As a kid, I’d always fancied myself as being a bit like Bruce Willis. Not in a creepy ‘Sixth Sense’ or ‘Look Who’s Talking’ kind of way… specifically in a ‘Die Hard’ kind of way! (from any of the original trilogy, but excluding the 4th film. That was rubbish!…sorry Bruce).
Yep. If anyone was to ask this young and enthusiastic Birmingham boy, who had recently seen John McClane discard of the troop of terrorists holding up the Nakatomi Plaza, what he wanted to be when he grew up, my answer was simple; an American Police Officer.
Putting to one side the initial flaw in my plan, being that I am not of American decent, I dreamed to be the hero of Hollywood. White vest, gun in a retro 80’s body holster and quick to chime in with a money spinning, fast witted catch phrase; ‘yippee ki-yay mother lover!’…wait…was that how it went again?
So deeply set was my ambition to go in to law enforcement, that I had forced my parents to buy me a ‘Detective Kit’ for Christmas one year. It soon became apparent that a £7.99 gift pack wasn’t going to fully kit me out for the mean streets of the USA…but it did get me a natty reporters note pad!
I went everywhere with that pad, searching for clues and taking diligently organised notes of anything untoward that might catch my attention whilst out on patrol…little did I know that this would later come back to haunt me to this day…
Seemingly part of the course, my passion for a career on ‘the thin blue line’ diminished in time. The constant paperwork (that pad didn’t fill itself you know), the reluctant ‘perps’ (my parents soon tired of me questioning them over our dinner plans) and the inevitable cliche drinking problem (now cunningly disguised as a ‘gin blog’) led me to hand in my badge and seek early retirement.
It was only some 15 years later that, that old trusty note pad would come back to bite me! My heart sank as my wife-to-be posed the question ‘what’s this?!’ as she held the little paperback item aloft. Before I could intervene, she read aloud an exert, punctuated by her own belly laughter and hysterical tears…
‘People meeting at the corner of the science block…why?’
‘People meeting by cricket net in a group…why?’
‘Two kids go out of sight. Where? …reckon in the forest’
(Note to reader: it was really more of a wooded area than the grandeur of a forest…).
But one thing that she probably didn’t expect was that all these years later, the training of my youth would come in to very good use to catch a real life Rascal. You see, my £7.99 detective kit left me with a very particular set of Liam Neeson like skills. Skills that I acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for…gin brands.
Rascal Gin; I said that I’d find you. And now…I will swill you…
Yippee ki-yay; Rascal Gin Background
Rascal Gin is very much a case of a Phoenix rising from the ashes; a story of creating something very positive from the remnants of a rather sad state of affairs…
I have been a long time fan of Tinker, and wrote a full length blog that you can check out here:
I had the pleasure of attending and blogging about ‘Gin Festival’ on two occasions, covering the Blackpool and Manchester events respectively. During my time spent with Dan, I was blown away by his engaging and charismatic style.
He made time to talk to anyone and everyone, with an impressive bank of knowledge that he was always willing to share. And if you’ve ever had the joy of attending a Dan Walsh gin Master Class (parental warning advised!) you’ll know what a treat it is to listen to him speak.
“Sales, Brand Ambassador and all round Liverpudlian nice guy, Walsh oozes cool and was easily able to control a crowd that was becoming rapidly more raucous. His explanations of his own journey in to gin, the conception and ambitions of the (Tinker) brand & the tasting/serving notes of the gin are delivered in an energetic and accessible way, with the stories personalised with laugh out loud insights in to his own experiences. If you get the opportunity to hear Daniel speak, it’s not to be missed – a refreshing take on the category, where pretentiousness is left at the door but not at the expense of the facts. Superb!”
There is, however, an undertone when reminiscing about Gin Festival, given its unfortunate demise. The whys and wherefores at this stage are unimportant and have been referenced in other forums. But suffice to say that in 2018 the shutters came down, leaving many of the hardworking Gin Festival team in a difficult position. Indeed, the double hammer blow was that the wrapping up of the festival also meant the end of the road Tinker Gin.
What this didn’t spell the end of was the ever enigmatic Dan Walsh. Refusing to be beaten, Dan “smashed in all the credit cards to fund a small batch of his new recipe”. And at the start of 2019, Rascal Gin was born – an endeavour “fuelled by passion and sincerity (and gin)”.
Rascal Gin; Naughty but nice
With Tinker Gin retaining something of a cult status, with excited gin fans boasting of rare finds and purchases when the occasional stray bottles that are floating around the market come up for grabs, the arrival of Rascal was always going to be greeted with open and thirsty arms. So what is this particular little Rascal all about then?
During a catch up on the gins launch, Walsh goes on to say “I really like fruity flavours but I find that most of the time the fruity gins are too sweet for me. So I tried to achieve bold fruit flavours but retain the clean, freshness of a classic G&T rather than a potentially syrupy mouthfeel”.
With that in mind, here you’ll find 10 botanicals distilled in the pot (juniper, angelica, orris, coriander, cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg, liquorice, lemon, orange) with the emphasis on citrus more than classic juniper. Outside of the pot, two natural fruit extracts are added (passion fruit and a bit of raspberry), with the idea being to find that harmonious balance of fruit and citrus without being too sweet. Walsh continues “I found that using the natural fruit extracts made the fruit so pronounced without the need for added sugar”.
