By the time we’d realised what was going on, he was already on his hind legs and enjoying a feast of epic carb loading proportions! And whilst he may have been living his best life momentarily, you could rest assured he would be spending the rest of the evening in the ‘dog house’ (in the very literal sense)!
It was a hot August afternoon and my wife and I, back in our child and carefree days, had my parents house all to ourselves for an entire week whilst my mom & dad were on a summer vacation. And I guess I don’t need to explain to you what a young couple of lovebirds had in mind for how to fill their time alone in an empty house? That’s right. We were having a BBQ! (why, what did you think I meant?!…)
We had volunteered to ‘dog sit’ for the week, assuming parental duties for Jed – the family Pointer. This would, as it would transpire, turn out to be a great life lesson for our later years together…never take your eyes off your ‘kids’…they’ll be bloody up to something!
As we lit the BBQ and stood admiring the flames as they licked the grill, salivating in anticipation of the array of meats that would inevitably and inexplicably end up charred beyond any recognisable source of nourishment, we suddenly stopped talking in a moment of realisation. ‘Where’s Jed?!’. It was quiet. Too quiet…
I slowly entered the kitchen, with a naive curiosity plastered on my face that would soon be replaced by a contorted mixture of horror and amazement. As I rounded the corner I was greeted by the sight of Jed, up on his haunches, and face down in a plate that had been left of the kitchen counter and laden with hotdog buns and burger rolls. As I called out in vein, it was too late. He had already worked his way through a bakers dozen with a hungry enthusiasm that on reflection I have to applaud. In a way, it was kind of impressive!
Despite my anguish, Jed seemed undeterred. I swear I saw a small glimpse of a smile on his face as he was dragged from the scene. It was clear to see that he thought the bread rolls were the best thing since sliced bread. A comparison he was well entitled to make, as I realised he had also devoured the two slices of frozen bread I had left to thaw for my work sandwiches the next day. Git.
As the burgers were piled on to the BBQ to burn, I headed out to the shop to seek slim pickings from the bread aisle to replenish our dwindling supplies, with my tail ironically between my legs.
Some 16 years later (112 in dog years) and an arrival appeared on my doorstep with the promise of being ‘mans best friend’, but without the penchant for baked goods…
“My name is Seb and I’m one of the co-founders of our new sustainability focused distillery based in Derbyshire. We just launched our first product, Science Project 6a, and are looking for people to taste/review/provide feedback. I love your style and humour on your blog and was wondering if you would be interested in us sending you a bottle?”
Seb. I’d love to. And you’re a very good boy!
It was time to see what kind of bite this puppy was packing…
Dog and Spoon Distillery; telling the ‘tail’
The first thing that strikes a chord with me about Dog and Spoon Distillery is the charming humour and blunt honesty with which they introduce their brand.
In recognition that many gins are accompanied by tales of grandeur and a family recipe that dates back hundreds of years, usually having recently been discovered in some underground bunker, the co-founding pair of Seb & Tony acknowledge that they would love to give you an interesting story of how their Science Project 6a gin came to be. But they don’t have one…nope! This is just a case of two mates, with a mutual appreciation of gin, deciding that they could give making the stuff a damn good go. And so they did!
I also implore you to head to the website to check out a wide range of theories on why they ultimately chose the name ‘Dog and Spoon’. Whilst I’m yet to get to the true reason, some of my favourite suggestions include that they were “the first two words Seb learnt in Russian” and that they are “illustration names from pages 17 and 36 of the The Kama Sutra” (if someone could validate that second one for me that would be great).
And so their story, perhaps not as tall as some but nonetheless impressive, started in 2019. With a desire to place ‘Mother Nature’ at the core of their ethos, the pair renovated a converted grain store on an old farm in the small village of Westhouses (near Alfreton, Derbyshire), which would become their new home. The ‘dog house’ if you will…
Surrounded by the history and heritage of Sherwood Forest, the Peak District and Chatsworth house, the natural beauty of the rolling hills that surround the distillery are a constant source of inspiration to Seb and Tony. And it’s perhaps their proximity to such breathtaking landscape that has helped to shape their brands ethical stance.
Every dog has its day…
Sustainability is at the very heart of the Dog and Spoon brand. It’s just what they do and who they are. Need some evidence? Check this out for a breakdown…
Seb and Tony harness the power of the sun to run their Still via Solar Power, only falling back on 100% sustainably sourced energy when the sun light proves lacking to generate the ‘oomph’ required. They’re also using biomass to provide their heating – now I don’t know what that means…but it sounds bloody impressive!
