Gin and The General Election


8th May 2015 – the day that David Cameron found out that his Conservative Party finally had a majority in the House of Commons.

There is something about general elections which excites me. Since coming of age, I have not missed a single occasion to cast my ballot paper. Despite the evident criticism of our first-past-the-post system, having a vote (and using it) is vitally important. I appreciate the fact that until very recently, as a woman, I would not have had the right to go to the polling station. I appreciate the fact that previous generations have lost their lives in order for us to have the freedom to elect a leader. That today is also VE Day brings about an extra pertinence to the election results.

One of my strongest memories of general elections was actually Tony Blair’s victory in 1997. Although I hadn’t even reached double figures and I was wearing rather dubious, knee-high, red socks to school, I was caught up in the excitement of all that was expected of our youngest Prime Minister to date.

Although it meant potentially missing lunch – and Fridays meant fish fingers, which were my favourite – I distinctly remember chosing to stay in the TV room with my history teacher and two other pupils in order to watch Tony Blair make his much-anticipated arrival at Number 10.

It would appear that the intervening years have taken their toll on my childhood naivety. This year, I voted tactically. My constituency was not an even playing-field. Had it have been a question of ideology, that would have been quite another matter, but my local area was engaged in a a tight battle between the Tories and UKIP.

Even though the political landscape has changed from those heady days of New Labour, I still avidly follow the results. The BBC live feed was the last thing I checked before going to bed last night and the first thing upon waking up. It turns out I needn’t have worried.

To celebrate this historical moment – or rather to forget about it – I decided to bring out my six favourite gins. Dry gins, compound gins and Old Toms. All of these were tasted straight, at room temperature, in professional nosing glasses, from bottles in my personal collection.

DODD’S GIN (London, England) London Distillery (49%)

A suave and sweet nose which completely belies its alcohol content. On first sip, it continues down that same smooth and mellow path… until the explosion of spice hits, that is. It turns rich, smacking and savoury. Fantastic!

CAORUNN (Speyside, Scotland) Balmenach Distillery (41.8%)

Aromatically, it is rather muted. There are herbaceous notes mixing with zesty citrus peel. I pick up on a faint trace of lavendar soap too. Later, you have plenty of ripe berry characters – bramble, hawthorne, thistle, rose – which come and go. Predominantly smooth, bar a slight burn on the end.

JENSEN’S OLD TOM (London, England) Bermondsey Distillery (43%)

Old Tom is a category of gin that is rarely trendy, scarcely the first to jump out when making an aperitif, and yet, I feel, it deserves a larger role. It is naturally sweeter than the dry or compound styles, but what sets the Jensen’s gin apart is its persistent earthy, and in particular, rooty notes. These are balanced by the complementary floral characters – especially, violet – and the ever-present juniper flavours.

WILLIAM CHASE SEVILLE ORANGE GIN (Herefordshire, England) Chase Distillery (40%)

There’s a slight discolouration to this gin, which I assume is due to a re-distillation through orange peel and likely also the fact that this bottle has been open for a couple of years already. The flavours are distinctly Mediterranean: sweet juicy oranges and mandarins in syrup. It also reminds me of an overly sweet medicine I used to have to take as a kid. A whole lot more medicinal notes on the mid-palate, and finally a peculiarly sugary finish. Mixed with tonic water and lemon peel, you’re instantly in Spain!

THE BOTANIST (Islay, Scotland) Bruichladdich Distillery (46%)

This is often one of my go-to gins for making gins-and-tonic. It’s so bone-rattling dry that it makes a great refreshing cocktail. Once you get over the very-present alcohol on the nose when poured straight, you’re able to appreciate the dominant black pepper and juniper aromatics. It continues on that same very straight, dry path, albeit it still with some heat from the alcohol. A classic combo of juniper, citrus and spice… quick, get me a lemon and some ice cubes!

MONKEY 47 (Black Forest, Germany) Schwarzwald Distillery (47%)

When the time comes to cast a ballot over whether the UK should stay in Europe or not, every person should take a quick nip of this gin before picking up the pen. I’m convinced it would be a persuasive tool for why we are better staying within the Union! This very distinctive nose, unique to Monkey 47, is compelling and beguiling. A fresh pine forest, just after a rain shower. I get wave after wave of fruit oils, then fresh grasses and herbs, and finally angelica spice. Complex, bold and yet dastardly smooth. An absolute favourite in my book!