Blackdown Silver Birch Vermouth Review

Well, it’s been a while since I hoofed a vermouth review in your direction, so let’s change that. Like Asterley Bros, it’s another English vermouth, but this time white not red: Blackdown Silver Birch Vermouth.

As it happens, Blackdown’s vermouth (£20.25, The Whisky Exchange) is made not so very far from me, nestling in neighbouring Sussex’s portion of the South Downs. The titular reference to silver birch? It’s because the base wine is made from the sap of the birch trees growing around the distillery. Apparently, getting that sap is a pain in the arse, with each tree yielding a very small amount. According to Blackdown’s website: ‘In 2017 we tapped over 300 trees, with an average tree providing 5 gallons a day collecting over 1,500 gallons producing 15 gallons of pure syrup’.

So I shalln’t be setting out to make silver birch wine any time soon.

But I’ll happily drink someone else’s. So — how shall we do this? You can crack it into your martini in place of your regular Noily Prat/Dolin or what have you. Or you can drink it on its own, over ice, like the sophisticated metropole you are.

Let’s talk cocktails first, shall we?

Now, Blackdown Vermouth in the context of the martini is an interesting thing. As you may know from my burblings on the subject of the perfect martini, I like a martini with some hoof to it, albeit not at macho-dry ratios. My ur-martini is a lean, clean, deliciously spartan thing.

Blackdown vermouth makes for a fuller, rounder, sweeter martini. I’ve tried it with a variety of gins, at various ratios, generally pitted against Dolin vermouth for comparison. And what you’ll make of it, my dear, very much depends on your criteria. For me, y’know, it’s a touch OTT in most contexts. It’s so gentle that I find myself missing the bite, the sting of my regular vermouth. There’s not really that spiky mid-palate attack I expect. Instead, by martini standards, it ends up long and soft. Smooth, honeyed, unctuous, even.

Not what I’d go for as a standard martini, but if that sounds like your bag, more power to your elbow, I suppose.

I flung a tweet in the direction of the folk of Blackdown to ask their martini recommendations, one of which was a flamboyant 2:1 mix with Sipsmith. A good deal wetter (ie. more vermouth heavy) than most martini drinkers’ norm, and given Blackdown’s abovementioned qualities, the effect is of a different cocktail entirely. Apples, toffee, chocolate — sweet, accessible, richly autumnal flavours.

For an austere martini man such as myself, the above is all rather opulent. Personally, I was more drawn to drinking Blackdown on its own. In this context — over plenty of generous sized ice cubes, with a twist of lemon rind — it’s a fabulous aperitif for those occasions on which a martini (or other spirit-heavy cocktail) might be de trop. The same is true of some red vermouths, natch, but Blackdown is drier.

Removed from the martini, you appreciate its softness and touch of sweetness (contrast against Dolin Chambery, which isn’t great to drink neat: sharper, more one-note, squarely an ensemble player not a soloist). Arguably, what makes Blackdown such a pleasure to drink neat is what makes it less successful in a martini (where, I humbly submit, gin rules all and vermouth bends the knee before its sovereign).

Unadulterated, over ice, Blackdown is calm, so calm. For me, the defining essence is of apples. Not crisp, green apples, but rusty English apples in an old greengrocer, or in a brown paper bag at your grannie’s house. There’s bitterness there, alongside warm and woody spice (clove, cinnamon and the gang), but those play their hand with subtlety. The overwhelming impression is of mellow autumnal fruit and mellifluous honey. Really rather lovely. Wankily, I might call it nostalgia in a glass.

Bottle of Blackdown Vermouth alongside a squeezed lemon half atop a juicer -- prelude to making syllabub

Oh, and one more thing. It makes a bloody delicious lemon syllabub — pudding of kings.

Commuter Belters 1: G&T-in-a-Can

You’ll have observed, no doubt, my proclivity for starting new ‘series’ on this blog which fail to extend beyond their first post. And I’m sorry if you mistook the expression on my face for that of somebody who gives a shit about THAT. It is with an arrogant, Dominic Cummings-esque defiance bordering on sociopathy, indeed, that I double-down and inaugurate another. This one I shall call ‘Commuter Belters’: chronicling a journey both literal (Waterloo to Petersfield, many many times) and metaphorical (the search for BELTINGLY good alcoholic beverages with which to aneasthetise oneself against the tedium of the aforementioned).

Let’s have at it.

Waterloo. It’s Friday, 6.15. Amongst the thronged congregation on the concourse, eyes raised reverently to the departure boards, waiting for the hallowed platform number to blink into existence; ‘on time’ to flip to ‘boarding’.

