Gin is quite the thing nowadays with the botanical beverage becoming the trendy tipple of choice for many. At Sussex Bloggers we’ve been ginthusiasts for years so when we heard that Sussex Gins number around twenty we almost dropped our Tanqueray. Who knew Sussex was such a hot-bed of botanicals?
World Gin Day is fast approaching – it falls on 13 June this year. We felt duty-bound to bring you a selection of home-grown Sussex Gins to help you toast gin day with a very local tipple. It’s important we support our local Sussex gins and their producers, especially in the current climate. Please click through on the links below and order a bottle for yourself or as a gift. Father’s Day is coming up soon (21 June).
Sussex is home to an impressive number of boutique gins and distilleries producing high-quality, refined spirits. The county offers a wide and unique range of craft, artisan and small-batch Sussex gins to please our palates. Let’s take a look at the line up…
Hastings 1066 Gin
You only have to look at the beautiful turquoise bottle encasing Hastings 1066 gin to see that it’s inspired by the sea. As the light ripples through the glass and hits the gin inside it becomes apparent that this gin is pretty special. And that’s before you’ve even broken the seal.
Hastings 1066 gin comes from an excellent pedigree. It’s the younger brother to the award-winning Haswell London Distilled Dry Gin. Both are created by Julian Haswell, a master at his craft, with over 35 years in the spirits industry. Together the two gins form H&H Gins.
Hastings 1066 gin is distilled in an Arnold Holstein 150 Litre pot-still named Archie in a secret location between Northiam and Rye. Sweet lemon and orange citrus hit the palate first the warm peppery flavour of grains of paradise. Traditional botanicals follow; juniper, coriander and angelica root. The tang of gooseberry comes later finished with a lingering hit of sweet liquorice. It’s a smooth classic gin with a blend of flavours that are soft, delicate and incredibly pleasing.
Hastings 1066 Gin is ideal for mixing with Folkington’s Indian light tonic water, garnished with a slice of orange and lots of ice. (see below) Best accompanied by Sussex sea views.
“I love water – especially when it’s frozen and surrounded by gin…” – unknown
Julian makes a really good point about the water used for your ice. He says, the chlorine in tap water used for ice cubes will affect the taste of your drink. Either buy in your ice or make your own using filtered or bottled water.
Hastings 1066 gin is easily sippable neat or over ice and also makes a fine G&T. The citrus and botanicals are beautifully balanced with a soft sweetness. This one’s a keeper.
Chichester Harbour Gin
Made in a cabin in the garden, Chichester Harbour Gin truly is a small batch, artisan gin. It’s produced by two friends Martin and Paul, who both grew up living by Chichester Harbour. They wanted to create a smooth sipping gin that represented their beautiful local area, made with water from the South Downs and an inspired touch of seaweed!
“Back in 2016 we realised our future was making gin” explains Martin. “However, whilst paddle boarding at Emsworth, we were inspired by how beautiful the harbour looked, and decided on our name and theme – Chichester Harbour Gin. Since then things have gone from strength to strength. We began with a 2-litre table-top still and some locally sourced juniper berries from a small bush we found on the South Downs. And so began the flavour development.
The label was designed to reflect the view of the harbour, as seen from the downs, including Chichester Cathedral’s spire. A spitfire also features on the bottle as they historically flew from nearby Goodwood. Even now, they are seen flying over the harbour from time to time.”
We tried out many different recipes until we settled on our golden 15 botanicals and the distilling process which we use today. Many of our customers particularly love the smoothness of Chichester Harbour Gin and enjoy it simply over ice as a sipping gin.” Martin and Paul
Paul and Martin recommend drinking Chichester Harbour Gin with lots of ice, a slice of lemon, a sprig of fresh mint and Folkington’s original Indian tonic water.
Chichester Harbour Gin is a subtle gin that’s light and refreshing. The perfect summer drink.
