I visited Imbibe Live a couple of weeks ago primarily for work, I was clearly not going to leave without giving myself plenty of time to give it a proper once over and sample as much as possible while it was under one roof and under my nose. Amongst a vast array of wines, beers, spirits and energy drinks, there wasn’t a huge amount that really caught my attention. Sure, there were plenty of brands and drinks I know and love, but not a whole lot that was really interesting or innovative. I’m going to sound like I’m contradicting myself here when I go on to tell you about some of the lovely things I saw; what I mean is that these were just a drop in the, maybe not so metaphorical, ocean of products at the show.
Of note was a collection of single origin juniper gins from Master of Malt offered with a phial of additional aromatics to transform it into something more gin like if you so choose, which raises the question as to why this sort of thing hasn’t been done before, and is it possibly something that may take off amongst other drinks? Who knows. If nothing else, it’s an interesting exploration in taste, a little like the experimentation that has been done recently with the barrel ageing of gins and cocktails.
I picked up an Aperol Spritz from one stand, and said ‘yes please’ to far too many snifters of potent concoctions as I wended my way through the many stalls. Products ranged from the highly unlikely; a violet liqueur that was so sacharin that it’s stickiness stung the corners of my mouth, and another new flavour from Stoli; rasberry and chocolate? Really, who buys this stuff if not underage girls? I tasted some fantastic stuff too, it may be a bit of a hazy alcoholic blur now, but, Kammerlings, Martin Millers gin (my go to gin), Chase marmalade and smoked vodkas, beautifully complex Monkey 47 (that is BRILLIANT in a martini, thankyou Mishkins), Vestel’s aged sipping vodkas, Sipsmith’s full range, and many more hit the spot, and are right up there as some of the best products in this market.
Oh, but then I spot the CASK stand. I first encounter Ginmare being sampled on their front counter, whose intense mediterranean herbal aromatics are in stark contrast to the gins I’ve tasted so far, which have all erred on the sweet end of the scale; it’s not initially to my liking, but works exeptionally well when I try it in a spicy Bloody Mary. Moving along I recognise a familiar face; vintage violet Fleur, a member of The Vinatge Mafia whom I met on my first forray on the Tweed Run. She looks radiant in front of the best corner of the room; vintage cabinets are stocked with bottles and curiosities and it’s here I recognise the fantasticly dapper Colonel Fox.
I’m very keen to try this small batch gin distilled in London, the first of a new range of privately owned spirit brands Co-founders of CASK Liquid Marketing, Richard Herbert and Stuart Ekins, are set to launch under the company name of Cremorne 1859. Made to a London dry recipe the gin uses just six botanicals and is pleasingly heavy on the juniper, with a sweet and spicy note from the addition of liquorice.
Regardless of how it tastes, I know it’s wrong, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the packaging that initially drew my attention to the bottle, the fact that it tastes nice is almost a bonus. The collaboration with Charlotte Cory is a stroke of marketing genious, her slightly creepy, but brilliantly fun and subvertive Victorian animal characters are intrinsically British; the lovable Colonel Fox quite possibly the best ambassador the brand could have picked. I took a pack of her playing card away from the show, here the artist fuses Victorian greeting cards with portraits of stuffed animals, although I’d like to believe these fantastical characters really exist….They’re so gorgeous I can’t resist posting a few pictures of my favourites.
Stuart was kind enough to gift me a bottle to play with at home and I love it! It’s an incredibly ‘ginny’ gin and seems to work effortlessly in everything I make; charging a Negroni with a great base, it add’s depth to a Martinez, makes a punchy Martini, and although I rarely drink a proper G & T, I’ve been rather enjoying it with plenty of ice, a dash of tonic and a squeeze of lemon.
Definitely worth seeking out. I fully intend to replace this bottle as soon as it (no doubt rather quickly) runs out.