I have tickets to the Olympics. I will confess, they are not to the most high profile events; I am watching the archery at Lord’s and the rowing at Eton. I also have tickets for the Olympic Park, where, essentially, as my mother has reinforced, I have paid £10 to not watch anything. Yet I am excited about it. I find myself getting excited at the prospect of the torch coming through both my work and home towns. I think it truly is something worth getting excited about. I also went to the Flotilla for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I didn’t get to see any of the boats directly, though I did manage to take a few photographs, because I hadn’t been patiently waiting for a space on the riverside for three days. But again, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the conviviality , the overall sense of something momentous.
I am not a Royalist nor a nationalist. I am not proud of these events or excited about them because of anything they inherently represent. I understand the drawbacks to them, the money involved which has been diverted from other projects and the unfairness of the allocation of the little money that is directly benefitting some people at the cost of many others. The reason I am celebrating these is because they are festivals of positive achievements and I feel positivism is sorely lacking at the moment. It is not just big events that are worth being positive about. I am constantly surprised that when I am positive, enthusiastic or passionate about any given subject, be it whisky, golf, beards, the benefit of the cover drive, or the indwelling nature of god versus the evidence of evolution, people are shocked that I can be so fervent about anything. There seems to be an ennui, a malaise in people, especially in the UK at the moment, whereby being keen or heartfelt about anything is seen as more than just uncool, but almost morally wrong.
So, it was with great pleasure that I got to meet Julia on Friday night, the owner and manager of The Star at Night, celebrating its tenth birthday this year. The Star is home to the London Gin Club, a members club, showing allegiance to the altar of Juniper, a mere baby at only four months old. Julia is serious about gin; since her introduction to Tanqueray 10 years ago, she has never looked back. At present, she stocks around 40 different gins behind the bar, where she serves them predominantly as gin and tonics, with a choice of 5 different tonics. The G&Ts are served in large balloon glasses, the better to experience the fine nose, also creating a very impressive visual presentation. They have selected an individual garnish for every gin, from lemon and coriander with Beefeater’s more premium “24” offering, to fennel leaves and pear with Wisconsin’s Death’s Door Gin. Julia knows all of her gins, she knows her garnishes and she knows her customers. When she realised my taste for whisky, she disappeared off and returned with a glass of Ransom aged Old Tom. Aged for six months in Pinot Noir barrels, she says it’s not her cup of tea but she has found that whisky drinkers seem to like it. It was sublime – cardamom, juniper, spices and strong herbal notes, a slight juicy sweetness from the pinot; it was like no gin I had ever tasted but it truly was magnificent.
I tried the four gins that were offered in their ‘Gin Jaunt’, the Star’s tasting menu, chosen for the differences between them to highlight the range of flavours available from gins. They were all served with either Fever Tree or Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic. I had taken my mum along as my co-taster for the evening, given her penchant for mother’s ruin, and to give a slightly different take on the gins.
Bloom, with an English Strawberry garnish – massive juniper, sweet, fruity, summery flavours
Caorunn, with an apple and celery garnish – dry and spicy, juniper held back, with more floral notes
Gilpin’s with a lemon and sage garnish – subtle flavours, gentle and enticing, more herbal, dry juniper
Berry Bros and Rudd’s No. 3 with a Sicilian olive garnish – very dry, with dominant juniper, with citrus and cardamom notes.
My overwhelming favourite drink of the evening was the Ransom, but of the four in the Jaunt, my favourite was the Caorunn – it was the most unusual of the four, with a very distinct floral edge. Mum preferred the summery brightness of the Bloom, the fruity edge, enjoying the pungency of it, rather than the more muted subtlety of the others. However, there was not one gin there that I wouldn’t gleefully extol the virtues of to anyone that would be willing to listen.