I think that it’s probably fair to say that everyone will remember where they were for their ‘first time’.
Now with your first time, there’s generally an element of planning involved. After all, this is going to be a new experience for both you and your companion. Like for instance, where are you going to do it? What are you going to wear? And how the hell do you make sure you’re parents aren’t going to be there?!
After weeks (sometimes months) of planning, the big day finally arrives. In most cases there are initially a few nerves and awkward exchanges. But before you know it, things end up heated and exciting, with a lot of fumbling and thrashing around, trying to work out exactly what you’re supposed to do.
Yet, as is all to often the case, the event is over far more quickly than you’d have liked, and all you’re left with are the memories & some dirty laundry. By the time you’re done, you’re tired, emotional and just hope to god that you haven’t caught anything ‘exotic’!
I am of course referring to that major life milestone of your first holiday or trip away with your significant other half! (why – what did you think I was talking about?!…).
Some people will go all out for a package trip abroad, ending up on a strip somewhere in Spain trying to style out a ride on a questionable ‘Bucking Broncho’, whilst trying their hardest to keep the return of too many milk based alcoholic cocktails at bay. Others may opt for the romantic ‘City Break’, feigning an air of control amidst an internal panic that you have absolutely no idea where you are!
We opted for a middle ground, and headed to a UK gemstone that still holds a very special place in our hearts to this day; York.
Ok. When I say ‘middle ground’, my milk based cocktail of choice was a Latte, and the closest thing I saw to a ‘Bucking Broncho’ was a slightly over enthusiastic dog who, by my observation, was taking its owner for a walk. And I did get lost. A few times.
Now I could sit here and regale you with tales of how we drenched ourselves in the culture of the city, pushed the boundaries of tourism and marvelled at the natural beauty of our surroundings. But in reality, my 18 year old self & the girl who would become my wife some 14 years later, spent most of our time paying to see the sites, only to lose interest shortly after and seek out lunch (‘Mr.£wich’ being our destination of choice for his cheap, no thrills, approach to student friendly gastronomy).
Who am I kidding – it’s how I spend most weekends!
Nevertheless, there’s something quite magical about York. The cobbled streets of the Medieval-esq Shambles. The River Ouse cutting through the city. The street performers who line every street corner. And the simply stunning architecture, accentuated by the dominating Minster.
And just when I thought that there was nothing more that could be added to a city so tightly entwined in my own memory, they go and add a distillery. To be more specific, they added a gin distillery. Allow me to introduce you to York Gin.
A tale of one City…
Inspired by the emergence of gins baring the name of their respective cities (think Leeds Gin, Liverpool Gin, Manchester Gin…you get the idea), five York locals decided that enough was enough and this most ancient of British cities needed, neigh deserved, its own gin!
Unbeknownst to four pals Paul Crossman, Jon Farrow, Pete McNichol and Harry Cooke, who between them boasted Pub Land Lord experience and a wealth of knowledge & passion for food and drink, another ‘Yorkie’, and marketeer, Emma Godivala, had had the very same idea…
Following a comedic moment of realisation during the Companies House registration process, Emma sought out her likeminded compatriots, and before long they had self funded the set up of the York Gin Company!
Following the devastating loss of founding member, Farrow, the launch of York Gin was understandably put on hold until March 2018. But having now established notoriety and a steadily growing fan base, this is a spirit dedicated to it’s pursuit of quality and passion in the memory of Jon.
York Gin comes in four expressions;
. York Gin – The flagship classic dry gin (42.5%) is made up of nine botanicals; juniper, coriander, cinnamon, orris root, angelica, cardamom, black pepper, lemon peel and grains of paradise.
. York Gin Cocoa – seeing the addition of cocoa beans, from the local ‘York Cocoa Works’, to the classic dry gin to satisfy those of a sweeter toothed disposition.
. York Gin Roman Fruit – a fruit infused, juniper led gin, harking back to York’s Roman occupation. Indeed, you’ll find original fortress lines beneath the foundations of the York Minster & a statue of Constantine outside its doors.
. York Gin Outlaw – the latest addition to the brand, a Navy Strength weighing in at 57% ABV. Taking inspiration from the cities villainous association with such outlaws as Dick Turpin, Mary Bateman & Guy Fawkes, York Gin are looking to blow your minds rather than your Houses of Parliament!
And just in time to help mark York Gins first Birthday, Emma & the team have sent me a sample gift pack of their original core trio (just pre-dating the launch of their Outlaw gin).
There may not be candles. There may not be cake. But there was wrapping paper around my gin, with the promise of a G&T or two on the horizon. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!
A City Spirit bottled…
Before we dive straight in, let’s take a moment to appreciate this gins very own ‘city walls’ in the form of its bottle.
The first thing you’ll be hard pressed to miss is it’s shape – it’s square! It makes for a USP and point of difference in a sea of curvaceous monotony. You can’t help but spot the bottle and associate it with York Gin.
So too with the font. Within only 12 short months this 17th Century ‘Fell Font’, synonymous with the 18th Century ‘Gin Craze’, has become equally synonymous with the York Gin brand. There’s also something almost Viking about the artwork, perhaps fitting given the cities Viking history & heritage.
On the back bar, it’s unmistakable.
And if you needed any further convincing that this gin has the city ‘spirit’ at it’s core, then look no further than the imagery on the bottles front and centre. Here you’ll find the ancient York city walls depicted, alongside a black cat; a clever nod not only to the cat being a symbol of York but also to the cats long association with gins history through the ages.
York Gin to taste
I always like to start with the flagship gin of any brand. For me, it’s the best place to get a real feel for what the distillers were going for when they started out. And with that in mind…
On the nose there’s an initial hit of blue pine and a herbaceous greenness coming from the juniper & coriander. Liquorice notes hit the nostrils, courtesy of the inclusion of orris root, adding a depth of warmth and earthiness to the neat spirit, supported by the slight sweetness of spiced cinnamon.
