To be fair, it was coming straight for him…what else was he supposed to do?!
It stooped and stared, and scratched at the ground as it prepared to attack. It was an old fashioned ‘stare off’, the aggressor plotting as it’s victim was frozen in fear. And then, quick as a flash, it lunged for him! It bolted forwards, going from 0-60 in a matter of seconds, having found and exposed a weakness in his prey. It was surely going to ‘gobble’ him up now!
You want to know what this beast looked like?…
It had piercing eyes, above a frightful beak. And terrible talons in place of its feet.
Its neck was red, and it burned like fire. It’s feathers were ruffled and tough like wire.
Yes it was in a koop, but it was primed and ready. And it’s favourite food, was ‘little boy jelly’!
Note to reader: I do apologise…It seems that my 100th (minimum) watch of ‘The Gruffalo’ with my son has coloured my approach to blogging these days. Though I must also admit to being more than a little impressed at my own adaptation of the infamous rhyme.
Anyway, I’ll carry on.
My brother let out a blood curdling scream, as he took refuge behind my mothers dress…
You see, he had always hated turkeys, and visits to the local petting farm always had an air of anxiety about them whenever we approached the lair of the beast (AKA the turkey pen). I think it had something to do with that red rubbery bit on their necks. And this particular episode of ‘poultry in motion’ still gets revisited at family events to this day, much to the pleasure of all concerned. Well, except for my brother that is! Although I have noticed an over inflated sense of smug satisfaction appear on his face each year at Christmas dinner…I’m fairly confident he sees it as an annual, and delicious, opportunity for retribution. It would appear that revenge is a dish, contrary to popular belief, that is best served warm with cranberry sauce…
But what do the ramblings of animals and farms possibly have to do with gin, I hear you ask? And I certainly don’t want to get caught up just talking about turkeys all day! In my gin blogs, I like to consider all animals as equal. It’s just that some animals are more equal than others. (Highbrow, I know).
No my friends, my amble through the farm yard is thankfully befitting of the subject that this blog attempts to harvest. It’s time to head down to the farm to try a collaboration that has set more than a few tongues wagging this year, placing simplicity at the heart of its sentiment whilst demonstrating the underlying complexity and challenges involved. Allow me to introduce Northampton based Warner’s Gin and legendary status based Gin Foundry’s ‘Farmed & Foraged Gin’.
Old Tom Warner had a farm (e-i, e-i, o)
So as I mentioned mere moments ago, Farmed & Foraged Gin is a collaborative effort, seeing two of the powerhouses of the gin industry combining forces.
If you want a little more information on Warner’s (previously known as ‘Warner Edwards’) then why not check out my blog review of the launch of their ‘Honey Bee’ edition, written in 2017 to support its launch that I was lucky enough to attend:
In the case of this latest venture, the brief given to Tom Warner and team by Olivier & Emile Ward (founders of Gin Foundry and Gin Kiosk, and in my opinion THE authority on gin) was, on the surface, a simple enough sounding task; to create a gin that would “only use botanicals that were located within a bee’s flight of the still – some three-mile radius.”
But let’s take stock for a moment of what that reaaaaally means.
Just think about the botanicals you generally see in the gins you know and love. Juniper (obviously). A vast array of herbs and spices? Probably. Citrus fruits? Perhaps a taste of the exotic at times?
Now put that in to the context of the ask. Juniper doesn’t just grow on trees…well, it does…but not necessarily within a 3mile radius of your Still! And when was the last time you saw an orchard of lemon trees or an orange grove casually knocking around in Northamptonshire?! Sure there is the stuff that you can grow locally. But then what about the weather? The seasonality of the botanicals? The resource and expertise needed to conduct the harvest? Starting to see that things may not be quite as straight forward as first anticipated? Good. Then we’ll continue.