And when it happens, the usual weary surge of bodies is a little faster, a little looser. It’s Friday.

If you’re clever (you’re clever), you’ve anticipated your platform number and you’re quick to the gates. The gates that all operate on fractionally different timings, so that the interval between inserting your ticket and the door-flaps clacking open wrong-foots you each time. They’re open. Jerking abruptly forward, you’re through. It’s Friday.

Walk nearly all the way to the far end of the train, and walk fast. Storm past those lumbering middle-managers and dithering execs. Get a good spot, minimising the (sadly still high) probability that some coffee-breathed drone will sit next to you with his fat playmobil laptop crammed onto the crappy little food tray and his elbows poking your side. Mate. It’s Friday.

Settle in for the homeward voyage. But what’s that you’ve got in your bag?

Can of Marks & Spencer Gin & Tonic in a can

That’s what.

***

I can explain. Oh Officer, for god’s sake, I can explain.

I don’t buy ready-booze from M&S. Not since that unfortunate incident with Le Froglet, all those years ago. I learnt my lesson.

But I can’t speak for my friends. Occasionally, a gentleman named Barnaby, of a neighbouring parish, is known to patronise the same railway service. It was for this Barnaby that the offending can was bought. I swear.

But Barnaby had to catch a different train and I, for my innumerable sins, was left with this object in my possession.

There’s only one thing to be done.

M&S Gin and Tonic in a can review

Drinking G&T straight from a can is ODD. There’s no objective reason not to do this, provided the can is extremely bloody cold. But, subjectively, it’s just not very nice, is it? It’s like eating a steak off a paper plate or getting into bed with your clothes still on. ODD AND WRONG.

G&T occupies a hallowed place in my aesthetic schema, whereby I apparently believe it is owed a certain level of reverence. It’s interesting to note that I’d choose a can of basic lager over a can of G&T — even though on a totally objective level I probably like the G&T more. But of the lager, I expect no better.

The gin in a can is, you see, actually not too bad. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a goddamn patch on a Parn-concocted G&T. But it’s not hideous. Which is an accomplishment. That it achieves this is down to the fact that (a) it goes heavy on the quinine, (b) it’s sharp and bracing and (c) it contains no filthy artificial sweeteners.

I’m really surprised. I’d expected oversweetness, but in fact this is far sharper and drier than the G&T you’d get in many bars (or homes). It tastes pretty old-school Schweppesy to me: bite like an alligator, absolutely no sentimentality or concession. The dry hit of quinine is excellent: almost abrasive.

They’ve clearly amped up the citrus in consideration of the average commuter’s inability to lay hands on a nice wedge of lemon, which takes it too far towards bitter lemon in my view, but — again — it’s not offensive (see how high I set the bar?).

Where this concoction falls down, though, is in its ratios. That’s a roundabout way of saying: NOT BOOZY ENOUGH. This is squarely a tonic & gin rather than a gin & tonic. The gin they’ve used is too light and simpering; the tonic too heavy and swaggering. As a result, especially with the amped-up lemon flavouring, I feel like I’m drinking a can of (admittedly pretty nice) fizzy pop.

Bottom line: this isn’t the belter we’re looking for. I’m sticking to my lager, and leaving the gin-in-a-cans to Barnaby’s consummate guzzling.

But no hard feelings, M&S.

It’s Friday.

The easiest way to make better cocktails & mixed drinks

This is important. What’s more, unlike most cocktail-improving tips, it’s incredibly bloody cheap (just like you). So there’s no excuse.

The one thing you can do, right now, for very little outlay, that will make the biggest difference to your cocktails and mixed drinks is this.

Buy a good ice tray.

If you are using whatever crappy plastic excuse for a tray came with your freezer, stop it. If you are using your freezer’s auto ice dispenser, stop it. If you are buying those bags of ice from the supermarket/off-license FOR THE LOVE OF GOD stop it.

You need good ice trays, friend. Trays where the icecubes are BIG. Not just in one dimension, but in all three.

Chunky ice cube alongside a tape measure. It's about 3cm cubed.

I’ve found these silicone trays are pretty good: they deliver chunky, cuboid ice at a good size for a G&T or Negroni. You can go bigger if you wish: I have this tray which makes tremendous cubes that form a delightful centrepiece to an Old Fashioned.

I am really not joking (would I?) about the quality of ice being the most transformative factor in cocktail making.

