We were in close proximity, and engaged in a standoff that had been waged more times than I cared to remember. And as the war of words continued, locked in a battle of who could hold their nerve the longest, I knew I was going to lose my bottle…
And I mean that in the quite literal sense of the term!
You see, gin blogging is a pastime that can no longer be considered ‘victimless’ in our household. As the number of bottles (in various shapes, sizes and colours) of juniper elixir has continued to grow from ‘small and humble’ to borderline ‘unwieldy’, it has become the source of much contention with my usually patient and understanding wife. Where half a kitchen cupboard had started as a more than ample ‘temporary measure’, the scale of the blogging operation has now reached a point that kitchen utensils have since been relegated to seek refuge elsewhere!
To further exacerbate this so called ‘drinking problem’ (the only problem being not getting through the collection at a rapid enough pace to free back up valuable kitchen real estate) I’m a terrible hoarder! When I come to the end of a bottle, I find myself clinging to the empty vessel and desperately trying to find a reason for why it demands a place in the archives. In typical ‘ageing man’ fashion, I adopt the stance that it may indeed one day become useful! Though for quite what I’m not sure…I’m too useless at DIY to fashion a home made lamp. I’m too old to get away with making a fairy light holder and I’m too much of a ‘parent of young child’ to risk making a candle holder! And any aspirations of suggesting we may need to use it to deliver a ‘message in a bottle’ at a time of great distress would only fall on deaf ears…well, we do live in landlocked Birmingham I suppose!
As I hovered near the recycling box, wondering whether or not to push the suggestion that we try to make a vase from the latest impending departure, I heard a knock at the door. Intuitively, I knew this was most likely a gin delivery… I sheepishly made eye contact with my wife, who by now had her hands firmly on her hips, as I gently rested the empty bottle in the recycling and headed for the door.
The irony of the timing of this particular delivery wasn’t lost on me! Bullards Gin had come to my rescue…but more than just helping to save my skin, Bullards have loftier ambitions. They’ve come to help save the planet!
Message in a bottle
As I opened the package I was greeted by the sight of an empty gin bottle. ‘Oh no! Not another one!!!’ I thought, trying to find the words I’d use to explain this to my wife. But my fears were soon to be alleviated as I reached for the accompanying message (well, letter really) that had come to answer my SOS call.
The bundle of joy that lay before me was part of the ‘Bullards Eco Project’, an initiative that has been a little over a year in the making, and specifically aims to reduce the brands carbon emissions and support their endeavours to become a plastic free company over the next 3 years.
“Inside your package, you will find your ‘Bullard’s Bottle For Life’ and Eco-Pouch refill”,writes Amy Hancock, Head of Marketing for Bullards Gin.
Phew! Not only did this arrival contain gin, but potentially a solution to my current habitual predicament! If I was following correctly, I would get to keep my empties, and refill them with gin, without the risk of taking grief for eroding further cupboard capacity! I’m listening Amy…please, go on.
At £3 per bespoke, label-less bottle, it turns out that creating fancy gin bottles for your favourite tipple is an expensive game! And that manufacturing process comes with a further price tag to the environment, with a considerable amount of energy and a sizeable carbon footprint needed to craft the empty vessels in the first place, and then shift them from the production line and in to your possession. The idea then that customers, whether at home or those within the bar and restaurant trade, might just pop their empties in the bin seemed “madness” to the team at Bullards.
You might be raising an eyebrow at this stage, thinking ‘surely glass bottles are recyclable and therefore already good for the environment? Why bother with Eco-Pouches?!’. And on the first part you’re absolutely right; the Bullards bottles are 100% recyclable and sustainable. But there’s a little more to it than that…
Sure, recycling sounds like (and is) a noble and socially responsible thing to do. But glass bottle recycling still requires a hefty amount of energy to process – unfortunately it’s not completed via the medium of magic (…yet!). Greener for sure, but not harmless.
