Gin Diaries No. 3
The Mad Montaigne of Booze.
Nights out on the razz have been rare lately but I have managed a couple. Both were Big 0-year birthday parties where I knew some but not all of my fellow partygoers. It’s quite a kick to head into an evening like this pre-armed with a great answer to the old “what do you do?” smalltalk.
“Oh, I’m writing a book on gin,” I say, as casually as I can muster.
Reactions differ but all boil down to “shit, really?”
And then: “What’s it like, working on a gin book?”
Well… let me tell you.
I’ve been writing this book for almost a couple of months now. The editors have made their flatplan, the document that tracks all the pages of the book and what we aim to have on each one. These are grouped into spreads (that’s pairs of facing pages) which start off white and turn green as I send material in for the copyeditors to work on. There’s more green than white now but the low-hanging fruit has all gone and my work rate has slowed.
This month I’m wading into the tasting part of the process. I tasted 12 different gins yesterday. I researched them and noted down the botanicals the distillers used to make each one. I hunted out info on what was used to make the base spirit, be it wheat, grapes, beetroot or something else. I wrote tasting notes, and plugged all this progress into a spreadsheet so I don’t lose track of where I’ve been. Twelve gins is not a bad day, but not a great one either. I hope to get through more today.
I’m turning into a weird recluse, a mad Montaigne of booze, shut away in my room muttering to myself about whether the floral gin in my glass is scarlet or carmine. I go to sleep with gin bottles just a few inches from my head and wake up dreaming of gin. I find myself chasing ephemeral scents and wondering whether that’s what cornflower smells like. And I am always hunting for juniper like some kind of obsessive. It strikes me at times how deeply weird this job really is, and how much I really love it.
It does come with some logistical challenges though. Bottles are stacked all around me when I sit at my desk and I can barely reach my window anymore thanks to the boxes piling high. Couriers come to my door every day with a smirk on their lips. What must they think, handing over yet another parcel that is clearly booze? Trying to explain would only make it worse, I suspect.
My spreadsheet has 308 gins from 32 different countries on it at the moment. This is not all that many in the great scheme of things, as there are thousands of different gins out there.
Those 308 gins are my target list. I’ve managed to source samples for 177 of them so far, with another couple of dozen on the way. Make that 178. Another just arrived from Japan while I was writing this.
The count excludes another 80-or-so gins I received as entries for the World Gin Awards, which are still obscured behind anonymising code numbers. Once I know what these are they can be added to my list proper.
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I’ve tasted nearly a hundred samples so far. I can’t yet say for sure which will be in the book, plus my publisher probably wouldn’t like it if I did, so I’ll keep schtumm on that. But perhaps I can tell you about some that I’m looking forward to tasting soon.
If you’ve tried any of these gins, I’d love to hear what you thought about them. Leave a comment and let me know.
Earlier this year I was asked to contribute to a new book from CAMRA. Their Good Beer Yearbook features work from a whole group of great writers talking about what’s going on now in the world of beer. My chapter is on hybrid drinks that tread the line between beer, cider and wine.
It comes out in February and will cost £15.99, but you can get 25% off if you order before the end of the year.
Get more info here »