A New Gin World Record
In the leafy market town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, on the doorstep of the famed Blenheim Palace lies The Feathers, a town centre hotel that as of the 1st June 2012 holds the official Guinness World Record for the most varieties of Gin stocked behind a bar, with its collection rolling in at 161 different varieties.
Gin itself is a rich and historic spirit with an infamous past. Its name itself is derived from Jenever, the Dutch term for ‘juniper’; a distinct berry which still remains the key ingredient in the production of this drink.
A Dutch doctor that combined the juniper berry with alcohol in order to treat kidney problems, unknowingly first developed Gin in the 17th Century in Holland. Having proved itself to be rather ineffective at improving kidney complaints, the doctor’s patients became enamoured with the cure due to the amnesia-inducing effect it had; they tended to forget, or at least no longer care, about their initial complaints.
In 1689 William III, another Dutchman, married England’s own Mary II, and became the King of England. He imposed heavy excise duties on all French wines and brandies due to a personal grudge he bore to the country, who at the time were threatening his native Holland. This political act made Gin, that cheap Dutch liquor, far more affordable to the English public; damaging the French economy and boosting the Dutch one, all in one foul swoop.
England’s love affair with Gin started here and developed at a rapid rate. Yet for much of the 18th Century it became the solace of the working classes. Soldiers drank it before battle, hence the term “Dutch courage”, and those living debauched lives were often said to be on “Gin Lane”.
That being said, the reputation of the spirit has changed dramatically since that period, and as the defining ingredient in the two most iconic alcoholic drinks of our time – the Gin & Tonic and the Martini – it firmly hold its place with the world drinking culture.
So its no wonder the The Feathers took it upon themselves to pay homage to this wonderful alcohol with their extensive and astounding collection, which amongst the usual Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire and Gordon’s variants, stocks bottlings by Martin Miller’s, Sloane’s (both of whom were present on the day for a tasting and talk), The Botanist and countless others from all across the globe, including a fine selection of vintage bottlings that they store higher than the rest, and out of reach of any careless hands! One in particular that deserves attention is the bar’s bottle of Blue Ribbon, a London Dry Gin, which is one of the last bottles available in the world and is valued at £8.50 per single measure.
As well as the presentation and tastings offered by the eloquent ambassadors for both Martin Miller’s and Sloane’s gin, the event included an ‘Ultimate Martini’ and ‘Ultimate Gin & Tonic’ segment, as well an exquisite Gin inspired menu by The Feathers’ head chef Kevin Barrett, which included canapés of tomatoes and cream cheese, miniture tuna steaks with wasabi, cured salmon served with a “Hendricks scented jelly”, duck liver marinated in “Zuidam 3 yrs old” and a “Tanqueray Rangpur cleanser”.
The Miller’s had pronounced notes of cassia bark (similar to cinnamon) and cucumber – which is added as a drying agent – with a liquorice sweetness. Sloane’s meanwhile tasted more citrus in flavour, due to the fact that whole oranges and lemons were used, rather than just their zests. While Miller’s uses liquorice powder, Sloane’s derives its sweetness from distilling vanilla pods, which comes through in a remarkable sophisticated way.
Sloane’s was tasted both neat and shaken as part of a Foghorn Cocktail. This cocktail consists of gin shaken with fresh lime juice, a dash of sugar syrup and a dash of Free Brother’s Orange bitters. It is then strained into an ice filled Collins glass and topped with Ginger Ale.
Miller’s was similarly tasted neat, but also with Fever Tree tonic garnished with pink grapefruit and cucumber slices to highlight its botanical nuances.
As lunch was served, the Guinness World Record adjudicators arrived and set about counting the bottles and checking it against the bar’s own stock log. Just after 3 o’clock, everyone ominously assembled in the hotel bar for the 45 minute long count, before baring witness to the presentation to The Feathers’ general manager Jeremy du Plessis and bar manager Steven Dinsdale, the Guinness World Record for “the most varieties of gin commericially available”, beating the previous record “three-fold”.
And so I’m pleased to announce that Gin, a fine and complex spirit, so often held as a quintessentially English indulgence has found a Guinness World Record home in such the quintessentially English setting of the market-town hotel The Feathers. A ‘must-see’ for all serious Gin drinkers.
Images by Rajan Virdee