That’s where the Eco-Pouch steps in to flex its muscles. This is a scheme that looks to negate the need to recycle the bottles already in circulation, whilst also aiming to reduce the number of new bottles that need to be created in the first place.
Once you’ve supped the last dregs from your bottle, a sad occasion that comes to us all at one point or another, no longer do you need to march to the recycling bin. Instead, you can head to the Bullards website and order yourself an eco refill pouch, at a cheaper price than a new bottle would be, and decant it yourself! That’s a win for you, a win for Mother Nature and a win for Mothers Ruin! Happy days!
“Our Eco-Pouch is super light weight and made from part recycled food grade plastic and part new food grade plastic, 100% recyclable and letterbox friendly” Amy continues.
And it’s that last line ‘letterbox friendly’ that is really interesting here. You see, in a pre-COVID 19 lockdown world, I would have been pointing to the benefits of there being no risk of missing the postman and having to drive those extra miles to the depot to collect your liquid cargo (carbon footprint win!).
What the pouch, and associated packaging, has inadvertently accomplished is the most socially distanced, zero contact, gin delivery you could ever hope for! All the Postie has to do is gently slide the liquid parcel through your door, no signature required. Now that’s foresight for you!
Let’s also revisit another key statistic. The pouch is 100% recyclable. And best of all, you don’t need to do a thing! In working with Teracycle and existing Royal Mail delivery services, your empty pouch can be sent back to Bullards to do the rest. In fact, you don’t even need a stamp or envelope, as there’s a free post label already stuck to the back of the Eco-Pouch. You simply drop it in the post box and it will be sent directly back to the distillery, where they’ll recycle it for you!
Amy explains that “as long as you return the pouch to us via any Royal Mail post box, we ensure that all pouches are sent to Teracycle UK to be up cycled in to anything from school tables and chairs to community park benches – the point is there is a guaranteed diversion from landfill and our oceans”.
Of course, if you do decide you no longer want the bottle further down the line, you can choose to recycle or up-cycle it at your discretion…see my earlier up cycle recommendation ideas earlier in the post!
Whilst this all sounds very selfless and socially conscious, you could be forgiven if a little part of you were to start thinking ‘yeah, but with all those costs cut from the production line, surely this is a bit of a money spinner. Right?’. Wrong. In fact, the tweaks made to launch the initiative, including replacing the inflatable plastic air packs with a new biodegradable ‘Flex-Hex’ design to protect the ‘Bottles for Life’ whilst in transit, have led to a number of inflated costs. But as Amy explains in closing, Bullards are “a company that considers and cares about our planet before profit”.
Bottling it all up
With the formal introductions out of the way, it was time to get better acquainted with Bullards Gin itself, described as ‘the spirit of Norwich’.
Note to reader: Bullards are based in Norwich. Just so that doesn’t seem like a weird tag line to be using.
First up, I’d need to get the gin out of the pouch and in to the bottle. This is a feat that is far easier to accomplish than I made it look in trying to make a social media friendly video to catch the moment! Head over to my Instagram page to see my poor attempt at pouring with steady hands, that luckily only resulted in a minor loss of gin! (sorry Amy!).
With my 70cl of liquid (well, almost 70cl…) successfully in its new home, I was able to take a step back and admire the bottle. It really is rather nice to look at!
Having been sent to Old Tom expression to sample (the team also have a London Dry and Strawberry & Black Pepper in their core range), the accompanying bottle is tall, sleek and elegant. The rose gold anchor provides a nautical and naval feel to the branding, whilst also adding a stylish feel to the finish.
The embossed elements that detail the brands history and heritage, having been established in 1837 in (you guessed it!) Norwich, is a classy touch. And it’s all rounded off by the satisfying ‘pop’ made by the robust stopper, emblazoned with that centrepiece maritime anchor.
You really can see why you’d want to keep hold of the bottle once the gin is gone. These Eco-Pouches will certainly come in handy!
