I was very pleased to receive a bottle of the new Hubbards Casino Blend gin through the post last week.
First impressions? It looks stylish. It sounds stylish too, Casino Blend. The mind immediately conjures panning shots of a busy casino floor. The whirring clicks of the roulette table, the rattle of coins in the slots. In the heat of the action, a suited player on the brink of winning or losing everything. It’s the place where dreams can be made or broken.
The design is really well put together and perfectly reflective of the concept, a gin inspired by the Casino cocktail. And, a cocktail that featured in Harry Craddock’s infamous Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. The Casino cocktail is stylish simplicity, with gin, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters and lemon juice. Served the same fashion as a Martini, it demands a certain standard. I was very keen to see how Hubbards had translated this idea into their gin. So often you see a creative idea get lost in translation and suddenly, the gin is not a gin anymore.
The colour is beautiful. A rich, translucent cherry red. In the glass it looks classy, not faux. On the nose the juniper bursts through in a wonderful fashion. There’s a gentle mingle of citrus and woodland floor, with just the gentlest temptation of cherry fruit in the distance. The juniper persists as we move onto the palate, dancing with the rich flavour of maraschino and more subtle almond marzipan notes. It develops into the brightness of the citrus and on the finish the maraschino comes back in, along with that juniper and back into that musky sense of woodland. It is as if we’re dreaming and have been lifted off that floor, for just a moment, and up into a tree, bulging with the fruit that once hung there, befoe it was plucked, sweetened and preserved. Juniper through and through, this is one for people looking for a legitimate, yet inventive gin. It’s a difficult balance to strike.
The information Phil sent me is certainly true to the idea of a genuine gin. He was inspired when out for a meal with friends. On settling on an inventive gin, he noticed that “[He] could certainly smell the main fruit ingredient but someone had forgotten to add the gin!!! [He] decided there and then that [he] was going to create [his] own flavoured gin which actually tasted of gin”.
And I feel the need to address an ‘elephant in the room’ that’s been growing more and more amongst gin fanatics. I feel the need to do this as more and more people will be asking the questions and I like things to be clear. Not only is Phil straightforward about his inspiration, he is honest about it’s production, and that it is made by a third party. As a lot of us know, the gin industry has been hijacked in recently years by people looking to make a quick turnaround from a booming market. This has led to some gins lacking in being a genuine product, crafted with love by a distiller. People are waking up to this and are becoming more discerning when looking for gins. I personally think there is room for a third party, if it’s done right. Phil explained that the gin is made by Union Distillers. However, his passion for creating this drink shines through in the research, how he involved himself with the distillery and the process to develop the gin.
“So the journey began and what a journey we have been on. We experimented with so many recipes over a 6 month period but that special recipe kept eluding us. We wanted to be different so that we would stand out from the crowd. Following further internet research of the history of gin I stumbled across the 1935 Savoy Hotel cocktail list which included hundreds of classic cocktails. This was my eureka moment. Why not create a gin which was inspired by a classic cocktail. I came across the Casino cocktail which used an Old Tom Gin, Maraschino liquor and Orange bitters. I deconstructed the orange bitters to reveal the main botanicals being quassia chips, cinchona bark and gentian. I had already decided on my London Dry gin recipe using 9 botanicals. What I needed to do now was to bring in the professionals to see if this recipe had legs. I worked closely with Union Distillers who are an award winning distiller in Market Harborough. They started experimenting with my botanical list and firstly developed my London Dry Gin and then blended it with the remaining botanicals including cherry to create the Casino Blend. Once I had my samples I carried out various tasting tests with friends and family and several local pubs and wine bars. Everyone loved the Casino Blend so much that I immediately engaged Union Distillers to start production.”
Phil talks about the process with such warmth, and with pride. I think he has a right to be proud of this gin. It’s a wonderful ode to a classic cocktail, but it doesn’t at all step away from what it really is, gin. Learning the story of Hubbards Casino Blend has given me some more hope for the industry. Phil has proved, to me at least, that even if you don’t distill it yourself, you can be passionate about your idea. And, you can involve yourself with the process. I think, personally, if someone is having it made, rather than setting up their own distillery, this is the only legitimate way to do it. Bravo Phil.
Now I’ve said my piece, lets get back the to gin. I confessed a short while ago that with the amount of tasting I do, I’ve grown rather found of drinking gin neat. For a neat gin, this is a real doozy. There’s a sweetness there that will appeal to a lot of people, but it’s offset nicely with the juniper and earthy notes. If that sweetness does prove a little too much for you, a twist of lemon will cut through that. Yes, it works great with tonic, if that’s your bag. And, it would be great in a number of cocktails simply because it’s got so much character and would be able to hold it’s own with other spirits and allow you to make some really creative drinks, although I would probably suggest that it’s character could limit the cocktails it’s put in. On the whole though, for me it’s simply about ice and citrus. I’ve gone with lemon in this instance but will certainly be trying it with orange next.
Phil’s clearly ambitious and wants get things moving, including Hubbards growing on social media. Do give him a follow, it would mean a lot to him, I’m sure.
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