The gin is unashamedly contract distilled by the Birmingham based Langley Distillery. Whilst Dan admits that setting up his own distillery would be massively exciting, he’s realistic and taking it one step at a time. The aforementioned challenges imposed by the collapse of Gin Festival and Tinker have meant rinsing the credit cards at a large personal cost. He explains that right now, it’s about putting the groundwork in to the brand and creating products that prove themselves first.
Moving on to the aesthetics, and the bottle really is a thing to behold. Not for the fancy embossing, or art gallery-esq labelling. No, quite the opposite. Rascal Gin comes packaged in an almost rebellious brown matte spray finish, with a simple but effective yellow print. On the surface, the design is inspired by the passion fruit botanical inclusion – the unusual bottle colour is a take on the skin of a passion fruit, and the yellow print to resemble the fruit inside. However, dig a little deeper and there are layers to the design.
I’ve heard resemblances being made to that of craft beer label designs – which I would completely echo and seem to hint at the graft that has gone in to getting the brand off the ground. There’s something almost industrial and nautical to that matte finish and yellow font, perhaps a nod to the Liverpool docks of Dans home town. It also has a punky and edgy vibe, different to other designs on the market. Again, this could well represent Dans musical and creative side, seen in full force when performing in his band ‘Random Hand’.
Rascal Gin to taste
With the back story covered, and excitement levels amped up to 10, there was only one thing left to do; pop the cork and see what kind of a punch this little Rascal was packing…
On the nose, you are immediately hit with plump ripe fruits from the exotic. A wall of passion fruit stands tall, so bold that you’re almost picking the seeds from your teeth! There’s a good measure of orange cutting through, which sits really nicely against the passion fruit, to give a fresh fruit juice or J2O feel to the aromas. On closer inspection, there are also suggestions of darker berries to the gin, which feel to me like cooked blueberries/raspberries with a hint of blackberry. It all combines to give a sticky sweet jamminess to the scent.
The fruit notes are so tremendously big, I must confess to being at an impasse to find many other botanicals on the nose. There’s a slight floral nature to the finish, but no real heat is detected; save perhaps a very slight ethanol sting on the nostrils. A question mark I am left with is…’where’s the juniper?’.
To taste, and thankfully you start to enter more familiar territory. The juniper pine is faint…very faint. But it is there. Fear not, this is definitely a gin. Phew!
The oily botanical mix coats the tongue and leaves an anise like warmth in its path. It is at first super smooth, with no alcohol burn to speak of – it almost has a creaminess to its character. But held in the mouth for a while and the heat rises slightly, with a cracked black pepper finish and surprising longevity. There are nods towards liquorice, coriander and grains of paradise flavours within the new found character of the neat gin.
Those cooked dark fruits are there in abundance. To my palate, they perhaps take centre stage over the passion fruit flavours that dominate the aromas, but make no mistake that a sense of the exotic prevails. A drop of water, to reveal the layers, introduces a floral feel of lavender, providing a light perfume to the finish.
Much like the Tinker of old, this gin screams ‘SUMMER!’ and is just begging to be thrown in to a Copa glass with a fistful of ice and a light tonic! There is a shout towards using a Mediterranean tonic here also, given the fruit tones and beach vibes of the profile – though my personal suggestion would be to steer clear of heavily flavoured mixers for your long serve. Not only will you lose a grip on where the gin ends and the mixer begins, but it will be unwanted noise in a gin that delivers all of the flavour you’re going to need. A light tonic brings everything together beautifully, making for an absolutely delicious G&T. Very easy drinking and very moreish.
As for a garnish?! Wow. So many options… a classic orange wedge will draw forward the citrus flavours to complement the vibrant exotic vapours. A handful of blueberries will support that light blue hum of cooked dark fruits. While a skewer of fresh mango will provide the perfect combination of citrus and tropical fruit flavours to both support and enhance the gins personality. And there’s something about the idea of a few slices of fresh pear, reminiscent of the Tinker perfect serve, that really speaks to me here – it could be a winner! This one all comes down to experimentation – and I can think of no better R&D!
The future seems bright for Walsh and Rascal Gin. I am personally thrilled to see Dan back doing what he does best, and the acclaim going his way.
In closing our catch up, Dan is quick to sing the praises of those who have supported him in getting to this point, citing that the importance of the Gin & Rum Festival and The Gin Society as being a massive help in connecting with customers and growing the brand.
“I’m always playing around with recipes at the moment but I don’t want to bring anything new out until I’m 100% that it’s justified, beyond the reason to simply drive sales. For 2020 Rascal will be back on the road from February, more or less every weekend somewhere. Lots of Gin & Rum, Gin Society and more”.
This is one Rascal that I’m very pleased to have caught. But one things for sure, it won’t be staying locked up for long…it’s far too good! And with that, I’m off to top up my glass and sip along to some bangers from ‘Random Hand’…
With thanks to Daniel Stephen Walsh at Rascal Gin for my complementary bottle of gin!
Make sure you’re following the Rascal journey on the website and across social media:
If you’d like to find Dan and sample Rascal Gin for yourself, then head to the Gin & Rum Festival page to find dates for the locations closest to you:
And you can do all your sipping along to the perfect soundtrack by searching for ‘Random Hand’ on Spotify (or better yet, head to their social media pages to find a show near you).
Don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs, reviews & event updates. Come and say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!