Gin in a teapot anyone?

Cucumber and roses are part of the mix in a gin brand with genteel appeal

 Mixing a perfect gin and tonic at the Henrick’s distillery in Scotland

Mixing a perfect gin and tonic at the Henrick’s distillery in Scotland

Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 10:06

Cocktail drinking is back in fashion – a little act of defiance, perhaps, against the dreariness of the Age of Austerity. There are historical parallels. Cocktails, albeit illicit, helped to fuel the Jazz Age which lifted spirits during America’s Prohibition Era in the 1920s.

Gin is the traditional base of many great cocktails and the deceptively simple, but hard-to-get-right, summer classic is the G & T, which is gin and tonic water poured over ice cubes and served with a twist of lemon or lime. The drink is perceived to be quintessentially English so it’s a surprise to discover that one of the most fashionable of the many new gin brands is made in a remote Scottish distillery.

Hendrick’s gin is made by William Grant and Sons – a family-owned company best known as a producer of Scotch whisky (which the Scots spell without an ‘e’) and which owns the Tullamore Dew brand. It’s distilled at Girvan, a seaside village near the Turnberry golf resort, overlooking the Firth of Clyde and the stunning volcanic island of Ailsa Craig.

Gin’s distinctive aroma comes from juniper berries, which grow on evergreen trees of the cypress family, but other ingredients such as coriander seeds, orange peel and angelica root are also used to add flavour. Hendrick’s taste was created by adding two novel ingredients: the essences of cucumber and rose petals.

Hendrick’s master distiller Lesley Gracie is one of only four people who know the exact recipe. One of the world’s few female master distillers, she admits that the taste “may not be to everyone’s liking, but it does have a following amongst the most vanguard of gin drinkers”.

Indeed, the label is adorned with the unashamedly frank – and elitist – slogan: “It is not for everyone.”

The black bottle, which wouldn’t look out of place in Dr Crippen’s medicine cabinet, looks solidly Victorian though Hendrick’s is a thoroughly modern creation, launched in 2000.

The brand is in the “super-premium” category – marketing speak for “expensive” – and was introduced to the Irish market four years ago. Its target market the 25-34 age bracket. It’s now sold in more than 400 off-licences and is also stocked in an increasing number of bars throughout the country.

A slick marketing campaign includes promoting “an unusual twist on the traditional tea time experience” where Hendrick’s gin cocktails are served using branded teapots, cups and saucers at selected venues.

Hendrick’s has hired a global ambassador for the brand too. David Piper is a dandy in the best tradition of barking English eccentricity and inventor of “the steam-powered cocktail shaker”. He travels the world teaching barmen new tricks. His creations include a cocktail called the Iron Lady, which is a mix of Hendrick’s gin, whiskey, maraschino liqueur, vermouth and orange bitters garnished with lemon zest. It was developed for a Margaret Thatcher-themed book launch.

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