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Gin & The Jazz Age

Everyone’s Gatsby mad at the moment. You can buy flapper headbands in Sportsgirl, visit Harvey Nichols for a Roaring 20’s themed afternoon tea, learn from Woman’s Day how to get Daisy’s look and, Tiffany in Sydney has a whole tribute to Jazz Age Glamour, just in case you’re looking to update your diamond collection. It’s all cloches and trilbies, bow ties and boas, debutantes and dilettantes. And then there’s the drinks. Cocktail clubs popping up left right and centre, Speakeasies selling Long Island Iced Teas and newspaper articles explaining why Prohibition meant more booze, not less.

Gin was big in the Jazz Age. Bootleg Gin was commonly known as Bathtub Gin and many of the cocktails of the era were based on this popular spirit.  As the lyrics from Chicago’s ‘Nowadays’ go, ‘There’s men everywhere, jazz everywhere, booze everywhere….’.  Indeed. I’m a bit of a fan myself and may have had a G&T or two in my time. How fortuitous then, that in the very week that the Great Gatsby opened in cinemas across Australia, I was invited to enjoy the Bombay Spirits Company Flavour Experience (try saying that after a few drinks).

Bombay trioA Global Brand Ambassador
My partner in crime and I doubled the average age in the room as bar tenders and cocktail staff from all over Brisbane converged on The Brunswick Social to participate in the event. After welcome cocktails being made at the bar by the incredibly efficient and very friendly Sean, it’s down to business. Our host is Raj Nagra, a ‘Global Brand Ambassador’ for Bombay Sapphire Gin. And he’s a great Ambassador! Witty, knowledgeable, self-deprecating and a bit of a looker, he keeps us entertained with a mix of facts and contemporary ‘Gin Happenings’ across the world. After an introductory spiel and some basic Gin history 101, we watch a short video about the new Bombay Sapphire distillery being built in Laverstoke, UK in a restored mill. It’s flashy with some interesting features such a greenhouse/hothouse where they hope to grow all of the botanicals included in Bombay Sapphire. That would be quite a feat considering the wide range of climate zones from where they originate. Then, on to the main event.

Bombay Sapphire notes Bursting With Botanicals
A box with 24 scent bottles, replicating the many aromats and botanicals in Gin is shared between us. Dipping a tester into a particular scent, Raj asks us to describe it, encouraging us to have more than one go. Pine, forest floor, floral, chamomile, industrial, dried orange. The words are floating in the air.  We work our way through several juniper scents, citrus, cocoa and even crushed nut aromas. After a dozen or so scents, Raj reads the crowd and decides to move things along to the tasting. We have six glasses of Gin in front of us and are encouraged to add a small amount of water, sniff then sip. We note down the flavour, where the scent and aroma sits in our mouths (front of palate, mid or back) and use the descriptors we’ve been learning about. There’s a break for more cocktails (!) and some welcome food before we re-convene as Raj takes us through each of the Gins, asking for comments from the group. There’s a wide range of distillers and price points in the tasting set but Raj is always even-handed in his comments, drawing attention to the different flavours, notes and styles. The last two of the set are of course, Bombay Sapphire and Bombay Sapphire East, a newbie with two additional botanicals: black peppercorn and lemongrass.

Bombay glasses 1

 The afternoon finishes with a short presentation on Gin trends and cocktails around the world and one thing is certain, at the moment, Gin is ‘IT’ (that’s a Gin drinker’s joke).  With one final cocktail for the road – the ominously named Corpse Reviver with Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and Absinthe, we have a quick chat with Raj and then head off.

It was an interesting afternoon. As I said, I drink Gin and have several varieties in the drinks cabinet including the usual duty-free bottle of Bombay.  Whilst I didn’t learn much that was new, it did give me a greater appreciation of the different types of Gin. They may all look the same but they certainly don’t smell or taste the same. The most interesting thing for me was it made me consider Gin as a cocktail ingredient.  This sounds a little odd I know, but I almost exclusively drink Gin with tonic. I had always thought of Gin as being too strong or overpowering in a cocktail but in those I tried, this wasn’t the case. I’m even encouraged to attempt a few at home.

Perhaps I’ll try my hand at a Gatsby specialty, ‘….Gin Rickeys that clicked full of ice.’

TIFFIN was a media guest of Bacardi Lion at the Bombay Spirits Company Flavour Experience.  She remains a confirmed Gin drinker and is always seeking a place where the Gin is cold and the piano’s hot.  Some photos supplied by Bacardi Lion (I’m sure you can guess which ones)

2 comments… add one
  • Jan Rhoades June 8, 2013, 11:32 pm

    Like mother like daughter! Ah, there's a little bit (or maybe a big bit for you) of a lush in all of us

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