July 13, 2022

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Tasting eleven British gins

By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

SOURCES vary on when World Gin Day is celebrated. The British Chamber of Commerce Philippines (BCCP) celebrated World Gin Day on June 30 at the Dusit Thani Manila, but then, World Gin Day’s official website lists that the celebration is held annually on the second Saturday of June. The dates don’t matter after about 11 drinks, the number that BusinessWorld enjoyed at the sampling.

Local brand Ginebra San Miguel made an appearance at the event with their premium 1834 line, and a bartending competition was held, won by Jeremie Benisao from SawSaw/Cafe Fleur. However, the true highlight of the event was a sampling of several gins from several boutique British gin brands (hence the 11 drinks).

These gins have not yet arrived in Manila, and the BCCP is hoping that at least one of them could enter the market and make an impression in the Philippines, what could be the world’s largest gin market. This is according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis Limited, which says that the Philippine market grew by 5.3% between 2013 and 2018, with a forecast 2018-2023 compound annual growth rate of 3.8%*. “We’d like to think that they get developed or at least get a foothold in the Philippine market,” said Chris Nelson, Executive Director and Trustee at the BCCP during a phone interview at the event.

We were certainly biased towards Chatsworth Gin, mostly because of the estate’s association with Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (a British noblewoman; the sister of writer Nancy Mitford, American Communist Party member and author Jessica Mitford, and Nazi sympathizers Diana and Unity Mitford). We at least take some pleasure that the Chatsworth Rose Pink Gin was also a crowd favorite, using roses from the estate’s gardens. It had a clean and soapy scent and a very gentle taste punctuated with a floral sweetness. The Chatsworth Gin’s main line had a stronger scent of limes and lemongrass and tasted much cleaner, had less body and character, masked by a lot of heat.

Bolney Estate Gin had charming packaging, but also had a hint of camphor in its taste and scent. Forest Distillery gin, in a ceramic bottle, was rich in botanicals, had a hint of peppermint, and had a comfortably artisanal vibe best taken with your best bohemian friends.

Definite stars were the gins from Shivering Mountain, with this writer underlining “tastes very expensive” in his notes (It’s at a reasonable price of £39.50). Its website describes it with a profile of traditional juniper, then citrus; “enhanced with fruity notes from sloes and bilberries,” then combined with notes of gorse and heather. It has a clean scent with a hint of menthol, and was clean and bright.

Our final star was the Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin, which thankfully wasn’t so citrus-forward but was able to distill simply the elegant suggestion of oranges on a branch. This gin knew how to paint a picture.

Mr. Nelson notes the revival of gin in the last 10 or 15 years. “This is due to the growth of multiple distilleries,” he said. He notes also that most of these are smaller distillers, and their activity is driven by people trying these different products. “Gin has gained in popularity not just in the UK. You see it also in Europe — I think there’s an opportunity to grow the market, along with the fact that the Chamber is obviously very much pushing British beverages and then these newer brands. We’re optimistic that we’ll have success.”

*Provenance and profits: The future of the gin industry: https://www.theiwsr.com/news-and-comment-provenance-and-profits-the-future-of-the-gin-industry.