I. Love. Birthdays. It doesn’t matter whose…It’s all the surprise and anticipation, getting ready for a party, picking out the perfect present and watching the reaction when it’s opened! I get so excited about my own birthday that I plan my fancy dress party about a year in advance! Sadly my birthday isn’t until December, but this week is Hubby’s birthday, which makes me equally as excited.
As an early birthday treat, (because no one should be restricted to merely one day of celebrations,) we headed into London for a Gin based surprise…no surprise there at all really then. I’m sure he was humouring me when he said he really didn’t have a clue what we were doing or where we were going.
I had booked us in on the East London Liquor Company‘s Spirit of Gin Tour and Tasting. We tried some East London Liquor Company’s Premium Batch No.2 Gin at one of our Gin Club evenings and Hubby loved it, so this was a no brainer of a pressie. East London Liquor Company (ELLC) is located close to Victoria Park, in Bow Wharf, on the site of an old glue factory. This is referenced on their label, which depicts an upside down (dead) horse. The building itself is amazing, with a bar to the rear which runs the full width of the structure and has large glass windows behind, allowing a clear view of two beautiful copper stills. Rums to the left of us, whiskeys to the right, there we were, stuck in the middle with gin. So much gin! We were greeted by a lovely guy called Miles, who offered us cocktail menus and a little guidance. Hubby and I have very differing gin preferences, so after asking a few questions, Miles came back with some suggestions to suit our palettes. I went for the Zymurgorium Marmalade Manchester Gin which was sweet, citrusy and delicious, served with a slice of orange. While Hubby opted for the St. George Dry Rye Gin, strong and punchy, served with a sprig of rosemary, this is definitely a gin for whiskey lovers. We drank our gins outside, surrounded by the gorgeous scents of sage, rosemary, thyme and lavender, to name a few, and waited eagerly for the tour to begin, or should I say, beGIN.
Very soon we were greeted at our table by a lovely chap who introduced himself as Alex, he told us he would be starting the tour soon and would return shortly with a couple of G&Ts…it was glaringly obvious to me at this point that Alex was most definitely going to be my new best friend.
Gins in hand, our group were invited to step behind the bar and into the distillery which lay beyond. With only 12 in our group, there was no feeling of overcrowding. We were encouraged to take as many pictures as we liked and ask questions freely. Alex began by establishing what we already knew about gin and briefly talking through gin’s dark history, with reference to William Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane. What followed next was a fascinating introduction to alcohol in general, gin in particular and ELLC gin specifically. I really don’t want to spoil the tour for you so I’m not going to go into any detail, but I do now know where the terms blind drunk and dutch courage come from and I got to take a peek into a rather large copper still which smelt incredible.
Gins finished, it was time to head to the maturation room for some tasting. Surrounded by casks, we huddled round a wooden table which had been set out with bottles of water and of course, tasting glasses. We were to throw ourselves in wholeheartedly for our first tasting…ELLC 100% British Wheat Vodka (40% abv.) We were assured that after the initial shock of neat alcohol, we would be able to taste much more than just the booze. Alex then went on to talk so much sense it was refreshing. “Everyone will smell and taste something different.” He said “Just shout out what you think.” The first gin we tried was ELLC London Dry Gin. “What can you smell? What can you taste?” It was great, everyone joined in, no embarrassment, no fear of getting it wrong! I’m sure this was partly down to the warm up G&T plus the cheeky vodka, but undoubtedly due to the relaxed atmosphere which Alex had created. We went on to try several other spirits, the tasting interjected with anecdotes, history and the passing round of jars full of botanicals. Our first gin was ELLC Batch No.1, a 45% abv premium gin, which includes Darjeeling tea on it’s list of botanicals and is ideal for a Gin Martini…stirred not shaken. It says on the ELLC website this gin can be enjoyed neat, so I asked Alex if the Batch No.1 was designed to be taken neat…best answer ever…
“How you enjoy your gin is up to you. What I would suggest is trying the same gin in lots of different ways. Try it neat over ice, try it neat at room temperature, try it with different tonics, try it with different amounts of tonic, try it with different garnishes until you find what suits you.”
With Alex now firmly established as my new Best Friend, it was onto ELLC Batch No.2, a 47% abv gin, which is excellent in a Negroni and contains many of the botanicals which surround the patio area outside the building, their very own Batch No.2 herb garden. After this we tried some ELLC Demerara Rum from Guyana, which in my eyes certainly packed a punch and Alex made the mistake of mentioning a 57% Navy Strength Rum…a few ears pricked and there were several tasting requests. St.George Rye Dry Gin, which Hubby had at the bar earlier. Pink Pepper Gin, which is a rather delicious French gin from Cognac and the Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin from Australia, which is aged in old Chardonnay wine barrels.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I was certainly feeling rather warm and fuzzy by this point, but Alex had one last offering. That Navy Strength Rum which he had mentioned earlier. Hubby polished off his taster fairly quickly and as it was his nearly birthday and being the loving wife that I am, I
eagerly reluctantly gave him my taster too before we headed back up to the distillery.
We managed to grab Alex for a quick chat before we left, he was an absolutely fantastic host and I genuinely have no idea how he was still so sober, upright and eloquent after conducting four tours! After saying our goodbyes, we headed to the bar for a couple more cocktails before grabbing a table and a bite to eat from the ELLC BBQ, then of course, a bottle of gin from the shop.
We came away from East London Liquor Company buzzing and not just from the gin/vodka/rum. The friendly, informal nature of the experience was incredible and so is the gin.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful day and a fantastic idea for another blog post…