Madam Jennifer Distillery – The Biologist Gin
Madam Jennifer is an urban small-batch distillery located in the smallest of spaces in Poets Corner, Hove. We spoke to Inger, one half of the husband and wife team who founded the distillery in 2018. Inger trained as a biologist and her husband Ian, as a chemist. The perfect pairing to conjure up some botanical alchemy and some exceptional Sussex gins.
The distillery name, Madame Jennifer, is an Anglicised play on Jenever, the Dutch name for juniper. Gin is the drink they came to name after it. The distillery produces three gins. The Biologist and The Chemist, both named to reflect the founders’ previous careers, and Gin of Paradise. The Biologist gin is Inger’s creation and Ian is responsible for The Chemist. It seems there’s a little rivalry going on between the two with each determined to make the most popular gin.
In talking to Inger it seems their own personal tastes reflects their individual gins. The Biologist has a more feminine leaning with lively grapefruit zests and delicate floral notes drawn from Chamomile and Gorse Flower. Juniper and coriander are spiked with a dash of cinnamon for a lightly spiced finish.
The Chemist is altogether more masculine. A smooth, complex gin balanced with layers of flavour. Sweet orange and lemon zest are complemented by natural liquorice root, juniper, coriander, orris root, angelica root, gorse and chamomile.
The third of the Jennifer gin trio is Gin of Paradise, a rich blend of the West African spice, grains of paradise. Juniper, coriander, sweet Almonds, lemon peel and orris root add depth.
But there’s more to Madame Jennifer than its excellent gin. The distillery also produces Bubble-Plate Vodka, Cold-Pressed Coffee Liqueur, Limoncello, sloe gin and a seasonal Christmas gin.
- The Biologist is ideal for mixing with Folkington’s Indian light tonic water and garnished with pink grapefruit or orange.
- The Chemist makes a mean Martini or serve with Valencia Orange tonic, and garnish with blood orange and lemon.
We tried the Biologist, a bright lively gin with a citrus kick and delicate floral notes. Add tonic for the perfect summer G&T.
Currently Madame Jennifer, in association with ‘Pick your Poison’, is offering a local finish-at-home cocktail delivery service in BN1, BN2, BN3 and BN41 postcodes. Fantastic quality cocktails delivered to your door, just add ice, finish and serve. Order by 2pm for same day delivery. Serves 2
If you’d prefer to make your own cocktails all spirits can be ordered online with free local delivery.
Husband and wife team David and Emily will agree that the humble Sussex shed has a lot to answer for. Until recently, their gin was produced in a 2 litre nano-still in the couple’s garden shed (or cabin) in Horsham. It’s a miniscule but meticulous operation. Their particular gin-making process uses vacuum distillation, a low pressure style of distillation which is how the name Cabin Pressure Gin came about.
Cabin Pressure Gin is a Vacuum Distilled Gin (VDG) made using laboratory grade borosilicate glass. Vacuum distillation enables the gin to be made at a much lower temperature. By gently bathing the botanicals the best of the flavour is preserved. The result is a rich profile of botanicals with a focus on the lovely piney, resinous flavour of juniper.
Background flavours of green cardamom, angelica root, ginger, liquorice and coriander compliment the hit of juniper. The hand-chosen botanicals are distilled separately in the nano-still before being blended together to the last exacting millilitre.
Two other gins make up the collection – “The Horsham Serpent” and “Leonardslee Gardens – Botanical Garden”. Both were devised in collaboration with two local businesses; Crates Local Produce and Restaurant Interlude at Leonardslee Gardens.
Cabin Pressure pairs best with Fever-Tree Indian tonic water, a twist of lemon and a fresh basil leaf for a classic gin and tonic.
For the more adventurous try the Cabin Pressure Southside Fizz. Make with 35ml of Cabin Pressure VDG, 125ml of Folkingtons English Garden Tonic, the juice of 1/4 of a lime and a glug of sugar syrup. Serve up in a tall glass with plenty of ice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, fresh basil leaves,
Cabin Pressure is a deliciously smooth, subtle gin which is almost too quaffable – if that’s even possible…
Check out the gin for yourself from the Cabin Pressure online shop. There’s free delivery for RH12 and RH13 postcodes.
