There’s a new gin on the market; not a shocker I know, but there’s something different about this one. Archangel is the most complete and rounded, full bodied gin to come to market in years.
Most gins import their juniper and many of their other botanicals, and even the raw alcohol – I can name a number of gin companies that market themselves as quintessentially British but import their alcohol from France. France, I tell you, ce n’est pas du cricket! But Archangel Gin is producing hyper-local small batch gin in Norfolk and, when I say hyper-local, I mean it. Co-founders Peter Allingham and Jude de Souza have turned ancient farm stables and land on his family farm over to growing the botanicals and distilling them. Each run from the pot and column still produces 300 bottles of numbered batches of gin. Nothing is imported; it’s even made with Walsingham water.
Archangel Gin is certainly a rich, heavy and complex gin. On the face of it, the list of botanicals is daunting – juniper, verbena, orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sea buckthorn and cardamom. You can’t help but wonder how they’ll work together? Surely the flavours are too powerful and will fight with one another? Allingham even professes that they were ‘deeply apprehensive and thought we’d have to start all over again’ when they tasted it straight from the still. Well, far from it. After allowing the distilled product to settle and infuse for five weeks, the result is gin perfection. The botanicals work in perfect harmony and, while full bodied, the gin isn’t overpowering; in fact it has a beautifully smooth finish. It is a gin of real craft, refinement and, best of all, has none of the harshness that many gins have at the end.
Of course none of this matters if it doesn’t make a great G&T and, unsurprisingly, they had great fun trying to find the perfect mix. What they ended up with was a surprise to all – Fever Tree with orange peel to garnish. Worried that Fever Tree might be too powerful for the gin, it was a late entry to the tonics tested, and orange peel rounds off each of the botanicals beautifully, as I discovered at a private tasting with Allingham last weekend.
We even set about trying to find the perfect recipe for an Archangel Gin martini and found, quite contrary to logic, that the Bramley & Gage dry vermouth was the perfect vermouth for it. This vermouth is infused with numerous botanicals, including wormwood that, on the face of it, would seem too much to pile onto the botanicals of a gin, especially the floral, spicy and complex botanicals in Archangel. Again accompanied with a twist of orange, it makes for a stunning cocktail; the botanicals all play together rather than overpowering one another.
What became clear in the case of both the G&T and the martini was that Archangel is a gin that can take robust accompanying flavours, and develops over the time it’s in the glass. The G&T opens up while the martini moves from being a cocktail to a martini, making for flawless drinks. Just give the gin 5 minutes after pouring and it will blossom even further. The gin’s so smooth that it can even be drunk straight with a twist of orange, if you’re so inclined.
After delays in getting licenses, the building work and the arrival from Holland of a state of the art still, Archangel’s first batch has gone on sale and promptly been snapped up. They are well on their way to selling 4000 bottles to local Norfolk businesses and online, giving them just cause to be quietly confident for the first year of trading. There is, of course, a great debate about how long the boom in gin can go on for. With many producers over-leveraged to buy expensive copper stills and property to house it, and others just producing rubbish at marked up prices, there will no doubt be a consolidation, but even then the market will likely keep growing. It is hyper-local distillers with high quality products, like Archangel Gin, that will survive and grow domestically and internationally.
Facebook – @ArchangelDistilleries
Twitter – @Archangel_Gin