Gin from the Mersey? You’ve got to admire their spirit

HAVING shed its Mother’s Ruin reputation of old, gin has been enjoying something of a resurgence of late. Ordering a G&T is now de rigueur for the young and beautiful and many bars in the city are offering gin-based cocktails. But why the turn around? How did the spirit go from being your granny’s favourite tipple to seriously cool? This gin revolution is largely thanks to the success of Liverpool Gin. Aesthetically, the simple, elegant bottle just oozes class with its gold Liver Bird but it’s what’s inside that really matters. On opening the bottle, you know you’re onto something special as the distinctive botanical aroma seduces your nostrils and entices you to take a sip. Ingredients such as the finest coriander, angelica, citrus and handpicked juniper berries result in a gin with a well-balanced nose, complex flavours and a long finish. It doesn’t come cheap, retailing from £48, but you can’t buy it from your local supermarket or off-licence, Liverpool Gin is far too exclusive for that. DSC_8007But this premium product deserves the price-tag because each bottle of Liverpool Gin is hand crafted using 100% certified organic botanicals and certified organic base spirit. Each bottle is individually batched and bottled numbered by hand unlike industrial mass produced gins. And this all takes place at the Liverpool Distillery Ltd on Brasenose Road at Liverpool’s bustling docks. Liverpool Gin has revived an age old tradition of gin production in the city. In its prime as the world’s largest port, Liverpool once had its own gin akin to London, Bristol or Plymouth and many of the botanical ingredients and grain spirit which are used in the gin would be shipped into the port. So what prompted the revival? John O’Dowd of the Liverpool Distillery explained: “A few years ago I went to a Bourbon tasting where they were talking about the damage prohibition did to breweries and distilleries in America which were virtually wiped out. “Then in the 90s there was a revival with the start of a new micro distilling industry in the US. It gave me the idea to start my own distillery. “Gin is a quintessentially British drink. Using juniper in drinks goes back many thousands of years, it’s been found on drinking cups from 1800 BC – Aristotle wrote about using juniper as herbal medicine. “In the 1800s, gin was used in many cocktails. More recently, vodka has taken over but gin is so much more versatile and has much more flavour. All the classic cocktails contain gin from the Martinez to the Negroni. You can also enjoy neat over ice or take it with tonic served with a watermelon garnish.” After conducting indepth market research, John, who previously worked in publishing and managing pubs, decided to start his own gin distillery. He teamed up with friend Mark Hensby who runs Liverpool Organic Brewery, and together they set up Liverpool Gin in 2013. They tested the waters, trying different flavours and recipes and finally launched it at St George’s Hall at a beer festival to gauge people’s reactions. “I knew we’d got it right when I saw the look on my friends’ faces when they tried it,” revealed John. “So we decided to approach bars and delis in the city to see if they would stock it. “ Now Liverpool Gin is stocked in over 40 venues in the city from Lunya and Delifonseca to Jenny’s Bar, Hard Day’s Night Hotel, Hotel Indigo, Pushkam London Carriage Works and much more. And it has become the number one gin of choice for discerning gin connoisseurs in the North of England. The company produces 600-700 bottles per week, some of which are sold in Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. “When we got into Harvey Nichols, that was our barometer that we were doing something right,” admits John who now employs five staff including his daughter Mollie who joined the family business after doing a degree in theology and going travelling. Word is continuing to spread and the company was recently asked to send a pallet of Liverpool Gin to the QE2. In July, the spirit featured in a special cocktail, A Transatlantic Love Affair, created to celebrate Cunard’s Three Queens anniversary and was quaffed by guests on board the Queen Mary 2. It’s no wonder the gin has scooped major prizes in two of the world’s most highly-regarded drinks competitions. The annual Global Spirit Masters competition, a blind tasting contest featuring entrants from around the world, awarded Liverpool Gin gold medals in both its Ultra Premium and Organic categories. Meanwhile, the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) also rated Liverpool Gin as ‘Silver Outstanding’ in the contemporary gin category. So what sets Liverpool Gin apart from the rest? “I think it’s the superior quality of the ingredients,” says John. “A lot of people have said to us that they don’t like gin but they do like Liverpool Gin,” he added. “Our gin is made from scratch from organic wheat and botanical juniper sourced from Bulgaria, Spain and Vietnam. Each bottle takes two to three days to make.” Liverpool Gin is certainly in demand and John and the team are often asked to do gin tastings at various venues around the city, such as Host and 60 Hope Street. They often put in an appearance at beer festivals. And the company attended a major gin party at St George’s Hall in June to celebrate World Gin Day which featured the finest gins from all over the world. There, Liverpool Distillery unveiled two new flavours – Valencian Orange and Rose. And a percentage of proceeds from the event went to Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to buy malaria nets for African communities. Next up will be a Gin Party at the Palm House in Sefton Park on October 17. Then after that, the team will be concentrating their efforts on conquering the global market which will really put Liverpool Gin on the map. We’ll raise a tumbler to that! For more details on Liverpool Gin visit www.liverpoolgin.com