All of their packaging is locally sourced and fully recyclable, with absolutely no plastics used in any of the Dog and Spoon products.
They’re even using an innovative method for water recycling within their state-of-the-art Still.
But despite all of that good work, it still didn’t stop them from planting a forest for good measure! As you do.
The dynamic duo are now attempting to turn their green credentials in to ‘green fingers’, looking to grow their own botanicals and fruits to become more self sufficient & remove miles from the road of having to import. Impressively, juniper trees have been planted, along with a lemon plant and bay trees. It’s a project that obviously requires growth (pun intended), but from small acorns grow mighty oaks. It’s a sentiment that Seb and Tony will also be hoping applies to their business and reputation as awareness increases.
Dog and Spoon is also very much a ‘waste not want not’ operation, with a keen focus on seeing as little as possible go to waste in creating their Science Project 6a gin.
Amongst other initiatives, all the teams spent botanicals are turned in to compost, and used to fertilise the flowers and trees on their farms land and aforementioned forest. And once in to the gin making itself, the discarded heads part of the spirit is handily converted into cleaning products for use around the farm (with a juniper fresh scent you can well imagine!)
A dogs dinner; the botanical lineup
And speaking of their botanicals, this London Dry Gin counts amongst its armoury of 11 ingredients; lemon peel, orange peel, lemon verbena, cardamom, bay leaf, cassia bark, liquorice, nutmeg, coriander, angelica root and (of course) juniper.
On paper then, it’s a relatively well trodden path, with very few surprise inclusions that jump off the page. But that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a market where everyone seems to be striving to standout for unusual botanical inclusions, there is absolutely still a market for beautiful simplicity. But the one thing with simplicity; it has to be executed well!
Described as being juniper and citrus forward, it is (in print at least) a classic gin that has a character that is very much ‘right up my street’.
Dog and Spoon Distillery; Best in show…
A mention has to go to the bottle and brand design of the teams flagship foray in to the gin world…I’m actually rather fond of it!
Whilst it is stripped back, and the fireworks have been muted (not a bad thing if keeping to the dog loving theme of the blog), I find that it still manages to pack an eye catching charm. The shock of bright yellow against the white background and transparent liquid appears bold and grabs the attention. The ‘type writer-esq’ font brings a charm and small batch feel, befitting the small batch nature of its making.
You also have to admire the continuation of the ethical mindset, with the labels having been printed of natural & recycled paper, with the wooden stopper made from cork leftovers!
Whilst I’m willing to accept that it won’t instantly launch itself from the backbar, this is perhaps a case of leaving the spirit to do the talking. If I were to make one observation, and critically constructive suggestion, I do wonder whether taking inspiration from brands like ‘Psychopomp’ could have helped play on the ‘Science Project’ title, adding a few choice trimmings to bring a more unique feel to the finish. That said, I’m not a designer & to do so may not work in harmony with any future expressions the pair look to launch in the future.
It was approaching time to crack the seal and learn a little more about this ‘new kid in class’…I had all of the excited anticipation of seeing the science teacher wheeling the TV in to the class room when I was at school! I was just hoping that this experience wouldn’t end in the same levels of disappointment as when the teacher would ultimately admit defeat, through gritted teeth, 10 minutes later when they couldn’t get it to work and had to wheel it back out of the room to a slow-hand clap. Or worse yet, have the awkward situation of realising it was a ‘sex education’ video…
So would this be the ‘best lesson ever’ or red faces all round? Pay attention now, the class is about to begin…
Dog and Spoon Distillery; Science Project 6a Gin to taste
On the nose, sweet and zingy fresh lemons leap from the glass supported by a wave of herbaceous lemon verbena that gives a subtle sense of menthol. It’s a bright and refreshing start!
There is a gentle waft of spice, with a dusting of sweet cassia, followed by the more aromatic bay leaf and a kick of cardamom. There’s a savoury vibe to the neat vapours, with suggestions of lush greenery. Whilst not officially listed, I pick up of whispers of rosemary among the mix.
There’s a strong sense of piney juniper that underpins the spirit, giving a reassuringly classic finish to the gin. The alcohol seems to carry a slight sting of white pepper, that indicates a dry warmth that feels far superior to its fairly modest 40% ABV.
To taste neat, and there is an initial sweetness that washes over the palate – the zing of fresh lemon brings the tastebuds to life and grips your attention. I would go further to say that the flavour profile brings in suggestions of pithy lemon zest and peel, which only serves to enhance the citrus profile. A citrus forward gin you say? Tell me more…
The pine strength of the juniper core is pleasingly retained on the tasting, ticking yet another box of my classic loving sensibilities. There’s a really enjoyable sweetness that carries through to the tasting from the cassia, that works superbly with the classic botanical inclusions previously mentioned.