Gin Foundry have already done an excellent job at summarising the whys and wherefores of the ‘Farmed & Foraged Gin’ over on their website, and it’s a really interesting read that I’d urge you to check out! Head on over to http://www.ginfoundry.com to see for yourselves (wait!! I meant once you’ve finished reading this blog…obviously!).
But to lift a few of their words, to help define the purpose behind the gin, the team explain that “this release is to encourage all of us to stop and think about the bigger picture for a minute – to ask what is important and how to augment what matters to you.
It’s about growing the ingredients that you use and working with what’s around you by nurturing the environment to create the fullest possible harvest.
If, as gin enthusiasts, we want distillers to take flavour creation to the next level both environmentally and taste wise, that must surely include looking at the source.”
I’m going to take this a step further with my own opinion on the matter. And before I do, I must emphasise that this isn’t an exercise in blowing smoke up other people’s extremities…rather it is an appreciation of a group who have decided to lead the charge and take a stand. You will have doubtless seen the vast array of new gins and assorted products hitting the market – let’s face it, it’s been impossible to miss! A few are excellent. Some are very good. And, unfortunately, lots are barely scraping by on the term ‘gin’, if they manage to stick within the legal confines of what the name even means at all!
But what can be done about it? Do we form an orderly queue to facelessly berate brands or consumers of these questionable products on social media, with gin snobbery and well meant technical jargon? Sure, we could all do that. But it will unfortunately make very little difference to the continuing future influx that attempts to saturate the market.
No. A far better approach is to educate, innovate and lead by example. Quietly and confidently grabbing the reigns, and flying the flag for what gin is, can and should be all about. Take a bow then Gin Foundry. And whilst this review is specific to the ‘Farmed & Foraged’ example, it can be argued that this is the latest in a growing back catalogue of jaw dropping releases, including Ginvent 2018’s smoke engulfed knockout collaboration with Cornish heroes Tarquin’s Gin for ‘Tan Ha Mor’ (‘Fire & Sea’) and this summers release of the Haymans Gin joint venture for the much sought after ‘Summer Fruit Cup’ (unashamedly and proudly proclaimed as not being a gin – if only everyone else could be so transparent!) to name but a few.
Anyway, allow me to clamber down from my soap box and get back to the subject in question. In Warner’s, a company who already use their family farm and land to promote sustainability through their existing range, Gin Foundry have surely partnered with the best possible brand to lift the gauntlet and take on this particular adventure!
But this is a two way street. ‘Farmed & Foraged’ is a challenge that extends to the drinker, to grow their own accompanying garnish of apple mint. Indeed, every bottle you purchase comes armed with its own little packet of seeds to allow just that! And this isn’t a gimmick. The Ward brothers are keen to move people away from the ‘new & now’ mentality of the modern day to ‘delay gratification’ (a sentiment that carried its own hashtag in the lead up to the release). The point being, rather than dive straight in, how much better will the gin taste if it comes served accompanied by a side dish of your own mini toil and working of the land (or little pot on the window ledge at least)?
Reap what you sow
‘Farmed & Foraged’ is an awe inspiring concoction of botanicals. Some have been foraged from Warner’s existing crops. In some cases, entirely new ingredients were planted and nurtured by the team in readiness for the bottle!
The gin sees the inclusion of:
. Freshly lemon thyme & lemon verbena
. Dried lavender
. Chamomile leaves
. Bee pollen (from the distillery hives!)
. Dandelion root
. Blow torched toasted applewood
It should be pointed out that whilst there is a ton of green juniper in the mix, flying the flag of locality in this gin (bushes of the stuff were deliberately planted at the farm), additional juniper was brought in from outside sources. Whilst going further afield wasn’t the original hope, it is a fact that is clearly and honestly detailed as having been essential to get the juniper forward feel that was required.
This is all stunningly captured inside the newly branded Warner’s bottle, who’s artwork not only pays homage to the botanicals used in the gin & their Harrington birth place, but also proudly displays the signatures of those responsible for the collaboration.
