My wife and I have an agreement. We can each have a list of 5 people of the opposite sex. And if we meet them, and the opportunity for romance presents itself…then it’s fair game!…
Now I should specify. There are some rules to be adhered to here. This isn’t just any old list, where the inclusions of ‘Claire from Accounts’ or ‘Lisa from Marketing’ are allowed to fly. Trust me, I learned from that argument. No, no, the 5 ‘lucky’ nominees on each list MUST be of celebrity status.
Now, having been a fan of ‘Masterchef’ for some time, to almost nerd-like proportions, there has been a main stay on my celebrity ‘top 5’ for quite a while now (no, it’s not Gregg Wallace or Marcus Wareing. Sorry gents!…). She may not be your conventional ‘catwalk model’ or ‘Page 3 pin up’, but for me…there’s just something about Monica Galetti! I’ll let that sit for a moment…
Anywho. Whilst I accept it is, as my wife explains to me, ‘unlikely’ that I would ever be Monica’s ‘dish of the day’, I did recently receive some exciting news in liquid form… It would seem that Scottish born 2018 Masterchef Finalist, Dean Banks, has turned his hand to gin. And rather than being another celeb tainted effort…it actually sounds rather good!
Described as “a no-nonsense gin”, Dean has launched a gin that he hopes will stand the test of time based on its taste and quality, rather than expensive marketing ploys and strap lines.
Banks goes on to say;
“I’ve always wanted to create my own gin and it seems like the next natural step for me after establishing my restaurant in St Andrews. I wanted to create something that people judge solely on the taste and not the ‘hype’ that often comes with contemporary artisan gins – in fact, Lunun is the opposite to an artisan gin. There’s no smoke and mirrors with Lunun. People who appreciate a quality-tasting gin without any of the other nonsense will enjoy this one.”
I’m always intrigued by the idea of a Chef creating a gin. There is clear logic that someone with such a defined pallet and appreciation of flavour and ingredients might stand a pretty good chance of creating something worthy of note. And Lunun, on paper at least, sounds to be case and point.
Distilled following a single-shot process, Lunun Gin is inspired by Bank’s travels to over 40 countries and his passion for fusion cooking. For those who were glued to the screen for last years cooking series, you’ll likely remember Deans exciting use of ingredients from Asia and the Far East.
Sticking to his reputation, Lunun Gin sees the inclusion of six ‘less than usual’ botanicals, alongside the essential juniper; kaffir lime leaf, sea buckthorn, Sichuan pepper, kombu kelp, ginger and lemongrass.
So with so much influence from overseas, where does Scotland and the Lunun name come in to it?! I’m glad you asked.
Despite such a broad and varied spectrum of flavours, all of the botanicals can actually (and somewhat surprisingly) be sourced in Scotland. Indeed, the gin is distilled in Deans hometown of Arbroath and takes its name from the areas most secluded beach ‘Lunun Beach’.
Banks explains “Lunan Bay is one of my favourite places in Scotland and a place close to my home. This gin reflects that and my travels, but it is also a drink that will be appreciated by those who are just looking for a high-quality gin to enjoy, whether at home or in a restaurant or bar.”
Masterchef; The critics table
They say that first impressions are important. And in this case, the gin arrived with a real ‘wow factor’.
When sending out sample bottles, with a press release, it would be easy to whack an unlabelled bottle in a Jiffy bag and hope for the best. Not here. The Lunun team have taken care to not only make their packaging as pretty as a picture, and in line with the brands colour scheme, but it’s also eco-friendly to boot! A strong start.
Inside the box, the content display is equally nicely presented. A 50ml measure of the Lunun Gin is laid on a bed of straw, accompanied by a little hessian bag of the gins botanicals, a neatly folded copy of the press release and a discount voucher for potential future purchases. It’s a nice touch, that shows an attention to detail that you’d come to expect from a Masterchef finalist.
But for a gin that emphasises its desire to avoid the ‘nonsense’ and instead stand out on its taste, it was time to put this dish to the test…
Lunun Gin to taste
On the nose there is a punchy initial waft of lemon grass and ginger, which straight away delivers on those promises of an Asian inspired influence. It presents itself as clean and refreshing, providing a gentle calmness to the vapours. There is a real feel of the orient to the neat scent, with the kaffir lime leaf adding an aromatic edge – it’s strange as it’s a smell I really associate with Thai cooking, giving a weird sense of familiarity to the gin. It all seems to flow harmoniously in the glass, on the nosing at least. It’s all pulled together by a soft suggestion of the ocean, with a light saltiness being introduced by the kombu kelp. The juniper is there, though for me it’s a little masked by the bolder notes of spice and exotic citrus. However, one ingredient I struggle to pick out is the sichuan pepper. I had expected a heat to the neat vapours that just isn’t there for me. Not necessarily a bad thing, as that’s not generally my bag, and it may yet sneak up on the taste!
What really pleases me on the tasting is that it matches up almost exactly to what I experienced on nosing the gin. And that’s not as easy a trick to master as it sounds! The aromatics flow with tremendous success, with the kaffir lime leaf & lemon grass combining to great effect! The ginger provides a gentle sweet warmth, alongside a bolder sense of spice from the sichuan pepper, which is far more prominent on the taste and leaves a fizz on the front of the tongue and back of the throat. The pine is far more evident on the pallet, though to my taste it is forced in to more of a supporting role given the other flavours at play.
As with the smell, the taste conjours memories of eastern cuisine and suggests that a food pairing match with Asian delicacies could be a real treat.
Dean suggests that the gin is designed to be served straight up with tonic and a slice of lime. And I could agree more – this is crying out for a classic G&T serve! The lime helps to pull forward the citrus flavours, adding an extra level of depth and zing to the drinking experience. In my opinion, mixing the gin in other cocktail formats would defeat the effort put in to the botanical line up & lose the character of the flavour profile.
The one slight head scratcher that I’m left with, is whether this gin reminds me of the Scottish coastline that it aims to emulate? And I’ve reached the conclusion that no…it doesn’t.
Now I don’t mean that as a negative or a dig in the slightest! But I found it a bit of a struggle to place the aromas and flavours that I would usually associate with the orient and the exotic with drizzly, windswept beaches north of the border. That has no ill effect on my opinion that this really is a delicious gin, but I just wouldn’t stick a Scottish flag in it unless you’d told me…
Whether Banks can conquer the Scottish restaurant scene to become ‘the chefs gin of choice’ remains to be seen. But I’ll now not only be watching Masterchef, but also the trajectory of Lunun Gin with immense interest.
And Monica. If you’re reading… ‘how you doing?!’…worth a try right.
With thanks to Dean Banks, the Lunun Gin team and Clark Communications for my free sample.
Lunun is available to purchase online at https://www.lunungin.com/
And you can follow the team on social media:
Twitter: @LununGin / @banks_chef
Instagram: @Lunungin / @chefdeanbanks
FaceBook: @LununGin / @DeanBanks
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Come and say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!