Shetland Reel, In the Welsh Wind, Sipsmith’s, and Jawbox don’t do it anymore for KEVIN PILLEY. UK gins are too parochial.
“Who wants another gin then? Portobello Road Asparagus anyone? Some Nelson’s Brussel Sprout? Saffron? Ant? Oyster? Quincenauticusor lavender? Christmas pudding perhaps? Butcher’s Beef Gin? Maybe some Scottish sea lettuce from Jura?”
The conversation has moved on, but the show-offs still like their gin and use it to remind you how well-traveled they are and how hopelessly under-traveled you will forever remain.
Now it’s: “Every time I drink this gin it reminds me of our time traveling Vietnam’s highlands and lush deltas. Son Cai Gin, direct fired over a copper pot still. It takes me back to those riparian landscapes of south-east Asia, the ever-smiling locals in their cute straw cone hats, and the daily ebb and flow of planting and harvest which is the traditional rice farmers and paddy field laborers’ picturesque way of life.” …
“Ah! Unmistakeable. The taste of the Last Frontier. Alaskan Forty Fathoms Gin. How one glass brings it right back. As if I am there again. Amidst the 340000 miles of tidal shoreline, the flocks of ultra-hardy Dall sheep, reminding me of my first encounter with a caribou, the volcanic chains, the three million lakes, the stretching south-west flatlands, the permafrost cover, the paper bark forests, black spruce and, of course, the Sitka spruce and yellowing maples; and the memory of the wife and I trying vainly to get by in rudimentary Siberian Yupik and everyday beginners’ Inupiaq. What a country! What a place! What an expense! But what a worthwhile, once-in-a-lifetime expense.”
And it goes on.
“Just re-opening one gin bottle opens a flood of happy, all-trumping memories, or our trans-Canadian rail trip in our first class berth, and sampling en route everything from Caligary Gun Rummy at our visit to the Eau Claire Distillery to Dillon’s Rose Gin, Toronto’s Nickle Nine, the winged kelp-infused Sheringham Seaside Gin of Vancouver Island and the Eastern township Ungavara. A stiff Canadian G&T makes me want to rush back to the Port Chilkoot in Haines to buy another bottle of fond Alaskan memories!”
Once, it was the photo albums we dreaded being opened. Then the phones and I-pads. Now it’s the drinks cabinet, which is now devoid of any Irish-crafted gins, and full of far more far-flung gins.
It could be Nova Scotian Funday, North Carolina aged in Utah Conniption, Ohio Violet & Petal, Philadelphia Bluecoat, San Francisco Junipero, Connecticut Tuck, and Nantucket Gail Force, or New Zealand Scapegrace Black Gin, Australian Mount Uncle Bushire Smoked Gin, Barossa Valley Seppeltsfield, or Aussie Never Never Freak Gin.
Ski season is the peak time of crisis when it’s all Swiss Generous. Nolet’s and Ninginous. And Austrian Coffee Gin.
Everyone hides the supermarket-bought Aviation at the back of the cabinet. The Gordon’s is nowhere. Even the Swedish Herno has become too common, the French gins old hat (even Zing 72!) and Scottish too hackneyed. They have no cachet and no more stories to tell. Island Gin from the Isles of Scilly and Orcadian gins like Aatta still have some life and use left in them, but nothing Cornwall or Celtic, and not even Dartmoor and the Lakes. Nearly everyone has been there.
Fynoderee Manx Dry Gin Kerala Chai is not good enough. No one is impressed anymore by your Taiwanese Kavalan or your Edinburgh Gin.
You can’t escape the shameless travel-dropping. You can’t compete with Mexican Prickly Pear. Ibhu Elephant Dung, the Argentinian Malaria Gin, the Himalayan Hapusa. the Hawaiian Fid Street, Maltese Kako, Canary Island Carmela, Arc from the Philippines, the South African Marula and Six Dogs, Zimbabwean Matopos Gin, the Greek Aegean Eye Olive Gin, Shimla, the Norwegian Kimerud Wild Grade, Belgian Ground Control and the all the small-batch, limited-edition, micro-distillery Japanese stuff.
“What have here? Some Italian gin! I had forgotten that. Portofino, what a lovely place and what a lovely gin. And half a bottle of Reyjavik Distillery’s Einiberja. That seems so long ago now.”
Even the glasses and tumblers the gins come in are tools of one-upmanship and instrument travel humiliation and torture. You get given a glass bearing the logo of Nordes Gin and a lecture on the mixed forestry of Galicia, the gourmet octopi, the Lighthouse Way, and Romanesque facades of the north-west Iberian peninsula, its blond cows, wines, and rias.
You drink too much and too quickly, merely to survive. To endure the anecdotes, and then you get handed a fresh coupe glass with “Juniperium” embossed on it and hear unsolicited stories about Estonia’s forests and woods, ancient menhirs, 1400 lakes, Balkan bogs and fens, its trees and woods, Tallinn Old Town. St Olaf’s Church and another “wonderful hotel”.
Your hand goes out and you are topped up with more drinks and more travel stories. You are struck dumb.
What can you say to someone who asks you if you want some Dry As A Nun? You just nod and sip away and hear yourself surrendering and saying saying “Tell me all about Latvia, its people and its trees, its history and culture, and your marvelous holiday.”
And your host and great world explorer, realizing he might be forcing himself on you a little too much, looks concernedly inside his drinks cabinet and says, ”I have some Prague Garage 22 somewhere, or, if you want some Tesco Sipsmith…”
And you reply because all the booze is free: “I don’t mind really although I have been to Tesco’s many times all over the UK, unlike you, I have not been lucky enough to visit the Czech Republic, Bohemia, and the grand spa towns.”
“Who needs elephant statues and terracotta figurines as talking points? Or photos and videos as conversation starters and silence fillers? When you have artisanal gin. For many, alcohol seems to restore and stir memories rather than erase them. Look back in time, look into your drinks cabinet.
Alaskan gin is a tried-and-tested icebreaker.
Start traveling more! Or visit www.masterofthemalt.com