Blue Thorn Gin
Blue Thorn, The Supporters Gin, in its eye-catching blue bottle, is a gin with conscience. Blue Thorn was founded to raise money for charity by two young Harlequins rugby players; Henry Cheeseman and Calum Waters. Part of the profits go to Cancer Research after Calum’s father was diagnosed with a brain tumour and treated with a drug developed through their laboratories. Thankfully, he’s now on the road to recovery. Profits also go to the Seb Adeniran Olule Foundation which was set up after a rugby colleague lost his life in a road traffic accident at the age of 22. The foundation helps disadvantaged kids develop to their full potential.
This London Dry style gin is incredibly smooth and infused with six finely balanced botanicals. It has a distinctive citrus flavour and slightly spicy note. The botanicals include juniper, coriander seed, citrus peel, angelica root, almond and liquorice root. Blue Thorn gin is distilled in the historical Langley Distillery, who’s stills date back to the 1800s.
Mix Blue Thorn Gin with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic and lots of ice. Garnish with a slice of orange or pink grapefruit to brings out the aromatic citrus flavours. For a longer refreshing drink try it with a rhubarb or elderflower Presse from Folkingtons. it’s delicious!
You really can’t go wrong with Blue Thorn Gin. It’s a classic Dry London gin, smooth with a strong citrus hit and hints of spice and juniper. Perfect with tonic and ice for a summer sundowner.
The Blue Thorn Gin online shop is currently offering free delivery.
Seven Sisters Gin
As well as some award-winning English sparkling wines, Rathfinny Wine Estates, owned by Sarah and Mark Driver, is now also producing a very fine gin. Seven Sisters Gin is named after the chalk cliffs that plunge into the English Channel between Eastbourne and Seaford. Amy from Seven Sisters gin told us “We have worked with the amazing design agency Utile for a few years now. They know our brand identities inside and out. The label artwork is inspired by real samples of sediment from taken from the Seven Sisters cliffs.”
The magic of the Seven Sisters range rests on the grapes that are grown on the slopes of the Rathfinny Estate. Just three miles from the sea the estate overlooks the Seven Sisters cliffs. The chalk terrain has a unique impact on the flavour profile. The grapes are hand-harvested by locals from the surrounding area and taken to their state-of-the-art winery. The first two pressings are blended to create Rathfinny’s Sussex Sparkling wine.
A unique still wine is then made from the third pressing of these grapes. This is called the Rebêche and forms the basis of their gin and other spirits. The gin is hand-crafted and infused with traditional botanicals including juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, liquorice, lemon, bitter orange and hyssop. The result is a smooth gin rich in juniper and citrus flavours. The wine provides complex fruit aromas and depth.
Seven sisters is a smooth London-dry gin and tastes wonderful simply poured over ice or served with tonic and a slice of orange. When it comes to cocktails, Seven Sisters’ recommend the Sussex Martini, a personal favourite of the Driver family.
Seven Sisters Gin is anything but shy. It slaps you in the face with a fabulous floral explosion as you pour it into your glass. It’s excellent drunk neat over ice. If that’s a little too wild for you, tame it with tonic and you’ll have an incredibly satisfying drink. It’s a real gin lover’s gin!
Buy online Seven Sisters Gin here or order online and collect from the Rathfinny Wine Estate, East Sussex, BN26 5TU.
Slake gin came about from Dr Thomas Martin-Wells’ passion for botanicals and a desire to share his love of Sussex flavours. When the intrepid forager started out, his mission was two-fold. First, was to create a unique gin bursting with the taste of Sussex, the seasons and the South Downs. His second desire was to inspire others to become lovers of botanicals and foster a deeper connection to where they come from and why it matters. Two true Sussex Gins were born; Slake Sussex Dry Gin and Slake Hedgerow Gin.
