Now that the dust has truly settled, we can safely say that this year’s Imbibe Live was bigger and better than ever. You all turned out en masse, sampling the seemingly endless products and taking in the packed schedule of talks, seminars and competitions. Here are the some of the spirits on show tickling our fancy...
Uncle Val’s botanical gin
The biggest hit amongst visitors those who tried Artisan Spirits Company’s portfolio – distributed by Hammonds of Knutsford – was Uncle Val’s botanical gin. Soft cucumber on the nose gives way to a floral explosion of lavender and balanced complexity, which didn’t give away the gin’s robust abv. (JT)
45% abv, £42/75cl, firstname.lastname@example.org
This exquisite new gin stood out, with a surprising amount of its pear base spirit coming through against coriander, black pepper and cardamom.
Lavender and clover – the three-leaved botanical inspired by the three sisters who founded the gin – add a floral finishing touch to a gin with a delicate yet complex mid-palate. (JT)
40% abv, €36/50cl, Clover Gin, email@example.com
Wrecking Coast Sloe Gin with Cornish Honey
Wrecking Coast returned to Imbibe Live for the second time, after selling out of its first batch at last year’s show, forcing the brand to go into larger scale production. Its Cornish Clotted Cream gin shows smoothness and warmth with a herbaceous finish and fantastic mouthfeel, owing in part to the cream distillation.
But the new Wrecking Coast Sloe Gin stole the show; vibrant red in colour and stronger than your average sloe gin, coming in at 34.5% abv, it’s also known as the ‘Cornish top-up’. The Cornish honey that sweetens the liquid shines through, giving way to berries and a whack of warmth and spice from cinnamon and clove. Tastes like the mulled cider of sloe gins. (JT)
Faith & Sons Organic Coffee Gin
This is a departure from traditional coffee liqueurs. Cold-pressed coffee balances well with the bold traditional botanicals of Faith & Sons’ London Dry Gin. Minimal use of sugar allows coffee freshness and bitterness to come through and there’s a nice kick from the 37.5% abv. The result is a bright, slightly astringent and non-sticky liqueur which stays true to the coffee much more than some of its sweeter counterparts. (JT)
£POA/50cl, 07715 904754
The London Distillery Company Kew Explorer’s Gin
The London Distillery Company has undergone some fairly significant changes in recent years, with more to come, but they were at the show with an impressive range of products to showcase. While we really enjoyed them all, we particularly loved this navy strength gin, made in partnership with Kew Gardens, using their botanicals.
Aromas of bay leaf, orange leaf, rosemary, coriander and juniper are carried through on the palate, which has a beautiful bright zinginess and gives the impression of sweetness with orange flavours, the savoury herbs and a numbing Szechuan pepper, all wrapped up in a decent body. (LF)
57.3% abv, £39.95/70cl, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 4411; Speciality Drinks, 020 8838 9444
Lustau Vermut Bianco
Popular sherry producer Lustau has recently been breaking into vermouth production too, and the latest to come to the UK following the Vermut Rojo is Lustau Vermut Bianco. Consisting of a base of Moscatel wine and fino sherry, and with botanicals including gentian, wormwood, orange peel, rosemary, marjoram and camomile, this bianco has 140g/l of sugar.
With flavours of juicy stone fruits, sage leaf, hazelnut and a pithy bitterness, this vermouth has good acidity, and the fino really balances the sugar out on the finish – a fabulous product to enjoy neat on the rocks with an olive garnish, or served with tonic. (LF)
15% abv, £11.90 (£18.95/75cl), Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360
Spytail Black Ginger Rum
This spiced rum is distilled in Trinidad and then aged in Cognac barrels, with a ginger infusion taking place in the barrel. It’s also spiced with cinnamon, cloves and vanilla, resulting in a very gingery, drying, spicy rum, with notes of cola cubes, Indian spices and tobacco. Guess what? It’d work really well mixed with ginger beer. (LF)
40% abv, £28/70cl, Drinksology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Enrico Toro Ratafia Antica Ricetta
‘I love this product, it’s another forgotten category of Italian drinks, just like Italicus and rosolio,’ said Italian pavilion organiser and Italicus creator Giuseppe Gallo. Indeed, this is a delicious liqueur, made with Montepulciano wine and cherries. It has a lovely light weight to it, with an almond/battenberg aroma. Cherry and bramble fruits dominate on the palate, which has a slight bitterness and a drying finish from the tannins in the wine to balance out the sweetness.
20.5% abv, £POA/50cl & 100cl, Liquori Toro, email@example.com
Tasters: Jo Turner and Laura Foster