The gin revolution in Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 July 2016 | UPDATED: 14:54 29 December 2017
The remarkable revival of gin continues, proving a real tonic for distillers and drinkers
There was a time when gin was seen as an old fashioned drink, favoured by a certain kind of people – probably the kind who would call it a tipple and ask ‘what’s your poison?’ Visit any trendy bar today though and not only will the drinkers have changed, but the drink has too.
Gin has seen a remarkable revival in recent years with the number of UK distilleries almost doubling in the last few years. There are now about 200, many of them small, artisan affairs producing increasingly experimental gins which are proving popular with a younger generation of drinkers.
The rise of gin echoes the surge in popularity of craft beers which were once the preserve of bearded middle-aged men in unfashionable clothes and are now widely drunk by bearded younger men who wear their unfashionable clothes ironically.
Yorkshire has kept pace on both fronts, with bars, brewers and distillers across the county doing their bit to create new flavours with unusual, and sometimes downright, peculiar ingredients.
It is traditionally flavoured with juniper – the fruit which gives the drink its name – but recent creations have included all manner of botanicals; syrup, violets, samphire and coriander, anyone?
In Ripon, The Little Red Berry Company have added to their already impressive drinks menu with a lemon and thyme flavoured gin which they hope will prove as popular as last year’s elderflower and cucumber concoction.
Rachel Jamieson, who founded the business with her husband Rob four years ago, now produces about 18,000 bottles of liqueurs and gins in small batches, by hand, every year. Where possible, they use fruits and raw materials from Yorkshire producers and the new drink was launched at the Harrogate Flower Show in April.
Rachel said: ‘Working with thyme was a new challenge for us as it posed different methods for production but it lends a beautifully herby flavour that is synonymous with a quintessentially British summer garden. We’re excited about it as we believe it’s an unusual flavour combination that’s not yet locally available.
‘We wanted to create something a bit different to complement our current range of liqueurs. Liqueurs that are made in the traditional way by steeping the fruit contain quite a lot of added sugar. The new flavoured gins have less sugar and a fresh taste that makes them work very well in a gin and tonic style drink.’
And if gin is being made in Yorkshire with unconventional ingredients, it was only a matter of time before someone reached for the rhubarb.
It has been combined with teas from Taylors of Harrogate, plants and herbs from the kitchen garden at Rudding Park and water from Harrogate to create Slingsby. Seventeen of Slingsby’s 24 botanicals have been grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden and each was chosen with the beautiful and restorative nature of Harrogate at the heart of the gin.
Slingsby is available from the Spirit of Harrogate on Montpellier Parade, along with a choice of 30 tonics because there’s no point having a top class gin and a second rate mixer – that’s like putting a tractor engine in your shiny sportscar. And Slingsby must be good, it’s one of the sponsors of the Yorkshire Life Food & Drink Awards.
Visitors to Spirit of Harrogate can also learn the history of gin and how Slingsby is created and groups of up to 20 private, pre-booked guests can enjoy Slingsby Gin Experiences, tasting canapes and specially developed Slingsby cocktails.
Along with the rhubarb, other ingredients include green and jasmine teas, as well as sweet cicely, primrose and thyme from the Rudding Park gardens.
Stylish drinks, made with tasty home-grown ingredients? We’ll raise a glass to that.
Spice up your G&T
We asked the drinks experts at the Provenance Inns Group in North Yorkshire for their top tips
Choose from citrus elements, fresh herbs and exotic spices to create your own garnish or try one of our signature botanical pairings…
Refreshing Hendricks with cucumber and mint
Tangy citrus Bombay with lemon and lime
Aromatic Masons with fresh rosemary and exotic star anise
Spiced Monkey 47 with blackberries and classic juniper
Slingbys with a zing…blueberries and pink grapefruit
Other things to do with gin
Do you want a flake with that?
The sun’s shining and you want something cool, refreshing and grown up. What do you reach for? A gin ice cream, of course. Artisan ice cream producer Yummy Yorkshire has joined forces with gin producer Masons to create gin and orange ripple ice cream.
The ice cream is made by combining the gin with a natural ice cream which is then swirled with a luxurious orange marmalade.
Jeremy Holmes, founder of Yummy Yorkshire said: ‘Yorkshire has some of the finest producers in the country and we’re always on the look out for amazing artisan producers we can collaborate with. The unique quality of Masons Yorkshire Dry Gin makes it a pleasure to combine with our award winning ice cream.’
Karl Mason of Masons Gin added: ‘We knew Yummy Yorkshire would take care of the delicate flavours and heritage of our brand when developing this new product. We’re delighted with the outcome.’
Gin in a jar
Distillers have always added fruity botanicals to their gins, so it just took a bit of lateral thinking for Elspeth Biltoft to create blackberry and sloe gin jam.
Elspeth, the owner and founder of Rosebud Preserves, learned to make jams, marmalades, chutneys and jellies as a child and launched her business in Masham in 1989. She approached Jonathan and Julian Curtoys who run Sloemotion, which has made a range of hedgerow fruit liqueurs, chocolates and chutneys near Malton since 2002.
Elspeth said: ‘We thought a pairing of blackberries and sloes would make a perfect combination, as they are two classic wild autumn fruits, both of which grow throughout the UK in hedgerows, woodland and country lanes, and are regularly foraged by home preservers. The idea of working with a fellow Yorkshire producer, while discovering a use for the by-product of their sloe gin process, turned out to be an opportunity too good to miss.’
Jonathan Curtoys added: ‘We are both keen to use locally grown ingredients and simple processes to produce flavoursome products. It’s really encouraging to be part of a collaboration that has been created by a like-minded, Yorkshire artisan producer.’