Slake gin is Sussex to the core. It’s distilled in Shoreham-by-Sea which sits between the sea and the South Downs National Park. The River Adur wends its way between both, the local habitat offering limitless scope for foraging traditional British botanicals and ingredients. Slake’s flavours are deep-rooted in the Sussex countryside and the shore.
The small, artisan distillery is set up in a modern-day man-cave aka Grandad’s old woodwork hideaway. The process is very much a hands-on family affair. Some of the ingredients for Sussex Dry Gin are carefully grown and nurtured at Slake HQ and include Sussex Terroir botanicals such as juniper, coriander, cassia, cardamom, and angelica fennel, lemon balm and lemon verbena. Other ingredients, such as juniper, coriander, cassia, cardamom, angelica, lemon grass are sourced, where possible, from sustainably harvested, organic growers. Citrus fruits aren’t indigenous to Sussex so local lemon balm and lemon verbena provide the citrus hit. The Hedgerow botanicals comprise juniper, coriander, cassia, cardamom, fennel, liquorice, lemon grass, elder, rowan & rose.
The botanicals are slow-dried before being infused in neutral grain spirit and carefully distilled in a copper still. The final gin recipe is blended with South Downs spring water. Distillation can take weeks to a few months, depending on the gin. After distillation, the gin is bottled by hand, sealed, labelled and ready to go out into the world.
“We work with nature to thoughtfully hand-craft quality spirits that best capture the taste of the seasons and a sense of time and place. A passionate reflection of where and how they are made”. Dr Thomas Martin-Wells
- 1 part Sussex Dry Gin with 1-2 parts Folkington’s Mediterranean tonic over plenty of ice to minimise dilution. Garnish with a twist or slice of red grapefruit and a sprig of fresh Rosemary.
- 1 part Hedgerow Gin paired with 1-2 parts Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic or 1-2 parts Folkington’s English Garden tonic over plenty of ice to minimise dilution. Garnish with a lightly crushed raspberry or a 50:50 mix of frozen black and red currants.
Slake Sussex Dry is a bold gin, juniper forward and full of flavour. It’s citrusy with a slight herbal aroma and a little less dry than some. Every gin trolley should have Slake onboard.
Slake Hedgerow Gin packs a punch of warm peppery, spicy flavours which makes it a fabulous winter warmer. Perfect after autumn walks and for cosy fireside tipples.
Harley House Gins
More fabulous Sussex small-batch gins are made by Harley House Distillery in Seaford by Heidi and Adam.
“One morning Adam woke up and made himself a moonshine still,” Heidi told us. “He was soon producing some amazing spirits, but, Adam was told he had a choice, make it legal or stop. Licences were obtained and here we are today – four full strength gins.”
The distillery was named after their 1920s home, Harley House, hence the art deco influence seen in the label design. The first gin they produced they called Pure Sussex and it was an immediate success.
In 2019, Pure Sussex Gin was awarded the International Wine and Spirit Competition silver medal.
Sussex Blue Gin was the second gin the distillery produced, the blue coming from butterfly-pea flowers. The gin is named, however, after the beautiful Adonis butterfly or Sussex Blue as it is known locally.
Another flower-themed gin followed, Honeysuckle and Hibiscus. Having experimented with many different families it was this combination of two beautiful flowers that won the family taste test.
With customers asking for a fruity gin, their next launch was Clementine Gin. “Initially, this was intended just for Christmas” Heidi explained, “but it’s so refreshing it’s remained a best seller throughout spring and is my personal joint-favourite with our Pure Sussex original gin.”
Sloe Gin, they felt, was also a must especially with the abundance of sloes in the area. They make two batches a year which sell out very quickly. Lastly, we have Rhubarb & Ginger liqueur. This was born for those with a sweeter tooth and made using fresh-picked rhubarb from the local farm. It’s perfect on a hot day over ice or with ginger ale.
