First published in The Irish Times, Saturday March 23rd, 2019.
This week, a look at four Irish gins, two very new and two more established.
Graham Norton’s Own wines, from Italy, New Zealand and Australia, have been hugely successful in Ireland. Now the team have come together to produce a gin distilled in west Cork. Flavoured with 12 botanicals, including fuchsia, rosehip and gooseberries, Graham Norton’s Own Irish Gin seems destined for the same commercial success.
The shop assistant at Dublin Airport told me that Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin outsold all of its rivals put together. It may be the distinctive blue bottle or the unique flavours, which include gunpowder tea, but it seems to be one of the success stories of the Irish spirit revival.
Founded by the veteran drinks entrepreneur Pat Rigney, Drumshanbo last year sold more than 100,000 cases, with a turnover of €7 million. In November Rigney will launch two pot-still whiskies; next year he plans to open a visitor centre at the distillery in Co Leitrim.
Rigney says the reason for his gin’s success is simple: “It has a real story and a real distillery, it tastes fantastic and it has great packing. I have been travelling for 30 years and picked up all sorts of ideas from far-flung places. What I set out to do is work very hard to create a gin that will compete with the best in the world. It really is capturing the imagination; Irish people buy it in the airport to bring to friends all over the world.”
As well as making Cork Dry Gin, Irish Distillers was a pioneer of small-batch gin, releasing Crimson in 2005; it was very good but ahead of its time. Now it has returned with Method & Madness, the first gin to use gorse flowers, alongside black lemon and a range of spices. It was distilled in Ireland’s oldest gin still, Mickey’s Belly (named after a man who worked in the distillery), which now resides in the microdistillery at Midleton, in Co Cork.
Regular readers will know that Blackwater No 5 is one of my favourite gins. The distillery that makes it also makes Boyle’s Irish Botanical Gin for Aldi. The company was set up by Peter Mulryan, a veteran drinks journalist, writer and TV and radio producer. Its new, truly artisan distillery, in a converted hardware store in the picturesque village of Ballyduff, Co Waterford, will open to the public from April onwards, with luck to coincide with Waterford Festival of Food, at the end of the month. The first trial whiskeys have been distilled (and look fascinating) but need a few years’ ageing before being bottled.
Boyle’s Irish Botanical Gin
Made by Blackwater for Aldi, this is a delicious gin, with subtle fruits and refreshing citrus on a firm base of spice and juniper. Amazing value for money.
Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin
A very nicely balanced smooth gin with plenty of juniper, backed up with musky spicy coriander and a unique fresh herbal note.
From Off-licences and supermarkets nationwide, as well as travel-retail stores
Graham Norton’s Own Irish Gin
Aromas of juniper and light spices, with classic flavours of pine resin and earthy spice on the palate, finishing with bright floral notes.
Method & Madness Irish Gin
Lemon zest and subtle floral notes on the nose, lightly spicy with clean refreshing orange and lemon citrus on the palate.
Stockists: Widely available from off-licences, as well as travel-retail stores