How and why did you get into gin?
I’ve always really enjoyed the writing process – even when I was younger I was always writing short stories, poems and monologues. And as my home gin collection started to outgrow the kitchen cupboards (much to my wife’s displeasure!), and I started seeking out smaller batch distillers, I found that friends and family were starting to ask my advice on what gins they should be trying. Eventually, it just seemed natural to combine my love of writing with my love of gin, offering my views on what I was discovering and enjoying.
What else do you do as well as gin blogging?
It always makes me smile when people assume that I spend my time drinking and writing about gin for a living! It’s called a ‘dream job’ for a reason!... I spend my working life as a Project Manager within the Retail sector, with the rest of my time doing the best job in the world in being a Dad to Joshua, our 9 month old little boy! It’s a happy coincidence that having so much gin around helps to balance things out a little!...
Who is your blog for and why should gin lovers make sure they have a read and follow The Gin Shelf?
I work really hard to try and make my blog accessible for everyone and anyone - from those who have the faintest curiosity in gin, to those with a full blown love affair! I’ve always been conscious that I wanted my blog to be credible and informative but also something I would want to read. So, you’ll find that most of my work includes some personal life stories, with a tenuous link to my featured brand or event. In retrospect, it’s worked out well that my life seems to have been a series of amusing and embarrassing episodes, punctuated by the odd ice and a slice!
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
That’s a great way to phrase the question! I always find it so difficult when asked ‘so gin boy – what’s your favourite gin then?!’. It’s almost impossible to nail down! But I definitely have some firm favourites that I wouldn’t be without…
For me, Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength is ‘the boss’. In my opinion, it’s what a gin ‘should taste like’! The standard Martin Miller's 40% ABV is great. But the Westbourne Strength, at 45% ABV, takes things to exciting new heights.
Sir Robin of Locksley Gin is always near the top of my list; a distilled gin, with the addition of pink grapefruit, elderflower and dandelion. It’s super smooth for sipping or makes for a killer G&T or Negroni! It also happens to be made by some of the nicest people you’re likely meet in gin, who have given me a lot of support over the years. The team have also been pushing on some really exciting boundaries in expanding their range, with the VSOT (Very Special Old Tom) being an absolute must try!
The flagship ‘Woden’ gin from Bristol based ‘Psychopomp’ is a citrus powerhouse that I never tire of raving about. And they say that not all heroes wear capes...literally ANYTHING from the brand from ‘Down Under’, Four Pillars, is going to be incredible; the Rare Dry or the Bloody Shiraz would be my pick of the bunch.
If you had to choose a favourite way to serve gin, what would it be?
I have a rule when trying a gin for the first time; you have to sample it neat! It’s truly the best way to understand what a gin distiller was aiming for in their taste profile and finished product, before any mixers get involved. But once you’re done with the technical side of tasting a gin, the fun can begin! I’m going to skip past the classic G&T serve – it’s almost too obvious, and no one is going to turn down an ice cold, crisp Gin & Tonic on a hot summers day!
My favourite way to serve gin would be as a Negroni; a bitter little number that comprises equal measures of gin, Campari and Vermouth over ice. You can literally lose hours playing around with the variety of gins and vermouths to balance out the flavour profiles & land on your perfect mix! I’m actually part of a ‘Negroni Club’ (shout out to the crew!) that meets on a semi-regular basis in London to enjoy a shared love of the classic cocktail.
My favourite Negroni? A tough call – I’d be stuck between a 50/50 split of Plymouth Navy & Plymouth Sloe Gin, served with Byrrh vermouth or Red Door Gin, served with Antica Formula (though I can think of worse places to be stuck!).
Do you have a favourite gin event that you'd recommend to gin lovers?
Right off the bat, I am super excited for this year's Junipalooza Festival, hosted by Gin Foundry at London’s Tobacco Dock. It’s an annual event, now hosted in London, Melbourne and Hamburg, that genuinely showcases the best gins from around the world!
Do you have a favourite gin bar that you'd recommend to gin lovers?
In terms of bars, I have just moved back to my Midlands homeland after spending the last 10 years in Leeds. Having left my Yorkshire ‘home away from home’ behind, I have to give a massive shout out to Leeds outfit ‘Lazy Lounge’, an incredible Gin Palace that houses well in excess of 300 gins.
But I’m relieved to know that I’m in safe hands back in Birmingham with the ‘Best Gin Bar in the World’ (40 St Pauls) on my door step! Almost impossible to find, unless you’re looking for it (top tip – it’s behind a door with number 40 on it!), it’s a tiny little table service bar, with an almost speakeasy-esq vibe, that's kicking out some of the best G&T’s from around the world. Don’t forget to book!
What is your top tip for people just starting to discover gin?
It sounds simple, but Social Media is a great way of staying on top of the latest and greatest in the world of gin. I’ll be scrolling through Instagram or Twitter and spot a picture of something interesting, which then leads to pulling at the threads to unravel a new gin find or an interesting back story to follow up on!
Do you have a top tip for aspiring gin bloggers?
My advice would be to drink what you love, and then write about it in a way that you would want to pick up a review to read. Basically – be yourself and make your own brand. I only ever started writing down my thoughts to entertain myself, and hopefully a few friends or like-minded gin drinkers might find it interesting. Over three years down the line, and my approach to blogging has allowed me to go to some very cool places, meet some very cool people and try some incredible gins!
The gin scene is such an inclusive and friendly environment, that bloggers, enthusiasts and brands alike are always sharing new finds, tasting notes and exciting events to get involved in. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and to ask for help or advice!
What do you think is next in the gin industry?
A lot of people ‘predict’ the imminent ‘demise of gin’ - but it’s simply not something I can see happening in the near future! Only today (29/03/19) it was announced that the UK brought a record breaking 73 million bottles of gin last year alone!
Every time I’m asked ‘what’s next for gin’, my view remains the same; Gin Tourism. It’s something I am seeing a growing movement towards, with distilleries opening their doors to the public for tours, tastings and general drinking enjoyment. It’s starting to follow a very similar style to the West Coast Craft Beer Tap Rooms of the USA, which has spread like wildfire across the Craft Beer scene for the good of the industry.
I’ve had the absolute pleasure to see this first hand at places like Vancouver based ‘Long Table Distillery’ (who have a weekly Gin & Tonic Friday and Cocktail Saturday) & the super cool team at ‘Copenhagen Distillery’, who are pushing the boundaries further still with the ‘Tap Room’ feel. Not only will you be able to order drinks from the bar, but there are plans for live bands & street food vendors, with outdoor seating in the Summer months.
And it’s not just the international scene having all of the fun! Plymouth Gin Distillery, whilst being a giant in the heritage of the spirit, are just one example of a distillery that offers you the opportunity to ‘make your own gin’ when you pay them a visit. It’s now a trend that is being adopted by others, like Yorkshire’s Rare Bird (Malton) with their ‘Gin School’. And there are increasing examples of tasting rooms, including Gin Divine in Holmfirth, popping up on a regular basis, with an ever growing consumer demand.
There has never been a better, or more exciting, time to be involved in the gin scene!