- Pure Sussex Gin is fabulous with Folkingtons Ginger Ale, chopped chilli and black peppercorns or simply over ice with a slice of lemon and lime.
- Sussex Blue pairs beautifully with Perfectly Light Tonic, blueberries and lime, or even raspberries.
- Honeysuckle & Hibiscus hits the spot with Indian Tonic and frozen blackberries.
- Ginger Ale also goes well the Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur.
- Harley’s Sloe Gin is best served straight or with a little fizz to liven it up.
Harley House Distillery produces a wonderful range of gins with something to suit every palette. We particularly love Pure Sussex Gin and ginger ale with a slice of chilli and a few black peppercorns for a wonderfully warming drink.
When Covid-19 hit, the folks at Harley House saw hand sanitiser was in short supply. Heidi told us “We could make it, the country needed it, so we produced it! We gave away 500 litres to local key workers at the beginning of the pandemic and are still supplying many now. Plus, for a limited time, we send out a 150ml of sanitiser with every bottle of our gin.”
Folkingtons Mixers and Juices
Don’t forget the tonic! Folkington’s in the village of Arlington in the Cuckmere Valley, produce a superb range of premium natural mixers crafted from small-batch citrus, herbal and floral botanical extracts. Most of their ingredients are sourced locally with the addition of a few carefully selected producers from around the world. There’s not an artificial flavour, sweetener or preservative in sight.
Both Folkington’s Indian Tonic Water together and the Perfectly Light variation (with 33% fewer calories) contain natural quinine from the cinchona plantations of India. Their English Garden Tonic Water is made from quinine blended with cucumber, rosemary and mint.
Most intriguing of all is their Earl Grey Tonic, an unusual blend of Bergamot orange essential oil with a touch of black tea. It gives a delightfully smokey finish to a G&T. We liked it match with a subtle gin such as Chichester Harbour Gin.
Passionately Sourced – Lovingly Created
Not only are their tonics a superior quality, but Folkington’s upholds a strong environmental and social ethos. Last year, they reduced their CO2 emissions by 33% and offset the remaining emissions by 110%. They invested in carefully selected projects both in the UK and around the world. These include the World Land Trust who protect threatened areas of rainforest and the Woodland Trusts’ native tree planting scheme in the UK. Folkington’s also support many local charities.
Wherever possible, Folkington’s ingredients are sourced locally. They return to the same farms year on year to ensure a unique consistency in quality and taste. This also contributes to the farmers’ long-term sustainable income. All their drinks are packed in recyclable packaging materials.
“Our company is 100% committed to a sustainable and environmentally responsible way of business. This is just some of the work we are doing to ensure we deliver on our promise.” Paul and Frances Bendit, owners of Folkington’s.
In addition to their tonics, Folkington’s produce a fabulous range of juices and pressés. There’s also a Sicilian Lemonade, a Dry Ginger Ale and a Ginger Beer, both made with ginger from West Africa. We think Folkington’s is the perfect addition to any summer picnic with, or without, any of these Sussex gins.
It’s important we support our local Sussex producers, especially in the current climate, so please do click through and order a bottle for yourself or as a gift. Father’s Day is coming up soon!
Sussex Gin Festivals
Local gin festivals that might be to your taste include Sussex Gin and Fizz Festival. It takes place in Lewes in June 2021 and is organised by Lewes District Council. Sussex Gin Fest takes place at Borde Hill Garden on Saturday 10 July 2021. Both festivals are cancelled for 2020 due to the pandemic.
So there you have it, some of the best Sussex Gins, from small-batch, artisan distillers and craft gins. Which is your favourite? Drop us a line in the comments below and please remember to drink responsibly.
The gins and Folkingtons mixers featured in this post were kindly gifted for the purposes of review, however, all opinions, thoughts and love of a good Sussex gin are entirely our own…
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