There is no doubt that my preferred ‘tipple’ is a good malt whisky. I would, however, not wish anyone to think that I could not be open to accepting that other spirits are available and that other people may enjoy them.
As a result, when I was asked to participate in a ‘gin & cheese’ tasting session at 56 North (@fiftysixnorth) in Edinburgh I was more than happy to go along. This was in the spirit of learning something new and possibly confirming something I already know (i.e. Whisky is, indeed, best).
The growing trend for purposefully pairing spirits with food is of great interest to me. Recent distillery visits to Laphroaig and Caol Ila where such experimentation takes place have been particularly instructive. For example, who would have expected Laphroaig 10-year-old and Rochefort cheese to make such a fine partnership. At Caol Ila the foodstuff used was a range of delicious chocolates which were paired with their equally fine range of whiskies. Some partnerships worked better than others but all were interesting. It’s also a very good way to while away an hour or two when on Islay.
Now, to the event at 56 North. Under the watchful eye and careful instruction of James Sutherland a class of 20 or so eager students were led into the interesting world of the Scottish Gin industry and marketplace.
A creditable total of 75% of the UK gin production is based North of the border with the number of craft distillers continuing to expand rapidly. However, we were advised to read between the lines of the marketing messages on gin bottle labels. For example, an accertion that a particular gin contains a wide range of ‘Scottish botanicals’ may indeed be true. It does not however mean the gin was necessarily distilled in Scotland!
Eight Gins were sampled and each was paired with a particular cheese. It was conceded by our host that the cheese was entirely peripheral to the gin tasting, but I feel there were discernible differences to the flavour of some of the brands when tasted alongside the chosen cheese. This is entirely in line with my whisky based comments above. I have included my brief notes below. I would remind you that I do not spend much, if any, time drinking gin normally and do not even possess a particularly sophisticated palate.
Gin 1 - Tanqueray 10 - fresh and citrus. 47.3 abv. I could detect a Sherbet lemons flavour in this gin which was paired with Red Leicester
Gin 2 Edinburgh gin – the taste reminded me of a whisky which had been slightly drowned. It also had a slightly bitter but not unpleasant finish. Paired with Cheddar.
Gin 3 Eden Mill original. This was my favourite so far. So was the Wenesleydale and Cranberry it was paired with.
Gin 4 North Berwick Gin. Very enjoyable spicy finish. Clearly the best of the day and should I ever need one this will be my ‘go-to’. gin. At 42abv it was paired with Stilton.
Gin 5 Blackwoods was found to be very floral and paired with Manchengo.
Gin 6. Harris Gin – This was also very nice but I’m sure I was swayed by the terrific bottle design. Paired with Port Salou.
Gin 7. Rock Rose from Thurso. As with Gin 2 I was reminded of over-watered whisky. At Abv 41.5 it was pair with a nice, nutty hard cheese.
Gin 8. A gin liqueur - Blackberry and Apple flavoured but tasted like juice. The point of this was entirely lost on me. Paired with Caboc.
All in all, this was an enjoyable, and informative couple of hours. I am, however, no closer to being converted.