Bold tones of aromatic and cardamom combine to great effect with the herbal and savoury bay and the more menthol lushness of the lemon verbena.
The spicing feels far greater on the palate than I had anticipated from the initial approach. There is a dry heat to the neat gin, with a robust longevity on the tongue and satisfying warmth that goes from the back of the throat to the pit of the stomach. I had been quietly nervous on the nosing that there could be an alcohol burn waiting to happen, unsure of how the presentation of strength would play out. I need not have worried – the gin carries it’s weight with poise and balance, never threatening to tip off the tightrope to overwhelm the senses.
Science Project 6a gin to serve
A scientific Gin & Tonic
As a G&T, it presents as bright, crisp and refreshing. The spiced hit becomes a little more restrained, whilst still retaining enough boozy warmth to not feel drowned amongst the mixer. The serve allows the citrus character to become further emphasised – the lemon zip and sweetness of cassia are the front notes, with a really nice back note of cardamom. As the drink evolves, the aromatics seem to grow a little, with a more herbal hit of the bay and lemon verbena lingering on each sip.
Plump juniper coats the tongue, leaving you in very little doubt that this is a classic gin profile that was made to sit perfectly in the G&T serve.
Whilst I chose to pair with a light tonic and garnish with orange, to bring an additional citrus element to the fore, the Dog and Spoon suggestion of lemon and rosemary deserves further inspection. It’s a double garnish that suggests a complementary kiss on the forehead of both the citrus and herbal inclusions that I have little doubt would work incredibly well!
When you’re playing with a classic gin, then enjoy the classic playground! In a Martini, it is much the same story as the G&T. There is a bold feel of citrus and juniper, with the bay, verbena and liquorice elements of the gin pulled forwards.
Stirred down until ice cold, and served alongside my current vermouth of choice (Cocchi Americano Bianco), the gorgeous stone fruits of the vermouth work wonderfully well against the London Dry backbone. Crisp, elegant and classic.
Negroni (couldn’t think of a funny title. Sorry)
As a (mini) negroni, it’s completely inoffensive. And as a classic style London Dry, it’s actually quite pleasant to drink. The lemon citrus and juniper forward profile makes for a solid gin base, with a light dusting of sweetness to bring a rounded sense of balance.
But that’s where it ends for me. I’m not going to do you the disservice of saying this is my favourite Negroni – it’s not. Would I drink it as a Negroni again? Yes. With ease. But does it stand out as having a ‘wow factor’ in the short serve cocktail? For my money, no. The gin doesn’t carry the weight of fruited or spiced notes needed to cut through substantially enough, and I doubt if it ever intended to play a starring role in such a powerful cocktail.
Probably not the serve that sees the gin in its best light.
Dog and Spoon Distillery; a mans best friend
In closing, what would my overall summary of Science Project 6a be?…
If I were to grade it as a school assignment, it would get a solid B+. There are things that I really, really, like about it! It is a classic and well made gin, that encompasses the foundations of what a London Dry should be. Big, punchy, juniper with bright and fresh notes of citrus and a reassuring warmth. It makes a cracking G&T, the serve that I feel allows it to shine brightest, whilst also being perfectly at home in other classic cocktails. It loses its way when bolder flavours are introduced, as in the Negroni, though I don’t see this as a major issue; not every gin is destined to grace the bitter and twisted cocktail!
You also can not help but be impressed by Dog and Spoon, and the lengths and efforts that have gone in to creating a brand that clearly has its heart in the right place, with the environment being its life blood. It’s inspiring to see.
Are there further improvements to be made? Sure. But that’s only natural in a relatively youthful set up finding its place on the scene. I would love to see more of the personality of the makers start to transcend in to the design, and am intrigued to see what’s next for the innovative pair after such a classic start to their journey. In a market that demands flavour and colour, I wonder if trends will be bucked to focus on the wider plethora of classic variants on the spirit instead.
And with that, as I poured another Martini, I patted the bottle in recognition of a job very well done. Good boy.
With huge thanks to Seb & Tony for my complementary bottle of their Science Project 6a London Dry Gin! With restrictions now easing, I can’t wait to head over to Derbyshire to see the eco-operation for myself.
Be sure to follow Dog and Spoon Distillery, as I have a suspicion that this early venture in to the gin world is one that will evolve and allow them to add pages to a story of their very own;
Facebook: Dog And Spoon Distillery
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