Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen

Review:

Anno Gin

Distillery

Anno Distillers Ltd., Marden, Kent, England, UK.

Website

Anno Distillers.

History

The County of Kent in South East England is well known for its hops, beer production and oast houses and is referred to as the “Garden of England”. This heritage is borne out by brewers Shepherd Neame (based in Faversham, Kent) who were founded in 1698 - making them Britain’s oldest brewery.

Historically Kent is not particularly well known for its spirit making, as the beer production has tended to overshadow them. The last known spirit maker in Kent, Maidstone Distillery (sited at Bank Street in Maidstone), was established by George Bishop in 1789. It may seem rather unusual to us today but they produced Hollands Gin (Genever) with Bishop having to petition and debate with the government to be permitted to make it. At the time, Genever was in much higher demand than the poorer quality London Dry Style being produced in England. Import taxes on the Genever made it expensive, and this lead to a rising level of smuggling. However, winning the battle to make Genever in Kent was relatively short lived. Maidstone Hollands Gin ceased production after 30 years in 1819, shortly after the death of its founder George Bishop.

In the late summer of 2011, a little under 200 years since the last Gin Distillery closed, Kent became home to Anno Distillers and plans began for Gin to be distilled again. In 2010 two PhD research and development chemists, Andy Reason and Norman Lewis, were working for GlaxoSmithKlein in Hildenborough. When the company announced the closure of the site and redundancies for the workers for the fall of 2010, the pair started discussing their options for early retirement. Having formed a strong friendship from working together for over 10 years and, they were not quite ready to retire and it was an almost natural progress for them to consider starting their own joint business. With a shared passion for fine wine and quality spirits they began feasibility plans to start up a distillery.

In the fall of 2011, with all considerations in place, a two-year journey started with Andy and Norman making a final decision to progress with the business in the early spring of 2012. Now they truly became responsible for everything to establish their distillery including painting, plumbing, product development and the installation of their still. Andy’s youngest daughter Kim, who has an MBA, joined Anno shortly after this time and is responsible for PR, Marketing, Sales and Social Media.

This Gin, their first product, was launched in September 2013.

Production

Made from English wheat the 96.3% neutral base spirit is mixed with softened Kentish water bringing it down to 60%. Some of the harder botanicals, including the juniper and coriander, are added to this alcohol and water mixture and left to steep for a few hours under gently heat. Each batch is distilled slowly, with the vapor being infused with the softer botanicals held in a basket, before being rectified and condensed to produce the Gin.

The 300-liter copper and stainless steel still is purpose made (being able to produce numerous types of different spirit) by German company Christian Carl, based in Stuttgart, who have been manufacturing distillery equipment since 1869. Having to wait 6 months for the still to be built and delivered, plus taking several months to put together and install, it was rather apt Anno Distillers have chosen to call her “Patience”.

The Gin is presented in a clear circular bottle, tapering from the bottom up to the wider top, and has flat shoulders. Hot stamped in copper foil there is a large “A” and smaller company name of “Anno” in the center. The copper represents the copper still, with the A referring to both the company and their tagline “The Spirit of Alchemy” – this monogram comes from ancient German Alchemical text and was used as the symbol to describe the process of distillation. There are a handful of swirling screen-printed hand-drawn “word-strings” in green colored, text running from the bottom to the top of the bottle, which reflect back through the liquid and glass. These represent hop vines in the “Garden of England”, plus the green color also reflects some of the history of this spirit, as Gin has traditionally been presented in green bottles. The bottle is finished with a green capsule, stating “Kent Dry Gin” in white and the logo on the top. The great branding and design of this bottle has been carried out by the London based Wonderland WPA design agency. 

Category

Distilled Gin (London Dry Style).

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

43% (86 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$ - $$$$$. Not available in the USA. It can be obtained from Master of Malt in the UK but be prepared to pay an additional 40% for shipping.

