We were in a stand off. It was just me and him…
I stood rooted to the spot, locked in a battles of wits, neither of us willing to back down or be the first to blink. I’m not a violent man – in fact I’d never even been involved in a playground fight at school. But when you start trying to intimidate my wife, then I draw the line!
They say that when you’re put in to these kind of situations your ‘fight or flight’ instincts kick in. And this was only going to end one way. Luckily for me, I had grown up with a martial arts background. By which I mean I took karate aged 10-12, (achieving the dizzy heights of an Orange belt, I thank you kindly!).
I raised my fists, and readied myself. I lunged left, he moved right. I swung right, he darted left. I drew breathe and closed my eyes, let out a blood curdling roar and threw my clenched fist forwards.
I hit him. He fell. And he died.
I collapsed to the floor, exhausted and emotionally drained. The encounter was over, two lives eternally changed by the days events. As I replayed the final moments through my mind, I was struck by the realisation that I was now a cold, hard killer.
And just as I began to imagine a life of solitude and penance behind bars, I was interrupted by my wife’s gentle tones as she cowered from the doorway behind me. ‘Did you kill it Matt? Is the spider dead?!’…
Welcome to Southwold, Suffolk. The year is 2011, and on a retrospectively ill advised decision to take a summer ‘stay-cation’, my wife and I had taken refuge for the week in a cottage that has ever since being lovingly referred to as ‘Spidery Cavern’.
Now don’t get my wrong, whilst not the biggest fan of spiders, I also wouldn’t consider myself to have a fear of the eight legged critters. But this place really did take the biscuit! (And based on the size of some of these guys, I’m fairly confident they could have wrestled a biscuit from me if they’d wanted!). It was also the sheer number of them – to this day my wife is still blissfully unaware of the 20+ spiders I had to massacre in the bedroom in just one night before she retired to bed. They say you should have no secrets from your partner, but this one was for her own good!; oh what a tangled web we weave…safe to say I slept with one eye open that night!
And so it was that we needed to find excuses to spend as little time in ‘Spidery Cavern’ as possible. Cue a visit to the Southwold Brewery; a day trip that fitted the specification of getting out a cottage that would make the perfect film set should they ever wish to invest in a remake of ‘Arachnophobia’ and also harboured the promise of a, by now, much needed stiff drink!
Now don’t recoil in horror dear reader – whilst we are entering unfamiliar territory, with not a juniper berry in sight, there is a very good reason for me recounting my visit. Stick with me here!
Since the 1870’s, Adnams have been perfecting the art of brewing beer and are now intrinsically linked with the Southwold name. As we meandered through the Brewey, impressed by the history, the scale of the operation & (let’s be honest) craving a beer, little were we to know that our timing was off. You see, within a few short months from our visit, Adnams would take a very interesting deviation from the world of hops & barley that they had become accustomed to, choosing to add gin into their repertoire!
Alarmed by my own misfortune, I turned to my wife in horror; ‘we have to go back!’ I exclaimed, sounding a little too similar to Doc Brown from ‘Back to the Future’. But alas, our chance was missed. For the journey down south is not a short hop from Leeds, and by now our eight legged foes would have grown in numbers, and likely in their resolve for revenge.
Fast forward to current day, and I’m sat at my parents French B&B, sulking over the fact that France (or Evian at the very least) still hadn’t caught up with the gin revolution that’s taking place all around it. When out of the corner of my eye, what should I spot but a familiar looking branded bottle of blue, orange & white. In my exile from Southwold I had come across a quite unexpected sight; ‘Adnams Copper House Gin’! Though I should point out it’s arrival was by virtue of a gift, rather than a change of heart by the French gin scene!
Copper House gin is a great story of evolution, and a brilliant example of brand that places a ‘grain to glass’ ethos at the heart of what it does. With nearly 150 years of beer making under their belt, Adnams could be forgiven for thinking they had this booze business down, and happily continued on their well established path. But sitting still wasn’t seen as an option…Gin is the latest addition to the Adnams family, following the introduction of both a Whiskey and a Vodka.
But this isn’t just any gin – in its relative infancy, it was voted ‘Worlds Best Gin 2013’. Not too shabby for a Brewery huh?! And when talking to Head Distiller John McCarthy, at this years a Junipalooza festival, he seems to have taken all of this in his stride, endearingly stating that he’d agreed to just ‘give it a go’ when asked if he could create a gin befitting of the brand.
So what’s it all about? First things first is their ‘neutral spirit’, though perhaps not as you may know it. Paying a fitting nod to their heritage, the team use their flagship beer recipe as a base, essentially create a ‘hop-less’ beer (or beer ‘wash’) that is fermented and passed to McCarthy and co to work their magic on within the confines of the distillery, stripping it back to the bare essentials needed to begin the creative process. Once an intensive round of rectifying is completed, 6 botanicals are then expertly combined (juniper, orris root, cardamom pods, coriander seed, sweet orange peel and hibiscus flower) to deliver his award winning masterpiece. Though McCarthy, ever humble, describes landing on his final recipe as something of a happy accident, having sample hibiscus in a tea and thinking that it ‘might work well in a gin’. There’s something about the humbleness behind his artistic process that only serves to make this gin ever more appealing…
So at this point, it’s time to pull up a bar stool, grab a rhetorical pint glass and see if this juniper creation can cure us of our ‘Ale’-ments…
There is an initial sharp blast of citrus on the nose, that’s suggestive of a strength much higher than its 40% mark up. But leave the gin to open up a little and you’ll find a sweet haze makes its way on to your radar. The orange peel is the dominant citrus scent, but when it combines with the other botanicals there’s an unexpected (though certainly not unwelcome!) sense of chocolate and vanilla that presents itself. Whilst the subtleness of the spices keep the nose entertained, this is a very juniper forward gin, with a delicious pine overtone.
When tasting the gin neat, you’ll find that it packs quite a punch! But that’s easily resolved by adding a splash of water to calm down its enthusiasm a just a little…The inclusion of hibiscus is very clever indeed. The citrus flavours are allowed to show off, with those perfectly blended oranges benefiting from an additional tang in their armoury. There is a long lasting mouth feel, with the front of the tongue tingling from the citrus & spices, whilst the juniper flavour then lingers at the back of the throat and settles in for the duration.
When served with a premium light tonic (I’d opt for Fever-Tree) and a generous length of orange peel, you’re left with a stunning G&T. The sweetness of the oranges are pulled forwards, perfectly balanced against a fistful of juniper, offering the perfect backdrop of an earthy pine forest feel. With each sip, I gained a new appreciation for just how clever this gin is, with a level of complexity that’s gleefully mind boggling when you consider the comparatively small number of botanicals at play. Balanced, sophisticated and very ‘moreish’; excellent!
And as I reached for the bottle to pour another round, I found that, much in the same way as Incy Wincy (of spider fame), my mental anguish of ‘Spidery Cavern’ was beginning to wash away. And whilst I may always be looking over my shoulder when I spot an empty web, there’s one thing that Charlotte and I can most certainly agree on. Whilst their beer is very good, the Adnams gin is a triumph. A potential peace offering between humans and our arachnid chums? I’ll drink to that…