Name: Bernadette Pamplin
Blog Name: Under the Ginfluence
Blog URL: www.undertheginfluence.com
Location: Portsmouth, UK
Blog Summary: I've been writing the blog for almost 4 years now and it documents my journey from when I first started learning about gin to now, when I get to do lots of fun stuff like judge in gin awards and get involved in making gins.
How and why did you get into gin?
I started working in a gin bar nearly 4 years ago. We didn't know a lot at the beginning and the bar was one of the first of it's kind in the area so we were lucky enough to do some in depth training, including some with distillers. I fell for it very quickly.
I love to write and some of the stories behind the gins were so interesting. The understanding of flavours, the collecting of different varieties of gin and what you can learn from each one. Elements like where it's idea comes from, the story of how the distiller got started, how the botanicals work and what ways you can experiment with serving. It's a real rabbit hole and I can't help but dig a little deeper into it every day. The industry is really friendly and is evolving all the time. It's a fantastic thing and I'm over the moon to be a part of it.
What else do you do as well as gin blogging?
Gin related: I'm really getting into judging. I've played a part in the World Gin Awards 2018 and am currently working my through the entries for 2019. I am delighted as I have recently been accepted onto the panel for the IWSC and am spending a week in San Francisco in January to judge at the American Distilling Institute's Judging of Craft Spirits. I write for Gin Magazine and am just starting to get involved with projects to distil gin. It's exciting times!
Not gin related: I do like to keep myself busy. No rest for the wicked. In April I finished a BA in English and Creative Writing at Chichester University and I've just started an MA in Creative Writing there, along with a part time job in the University's Estates Management Department. I write gig and album reviews for a local website called Strong Island. Recently, I've also been taking lessons in aerial circus which have been a lot of fun as I am incredibly clumsy and ungraceful. I'm so positively surprised at what was possible though. It's always worth giving these things a crack!
Who is your blog for and why should gin lovers make sure they have a read and follow you?
This is a tricky question as it's evolved so much since it started. And, there are so many amazing gin blogs out there. I guess what mine does have, is the way I write and what I focus on when I write about a gin, or a distillery, or an event. I have a lot of love for what I do and I think that shows. I write the best when I am genuinely to an extent, in love with what I'm writing about. And I write like I'm telling a story, and like the idea that it brings the reader pleasure reading it as well as delivering reliable content.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
I have gin bottles all over my house. Gin bottles work very well as book ends, so a lot of them live on my bookcases. They're dotted around various shelves, there's a small collection on the kitchen side, a few in the study. They're everywhere, really.
My favourite gins are always very much at that moment. Off the cuff I would say current affairs are with Cuckoo Sunshine Gin, which is divine and is just glorious in a gin hot toddy. Piucinque, which is an Italian masterpiece. It's savoury with great flavours like sage and bergamont although the big tick for me is the balance. Scapegrace is just all round super special and what with Christmas coming up I should mention That Boutique-y Gin Company's Yuletide gin. The sheer magnitude of the amount of Christmas goodies they've put in there, is a real triumph.
What is your favourite way to serve/drink gin?
I'm a sucker for a French 75 for the simple reason that they are incredibly easy to make and result in you feeling like royalty. I'm also partial to a good Negroni and can drink my weight in Red Snappers.
Do you have a favourite gin bar or gin event that you'd recommend to gin lovers?
I feel the need to recommend the Atlas Bar in Manchester, despite never having been. We've been involved with each other through social media for quite some time and their selection is amazing. They have invited me to visit soon and I will certainly be taking them up on that! Also the GinTonica bar in The Distillery (home of Portobello Road gin) is amazing. They do a range of drinks called gin tonic plus, which is halfway between a gin tonic and a cocktail. I've had one previous made with Nordes, where they added orange, hibiscus and ginger and it blew me away.
What is your top tip for people just starting to discover gin?
I would say hit up a gin tasting evening. There are so many facets to the flavours and it's really handy to get your grounding in what you actually like. You could try a really well made spicy gin, but if you don't like spice then you're probably not going to like it. Gin tasting evenings are a great way to get a handle on this, plus your basic training in the different flavour brackets and what garnishes and tonics do, plus they're great. Once you've got this you're in a much better position to get out into gin bars and find gins that are new, and much less likely to feel disappointed for spending out on one that you don't like.
Do you have a top tip for aspiring gin bloggers?
Research. Learning and research is one of the best things you can do. It's your knowledge that makes what you do interesting to others, and your capacity to share that with others in a way they enjoy. Equally networking is very important. Be patient in building your network. I spent the first year getting very few hits and having to chase people to try and get a distillery visit, or samples sent, which is more necessary not living in London where these things are much more easily accessed.
People are dubious of sending samples to bloggers that they don't know and rightfully so, as some people take advantage, but this does make it hard when you're getting started. Just be safe in the knowledge that as you build a reputation and get more followers these things do become easier. Also, be sure that you really do love it enough to put the time in. There are points in the early days when you've slaved over an article and the only feedback you get is from the distillery and your Mum. If I wasn't doing it for the sheer love of it, I probably wouldn't have had the drive to keep doing it until it became more rewarding.
What do you think is next in the gin industry?
The industry has become a wild and unpredictable place. This year we have seen the boundaries of 'gin' pushed further and further until it's hard to tell if the spirit deserves the title of gin at all. The beast of commerce has picked up the scent of gin's popularity and in a year we've seen gin liqueurs of sweets from your youth, tears or mythical creatures and every variety of gin product that you can imagine, from lip balm, to bubble bath to cheese. It's been noticed. More and more people are starting to speak up about it.
I have no issue with people who don't like gin but will drink a liqueur, I'd rather everyone have something to drink than just half of us. But, I think there needs to be a limit on banding the word 'gin' around as a sales point as it has begun to undermine the centuries of patient artistry that makes gin what it is. It's all too often nowadays that I see a gin in a supermarket with a history, or that has been years in the making, lovingly distilled and tweaked with local botanicals until it reaches perfection. And, it's alongside a liqueur that has none of this, but a cool name and lots of sugar, and is twice the price of all that passion and skill. I think it's a travesty, really.
So to come back to the question, I think that next year is going to see some realigning of gin's meaning. I'm also very excited about the creativity that is blossoming in flavour. That Boutique-y Gin Company recently released a range based on the power of scent and perfume and the way it affects memory. One of them, the Fresh Rain gin is something quite beautiful, and I think as the market looks for new ideas, we're going to see some really inventive things. TBGC are very good at releasing creative gin whilst still honouring the juniper.
Head over to 'Under the Ginfluence' to read more of Bernadette's industry insights, reviews and wonderful writing. And be sure to follow 'Under the Ginfluence' on social media too!