Once the gin is allowed to open up a little in the glass, way more citrus presents itself, with a delicious combo of sweet oranges and lemons. Grains of paradise give an extra oomph to the spice of the cardamom, the zing of the lemon and a general rounded earthiness.
When sampled neat, the bite of the lemon and the zing of coriander are the first and most dominant flavours to hit the pallet.
York Gin state you can drink this gin neat. A bold statement, used by too many brands. But actually, in this case, I very much agree! There is no severe alcohol burn to the gin & I’d absolutely drink this over ice.
The orris root adds a depth of sweet liquorice that coats the tongue in a velvet warmth, whilst cracked black pepper tones leave a gentle but long lasting mouth feel. There’s a delicate spiced finish to the gin that warms the throat long after each sip.
Juniper is perhaps less brave on the taste than it is on the nose, but make no mistake that it’s there – it bobs and weaves through the rest of the flavour profiles, with soft pine pulling everything back together.
With tonic, York Gin is superb – this is the perfect bed partner for tonic! All of the flavour profile remains fully in tact, standing up to the mixer with all of its might, refusing to be bullied, allowing it to make a brilliantly juniper led long drink.
The thing I love here is that the tonic pulls those citrus flavours to the forefront, working in perfect harmony with the juniper. This is right up my (cobbled) street!
York Gin Roman Fruit
Wow! You’re going to want to get your nose in this!
Straight away, I get undiluted strawberry jelly cubes screaming out of the glass! Apples, cherries and the scents of spring blossom waft around the nose giving a delicious fruit backbone.
On reflection, the simplest way to describe the scent is that it’s a bit like blackcurrent squash/cordial (in the best possible way!). That said, it does retain an element of that aggressive edge, with the fiery coriander reminding you it’s still a gin.
On the pallet, I immediately get the taste of those blackcurrent hard boiled sweets with the liquorice centre you could buy from the tuck shop! On the one hand you get big bold red fruit flavours of blackberries, blackcurrents and strawberries, whilst on the other side there’s a rich luxurious earthiness and light spice.
The addition of hibiscus flowers is an inspired move! It provides the slight citrus edge of lemon, with the bite and bitterness that you’d associate with fresh cranberry juice.
Served with a light tonic, a crisper sense of apple becomes more apparent, with the quinine of the tonic grasping on to the lemony citrus. There’s almost a sense of pomegranate juice to the gin when mixed. I could easily be convinced I was sniffing Ribena.
In a market that is fast becoming saturated with takes on fruit infused and flavoured gins, this is an example of a brand who have got it spot on and delivered it to stunning effect. This is a must have for any gin collection!
As the Romans say; ‘Veni! Vidi! Bibi’
(‘I came! I saw! I drank!’).
York Gin Cocoa
On the nose, the gin is big and up front on the fruit notes, with juniper & red berries getting all up in your grill!
At the same time, there’s a bitterness to the scent, with dark chocolate floating from the glass. The two profiles combined give the effect of biting in to fresh cocoa nibs. The gin is dark, rich and very indulgent!
But don’t confuse the chocolate angle as being gimmicky. We’re not talking about a sweet, milk chocolate here. This is ‘grown up’ chocolate, with a real elegance and sophistication.
On returning to the glass, there’s a sharp citrus edge, providing a freshness and a bite that’s able to cut through the deeper chocolate flavours. It actually works to deliver an almost tropical background note.
To taste, there’s a real heat and spice to the neat gin. It packs a punch and delivers flavour in abundance! The initial sip delivers mouth watering citrus and a red fruit bitterness, which is finished off by a warming and rounded cocoa finish. The citrus presents it self as lime-like in certain lights.
There is a warm and long lasting finish to the gin, with a full and indulgent mouth feel. It makes the cheeks tingle! Dark chocolate flavours build, particularly on the back of the throat & grow in strength with each sip. Given time to open up, the sweetness develops, but is almost immediately balanced out by a slight herbaceousness coming from the classic base. All the while, juniper makes its presence known across the tongue to ensure the classic gin sensibilities are never too far from your mind!
Served with tonic, I have to admit that I start to lose the chocolate a little…The juniper is pulled right to the very front, which is a delicious and very welcome surprise. It almost seems to become brighter and it is absolutely delicious.
However (there is a however)… Both the citrus and dark chocolate profiles are calmed down – perhaps a little too much for my pallet. What really captured my imagination and excited me when sampled neat, start to ebb in to the background behind the quinine and juniper. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice gin & tonic. I just don’t think I’d associate it with chocolate on a blind tasting.
That said, I do think that the tonic serve is perhaps at odds with the chocolate flavours. Yet I’m not sure what alternative mixer I’d go for to complement the complexity of the flavour profile?… Whilst purists would likely say ‘enjoy neat’, it’s not going to satisfy the masses.
So a head scratcher then. A delicious, complex, very enjoyable head scratcher…
Wish you were here…
They say that trying to revisit a favourite holiday destination seldom works, and you’re never quite able to recapture the highlights of your memories edge. It’s been some 14 years since that first mini break away to York, and times have certainly changed all round. Even ‘Mr.£wich’ has had to move on – let’s face it, the writing was always going to be on the wall with sandwiches of such quality being allowed to go for such low price points!
But with the spirit of the city bottled, and being passionately nurtured by a team who clearly love what they do & where they come from, this is a G&T that’s certainly got me reaching for my suitcase! I’ll be heading back soon for sure.
But for now, I sit back, pour another measure and smile reminiscently.
With special thanks to my Emma Godivala for my York Gin gift pack!
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