I’ve always been rubbish at picking out song lyrics on the radio. But this doesn’t deter me from joining in whenever I hear a classic ‘banger’ on the airwaves that demands my vocal harmonies…
More often than not, you’ll find me confidently blasting out a heartfelt incorrect song line in the car as if no one is listening…only they are. And they’re laughing. More specifically, my wife is listening and laughing…
I was 25 years old when I learned that Elton John wasn’t singing ‘Hold me close now Tony Danzer’. Although I have to admit that I had been wondering who Tony Danzer was…
I had thought for a longtime that TLC’s 90’s hit was enthusiastically encouraging some bloke with the coolest name around, as they chanted ‘Go! Go! Jason Waterfalls’… (If I ever legally change my name, I’ve got dibs!). ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls’ disappointingly doesn’t have the same ring to it.
And as for REM’s ‘Calling Jamaica’ in ‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight’?! I still haven’t got a bloody clue what Michael Stipe is actually singing… (Note to reader: it’s actually ‘Call me when you wake her’).
Yet, in a strange twist of fate, I do know all of the lyrics to Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ (radio friendly edit) which I can rap in time and key. I learned it as a passive aggressive retort to my wife’s jibes, and to this day I remain smugly proud of my renditions. No, I don’t perform on request (don’t @ me…).
My most recent embarrassing indiscretion came courtesy of Heart FM, as I pottered around the kitchen. ‘PRETTY OLD LADY MARMALADE!’ I had belted out, alongside Christina Aguilera, Pink and the girls. I turned around, expecting rapturous applause. I was met by a stoney silence…followed by the insatiable laughter of my unforgiving wife. Even my 2 year old son was laughing, though I’m not sure he really understood why.
Later on, in an effort to console me, my wife had suggestively offered ‘voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?’. But in not having the time to look up the translation, and assuming it was another dig, I rolled my eyes and replied ‘non merci’. I must get round to checking what she’d meant…
Like a dropping a slice of toast, thickly layered with marmalade, my attempt at the 2001 retro classic had landed flat on its face. Butter side down. But the moment of emotional pithy bitterness was fleeting and about to be replaced by a taste sensation of equal proportions;
“We’re a big fan of your blog and would love to send you a bottle of Pink Marmalade Gin! Will Burbage, Director”.
Pink? Marmalade? Gin? Sure the timing was odd. But then so too was my transition between verse and chorus in my rendition of the aforementioned pop hit. And so to try and ‘preserve’ (see what I did there?) some sense of pride, I gladly accepted.
It was time to ‘spread’ the news of Pink Marmalade Gin. After all, this was my ‘bread & butter’… (I’m so sorry Will).
Pink Marmalade Gin; start ‘spreading’ the news…
Pink Marmalade Gin’s start to life is slightly different to what you may have been expecting…
I’ll admit that when I imagined the gins inception, I had pictured a lady of a more mature persuasion standing diligently over a steaming pot of marmalade cooking in a country kitchen…
“Pink Marmalade was founded by purveyors of parties, drawn together to create immersive, hedonistic worlds and elevate event production beyond the everyday”…
Yeah. So not quite then.
This is a journey born out of the combined passion for uniqueness and the penchant for party time of three friends, who decided to indulge their fascination for the weird and wonderful by creating their own jars of salted pink grapefruit marmalade. Or, as they now describe them ‘edible business cards’ in jar form!
Fast forward a few months and the inevitable question was surfaced (over a G&T of course); ‘I wonder what would the marmalade would taste like in a gin?…’.
Artistic renegades making marmalade and gin? What the heck is going on here?! Well, for that answer you need to scratch a little further beyond the surface. Pink Marmalade Gin is the byproduct of its bigger sister events company ‘Pink Marmalade’, part of ‘Good Life Events’.
‘Good Life Events’ grew from an outfit who were putting on parties for friends in to a nightlife brand with an international presence. With events attended by as many as 5,000 people at a time, ‘Pink Marmalade’ was set up and took flight as a brand that offers “events dedicated to clients”. The teams diverse range of business acumen sees them broadly span across live performances, booking of talent, large scale event management, project management & event production and private commissions.
Like I say…it’s a bit of a different way to go about starting up a gin company.
Oh, and did I mention that the gin is colour changing?! Of course it is…
The botanicals; that’s a bit jammy…
Before I had even opened the bottle or tried the liquid inside, my confidence levels of being greeted by something special were already set high. And not least because the gin was listed as the number 1 gin to try in 2020 by ‘ShortList’. What was leading to such wild assumptions? Some kind of hallmark of quality stamped on the bottle? Not exactly. This is a case not just of what’s in the bottle…but who put it there.
As soon as I had seen that Barry ‘Bazza’ Mageean had been involved in the recipe design, I knew I was in safe hands. For those who don’t know Barry, you may well still have sampled his handy work. Mageean spent two years as Head Distiller at Masons Yorkshire Gin, developing the recipes for the ‘Peppered Pear’ and ‘Apple Blossom’ editions & the G12 sister project, which I reviewed in October 2018. He was also one part of Taplin & Mageean, which I reviewed back in 2019, until his departure last year.
