As I shot bolt upright in bed, I will admit that I was completely and utterly petrified!
We were on night one of our holiday to Lanzarote, staying in a hotel that was pushing the boundaries of what could technically be considered ‘hygienic’; let’s just say that what our room lacked in health & safety compliant electrical wiring, it more than made up for in dead cockroaches under the bed!
Mere moments earlier, I had been laid peacefully in a deep sleep. But now, from nowhere, I was in full on ‘fight or flight’ mode, having been awoken by the sound of a chilling & high pitch scream. It was the kind of scream you’d associate with Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’, a fact that wasn’t lost on me, as I sat draped in my ‘shower curtain-esq’ bed sheet, frantically searching the room for an intruder.
As I caught my breath, and my eyes acclimatised to the dark, I surveyed my surroundings and quickly identified the source of the shriek as coming from my wife, who was now gripping my arm so tight that I was beginning to struggle to know where my arm finished & her finger nails began!
‘What’s going on?! What’s happened?!’ I panicked.
It was at this point that she woke up. Looked me directly in the eyes. Muttered something inaudible about what must have been a dream. Yawned. And instantly fell back to sleep…
I lay wide awake for the rest of the night, as I tried to recover my heart from somewhere down by my feet…and the cockroaches.
It’s a story that we still laugh about to this day. And by ‘we’, I of course mean that Emily laughs about it at my expense. Usually in public. But why do I reference it within this blog you ask? (other than as a cathartic form of therapy for myself in the hope that I can perhaps one day start sleeping without one eye open…). Well, I was recently acquainted with an altogether different kind of ‘Banshee’. And rather than coming in the mythological form of a female spirit who ‘heralds the death of a family member through a chorus of wailing & shrieking’ (I still get flashbacks just thinking about it…) this one was presented neatly in a sample bottle; may I introduce you to ‘Banshee Etcher’ Gin.
What’s in a name?
‘Banshee Etcher’. Not your typical name for a gin ‘ey. And particularly when you apply the connotations previously referenced. Initially, you could be forgiven for thinking that Louise Sharpe (the gins creator) has hardly gone for the lighthearted approach. That is until you scratch below the surface a little… on closer inspection the title doubles as a clever anagram for ‘The Cheese Barn’, where Banshee Etcher takes centre stage as the resident gin at Curborough’s ‘The Cheese, Gin & Ale Barn’.
Instantly, I know what you’re thinking. Cheese? Gin? Ale? All under one (Barn) roof? What is this witchcraft?! Well my friends, it’s a concept as awesome as it is true (I have seen the promised land!).
This picture perfect postcard of a shop is a Staffordshire gemstone, and one I’m very pleased to hail as my new ‘local’. The walls are adorned with gin (obviously), craft ales/beers & many a gin inspired source of sustenance.
Oh, and in case you hadn’t guessed yet, they also have a veritable treasure trove of cheese!
And you need only gawp at the lineup on the back bar to see that Louise & the team have built themselves a gin collection that’s steeped in class and quality, with ‘Gwyr’, ‘Brentingby’, ‘Pothecary’ and ‘Salcombe’ on display to name drop but a few.
Bravo, I thought.
But what of the display that sits so proudly at the front and centre of the window display? How did Banshee Etcher come to pass? I’m glad you asked…
Sharpe had originally set out with the intention to set up a small distillery, to create and distill her own gin. But shy in cash & poor in time, both hefty start up requirements, it wasn’t a feasible option.
Not willing to be deterred, Louise pressed on, seeking out a partner in crime to help get her gin soaked aspirations off the ground. Cue a story of ‘not all heroes wear capes’, and enter stage right Karl Mason of ‘Masons Yorkshire Gin’…
Now, for those of you who are not new to my blogs, you’ll be aware of my huge admiration for the Masons brand. You check out my full blog on Masons Yorkshire Tea Edition & the 2018 launch of G12 here:
And it was of no surprise to me to learn that in a juniper time of need, Karl & Co had heeded the call. Over the next 12 (and ‘a bit’) months, Louise commuted back and forth up the M42 to Bedale to work with the Masons team to create a limited batch of 225 bottles of her bespoke gin. And having recently relocated back to the Midlands from Yorkshire myself, I can assure you – that’s no small feat!
In working through countless recipes and variations, at times feeling like they may never get there, they finally managed to bottle Sharpes idea of an orange & cranberry forward gin, which (by way of an unplanned happy accident) launched ready to mark the one year anniversary of the teams move from Tamworth to Lichfield & just in time for Christmas!
You scream, I scream, we all scream!…for gin…
So what’s it all about I hear you ‘scream’?… well.
The gins homecoming is emphasised by a heartwarming focus on locality, with the artwork on the bottles depicted by local artist ‘Made by Leah’.
Though in an equally heartwarming nod to the gins Yorkshire heritage and association, Masons bottles have been used, proudly embossed with the Masons of Yorkshire name & sitting firmly upon the base of the Yorkshire rose.
On pouring the sample, the gin is quite herbaceous on the nose initially. I get soft notes of coriander balanced against a soft vanilla & cinnamon profile. The citrus comes through beautifully, with bright oranges pushing forwards as the gin opens up. There’s a warming background spice to the neat gin, with cardamom being the most noticeable to my nose.
The cranberry is perhaps less discernible, but knowing the berries are in there does lead the witness to look for sharper notes of red fruits in the background.
What pleases me is that this isn’t a gin that has sought to pack in other flavours at the expense of juniper (well, what would you expect when Masons are involved?!). Piney goodness bobs and weaves throughout the vapours to great effect.
To taste, the gin is a lot earthier on the pallet than I’d anticipated and packs quite a punch! There’s an instant warming spice on the tongue, with strong flavours of cardamom and clove making their presence felt. Orange becomes a dominant force, particularly on the after taste, with orange zest lingering on the long satisfying finish. The cranberry is more evident on the taste, but is well balanced so as not to be overwhelming or artificial.
This gin doesn’t seek to be gimmicky – in a lot of senses it is very classic in how it presents itself, but with a festive edge surrounding its botanical make up. Given its purely coincidental Christmas launch date, it’s festive flavour profile is somewhat of a Christmas miracle!
And to serve? I went for the recommended Walter Gregor’s Spiced tonic and a slice of fresh orange. Wow. They may be called ‘perfect serves’, but they don’t always work. On this occasion, it was actually perfect.
The profile of the tonic is a marriage made in heaven for this gin; sweet, a citrusy orange kick, well balanced spices of cinnamon and cardamom with a bitter quinine bite. And, deceptively, this isn’t full of sugar either. At 37 calories per 100ml, it’s comparable with many premium brands, ensuring your gin isn’t lost behind a wall of nasty synthetics!
The aggression of the booze, which is pretty robust when sipped neat, sits perfectly behind the mixer, able to stand up for itself. As the botanicals combine with the tonic this really does feel like a festive affair.
That said, I can imagine that Banshee Etcher would pair superbly well as a G&T with a light tonic (Fever-Tree or Double Dutch) with a slice of orange & I am assured it’s the perfect bed partner for the Fever-Tree clementine & cinnamon tonic.
It would appear that I’m not the only one who has heard the noise of the Banshee. With only around 50 bottles left of the small batch release, the gin is flying off the shelves! So what’s next for Louise and the team? With suggestions that a small distillery could still be on the horizon as a future project, the current focus in the offing is rumoured to be a rum. And if they can follow up their gin with another ‘screamer’, then we’re sure to be in for a treat!…
With special thanks to my Louise Sharpe for my sample of Banshee Etcher gin.
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