Why? Because ice melts. If ice melts too quickly, your drink is rapidly diluted and loses its punch. Four things you can do to control the speed with which this happens:

  1. Use big ice cubes. Because physics. A single big cube has less surface area than two smaller cubes of the same volume.
  2. Use solid, dense cubes with minimal frost. The clearer (more transparent) ice is, the denser and therefore slower-melting it will be. Notice how a snowflake melts instantly at a touch of your fingertip? That’s what the frost on an ice cube does in your drink. This is where those supermarket ice bags fall down: they are so flimsy and frosty (generally very rough in texture and hollow) that they melt appallingly quickly. Literally as soon as the liquid hits them, you can see them diminish. And the meltwater they make is quite nasty. You are adding that meltwater to your premium gin and wanky tonic.
  3. Make sure the liquid you pour onto your ice is already fridge cold (or colder. You keep your gin in the freezer, right?)
  4. Neck it so fast it doesn’t touch the sides.

I have drunk TOO MANY G&Ts in which all elements but ice quality were excellent: premium gins, Fever Tree Light Tonic, appropriate garnish, good gin:tonic ratio. But the ice cubes were too small, too flimsy, too frosty. Net result? Mediocre G&T.

If you make a G&T (or negroni, or cocktail of other kind) with crappy ice, I reckon you may as well just use cheap gin too. Embrace mediocrity.

But don’t do that. A couple of decent ice trays will cost you under a tenner. They will last you years. They will also look a lot better, rattle around more sonorously in your glass, and quite probably get you more friends.

You could do with a few of those, couldn’t you?

Got married. Got hacked.

So. Long story short, I got married and this website got hacked.

The latter fact accounts for the abrupt change in look & feel; the former for general lack of posts.

The site is largely cleaned up now (I hope nobody thought I genuinely wanted y’all to visit sites advertising sexual potency aids?) but I’ll probably need to redo elements of the theme — in other words, the way it looks. How tedious.

Meanwhile, though, bear with me. I have some posts simmering away for you, to follow.

Boxer Gin Review. Punchy or Paunchy?

I mean, when a gin’s called Boxer, how am I meant to avoid the most bloody obvious metaphor? Christ. Give me something to work with. Fortunately, Boxer Gin does exactly that, in abundance, as soon as you get it into your gob. Here’s how it measures up.

I bought Boxer Gin because it was the gin of choice at Poco Tapas Bar, the excellent Bristolian tapas restaurant at which I first discovered the Negroni Manzanilla. And given my predilection for punchy gins and stooping to lowest-common-denominator wordplay, what could be more auspicious than a gin that is literally punchy?

You know how this works by now, right? I’ll taste Boxer Gin in a martini and a gin & tonic, and I’ll tell you what I think. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The Boxer Gin Martini

Yes. This is very good.

First thing you need to know: this is a proper gin. That means it has a good whack of juniper and isn’t trying anything fancy. That’s good. There’s an assertive oomph to the Boxer Gin Martini that I resoundingly commend.

But while the juniper and pine shenanigans make it abundantly clear it’s a gin martini you’re drinking, there’s a background of rather wonderful, unexpected things. Imagine you’re in a restaurant you’ve not eaten at before. You ordered steak (my, how bold of you) and it’s perfectly cooked: rare, yielding, delicious: exactly as steak should be. A few mouthfuls in, you notice they’re playing a fabulous piece of — oh, I dunno, Prokofiev — in the background. Not loudly; in fact, at exactly the right volume. So that the people who don’t give a shit about Prokofiev (fools) won’t really notice it much.

But you. You, my dear, exquisitely tasteful reader. You will appreciate the crap out of it.

This is not an attention-seeking, look-at-me gin, in other words. It bares its sophistication subtly and with elegance.

The Boxer Gin Martini is fairly smooth, and while characterised by juniper and pine and citrus initially, it has a delicious spiciness: the warm, aromatic spices like cinnamon and pepper and nutmeg. Perhaps the merest sprinkling of anise? Yeah, perhaps.

You’re drinking your martini ice-cold, I hope, so the spice will be very much in the background, but as you near the bottom (of your glass, as opposed to your moral and spiritual decline), you may notice that it comes through more assertively.