You can read more on G12 and Taplin & Mageean in my previous write ups here:
In one of those ‘right place, right time, it’s a small world’ kind of situations, Mageean shared the same halls of residence floor at University with GoodLife & Pink Marmalade founders Will and Louis, while he was (by his own admission) “brewing very dodgy beer” in his room.
Will describes Barry as “a good friend and an even better Gin Distiller”, and so with his ‘dodgy brewing’ days thankfully behind him, it was a beautiful friendship that fostered a beautiful starting point for a new gin.
So what exactly goes in to a bottle of Pink Marmalade Gin? I’m glad you asked… The team have tried to bottle the flair and the character of the Pink Marmalade ethos in their liquid, taking a number of well known classics but introducing their own twist. Here you’ll find;
Juniper (obviously!), dried grapefruit zest, fresh grapefruit, kaffir lime leaf, angelica root, chamomile, pink peppercorns, liquorice root, coriander seeds, dried orange zest, orris root, butterfly pea flower and (of course) the teams secret recipe of salted pink grapefruit marmalade.
Distillation; Time to party…
Pink Marmalade Gin is created using a traditional single-shot method of distillation. But that’s not the half of it! The process first starts by making their secret recipe salted pink grapefruit marmalade, which is left to mature and intensify for 2 weeks. During this time the 12 botanicals are primed, readied and steeped for various amounts of time, to meticulously extract the exacting flavour profiles.
This pink marmalade is then added at the end of the distillation process, before being cut at 65% ABV and taken down to its bottling strength of 42%.
And if you fancy giving the marmalade a go straight from the jar, you can pick yours up here!;
Buy yours here – https://pinkmarmaladegin.co.uk/shop/
Pink Marmalade Gin; I’m a ‘ginnie’ in a bottle…
Now it would be fair to say that the bottles are rather fetching on the eye. The chic body of the bottles cuts a clean and refined figure, with its matte white ceramic style canvas acting as the perfect base on which to hang the brands artwork.
The split Disco Ball grapefruit that sits front and centre is a clever design to pay homage to the company’s inception and core ingredient, delicately framed by imagery of some of the other botanical inclusions. The vividness of the label colour, against the stark white background, is certainly eye catching, with enough points of difference for it to standout in a crowd.
It will come as little surprise that a gin that was inspired by being the life and soul of the party comes with an A-List celebrity fan base, including Pop Star Sophie Ellis-Bexter, famed for the hit classic ‘Murder on Zidanes Floor’ (at least I think that’s how it went…). Sophie is such a big admirer of the gin that the teams collaborated on a limited run design of 500 bottles, which all sold out within the first half an hour of being on sale!
And with a % of the sales going to the ‘We Make Events’ charity, it goes to show that this is a gin with both style and substance.
The beauty of the blank white canvas, and the core values of the Pink Marmalade brand, was further evidenced by the 2020 collaboration with Crisis (the UK’s leading Homeless charity), where 5 artists worked their magic to create unique and stunning designs that helped to raise £2,300 in a single month.
So then here are a few minor gripes I feel I must raise…
Whilst the flagship design is, as I’ve said, very pretty, it does lack a certain cutting edge when compared to the rock & roll ‘finger in the air’ catwalk ready designs created for the Crisis campaign. I can’t help but wonder if something more risqué might better reflect the brands nightlife alter ego?
I’m also not sure I’d make the ‘colour changing’ element of the gin a feature point on the bottle. For me, it is a clever design point that allows the gin to achieve a pink hue of grapefruit without having to include other agents or nasties. But it’s not necessarily a point to give away valuable bottle real estate to. What I would have perhaps honed in on more is the specially created salted marmalade, and it’s secret ingredients, which is far more unique.
Pink Grapefruit Marmalade Gin to taste
So having seen what goes in to the bottle, and how it got there, it was time to check the guest list on this party animal. My name was on the list…I was going in!
On the nose and jeez luiz! I nearly lost an eye to the pink peppercorns that leapt from the bottle the moment that the snugly fitted wooden stopper was removed. It’s unrelenting, unforgiving and unmistakable (and pretty darn enticing!) as the warming and sweetly spiced character of those little pink berries pop on the nose to deliver their perfumed fragrance.
The damper, calming tones of chamomile, which I have come to really enjoy in gins that choose to employ its wares, has a strong presence. It comes armed with a supporting vanilla style backbone, with the additional sweetness of liquorice root, and falls neatly inline behind the pink pepper as a key leading sensory note.
I often find that pink peppercorns and juniper pair beautifully well together, and here is no exception. The delightful oily haze of piney juniper intertwines with the robust aromatics of the peppercorns to deliver a pretty spectacular assault on the nostrils. It’s balanced brilliantly against the slight savoury suggestion of herbal greenery, namely from the coriander and kaffir lime leaf.
