When I was in secondary school, there was a rumour that overtook the corridors and canteen queues for a good week or so one summer. There was a buzz of excitement and a feeling of incandescent disbelief. A teacher had only gone and won the flipping lottery!…
…or so he had told a class of pupils as a throwaway comment.
It was a whimsical retort to a class of clowns, with whom he had lost patience, that soon picked up pace and notoriety. And the teacher, Mr.Hunger, did little to dissuade the notion that it may be true. It was the kind of perk that his reputation had been waiting for, as it’s fair to say that he was down in the popularity polls…as an example, in his role as part time PE (or ‘Games’ if your from the Midlands) teacher, his classes had humourlessly been coined ‘the Hunger Games’.
As we all know, from the fable of the boy who cried wolf (whatever happened to that guy?!), lies never get you far. As one ‘porky pie’ led to another, with the loose ends of the tale becoming more and more in question, the gig was finally up. A red faced confession that no such lottery win had occurred was given and attention soon turned back to the guy who’d forgotten about ‘non uniform day’ and turned up in his tie and blazer. (Yep, that was me…).
But not before the hapless teacher made the rookie error of visiting the stationary cupboard and leaving the keys in the outside of the door…teenagers being teenagers there was only ever going to be one end result. If I remember correctly, he spent the rest of the morning trapped inside that cupboard until a colleague set him free. Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘keeping Hunger locked up until lunch’.
In reminiscing on rumour mills, as we build up to the third instalment of ‘International Scottish Gin Day’ on 2nd October 2021, I was reminded of a review I wrote almost 12 months ago to the very day. And in closing my write up on Roehill Springs Distillery, the family ran operation based in the picturesque Burn of Aultmore Glen, I excitedly speculated on a future direction that was rumoured to be in the offing;
“And perhaps most excitingly of all, the innovation isn’t slowing down anytime soon. With rumours of a Navy Strength on the way, you can ‘colour’ this particular blogger very excited indeed.”
With my review of the teams flagship expression, ‘Number 5 Gin’, having uncovered the exciting future prospect, it turns out that this was indeed my lucky day. And unlike the unfortunate Mr.Hunger, my numbers had come in!
Strap yourself in for some more deer related puns – I was revisiting team Roehill to see what Master Distiller Duncan Morrison had in store for us with his latest expression; Roehill Springs Navy Strength.
Roehill Springs; taking a ‘Lucky Dip’
Inspired by the ‘Roehill’ spring that rises on their land, populated by roe deer, the outfit was set up by husband and wife duo Duncan and Shirley Morrison in 2019, with the still functioning family farm being put to additional use as a gin distillery.
Back in October 2020, in support of International Scottish Gin Day, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample ‘Number 5 Gin’ from the relative newbie to the gin scene ‘Roehill Springs Distillery’. This was the first offering from Team Roehill, a robustly juniper, citrus and pink peppercorn led London Dry, which “left (me) to admire what the team have created here in such a short space of time, and which they are continuing to evolve.”
For the complete lowdown on Roehill Springs Distillery, their history and the fuller tasting notes of their ‘Number 5 Gin’ check out my full blog review here:
And since writing my 2020 review, things have certainly continued to evolve, with the ‘Number 5 Gin’ having gone on to become a multi-award winning liquid. The team scooped a silver medal in the taste category at the International Spirits Challenge 2021, competing in a blind tasting against 2,000 entries from 70 different countries. They then only went on to better that feat in being awarded a GOLD Medal in the IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) 2021, with a very impressive 96 points!
Roehill Springs; Strength in numbers
Having enjoyed the original expression, it was a proud moment to see the plaudits rolling in for a well deserving brand in recognition of a spirit of real quality. So then imagine my excitement at finding out that the rumours of a new spirit had grown in strength; and not least in the ABV% in question!
At a weighty 57% ABV, the Navy Strength Gin certainly looks the part. Dressed head to toe is a darker shade of blue, the core high end aesthetics of the Roehill branding have been eye pleasingly retained here. The kisses of rose gold trimming and the roe deer hallmark print feel refined, and carry a feel of class and sophistication.
But what I really enjoy is the introduction of the robust cork stopper, in place of the screw top I encountered on my bottle of ‘Number 5 Gin’, which feels more aligned with the ‘top shelf’ finish the team were looking for.
And whilst the wax dipped finish looked great on the sealed bottles of ‘Number 5’, I found it less hardwearing over time. It’s the little finishing touch ups to the aesthetics, like the black wrapped bottle neck, that really lift the shelf appeal.
