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25/09/2013

The Ultimate Gin Quest - Part 1

by Giles Cooper (Head of Marketing & PR)

In reality, this should be called part 2 as part 1 arguably began with the discovery of the wonderful Monkey 47, the Schwarzwald Gin which has proven so popular with BI staff and clients alike. However whilst Monkey makes a fantastic G&T, it’s perhaps TOO floral, citrusy and aromatic for a ‘grown-up’ Martini... which made us think – which are the best gins out there? There are dozens to choose from but we had a relatively shallow pool to fish in, knowing that a) the gin had to be brilliant, b) it had to have an engaging story and c) it had to be unavailable through traditional high street channels. And so the Ultimate Gin Quest began.

It’s rare to find someone doing something really new, and in the current world of boutique, microdistilled, speciality gins, it’s even rarer. There are only so many crazy stories you can come up with, odd things you can chuck into your botanical mix, and funky shaped bottles you can manufacture before they all roll into one...

Well, Sacred Gin is definitely new and definitely different – from its origins to its manufacture and crucially, its taste, it is an entirely fresh type of gin. The brains behind its creation and production is Ian Hart, an ex-Wall Street trader (who actually worked for our founder and MD Gary Boom in his previous career) and latterly City Headhunter who, when faced with an ‘opportunity’ to do something different in 2007 (Lehman Brothers were one of his biggest clients... go figure) he decided to pursue a long-held dream of creating his own gin. But this isn’t quite the whole story...

The combination of Ian’s love of science (he has a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge), natural inquisitiveness and passion for wine (he had been a collector for many years) led him to ‘play around’ with some bottles of wine and a pretty advanced chemistry set; picking up on techniques he had read about from the garagiste movement in St Emilion, he began breaking up wines into their constituent parts ostensibly to see if he could make them richer and more concentrated by removing ‘unnecessary’ water. The process involved ‘removing’ the nose, pulling out the water, then putting the remaining parts back together again – thus retaining the bouquet and flavours but making the wine less dilute; this was done using vacuum distillation rather than pot distillation, all in the back room of Ian’s house in Highgate.

Once he realised he could do this, he tried switching the nose of two different wines whilst retaining the palate: Corton Charlemagne was given the nose of Corton; then Corton Charlemagne was given the nose of Yquem. In both cases, it worked – in the sense that the wine retained its palate profile whilst adopting the nose of the other. This process led Ian to realise the capabilities of cold distillation and its application to gin: surely cold distillation would provide fresh flavours, rather than cooked flavours, of the citric botanicals? And surely creating individual distillates of each botanical would allow you to blend your perfect recipe more quickly and efficiently, rather than making mixed blend after mixed blend?

The result – perfected on the 23rd blend – was the gin they call Sacred, so called because one of the botanicals is Boswellia Sacra, a special type of Frankincense.

We went to visit Ian at his distillery – still in the back room of his house – and he treated us not just to a tasting of his remarkable spirits but a demonstration of how his equipment works (oo-er missus) in which he broke apart a sample of Taylor’s ‘83, removed some unwanted dilution and then put it back together again in a more concentrated form. The pictures which show some of this stuff in action!

So onto the gin. Well, it’s safe to say it’s bloody fantastic and whilst it makes a fabulous G&T, it finds its true calling in a Martini – just ask Alessandro Palazzi, legendary Head Bar at Dukes Hotel, who swears by it. Made entirely from organic and carefully sourced botanicals including Savory, Cinnamon, Cardamom and the aforementioned Boswellia Sacra, it has a creamy texture and a freshness of character which is attributed to the unique ‘cold’ distillation. We are working with the distillers to deliver a first-class BI offer so keep a close eye on your inbox!

Read Part 2 of the Ultimate Gin Quest