‘But Pink is a manly colour!’ she protested, the frustration and sheer exasperation starting to show, as the debate raged on. The battle lines had been drawn…
It was the very early 1990’s, and I was around 8 years old. And the subject of this heated exchange? A pink coat. More specifically, MY pink coat. A shell suit-esq number, with a purple trim, that refused to say goodbye to the 80’s. And I hated it!
Having to don that winter warmer became a daily source of contention. So far as I could tell, pink was a ‘girly colour’ and I was none too pleased about the situation!
‘So then why do you never see Action Man wearing pink? Or Stretch Armstrong? Or Bob Holness?!’ (Note to reader: Bob Holness was the host of legendary TV game show ‘Blockbusters’ from 1983 to 1995. To this day I have no idea how my 8 year old self was aware of his work, of why he was my point of reference for this particular argument). That said, my points were valid and hard to argue against – including that Bob Holness had never appeared on TV wearing pink. You just can’t fight the cold hard facts.
‘Well that just because their mom’s didn’t love them as much as I love you’ came her retort. Dammit. She’d played the loving mother card. I had to admire her for it, there’s just no come back from that response.
I would spend the autumn and winter months praying for a sunny day, just to get out of wearing my nylon nemesis. I distinctly remember once purposely ‘forgetting’ my coat on an Easter holiday stay to my grandparents. But low and behold, when I opened my suitcase, there it was. Neatly folded and pride of place atop my other clothes. That bloody pink coat. It’s true what they say…you can’t get anything past your mom!
But then, when walking down the high street one afternoon, everything changed. In approaching two older looking boys, who must have spotted me coming from a mile off, they gave me a severe double take before one turned to the other and asked out loud ‘is that a boy or a girl?!’.
I didn’t know whether to be mortally offended or thoroughly vindicated! I looked up at my flustered mother, who’s cheeks now matched my apparel, as righteously indignant as it’s possible to look at age 8.
I never did find out what happened to that coat…all I know is that I didn’t see it again after that day!
Fast forward 25 years…and in a strange twist of fate, I found myself sat at a computer screen staring at around 80 other bloggers and gin enthusiasts, each of us clasping bottles of pink liquid.
On 1st April 2020, Australian heroes ‘Manly Spirits’ launched their ‘Lilly Pilly Pink Gin’ in the UK, and I was honoured to have been invited to the launch party! (though more on the remote nature of the format later). The fact that this was taking place on April Fools Day was not lost on me. There was a certain kind of irony as I pictured my moms ‘I told you so face’…it turns out that Pink is Manly after all.
Pink. It’s Manly
There’s not all that much more I can say about Manly Spirits that I haven’t said before. As I have quite literally said it all before! And whilst the focus of this specific blog isn’t to cover the wider brand and portfolio, I should perhaps provide a little bit of opening context…
Having had the absolute pleasure of meeting David Whittaker, one half of the founding duo, Charlie Pountney (Marketing Director for Boutique Bar Brands) and the ever enigmatic Manly Spirits UK team at Junipalooza 2019 it’s fair to say that I fell ‘a little bit’ in love with Manly Spirits. Both in terms of their gin and what they’re all about! I’ve become somewhat of a ‘fan boi’ for the brands unique take on classic styles, that bring a vibrancy and excitement to the drinking experience!
Hailing from just outside Sydney, Australia, Manly Spirits (I should reiterate that they are so named because of the Manly Beach coastline on which they’re situated and nothing to do with gender!) aim to capture ‘the harmony between carefree beach life and urban sophistication’. And they do so by foraging for the very finest coastal botanicals that their New South Wales coastline has to offer (a skill set that they were taught by an ex-foraging chef from renowned Copenhagen Michelin Star restaurant Noma).
Their Coastal Citrus Gin was the one that captured my imagination initially, bringing a sense of the exotic to a juniper and citrus forward powerhouse that I struggle not to consistently place in my top 5 gins whenever asked!
And ‘Top Tip’; if you’ve not yet had the opportunity to have your mind blown by the Manly Spirits Limoncello, do yourself a favour. Buy it now, and thank me later. It’s simply incredible, and you’ll struggle to find better on the Amalfi Coast itself.
