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Every so often a gin comes along that really piques your interest. Jarrold’s Gin did just that. We spoke to co-founder and distiller, Jamie Jarrold, a few months ago and have followed their progress closely ever since.
The Chichester-based The Nodding Donkey Distillery Company launched in March 2018 and it’s clear that there’s been a painstaking process with attention to detail – from the drink itself to the striking bottle.
“We’re both (my wife Nichola, and I) quite creative people and have always enjoyed making our own things. We also have a good eye for detail and we thought we could create something special,” Jamie told us. Due to their own experiences in bars, they identified a gap in the market and wanted to create a gin that still shone through in a G&T.
“So many times while we were in a bar or pub and ordering a G&T, the flavour of the gin would be lost and we’d end up getting a double measure just to get the taste of the gin through in the drink.”
The flavours are influenced by the couple’s travels, most notable the Persian limes, which they’d seen being used in many cuisines. “The Persian limes are key in our flavour profile. We love the citrus we get from them but without the bitterness,” Jamie explained.
Read our review of Jarrold’s Gin to find out more.
Key flavours: juniper, spice, citrus
There was a slight tinge of regret opening Batch 001, Bottle 18 of Jarrold’s London Dry Gin. With it’s stained glass window-like design, it almost looks too pretty to open (more on the bottle later)!
When I spoke to Jamie back in last year, they were putting the finishing touches to the product’s launch. I’ve been following their progress closely and delighted to finally get to review.
Having launched in March this year I’ve spent the last few weeks trying various combinations of tonic and garnish to really explore in-depth before putting my thoughts together.
The first thing to point out is the ABV of 48%. Jamie told me of his experiences in bars where the gin was overpowered in a G&T so wanted something where the flavours don’t get lost when tonic is added.
“We wanted a drink which wasn’t over-powered by tonic and which you could taste the gin through,” he explained. “This is the bit we like about drinking, which is actually tasting the base constituent, so we wanted to make something which would be appreciated in a single measure but complex enough to feature on cocktail makers’ shelves.”
It manages this and then some, even when adding tonic to gin ratios of 4:1 (if you like it that way).
Jarrold’s Gin Botanicals
One of the key botanicals found in Jarrold’s are Persian limes. Working in the oil industry Jamie has travelled the world and was influenced particularly by the Persian limes (Noomi Basra) used in Iraqi cuisine.
Added to the basket during distillation, the citrus fruit’s pips are removed beforehand to ensure there’s no bitterness. The remaining six botanicals are of course, juniper, along with grains of paradise, coriander, angelica, cardamom and calamus.
“Persian limes are key in our flavour profile and always remind us of all the amazing people we met in those places.”
With just 7 botanicals, Jarrold’s excels at bringing balance to the flavours, so much so that it’s hard to tell pick out one more prominent than the other. That is, with the exception of juniper.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the juniper-forward component in gin (see Hayman’s ‘Call Time On Fake Gin’ campaign). There can be no ambiguity about where Jarrold’s sits in the category, as they throw in a little extra juniper for good measure. Why? Because they like it that way!
JARROLD's Gin perfect serve
- Add ice to a high ball glass
- Add 30ml of Ink Gin
- Mix with a 100ml of premium tonic
- Garnish with a wedge of citrus and/or rosemary/thyme
Juniper, Persian limes, grains of paradise, coriander, angelica, cardamom and calamus
Jarrold’s Gin to taste
As you’d expect, the first sensation on the nose is a big waft of juniper. There’s also a peppery note, too, while citrus is a little more subtle. There’s no mistaking you’re nosing gin.
Jarrold’s makes for quite a pleasant sipping gin if that’s how you like to enjoy it. Juniper is undoubtedly present and with the high ABV, the spice really takes hold on the palate with a warm peppery hit from the grains of paradise, corriander and calamus root.
The finish is extremely smooth with the citrus coming to the fore, and finishing with a little more heat. It’s a really well-balanced gin.
- NOSE: juniper and pepper with a hint of citrus
- PALATE: juniper, warm spice
- FINISH: fresh citrus followed by a touch of heat
My preferred way to savour gin is with a classic G&T, and Jarrold’s works well here – it is after all what inspired them to make their gin as they do. The flavour journey is similar, if a little less intense. All the constituents present before are still there, but with perhaps a little more citrus on the palate.
I tried various tonics – Fentiman’s Connoisseurs, Light and Pink Grapefruit, Merchant’s Heart Classic, Fever Tree Classic and Mediterranean, and finally 1724. The latter two were my favourite and both brought out different characteristics in the gins.
The Fever Tree Mediterranean was perhaps a little fresher, with the floral notes of the tonic working well. 1724 was a more classic-tasting G&T, with enhanced citrus coming forward.
To garnish, I experimented with various citrus fruits – grapefruit, lime, orange – as well as rosemary and mint. I’d recommend playing around to your preferred taste but lime and mint hit the sweet spot best for me.
Turning to Kothe for their copper still, a visit to the factory in Stuttgart had a profound influence on how Jarrold’s is distilled. The team there advised distilling at a lower alcohol content produced a smoother gin.
Jarrold’s use a grain neutral spirit triple distilled to 96.6% ABV. It’s important to note a few things here. Firstly to be a true London Dry as Jarrold’s is, the base spirit needs to have been distilled to at least 96%.
Secondly, there are very few gin distillers who produce their own base spirit. Grain to glass brands are in the minority. Some examples include Arbike and Lone Wolf. The reason for this is almost certainly down to the cost of distilling your own spirit. Whether this matters to you, is all down to opinion. For me, I feel the market has benefited hugely from the diverse range of distillers who don’t make their own base spirit.
“When we bought the still we visited the Kothe factory in Stuttgart and they were very specific about the percentage of alcohol we should use when distilling. Many distillers distill at 60% but we distill at 29.5% in the pot.”
Some of the base spirit is then taken and reduced down to 60% to macerate five of the seven botanicals before distilling is started. This is a slow process, with their electric still gently simmering the pot to allow the flavour profile to take shape. Distilling at 29.5% means that Jarrold’s can only produce half the amount, but Jamie states their process won’t change.
“We do a few things a little differently from many people which comes at a price to us, but we really notice the difference in the end product. We won’t compromise on this, no matter how much sales increase as we firmly believe it’s a key part in achieving our end product.”
The cooled vapours are then rested for a week, before being cut back with local water to the robust 48%. It’s fascinating to hear about their process and clear that Jarrold’s are prepared to go that extra mile in pursuit of the quality they’re after.
Jarrold’s Gin takes influences from both Dutch and English traditions. They follow a strict London Dry method, but with more juniper than you’d traditionally find in the style.
I’ve stated several times how important a strong brand can be when it comes to improving visibility. The gin category continues to move at pace and it’s a sink or swim market.
Central to this is packaging. Jarrold’s has certainly got that covered; it’s easily one of the prettiest bottles I’ve had the pleasure of drinking from. It’s like a beautiful stained glass window, with an intricate design in gold, with vibrant violets and teal making up the backdrop. In fact, they even go as far as using real gold in the ink!
At £38.50, Jarrold’s is at the premium price point end of the market. The bottle, and indeed website, are well-aligned with the premium position. This is a product which will hold its on any bar shelf.
That being said, a beautiful bottle won’t keep sales coming; the contents need to match. But Jarrold’s needn’t worry too much on that score either.