The second Gin Club Birmingham event was hosted at Bar Opus, a modern café/bar/restaurant in the Number One Snow Hill building in Birmingham’s financial district. It was a similar sized venue to the previous event (click here for review) but was open-plan, allowing for a more intimate setting with all of the tasting tables arranged together rather than in two groups.
Once everyone had arrived, Tom, the Gin Club Birmingham organiser and host for the evening, introduced Paul Bowler, the Founder and Distiller of Twisted Nose, based in Winchester in Hampshire. Link to Web Site
The rather unusual business name pays tribute to watercress, which is extensively grown in Hampshire, and forms the key ingredient for the Gin and other beveridges which Paul produces. The botanical name for watercress is Nasturtium Officinale, part of which is derived from the Latin Nasus Tortus, which translates as ‘Twisted Nose’.
Paul launched the business in June 2014, initially in Winchester but now nationwide, and what began as a hobby has now become a full time business.
Before the first tasting, Paul talked about how the gin was made, and a copper distiller was on display to further illustrate the process.
A total of ten botanicals, including the watercress, make up the recipe for the gin. Lavender, cassia, fennel seeds and grapefruit peel all contribute to the final mix. The gin is classified as a London Dry Gin, with no flavours being added after the second distillation. The initial aim of this particular combination of botanicals was to create a flavour reminiscent of England, and Hampshire in particular.
The first tasting was of the flagship Winchester Dry Gin in its neat form. It had a clean and grassy initial aroma, followed by a strong yet smooth flavour with the lavender definitely in evidence.
Interestingly, the marketing of this gin as Winchester Dry Gin reminded me of the Lakeland Gin produced by Langtons of Skiddaw at the previous tasting event. Could this be the start of a nationwide movement of regional varieties of a product previously associated only with London? It’s certainly something that I will be following up on in the future.
The second tasting was of the Winchester Dry again, but this time as a Gin and Tonic with ice and a slice of pink grapefruit. Paul explained that he would like the grapefruit to represent the classic accompaniment to the Gin and Tonic, but orange slices were also offered as an alternative. I sampled mine with the grapefruit and as expected, the resulting drink made for quite a different proposition to the neat gin. The lavender and smooth textures were accentuated, while the grapefruit slice added a slight fruity taste without making the drink too sweet.
We were also offered a bonus exclusive tasting of the first bottle of an aged gin that has not yet been released to the market. This of course generated a great deal of interest, and Paul was keen to gain feedback. The gin had been aged in German oak barrels for around six weeks, during which time it had gained a slight golden hue. It had the same rich texture as the Winchester Dry, but there was a pronounced woodiness to the flavour which had been imparted by the barrel aging.
The final drinks of the evening were two cocktails made using the Twisted Nose Cocktail Gin; a stronger version of the Winchester Dry with a 52% ABV as opposed to the Winchester Dry's 40%.
The first cocktail mixed the Cocktail Gin with Twisted Nose’s Vermouth and Grapefruit Bitters, and was garnished with a slice of grapefruit. This was devised by Paul, to promote the partnering of the gin with grapefruit, as had been sampled in the Gin and Tonic earlier in the evening. This cocktail was much drier than I was expecting and the higher alcohol content of the gin made its presence felt straight away. After the initial hit, the taste did mellow a little and I ended up quite enjoying it. I think my taste buds were expecting something sweeter and needed to become acquainted with the different taste.
The second cocktail was another bonus drink, devised on the spot by the bar staff, who had also been showing an interest in the presentation. This cocktail mixed Rose Liqueur with the Gin and an edible rose petal was added as a garnish. It was much sweeter and closer to what I was initially expecting, and was great for something which had been thought up only minutes earlier.
The evening had been another great success, with Tom and Paul receiving a round of applause from all of the attendees. We bought a bottle of the Winchester Dry Gin afterwards, and look forward to opening it very soon.
The countdown to the next event has now begun.
Reviewed by Dee, 24th March 2015
The next event will be held in May, at another venue in Birmingham, presenting another gin. Details will be announced in due course but for now, links to Gin Club Birmingham are provided below;