You can check out my fuller write up on Manly Spirits and the Coastal Citrus Gin here, to get more of the low down on the brand history and how they came to be, as well as a bit more detail on the Coastal Citrus Gin itself:
And if you’d like to read about my first encounter with David and the team, you can check out my full Junipalooza 2019 review here:
But to the subject in hand…
The ‘Lilly Pilly Pink Gin’ is the fourth expression to the Manly Spirits gin lineup, alongside the Australian Dry, Barrel Aged and aforementioned Coastal Citrus gin. It prides itself on being a fruit styled offering with a difference. And that is very much the point here…this isn’t like other Pink Gins you might have tried before…
Pretty in Pink
In recent years, ‘Pink Gin’ as a category has developed a bit of a bad rap amongst many on the inner circles of gin. In some cases, it’s a tarnished reputation that has been rightly earned. And I’ll admit that it’s an area that I’ve personally shied away from in favour of more classic styles.
The world appears to have moved on from what ‘Pink Gin’ was originally designed to be (gin with bitters, giving a pink hue to the drink). You need now only glance at the supermarket shelves to be hit by a kaleidoscope of near fluorescent colour that attacks the senses! And whilst it is not the case with all brands offering fruit gins (let me assure you that I can vouch for some fantastic examples of naturally produced fruit gins), there’s an unfortunate majority who will happily peddle amped up sugary bottles of nastiness with questionable juniper credentials. And yet the thirst of the baying public still refuses to be quenched in its desire for ‘Pink Gin’.
So then, good news for all that the rockstars from ‘down under’ have stepped up to the plate to give a wink to the pink (…that sounds wrong. I get that.). The Manly Spirits team aim to deliver a juniper forward classic feel, that adds their own distinctive Australian take on the Pink Gin category. As always, you can expect the unexpected alongside a nod to the exotic, with botanicals including Juniper, Lilly Pilly, Native Limes (many of which are expensive and not easy to come by), Raspberry, Blood Orange, Sea Fig (pig face flowers – LOVE that name!), Nasturtium flowers, Rosella flowers, Riberry, Coriander and Orris.
The Pink Ladies (and Gentlemen)
At the time of writing, Corona Virus has well and truly taken it’s hold on the world, let alone the UK. This meant that, unfortunately, the London launch party for Lilly Pilly had to be postponed. But in the true spirit of fighting back against adversity, Manly Spirits shifted the event to being an online extravaganza, hosting a virtual tasting for a whole cast of eager bloggers & enthusiasts on a ‘Zoom’ conference call like no other!
It was great to see so many faces of fellow bloggers, and other industry experts, who I’ve been lucky enough to call friends over the last few years, all able to come together. And whilst it was unfortunate not to be able to celebrate in person, the event was a true depiction of what the gin industry is all about; family and togetherness.
With David (Whittaker) dialled in from the Australian distillery base, and Charlie (Pountney) holding fort for the UK contingent, we joined the crew at a time of ‘COVID CRISIS’, with David himself describing the distillery as “a mad zone”. Indeed, Manly have hit their national press for their efforts in creating hand sanitizer for those in need. There were pallets of the stuff waiting to leave the distillery, being the most likely cause of David joining us on a grand total of 4 hours sleep at 6.30am local time!
After wiping the sleep from his eyes, and providing a brief summary on all things Manly Spirits, it was time to get better acquainted with the newest member of the team…
Rose tinted lenses (bottles)
The Lilly Pilly starts from almost the same base as the Australian Dry Gin. Which, having won Gold at the World Gin Awards (David is aiming for ‘Best Gin in the World’ next time out), isn’t a bad base to be starting from!
Whittaker explains that while yes, it’s pink, it’s delivered through 100% natural sources – namely the raspberries, which are infused for 18 hours. There is zero sugar used, so you’re not going to be getting any syrupy synthetic unpleasantness here. And that all natural approach means that, if you’re so inclined to keep the gin hanging around for a while (that’s some strong willpower!) the colour will slightly fade in time – a sign of quality not decline.
Wild and natural flowers are picked from the sand dunes meters from the distillery doors, and vapour infused to maintain their fragile profiles, with the petals used to extract a delicate floral feel. The native Lilly Pilly provides succulent summer berries, alongside riberry, which grows in gardens all over the east coast of Australia.
And it’s all presented in the distinctive Manly Spirits bottle, though opting for the clear glass approach this time round to allow the liquid to speak for itself. It really is ‘pretty in Pink’. By that, I mean it is absolutely stunning!