It was time to break the wax seal and take a lung full of the fresh country air to get better acquainted with the fruits of the teams labour. I was going in…
Warner’s Farmed & Foraged Gin to taste
On the nose, the first thing that grabs my attention is a big punch of bright juniper! It’s unmistakable, undeniable and unrelenting. I was absolutely delighted!
Give it two tics to open up a little in the glass and the introduction of citrus becomes more apparent. Think grapefruit and lemon peels alongside a kicky coriander bite; it’s not overwhelming at all, and it doesn’t attempt to take centre stage, but it works in perfect harmony with that piney goodness. Not bad considering that none of those standard citrus botanicals are anywhere near the glass. Clever stuff!
Then there’s the bold, green, herbaceous power of the neat gin. So fresh, it’s like someone mowed the grass, cut some leaves and managed to bottle the essence right there and then. It’s lively and invigorating (never used that word to describe a gin before!) – you can’t help but smile. It’s a strong start!
On the pallet, the gin has a silky smooth elegance – I get almost zero alcohol burn at all. You could quite easily enjoy this neat!
There’s an initial sweetness that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, with lavender tones, but it is very welcome! The toasted applewood delivers a soft and indulgent richness, different to other gins I’ve tried. The best way I can describe it is that it’s the equivalent of the warming spice of cinnamon with the delicate nature of elderflower.
There’s a heavy hitting herbal aftertaste. That fresh cut greenness lingers on the back of the throat and temps you in for more!
Given time to open up, that intriguing citrus character is still there in just the right amount. But for me, this gin hinges on the strength of its juniper. It’s bloody massive, and it’s ace. Nuff said!
With a crisp, light tonic, this is a classy customer. It is simply put; classic, classic, CLASSIC! Exactly what a gin should be. The juniper stands up for itself against the mixer, with the greenery and citrus elements winning best supporting actors. If anything, they are both complemented by the addition of the tonic and the brightness of the citrus zing pulled forwards.
The aroma itself also seems to change, with the addition of the tonic. It becomes almost, and somehow, brighter and more vibrant than when it was neat. And that’s saying something! It almost takes on a summer orchard in blossom feel. Delightful.
Now, I was late to the party on the apple mint garnish. And despite my unwavering agreement with the Gin Foundry plea to ‘delay gratification’…a blogger’s got to blog. I used an orange. Sorry guys! All that said, this gin is crying out for a sprig of something leafy and green sticking out the top of the glass! The apple mint would go hand in hand with its ‘field to glass’ nature, adding new dimensions of herbal joy. A sure fire winner and one I’ll be looking to explore further (once mine grows!).
So there you have it. My overall thoughts? This. Is bloody brilliant. Ethically, it’s on the money. The story of ‘farm to glass’ pulls on my heart strings. And it has the goods to back it up. Juniper? Tick. Citrus (somehow?!)? Tick. Herbal? Very.
Warner’s and Gin Foundry have essentially delivered a classic gin, that exceeds all expectations with its balance, charm and complexity. This is swan like serenity on the surface, disguising the determination and hard graft that’s taken place to make it happen! A triumph.
So it’s with a huge amount of pleasure then, that I have an upcoming date in the diary to go and visit the team at Warner’s Gin in 2020, having accepted their generous offer of a tour! When something is almost too good to be true, people will often say ‘you have to see it to believe it!’. That’s not the case here at all. I don’t ‘have to’ go and see anything…I just really bloody want to!
Let’s just hope there’s no turkeys on the loose…
With huge thanks to Olivier & Emile Ward at Gin Foundry and the Warner’s team for my complementary bottle of Farmed & Foraged Gin, and for inviting me to be a part of the live Twitter tasting event back in September this year!
Make sure you follow the teams across social media and over on their respective webpages to stay abreast of all the latest going’s on in the gin world;
And check out http://www.ginkiosk.com if you’d like to purchase a bottle of Farmed & Foraged Gin of your very own!
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!