Oh god…My heart sank as the question came…‘sorry mate, have you got a hammer?’. Here we go…
We had called maintenance to come and take a look at some minor reparation works needed to our city centre apartment. A call heeded by a rugged chap we’d come to lovingly know as ‘Old Phil’, on account of the apartment block being managed by a slightly younger gent also called Phil (AKA ‘Young Phil). But right now, I was regretting our current encounter.
I made a few overly enthusiastic sounding attempts at rustling through the cupboards, throwing in the occasional ‘hmmm…’ and ‘where is it?!’ for added effect. It was a desperate attempt to stall for time, in the hope that its requester would give up. He didn’t.
And in reality, I knew exactly where it was. I mean, how could I bloody miss it?!
With a slight sweat appearing at my brow, through panic rather than exertion, I accepted my fate and relented.
I sniffed one of those macho blokey sniffs, lowered my voice an octave, and offered out the requested hammer to its suitor, ‘here you go mate’.
‘Old Phil’ looked bewildered…
Before him, still firmly in my grip, was the pinkest and most floral hammer this earth has ever seen. I tried to style it out, with a faux confidence, as I offered up suggestions on the work at hand. But I was kidding no one, with my embarrassment palpable, not even able to make metaphorical eye contact with the rose engulfed monstrosity.
Minutes of awkward silence seemed to have passed. This was finally broken by a sympathetic eyebrow raise and a gruff, ‘erm, I’m just going to nip down to my van and get my tools mate…I could do with the walk anyway’.
The hammer was my wife’s (what?! It was!). And whilst in recent years I have expanded on the range of tools at my disposal, the tool box gets far more use as a door stop…
I have long since accepted my role in the natural order of things, and made my peace with taking the beta male role during the more macho of occasions; You want an essay writing? I’m your guy. Need a project plan drawing up? Great! When do you need it? Oh, you need a shelf or cupboard constructing?…ah. Pass me the phone my ill informed friend…
You see, my interpretation of DIY is do it myself…by paying someone else to do it for me. And sure, occasionally this can be greeted by the disappointment of some of the more alpha, and tool wielding, of the species. But what they’ve not quite grasped is that disappointment is a reaction I can deal with, with great aplomb!
Ok, so I don’t get that rewarding sense of self satisfaction that comes with building furniture or fixing a leak. But in paying for someone else to resolve my labour intensive challenges, I have far more time on my hands to construct delicious gin & tonics. And let’s face it; there’s surely no better sense of self satisfaction than that?…
Manly Spirits; time to ‘Man up’…
But lately, I have given thought to the idea of ‘manning up’ a little more.
They say ‘you are what you eat’. Which I think can also easily be applied to ‘what you drink’. So, in an attempt to move my beta to an alpha, I knew there was only beverage out there that truly embodied the ‘spirit’ I was looking for; ‘Manly Spirits’. Well…it’s the thought that counts right?!
I was fortunate enough to meet the Manly Spirits team at this years Junipalooza festival held in London’s iconic Tobacco Dock. You can read my full Junipalooza 2019 review here:
And as I meandered over to the Manly Spirits stand I have to admit to wondering whether I had the ‘credentials’ required. Luckily, as it happens, ‘Manly’ has nothing to do with gender, instead taking its title from the namesake Australian beach from where some of the gins finest botanicals are foraged (no joke – they’ve hilariously had complaints from the less well informed!).
But the Manly Spirits journey started a way before Junipalooza 2019. In fact, even though they launched in April 2017, you’ll need to skedaddle right back to 2015, when a drive through Tasmania planted the seed of inspiration amongst its founders, David and Vanessa Whittaker, that they would want to one day own their own distillery. It was a seed that grew in to a time consuming, not to mention expensive, hobby-come-obsession. The pair took in distillery tours all over the UK, Scotland, Europe and America to harness their thirst for knowledge (…and booze) before heading back to Tasmania for some masterclasses and hands on experience.
In all seriousness, I had come to Junipalooza with Manly Spirits high up on my hit list. And I was lucky enough to meet one part of the founding husband & wife duo, David Whittaker, to chat all things gin (Note to reader: David is the husband part of the duo).
Though I do feel I should clarify that seemingly having dressed like a member of the team, in my denim shirt, was entirely coincidental (I’ve never felt so ‘on trend’!). And although they did their very best to make me feel like one of the team, my British pastiness was fooling no one.
There was a laid back vibe surrounding the stand that had already attracted quite a crowd and excitable buzz. This is hardly surprising given the brands ethos, “Seven miles from Sydney, a thousand miles from care”. How perfectly put. Indeed, the website goes on to describe how Manly Spirits aims to capture “the harmony between carefree beach life and urban sophistication for which Manly is renowned…taking much of their inspiration from the stunning surrounding marine environment of the New South Wales coastline”.
