NB; ‘Nota Bene’ my friends. Or for the non Latin speaking amongst you (a camp in which I am also firmly placed…thank you Wikipedia!) ‘note well’. And for those of you who just want to cut to the chase – ‘pipe down, sit up and pay attention. There’s something important to be said’.
See. I told you there was something important to be said.
What do you mean ‘that doesn’t sound very important or impressive’?! More ‘context’ needed you say? Ok, well how about ‘North Berwick’ has a ‘perfect gin’ that’s become known as ‘the best London Dry Gin in the world’? A bold claim, perhaps. But I’m willing to bet I have your attention now…
The ‘NB’ in the name of this gin actually stands for its aforementioned place of birth in bonny Scotland (as opposed to my elongated introduction to the Latin language for this blog) – a beautiful seaside resort that’s been a holiday destination with tourists for years. And I have a sneaking suspicion it may be about to make its way on to a number of gin enthusiasts radars too…(though I’m sure they’ll be hoping for more than a stick of rock as a souvenir!).
Husband and wife team, Steve & Viv Muir, epitomise what I love about ‘small batch’ gin making. They started out with a dream; to turn their obsession for gin in to the best juniper based liquid the market has to offer. Simple enough ambition right?…Cue hours of experimentation with hundreds of bontanticals in a homemade pressure cooker still (which is surely the most awesome use of a pressure cooker I’ve ever heard!) to narrow down their recipe to a simple, yet refined, eight ingredients (for those interested, that’s juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, grains of paradise, cassia bark, ground cardamon, lemon peel and orris root powder).
When you read the painstaking process that Steve and Viv go through to create their gin I’m reminded of ‘Breaking Bad’:
The temperature of the still is kept to within one degree at any one time throughout the entire process. All of the timings are tracked to the second. And all ingredients measured to the millilitre and gram (quite literally!). Actually, on second glance, even the NB name looks like a chemical symbol! Even the bottle wouldn’t look too out of place on a pharmacists shelf, such is the beautiful simplicity of the end product. And whilst I am in no way suggesting that the team at NB are playing quite as ‘fast & lose’ with the letter of the law, there is one thing that this gin does have in common with Mr. Whites (Heisenberg to his friends) creation. They’re both very moreish…
Now, of course, that the pair have a gin they’re proud to put their name to, things have moved on significantly. The pressure cooker has been returned to the kitchen cupboard and replaced with a custom made still, whose exacting specifications ensure a consistent replication of their precise concoction with every 275 bottle batch.
‘Well that’s all very good, but how does it drink?!’ I hear you say. You had only to ask…
The neat spirit is sharp on the nose. Think of a herby, lime zestiness. The aroma carries something resembling fresh cut grass, with a hint of light spices in the background. This is going to sound weird, but stick with me – I picked up hints of salt & pepper…but with cardamon tones rounding off the scent in a very pleasant way.
When tasted neat, NB is subtle on the tongue at first. But you do get that spice I mentioned earlier on the throat. It’s warming, but not aggressive – I’d actually describe it as having a light and mellow nature. Whilst there is a definite call out to be made to our good friend coriander, it’s not an overwhelming inclusion. And though you do get a sense of rooty/earthy botanicals, it is not as herby as its initial scents may suggest. The whole package is beautifully balanced with the sweetness of cassia, leaving you with notes of vanilla and cinnamon.
This is a gin that works very well in a Gin & Tonic, with a citrus based garnish to emphasise those lime notes and enhance the sharpness of the flavour. However, I went a little more adventurous this time around and created a ‘Frozen Strawberry & Lime Gin & Tonic’ cocktail, with NB as the centre piece. Verdict – stunning. This is a fantastic cocktail gin. I’ll include the recipe at the end of this piece for those of you looking to be reunited with Summer for one last time before the real winter weather kicks in!
Is this gin breaking new ground. No. Is it going to win awards for innovation? Probably not. Will it take plaudits for being the first gin to give a man the ability to fly? Don’t be absurd! But it doesn’t matter. And why not? Because it’s classic. Steve and Viv stick firmly to the London Dry process and produce an end result that is both beauty and simplicity personified. And it’s not just me that’s sitting up and paying attention. In 2015 NB was voted ‘the best London Dry Gin in the world’! So there.
With such accolades already gained, you could be forgiven for thinking that the team at NB are going to rest on their laurels. But in the pursuit of perfection, I’m willing to bet that you can think again! So what’s next for this husband and wife supergroup? Well, as I said at the beginning of this blog my friends, ‘Nota Bene’. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of NB…
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get my bucket and spade (and a glass with ice & tonic). I’m off for a trip to the North Berwick seaside…
Frozen Strawberry and Lime Gin & Tonic
For those of you who have read on in search of the earlier promised cocktail recipe, I hope you won’t be disappointed. This really is ‘Summer in a glass’.
These bad boys taste awesome – essentially it’s a posh strawberry ‘Slush Puppy’, with gin! And for those wanting to drink ‘guilt free’ there are absolutely no nasties in these – just gin, fruit and tonic. Winner!:
2 x measures NB Gin
1 x half measure Cointreau
Juice of half a fresh lime
100g frozen strawberries
200ml Fevertree light tonic
Garnish with strawberry & Lime
Enjoy! Cheers folks
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