The grapefruit brings a bitterness and bite to the scent, with the spirit certainly adopting a brightness and kick from the zesty botanical. There are flickers of orange to the vapours, and occasionally a flirtation with something almost lime like. But, and call me crazy when you look back at the list of ingredients, the citrus just isn’t as big on the nose as I had been expecting? And believe me – I spent a lot of time returning to the glass to try to prove myself wrong. I had anticipated being engulfed in plumes of grapefruit, with the trio of the peels, fresh fruit and marmalade being key elements of the makeup. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that you can’t find citrus. That would be nuts! But whilst it’s almost certainly there, it’s just not to the amped up levels I was perhaps anticipating and hoping for.
To taste, and the juniper is BIG. Its very big! It’s resinous. It’s bold. And it’s very bloody good.
There’s a beautiful salinity to the gin, presumably courtesy of that salted pink grapefruit marmalade, that brings an almost coastal vibe to the neat spirit as it washes over the front of the tongue.
The marmalade itself brings a vibrant citrus lift, and pithy grapefruit peel bitterness to the gin. And you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s far more evident on the tasting (thank goodness, as for a moment I was beginning to question myself!). Whilst the peel and flesh of the grapefruit is easily located on the palate, the marmalade sits on the back of the throat and comes through stronger as an aftertaste. The gin has that citrus bitterness that sits on the tongue, with a warming longevity that hangs about well beyond each sip. It’s a little like biting in to the skin of the raw grapefruit (I mean, don’t do that…but it’s the best way I can describe it!).
It’s more herbaceous and savoury on the taste than I had anticipated from the sweetness of the nosing, with floral notes akin to violet also staking a claim to the flavour profile (despite being nowhere near the recipe card!). It feels well considered and grown up, supported by its ‘heftier to taste than you’d perhaps have expected’ 42% ABV. There’s a dry finish to the neat spirit, that’s supported by a dusting of white pepper heat.
To serve; G&T
As a gin & tonic, the sharpness of the gin is mellowed by the mixer. The citrus becomes softer and ‘fruitier’, with the orange and grapefruit allowed to take the starring roles, that evolve in their cheek puffing credentials as the drink evolves. All the while, those pithy peels work wonderfully with the bitterness of the quinine. The lime-like players that were present on the nose, when combined with the salt of the marmalade, at times take on a tequila-esq vibe that transforms the classic cocktail.
Weighty plump blue juniper makes its presence known on each and every sip, which makes it a joy to keep returning to the glass. Even though the pink pepper is reigned in slightly, it still provides oodles of the warming spice that was so enjoyable to sample neat, elevated by the sweetness of the liquorice root.
Bright and refreshing, this is a summers afternoon sipper that could quite easily transcend in to a summers evening beach party, given the lingering salinity.
To serve; Negroni
When I think ‘citrus and bitterness’, I’m always led towards Negroni territory…and when marmalade is at play, surely this gin had the makings for a superb short serve classic? I remain perched on the fence here though…
The pink peppercorn warmth and sweetness remains huge, with supporting tones of chamomile and the sea salt breeze carrying through from the neat sampling. The grapefruit freshness feels a little bigger and more brash, admittedly emphasised by the use of a frozen grapefruit garnish, whilst the juniper remains as big and bolshy as ever.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s very pleasant and drinkable. But it’s perhaps just not the Negroni I expected from the title of the gin… The pink pepper and juniper are the lead notes, where I had hoped the marmalade would come in to its own amongst the bitters and vermouth. And whilst the citrus punch develops overtime, it’s a more herbal, savoury and perfumed take on the drink than I had been craving.
Pink Marmalade Gin; Final thoughts
Whilst fleeting thoughts of a Breakfast Martini entered my mind, I’m convinced that sticking with the G&T here is the way forwards.
I’ll admit that seeing the blue liquid in the glass was initially a little unnerving – it’s not your standard G&T look! But it makes a lot more sense with the addition of tonic, allowing you experience the colour changing ‘magic’ of the butterfly pea flower. My super impressed son watched in amazement and demanded “again!”. Well, only if you insist son…
In summary, it’s an elegantly packaged and clever spirit that has a character to boot. Pink Marmalade Gin have looked to bottle the personality of the brand, achieving points of uniqueness through the botanicals used to drive the drinking experience. As soon as we get back to a world where events can be held and hosted, having your own gin on the back bars to quench the thirst of your guest list is certainly a winning strategy! And with international contracts already in place, and broader interest from wider markets, all signs point to an exciting future for the team!
But for my palate, admittedly down to personal taste, I would have liked to have seen a bigger emphasis placed on the marmalade flavour profile, really honing in on that USP. If that could be ratcheted up a few levels, I really feel that this could be something very special.
My huge thanks to Will Burbage and the Pink Marmalade team for my complimentary bottle of Pink Marmalade Gin!
Be sure to ‘join the party’ for the latest Marmalade news over on the teams website and social media channels;
Facebook: Pink Marmalade Gin
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!