Botanicals

Kent being the “Garden of England” it seems only natural to endeavor to have at least some of the botanicals from the county in this spirit, and this is exactly what Anno has striven to achieve. The Gin contains 16 botanicals, including 6 sourced locally from within Kent (indicated by an *): angelica root, cassia bark, chamomile*, coriander seed, cubeb, elderflower*, hops (a blend of different ones)*, juniper berries, kaffir lime (leaves), lavender (a blend from Downderry Nursery)*, lemon (fresh), liquorice, orange (bitter), orris root, rose hip* and samphire (from historic Romney Marsh)*.

The most unusual botanical used is the samphire plant (Crithmum maritimum). It is found in salt marshes and grows wild all along the Kent coastline. One area of Kent, reclaimed from the sea is called Samphire Hoe, and Shakespeare Cliff in Dover is thought to be named after the following reference to samphire in William Shakespeare’s King Lear: “…half way down hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!” (Spoken by Edgar while climbing a hill near Dover in Act IV, Scene VI). Samphire has been foraged (a dangerous pastime when gathered from cliffs, hence the King Lear quote) and eaten by people for centuries in the UK – although a rare activity in modern times - there seems to be a growing trend by some restaurants to use it today. When eaten raw (usually in a salad with oil) it tastes salty, but when cooked (great with fish) has a sweet green asparagus flavor, hence its common name “Sea Asparagus”.

Name

The name “Anno” is an amalgamation of the first two letters of each of the founder’s first names, Andrew and Norman.

Tasting Notes

On the nose is bright piney juniper and fresh citrus with light woody, herbal and floral (elderflower and possibly chamomile) notes. On the palate this smoothly soft spirit has juniper and building tangy citrus (lime and orange) with sweet (liquorice) peppery spice (coriander and cubeb), floral (lavender) and woody background notes – there is a lot to be found here, more than we can adequately describe. On the close is bitter (hops) and green herbal (samphire) notes, culminating in a crisp and dry (lemon) citrus finish. A broadly classical juniper Gin, while remaining soft and smooth, with exquisite balance and developing complexity.

This is a truly smooth and lovingly soft Gin to drink neat over ice. We should stop there but this Gin has more strings to its bow! This pairs nicely with Tonic Water for a classic Gin & Tonic. While a lemon or lime garnish works very well indeed in this G&T, the recommendation to use samphire as a garnish is a great idea if you can find it. We really like this in a Martini and found the herbal notes were accentuated, as were the citrus notes when using a lemon twist garnish. Adding olive juice and an olive garnish (better still a samphire garnish) was an equal delight, but as keen Dirty Martini drinkers we are clearly prejudiced.

If there is any critique to make it might be that the Gin is too complex - OK, this is bit like the classic interview response of saying you’re a workaholic to the question: What is your biggest weakness? What we mean by this is we were reluctant to try other cocktails or mixed drinks for fear of losing what is an excellent Gin. There is so much going on that diluting the subtleties may diminish it, as there was a degree of this with the G&T.

Overall a tasty quality Gin demonstrating the height of true artisanal craftsmanship, the Anno boys really have “done good”! Andy Reason and Norman Lewis have produced something Gin enthusiasts seek and many Gin makers can only dream of: it has and maintains the classic London Dry juniper and citrus, while managing to add savory, herbal, spice, floral and woody notes without undermining any of them. It is a real delight for us to say this is very highly recommended – it certainly hits our top 20 and perhaps our list of top 10 Gins.

Awards & Accolades

Silver Medal, International World Spirits Competition, 2014.

2 Gold Stars, Great Taste awards, 2014.

Music

Make yourself a great cocktail with this Gin, then why not ease back and listen to "Garden of England" by Gerry Rafferty:



Get In Touch

Have a question, query or need clarification...

Contact Us


Monthly Newsletter

Keep up to date, hear about unique items and have gentle reminders on being "The Complete Gentleman."

Sign up here:

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you The Complete Gentleman.


Don't Miss A Post

Keep up to date via RSS or another web-based reader:

[?]Subscribe To This Site
  • XML RSS
  • follow us in feedly
  • Add to My Yahoo!
  • Add to My MSN
  • Subscribe with Bloglines