Roehill Springs Navy Strength Gin to taste
Comprised of a different botanical makeup from previous designs, though (as with the teams other recipes) kept equally secretive by the curiosity tickling Mr.Morrison, it was time to lift the lid and get under the skin of the newest member of the family.
On the nose, the first thing that grabs my attention is the unmistakable scent of the pink peppercorns – they’re huge, undeniable and enticing in equal measure.
I was keen to approach the Navy Strength alongside a sample of ‘Number 5 Gin’ as a point of comparison.
A key point of note is that I find that the citrus seems to pop a little more in the Navy – orange and lemon zest feels brighter and more vivid on the aromas. I also can’t help but be impressed by the plumes of juniper rising from the glass, grasping the nostrils and pulling my face forwards. Well, if you insist…
On the tasting, and the Navy Strength instantly feels elevated. The obviously robust weight of the ABV initially takes the breath away, in the best possible way, and warms the stomach. There’s a reassuring confidence to the spirit, where any concerns of potential needless aggression are alleviated by the presence of poise and balance.
As a total package, it is far more concentrated and packed to the rafters with complex but well balanced flavours. Looking at the neat spirit in the tasting glass, as it’s swilled around, you’d say it has ‘good legs’ if adopting wine terminology.
The juniper envelopes the senses and coats the tongue like velvet. I couldn’t wipe the huge grin from my face, with each sip adding to the giddiness. It really is rather good!
The pink peppercorns, with a mix of what presents as cassia and liquorice root, bring an enjoyable level of sweetness to the gin, complemented by a distinct but rounded spiced earthiness to the back notes.
The citrus aromas from the nosing still play a big part on the taste, with a zesting of orange peel adding to the impressively lengthy finish.
As you’d expect, the addition of tonic is always going to be a welcome bed partner to this heavy hitter.
The ABV is tamed slightly, whilst reassuringly never silenced. The mixer lifts the citrus and sweet notes, whilst the juniper remains huge and is supported by a hum of pink peppercorn.
As I conclude the neat sampling, I raised an eyebrow and say said to myself out loud “I bet that’ll work in a martini’… it’s a lonely job this blogging lark.
Roehill Springs Dry Martini
Everything about the Roehill Navy Strength gin as a martini is simply superb.
Bold lashings of juniper hold the spotlight on every sip, supported by delicately refined notes of lemon that are accentuated by the peel garnish.
Punchy pink peppercorns remain an ever present tasting note, with the sweetness of the Cocchi Americano Bianco working wonderfully well with the sweet warming spices of the gin.
Alongside the carefully managed dilution of the ice, the vermouth also helps to reign in the ABV and further softens the already luxurious mouth feel.
Roehill Springs Distillery; Left doh eyed
In reflecting on my taste comparison notes, my summary would be this; it’s like the Navy Strength has taken all of the best parts of what makes ‘Number 5 Gin’ good, but then pumped it full of performance enhancing steroids.
The Navy replicates the character and profile of Roehill that I enjoyed on my first experience, but then elevates each facet for the better.
And it’s on that basis that I’ll confidently call it now – the awards seem imminent and an almost certainty. Mark my words people…
12 months ago I was excited to see what direction Roehill Springs Distillery were going to take. And in the lead up to International Scottish Gin Day 2021, I’ve not been left disappointed – the team have plenty to celebrate here. It leads me to wonder what other innovations await; it’s sure to be an exciting journey ahead.
Note to reader: If you’ve made it this far, I should also finish by letting you in on a little fabrication…whilst the story of a teacher claiming to have won the lottery, and then subsequently being locked in the stationary cupboard, is absolutely true…I did change the teachers name to protect their anonymity. Why Mr.Hunger you ask? I came up with the ‘locked up until lunch’ line and it made me laugh! How’s your luck…
Huge thanks to Duncan Morrison and the Roehill Springs team for my complementary bottle of their Navy Strength Gin.
Make sure to follow the team at Roehill Springs Distillery to keep on top of all of the latest news and keep your eyes peeled for future additions to the range!:
This blog is also brought to you in recognition and celebration of International Scottish Gin Day 2021! Hitting your calendars on 2nd October this year, the team at ‘The Gin Cooperative’ are doing an incredible job of setting up the events third annual outing! Make sure you’re following the team to keep up with all of the latest in the build up to the big day:
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!