So with the preamble and introductions sorted, it was time to remove those beautifully robust stoppers and sample the elixir within…
On the nose, a combination of juniper pine and sharp jammy notes of red fruit lead the way, with raspberry feeling most prominent. But there’s a hint of the exotic coming from some of the less familiar botanicals, that bring an earthy, dank floral feel to the neat vapours. You get visuals of fresh greenery, gently washed by an ocean breeze.
There are bold and zingy hits of citrus, with the limes cutting through. That said, there’s a hint of sweet burnt orange that combines to beautiful effect, providing balance.
While there’s a suggestion of alcohol heat, the spicing feels light and isn’t at the forefront of the glass.
On tasting, the neat gin provides an upfront sweetness of cooked strawberries and raspberries, with a light floral edge. There’s a waft of perfume that washes over the palate and hits the back of the throat – it delivers notes not dissimilar to lavender or violet. As the gin opens up, the red fruit flavours seem to become more vibrant and jammy!
There’s a bigger wave of heat to the spirit than I’d anticipated, warming the lips and providing a gently lingering longevity on the tongue.
The citrus feels less lively on the tasting, with the bite of the lime being far more subtle than I’d expected. But it’s to its credit, with softer and sweeter notes of orange complementing the red fruit, floral qualities of the gin.
With the sea vegetation and salted sea breeze greenery of the Australian Dry base, there’s a dryness to the finish, perhaps most heavily influenced by the use of sea lettuce combined with the character of the Lilly Pilly berries.
And across every sip, you’ll find a classic crunch of juniper, with a lightly spiced pepper on the back of the throat. It leaves you in no doubt that you’re drinking a gin of classic sensibilities, but wearing its summer clothing, with a hint of the exotic.
When served with a light Mediterranean tonic, the raspberry is pulled forwards. The slight sweetness of the tonic style adds to the experience, helping to support those light jammy fruit notes. The citrus becomes slightly more elevated, with a delicate perfumed background from the flowers. The dry finish remains with a strong sense of juniper ever present.
So. My overall summary? There’s no sugar hit. There’s no suggestion of ‘fake pink colouring’ or synthetic nastiness. It feels fresh and light, ticking all the boxes of being a classic gin, whilst delivering a tropical taste of Oz that creates a new take on a trend. It’s got the trademark Manly Spirits points of difference, and my goodness have they done it well!
Man up – get Pink!
It’s safe to say that the fun with the Lilly Pilly Pink Gin doesn’t stop at the doorstep of a G&T! There’s tones of scope for exploring a whole range of cocktail delights here.
Indeed, during the live tasting we were transported to London’s Coupettes cocktail bar, where they demonstrated a mean looking ‘London Calling’ featuring (alongside the gin) sherry, lime juice, bitters and sugar syrup. And I’m certainly going to be trying my hand at the Manly Spirits recommendation of a ‘Lilly Pilly Sour’!
After a short virtual tour around the distillery with David, pointing out the ex American oak bourbon barrels that are used to create their aged gin, the on site bar and the ‘growler’ style refill option for your gin bottles (though clearly designed more for the locals, than suggestive of a commute from the UK!) it was time to wrap up proceedings.
Whilst the team are threatening to still hold the formal party later in the year, as soon as it’s safe to do so, this really was an event and a launch to remember. I was honoured to be a part of it!
And in closing, I turn to the words of David Whittaker’s press release for the Lilly Pilly Pink Gin, so perfectly crafted that it’s as if he had been in on the whole ‘pink coat’ debate for the last 25 years; ‘Manly men drink Manly Spirits Pink Gin’. I can almost see my moms smug smile now.
Thanks David. I’m just off to buy myself a new (pink) coat…
Get a taste for it!…
If you fancy taking part in the teams next live tasting event, it will be at 8.30pm on Friday 10th April using this link:
You will of course need a bottle of said gin to taste! So what better than getting 10% off at Gin Kiosk (www.ginkiosk.com) by using the code ‘LILLYPILLYLIVE’?!
Now that’s what I call a ‘Good Friday’!
Huge thanks to the David Whittaker, Charlie Pountney and the whole Manly Spirits crew for my complementary bottle of ‘Lilly Pilly Pink Gin’ and for inviting me to be a part of their virtual tasting event! I can’t wait to party in person as soon as these crazy times are over! Until then, stay home and stay safe!
The good news is that you can 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!