Bullards Gin to Taste
Whilst Old Tom isn’t generally my gin style of choice, Bullards is a brand I had heard a lot about and been longing to try, so I was excited to give this one a go!
In a stray from the norm, team Bullards include local Norfolk honey, mango and pink peppercorns as key botanicals for their Old Tom, and it’s this trio that certainly comes across strongly on the nose. There’s a sweetness, with a hit of exotic citrus, that’s backed up by the unmistakable sweet warmth of the pink peppercorn. Juniper seems to grow in power as the gin evolves in the glass, along side suggestions of vanilla.
On the taste, I pick up an initial element of ginger. There is far more oomph to the neat gin than I was expecting; whilst the sweet warmth of pink peppercorns and cassia are present, there’s an addition of a more fiery cracked black pepper in the mix. It’s provides a heat across the tongue and real longevity to the mouth feel. There’s a honey sweetness that coats the tongue, whilst mango hits the back of the throat. Bigger notes of grapefruit become apparent on tasting, which bolsters the citrus profile and endears itself to my citrus forward sensibilities!
Being a relative novice in the world of Old Toms, normally opting for classic London Dry styles, I’ll admit to being a little stumped by options of serve. My initial thoughts for a longer drink would be to match the warming sweetness to a ginger beer or ginger ale mixer, and a wedge of orange. Though a light tonic and a slice of mango could also work a treat!
Branching out slightly further afield, I had to get this in to a Negroni ASAP! I’d heard good things and wasn’t about to be disappointed. Opting for a mini sample serve of equal parts gin, Byrrh vermouth and Campari, it is absolutely delicious! The sweetness from the honey and those pink peppercorns, alongside the spiced warmth carried by the gin, works magically in the short serve classic. The light feel of spearmint on the back of the throat gives a freshness and longevity that urges you to take another sip. Whilst slightly sweeter than my normal mix, I have to say that it is pretty phenomenal!
Perhaps the one that shocked me the most was sampling (as I seemingly only drink in tiny sample sizes now!) as an Old Tom Martini. Everything about it suggested that it wasn’t meant to work…but work it does! The sweetness of the gin seems to be elevated by the dry vermouth, with that spiced warmth lingering at the back of the throat. I could quite easily see these being too easy to drink when served ice cold and bone dry on a hot summers day!
Running on empty
I surprised myself a little by enjoying this gin so much – it may just be the one that makes me reconsider my stance on Old Toms and want to delve a little deeper. And it certainly makes me want to explore the Bullards flagship gin & wider range!
When pressing others in the industry for Old Tom cocktail recommendations, calls to serve as a Gin Collins, a Basil Smash and a Martinez (only escaping this initial tasting due to a lack of requisite ingredients in the cupboard) all demand further investigation and pay homage to the gins versatility that I had clearly underestimated at the outset! It’s set about a rejuvenated sense of exploration in to a less discovered category for myself, and it’s one I’m excited to embark on.
And with the gin enjoyed, what are my final thoughts on the Eco-Pouch Project? Well, I love it. I think it’s ace.
Since receiving the Bullards package, environmentally friendly refills is a trend I’m starting to see more of in the industry and I’m all for it! It’s more cost effective for distillers, cheaper for customers to stay topped up with their favourite gins, and all better for the environment. Win, win, win.
It’s at this point that you may be thinking that you want to try the Eco-Pouch, and more specifically Bullards Gin, but don’t have a ‘Bottle for Life’ to refill in to. Well let me stop you there. Bullards are more than happy for you to buy a pouch and decant it in to ANY empty gin bottle you may have knocking around, with Amy adding that “the most important thing right now is that we all have a good stock of great gins in these unprecedented times”.
Planet before profit. I’ll drink to that.
Thanks so much to Bullards Gin for my complementary Bottle for Life and Old Tom gin Eco-Pouch!
If you’d like to keep on top of all things Bullards, be sure to follow them across social media @bullardsgin – and then why not head to their website to order your very own Eco-Pouch at http://www.bullardsspirits.co.uk
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!