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Review

Jack Cain's Sloe Gin

Distillery

Northumbria Spirit Ltd., Heddon-On-The-Wall, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland (the base spirit is made by Langley Distillery, Birmingham), England, UK.

Website

Jack Cain’s.

History

Three gentlemen founded Northumbria Spirit Ltd in 2007: Andy Haddon, John Boyle and Jim Golightly.

Andy is the creative source behind the idea. He came across the little known history of Jack Cain (see Name below) and thought it would be good idea to see spirits produced in this area of the UK again. He floated these musings in a pub with two other fellow imbibers and the resulting deliberations started to work at becoming reality.

John Boyle retired in 1999 and set up his own brewery in 2000 with business partner Robin Leighton (who sadly died in 2005). Producing local Real Ale proved to be a popular success and today Wylam Brewery has numerous award winning beers to its name. By 2006 they had outgrown their existing production facilities and moved to new premises on a farm owned by…Jim Golightly.

Jim, an ex-British Army Paratrooper, lives on a farm in Heddon-On-The-Wall. One of his pastimes is making Sloe Gin, and other fruit liqueurs, using recipes handed down from his great-grandfather. The farm is the base for Northumbria Spirit’s production facilities and interestingly, it is also believed to be one of the sites (or nearby) used by Jack Cain to produce illegal spirits.

In the 19th century Thomas Sharp, the Archdeacon of Northumberland, said about the local people: “They were fond of strong liquors, which exhilarate the spirits, and by a temporary madness, vary the uniform circulation of thought”. Northumbria Spirit products are made as a celebration of independent spirits wherever they are found, of those people who over the ages have dared to think a bit differently and at times have made the impossible a reality. They feel this passion is as strong today as it was in the time of Jack Cain and hope their products will stimulate and inspire you to think a little differently. To this end their marketing slogan is “Guaranteed to vary the uniform circulation of thought”.

Their Jack Cain Gin made its debut in summer 2009 and very little has been spent on marketing, leaving it to grow mainly by word of mouth. The Sloe Gin was introduced to their portfolio in the late summer of 2009, following the previous years Sloeberry harvest. Slowly but surely the desire for their Gin has spread throughout the region. This has proved a beneficial approach given their relatively small-scale production arrangements. However, word is getting out beyond Northumberland and more people are seeking it out. Their website lists suppliers and whilst we hope this will continue to expand, we can’t help being disappointed for those not in the county (not to mention in another country!).

Production

The base Gin is made from a 100 year-old pot distilled recipe made at Langley Distillery in the Midlands. Using a recipe passed down from Jim Golightly’s great grandfather, the base Gin is steeped with sloeberrys for numerous (unspecified) months. The final Gin infusion is cut from 95% ABV using Northumbrian spring water to 30% ABV.

The ruby-red colored Gin is presented in a tall clear traditional whiskey style bottle, with a large black and white label showing a cartoon style image of a gentleman in 19th century dress. The label has Sloe Gin written in purple and they use a purple colored foil cap to match.

Category

Flavored Gin - Sloe.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

30% (60 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$$ - $$$$$$. Not available in the USA and we have been unable to find a supplier able to ship to the USA or even available online in the UK.

Botanicals

Unknown but includes juniper berries and sloeberries.

Name

Born in 1813 John Cain (or Jack, as is the traditional English diminutive of the name) was a smuggler, just like his father had been before him. When the smuggling world in the South of England became too “hot” for him, he moved to the far North just across the borders of Scotland. Here he learnt a new trade from his Scottish acquaintances, using illicit stills he changed his occupation from Bootlegger to Moonshiner. Finding many thirsty workers south of the Scottish border in Northumberland, he settled in the Derwent valley of the River Tyne.

Unfortunately the body of a local man, Doctor Stirling, was found on the banks of the Tyne, near one of his illegal stills. Jack was arrested for the murder but was eventually acquitted, however the publicity had ruined his reputation and he fled to Australia. It is possible that he stayed there but there are further references to Jack Cain (another person possibly but most likely the same person) appearing again in the North East a few years later.

This time Jack Cain is a Gardener at Stella Hall, working for one of the areas first Industrialists, Joseph Cowen. It is believed he ran illegal stills and supplied moonshine to the locals, keeping a still on or near the property of Stella Hall. Jack also had a part to play in the establishment of the co-operative movement, being a founder of the Blaydon Co-operative, one of the earliest social movements in the area.

It is clear Jack Cain was a local character, an entrepreneur and a true maverick, flouting the rules of convention. Despite being involved in illegal activities (smuggling and moonshine) it seems clear his thoughts were mostly on providing cheaper products for the working classes and flying in the faces of the rich and plentiful. It is this spirit, which seems to be celebrated in using the name of Jack Cain for this spirit!

Tasting Notes

On the nose is a sweet fruity floral aroma. On the palate is a dry fruity taste with a complex array of tart spicy citrus with a hint of smooth vanilla. The close continues and fades into a bittersweet dry fruit finish. This is an unusually dry Sloe Gin with a surprising flavor profile.

Just when you think you know Sloe Gin, someone does something different. This is exactly the case with Jack Cain’s Sloe Gin, instead of the standard sweet fruity syrup offering we have one of the strongest and driest Sloe Gins we have tried. It maintains the versatility and can be drunk neat as a winter warmer or with soda water for a refreshing summer drink – we want to try more in a larger variety of mixed drinks.

The real difference is if this suits your palate; some will love the dryness whilst other will wish for a sweeter offering, whilst the taste at first will puzzle most. For us, and it is a personal choice, we really like this Sloe Gin. Yes, it isn’t like your normal Sloe Gin but we like it dry and the taste is a pleasantly welcome change. We still want a “normal” Sloe Gin but this is a recommended side step. Well done to the guys at Northumbria Spirit, we think Jack Cain would be pleased and proud to have his name on this beverage.

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.



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