I was interested to learn that the Manly Spirits Distiller, Tim Stones, is actually a Brit and ex Beefeater Global Brand Ambassador. Apparently, the life of distilling gin in the beautiful northern beaches of Australia was just too tempting to resist – who knew?! I did suggest to Dave (oh yeah, we’re BFF’s now) that I think the brand would benefit from having a dedicated blogger on their books, based from a hammock over the golden sands. His reaction of laughter and head shaking let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he was going to ‘think about it’.
As I emphatically stated back in June this year, ‘the award for best bottle at the festival goes to…’ Manly Spirits hands down. The bottle is a work of art, and nothing short of absolutely stunning! The custom bottles boast a textured sequence pattern, lusting from a blue glass base to represent the ocean, with the Eastern Blue Devil fish (the Manly Spirits emblem) swimming across the front and proudly jutting from the robustly impressive stopper.
Even the base of the bottle is something to ogle at!
I was keen to taste my way through the full range, which the team explained aim ‘to deliver expressions that capture the diversity of Australian botanicals’, created using complex and intricate distilling techniques that have been honed following painstaking experimentation and innovation.
During my Junipalooza experience, I thoroughly enjoyed the Australian Dry Gin, which is a herbal and warming spiced number, boasting fruity pepper sensations. I also found the barrel aged gin to be a really interesting take on the genre – on the nose it presents itself as a big, peaty whiskey. Yet on tasting neat, the juniper pushes it’s way to the front to leave you in no doubt that you’re supping on a rather clever gin.
But for those who know me, you’ll know that I’m all about citrus, meaning that the Manly Spirits ‘Coastal Citrus Gin’ was always going to tug at my heart strings! This is an entirely different take on the citrus gins that I’ve previously experienced, with a sense of the exotic. It was so good, I had to buy it! And as such, it becomes the focus of the tasting notes of this blog. Startinnnnnnnnng….NOW!
Coastal Citrus Gin to taste
On the nose, there are no prizes for guessing that this is BIG in citrus. It’s so zesty it’s almost eye watering! Soft, sweet oranges and bright zesty lemons dance from the vapours as they pierce, and pleasantly sting, the nostrils. There’s a sense of the exotic at play here.
That said, there is a definite and deliberate herbal undercurrent washing around the glass.
My final thought, as I struggled to resist the urge to dive straight in, was that it feels bigger than it’s almost modest sounding, in retrospect, 43% ABV.
Now the fun part…
I’m not sure I’ve ever had lemon aspen, lemon myrtle or meyer lemon before. And certainly not as a combination. But now that I’ve tried them, I want more. Give them to me morning, noon & night for every meal! Just wow. This is citrus like you’ve never experienced – it carries a fresh and vibrant kick that is startling. You almost have to catch your breath before you can continue. There’s a sweetness that is weirdly reminiscent of orange and yellow ‘Opal fruit’ sweets. It transports you to the crystal clear waters of the Ozzy beaches.
The inclusion of sea parsley gives a seaweed like quality, that adds a dank and vegetative herbal quality to the gin. It lends itself to provide a slight waft of sea breeze and salt spray, so evoking you can almost feel it. And with another glance down at the bottle design and label you can’t help but start to imagine wading out in to the warm Australian ocean to forage for the fresh botanicals.
The coriander leaf delivers flavour in oodles, as if it were cut just moments before I opened the bottle. There’s a heat and zing that is in one sense recognisable from classic gins you’ve tried before, yet in other ways is completely different in the way it plays amongst the Australian native botanicals.
The juniper here is both big and clever and plays off the citrus to devastating effect. The gin is clean and crisp, with layers of flavour that work in perfect harmony; no one botanical is disguised or masked by the other, and each has a pivotal role to play.
How would I best summarise my tasting notes? Like this; Pine. Herbal. Citrus. Well balanced, with a lot going on, but generously weighted towards citrus. This is my heaven.
The addition of a light tonic unexpectedly emphasises the sea parsley and juniper, more so than the lemon and citrus. However, adding a wedge of lemon for good measure helps to elevate that citrus goodness to new heights, with the profile becoming almost oil like in its richness.
Hitting the nail on the head…
As if the producing gin of such a high quality wasn’t enough, Manly have offerings across a range of spirits, including vodka and whiskey.
Indeed, a special shout out has to go to the Junipalooza ‘hidden guest of honour’; the Many Spirits Zesty Limoncello. Having heard great things from Katie Hughes at http://www.whatskatiedoing.com I had to sneak a taste from a bottle stashed under the table (to avoid causing a stampede). Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s not gin. But it’s absolutely amazing. I need to, AND WILL, have more of this in my life…
Don’t expect to see me wearing a tool belt or operating power tools anytime soon (particularly as I hear it’s not advised whilst ‘under the influence’…). But following my experiences, I now consider myself officially ‘Manly’. Been there, and got the T-Shirt…
This is an exciting brand, with an exciting future. As final testimony, I can confirm that my bottle is already getting alarmingly low, following a little ‘DIY’ of my own…Drank It Myself.
Stay on top of all of the Manly Spirits going’s on over on their Social Media channels @manlyspirits and @manlyspiritsuk and find all of the latest news at their website http://www.manlyspirits.com.au
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!