all men, vegetarianism, cremation and the abolition of marriage. He was one of the most significant figures in 19th century Wales, and lived in Llantrisant. Indeed, the building in which the gin is distilled has stood for 200 years and was formerly owned by a close friend of Price: and the spring water used to make the gin it flows into the building itself.
Each gin they create has a distinctly Celtic ingredient: Wild sunflower, also known as Elf-wort (or Marchalan in Welsh) - a favourite plant of the Elvish folk, and used as a sedative by the Russians. Made using an IPA wash, the botanicals are vapour infused; thereafter, the gin is naturally sweetened and barrel-aged for six weeks.
Eccentric recommends their Eccentric Martinez, made by mixing 50ml of Young Tim, 15ml of Dry Vermouth and 5ml of Maraschino liqueur. Stir down with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail coupe, garnishing with an orange twist.
It comes in a 70cl bottle, and is 46% APV, one of the strongest gins coming out of Wales right now. It's also pricier than some of the others here: retailing at £38.95 via The Whiskey Exchange: www.thewhiskyexchange.com
Here's an interesting one: a gin released in April this year that lays claim to being the first gin distillery in North Wales in 115 years. The website doesn't give a great deal of information, but that lends an air of exclusivity; a range of tasting events being hosted around the North (all of which have been sold out, save for an event at The Bull's Head in Beaumaris: be quick, there's limited availability) definitely reinforce that feeling. We have our eye on this one; their Forager’s Gin is made using Snowdonia waters and botanicals that grow in and around Snowdonia. Describing themselves as swp bach, they quote Gerald Amos: "The most important right we have is the right to be responsible." Snowdonia Distillery's website can be found here: follow them on Twitter at @Sip_Snowdonia.
The Dyfi Biosphere is home to the Cameron Brothers, Pete & Danny. Pete has a 35 year career in Biology and Botany and farms, forages and keeps bees in the Dyfi Valley area of Mid Wales; his brother Danny is a highly experienced wine and spirits professional, and a regular judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
It is in this ecologically rich area that the boys forage their ingredients and undertake the distilling process. Indeed, the Dyfi Valley is a recognised World Biosphere Reserve: an internationally recognised protected area demonstrating the harmonious balance between humans and nature.
The Distillery is about to launch its Pollination Gin: a gin which is created "on a canvas of carefully selected classic gin botanicals...we 'paint' the flavours only Dyfi can combine, including wild flowers, aromatic leaves, fruits and conifer tips."
You can visit the Distillery and buy bottles direct from the store: the Pollinator gin, which launches on Saturday in readiness for World Gin Day, is 45% ABV and comes served in pretty bottles that range in size, with prices starting at £4.95.
There's something to be said for a crisp gin, served in a tall glass over ice, sipped slowly. And there is plenty of scope for discovering your favourites. It is also especially heartening that several of the distilleries featured here say that sustainability is one of their core values; Dyfi Distillery undertake juniper conservation, and Snowdonia Distillery are in talks with an expert to ensure they are doing the same. Both Dyfi and Snowdonia also limit their batches, which not only assists in ensuring sustainability of ingredients but also fosters that feeling of being in a very exclusive club: a Hellfire Club, perhaps, hidden in the hills and mountains of Wales.