I think we can all agree, Wales has provided the World with some great exports:
. Tom Jones.
. Katherine Zeta Jones.
. Terry Jones (he’s a very naughty boy!)
. Griff Rhys Jones.
. Steve Jones (of ‘T4’ heart throb fame).
. Ruth Jones.
. Although he’s not strictly from Wales, I am reliably informed that even Vinnie Jones enjoyed a school Summers Holiday on the Welsh Coast, which I can only assume has resonated in his calm, tranquil nature we know and love today.
. And as for Indiana Jones…well, while I’m not saying he is definitely Welsh, have you ever seen him and Rob Brydon in the same room? Purely coincidence?…I’ll let you decide.
The point is, when it comes to talent, Wales has it in abundance across the world of Sports and Entertainment. But what of the world of Beverages? You may remember the ever loveable Welsh Comedian, come Wales enthusiast, Rhod Gilbert exclaiming ‘I never knew Wales had Wine’ in his advert for the Welsh tourism board? Well, imagine Rhod’s surprise if he found out that not only is there Wine in Wales (a fact I have painstakingly researched and verified for this very Blog!) but that they also have a fantastic offering for the Gin world; Brecon Gin. The poor chap would positively fall off his chair in astonishment I’m sure! And having won the “Gold Best in Class” in the Worldwide Gin 40% category at the International Wines & Spirits Competition 2011, along with Merits at subsequent competitions, this Gin comes with some pedigree…
So, with your fancy suitably tickled, let’s get in to some detail and see what it’s all about. In the words of ‘Gavin & Stacey’s’ Nessa…let’s see “what’s occurin'”.
Brecon Gin is the birth child of a group of friends who came together to create the Penderyn Distillery, based in the village of Penderyn, Wales. And the Gin itself takes its name from the scenic Brecon Beacons National Park, which is only stones throw away from the Village.
Nestled amongst the Mountains, Valleys and Moorland, the Penderyn Distilleries primary focus is very obviously Whiskey, having released their first Single Malt on St. David’s Day in 2004. The team at Penderyn produce & cask age their own malted barley spirit, using natural Spring water from beneath the Distillery, to make their Malt Whiskies using a Copper Pot Still designed for them by Dr David Faraday – a descendent of the Victorian scientist Michael Faraday (that’s right – a Gin Blog and a History lesson all rolled in to one!). Luckily for us though, the guys thoughtfully (and also for sound financial business sense) manage to siphon off enough of their magical elixir to craft a host of other products – including, most importantly, their Gin! And in 2007, ‘Brecon Gin’ was born. The ‘Angels Share’ indeed…
Now, while the Gin may be an off product of the Whiskey venture, don’t let that temper your impressions of the quality you’re going to find here. Because the guys at Penderyn really do care about what they do. In fact, they pride themselves on the love and integrity that goes in to the making of their products, stating that “in a world of faceless, globalised, Multi-National and Multi-Brand companies, Penderyn is a throwback to an era when people came together to create something special”. And that’s just what this is. Special.
The first thing that you’ll notice with Brecon is the bottle design. Tall, slender and simplicity personified, not dissimilar to the design approach used by ‘William Chase’ products, it comes across as a classy offering. And there are no prizes for guessing what Bontanicals are used on this occasion, as it does exactly what is says on the Tin (…or bottle). All 11 ingredients are proudly listed down the front and centre, supported by a foot note informing that these are ‘Traditional Bontanticals selected from the four corners of the world and the finest grain spirit with pure Welsh water’. On closer inspection they present themselves as; Juniper Berries, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Liquorice Root, Cinnamon Bark, Angelica Root, Ground Nutmeg, Coriander Seeds, Lemon Peel and Orris Root Powder, all mixed with the aforementioned Welsh Spirit. Admittedly, the menu doesn’t initially seem to scream at you with a quirky edge or originality – pretty standard ingredients in many Gins. But much like the roots of the great Welsh philosopher (…Charlotte Church) there’s one thing we can agree on – it’s classic.
But how does it stand up against the other senses? The first thing that smacks you in the face is Lemon. I got a huge Citrus blast as soon as the cork stopper was removed. It carries with it a Juniper heavy scent, suggesting a sharpness to complement the crisp and clean appearance of the neat spirit.
On taste there is a lot of heat and a spice that comes as a pleasant surprise – almost deceptive of the 40% marking. There’s a long lasting heat on the pallet, with the most notable contributions coming from the Liquorice and earthier Botanticals.
As a tasting tip with neat Gin, particularly in cases where the Ethanol seems to mask the other elements, just add a splash of water to remove the strength of the alcohol. In doing so here, it really opened the Gin up, revealing the Orange peel and Nutmeg flavours, with a strong Lemon zest prevailing from the Citrus side.
It’s at this point where I’m not sure if it was the taste of the Gin or my imagination contributing to the experience. But when mixed with Tonic there was almost a ‘fresh cut grass’ quality to the aromas and taste with deliciously subtle Vanilla tones mixed in to the equation. I could almost picture Rhod Gilbert astride a Cliff on the Welsh coast line, clutching a tourist board pamphlet, scratching his head as to how such a beverage had alluded his radar for so long.
To get the best effect from this Gin, I’d recommend mixing with a quality Tonic and garnishing with a healthy wedge of Lemon & Lime to really pull through those Citrus notes. When reflecting on my earlier notes, my trepidation of this being ‘too simple’ were washed away. Because when simplicity is done right, the results are outstanding.
And so to end, we look to the words of the ever quizzical Welsh legend, Sir Tom Jones and ask ‘What’s new Pussy Cat?’. Answer; there is indeed Gin in Wales. And ‘my my my, Delilah’…it’s very, very good.