Boxer Martini Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

That’s no excuse to linger, though. A martini that’s lost its frigidity is a sorrowful thing. Gulp the bugger down and let’s move on to…

The Boxer Gin and Tonic

Very good also: I approve. The elegance I admired in the martini is present here too. The citrus elements make more impact with a Boxer G&T than with some of the hoofers I commonly reach for (the Wine Society’s High Strength Gin, par exemple, or our old friend Tanqueray), but there’s still plenty of juniper to keep us tethered. And those same warm spices come through — perhaps more so than in the martini, but by no means aggressively. It’s all wonderfully balanced (a nimble-footed, deceptively graceful boxer, then, rather than a thuggish slugger).

There’s a beguiling touch of sweetness (very subtle, but there) while it’s in your gob, but don’t get carried away: the finish is dry as you like. Assuming you’re using the right tonic (Fever Tree Light, I implore you).

Boxer Gin & Tonic Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

I’d probably gravitate towards lemon as the best garnish for a Boxer Gin and Tonic, but if you want to amp up the spices, you could be all wanky about it and shove a cinnamon stick in there (in your glass I mean. Shove it right in your glass. Your GLASS, I said) or black peppercorns.

Just don’t, for the sake of the weeping lord Jesus, use already ground pepper, like the idiots in some bar I went to, a few months back.

I’ll not be going back.

Anyway:

Boxer Gin Verdict

Excellent. This isn’t a wild, out-there gin, as you’ve probably gathered, and I like it all the more for that. It is balanced and has an admirable classicism. I’d sit it in the vague proximity of 6 o’Clock Gin (another handsome blue bottled gin) and Adnam’s — gins that make an excellent, rounded, mellow G&T that has unusual complexities and exotic qualities but doesn’t shove them up your GLASS.

It’d make a nice house gin for someone who’s too cool for the gins they stock in big supermarkets but still wants something versatile and classical.

If I were a tiresome wanker, you know how I’d close this?

I’d say it punches well above its weight.

You’re welcome. Now piss off.

Summer’s Cocktail: The Clover Club

The Clover Club. A magical summer cocktail that tastes just as good as it looks (and it looks bloody great). Raspberries at the ready, please.

Ah, raspberries. Perhaps my favourite summer fruit. I’m not typically an enormous advocate of fruity cocktails (I prefer ‘em punchy and boozy) but the Clover Club is an exception. A sharp, gin-fuelled affair, it is fruity in the correct way: it is not sweet, it is not banal, and the fruit isn’t masking the complexities of the alcohol.

It’s essentially a raspberry martini. And you know how I feel about martinis.

The Clover Club is a cocktail to wheel out when you’re sitting in the garden on a sunny evening. It’s a bloody excellent crowd-pleaser, too — more accessible than a martini, and good looking to boot.

Clover Club cocktail shot from above. Raspberry red.

There are a bunch of different recipes, some of which involve stewing raspberries and such malarkey. Don’t bother. I think it works better (and it’s certainly a whole lot simpler) using good raspberry jam. Here’s how I do it, anyway.

Clover Club Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 parts gin (a classic London gin is best: Tanqueray, Gordon’s, etc)
  • 1 part dry vermouth (Noilly Prat or Dolin are both good)
  • 1½ parts lemon juice (freshly squeezed, natch)
  • ½ part raspberry jam
  • Raspberry or lemon twist

Chuck the above ingredients except the last into a cocktail shaker, fill it with good chunky (solid) blocks of ice, then shake for 20 seconds or so.

Strain the resulting liquor (innit pretty?) into a cocktail glass you’ve whipped from your freezer (a Nick & Nora glass is lovely). For a nice, smooth result, you can double-strain it (ie. pour from the cocktail shaker strainer through a finer sieve into the glass). But it’s by no means disastrous if you can’t be bothered to do that.

You get top marks if you have a fresh raspberry or two with which to garnish this, but in the absence thereof, a twist of lemon peel will do just fine.

One of summer’s best cocktails.

Fast Food: Courgette & Tomato

It’s Thursday. You’re hungry, you’re tired, you’ve just got off a train filled with wankers, and you need fodder. This is what you cook.

So, what I’m doing here is frying courgettes. They just turned up, today, in the vegetable box and they’re perfect for the quickest of quick suppers.

I mean, I was on the way home and part of me was tempted to pick up a pizza from Waitrose. But this is barely more trouble, and fantastically nicer.

Those courgettes, then. They’re cut into fat fingers and they are lobbed into a pan with lots (I mean lots, you stingy bugger) of olive oil, on a good medium/high heat. The fingers are frying and acquiring golden-brown outlining where the flesh is starting to catch on the pan and caramelise. Perfect.

A couple of minutes back I chucked in some roughly sliced garlic (it happened to be wet garlic, since that too turned up in aforementioned box, but dry garlic would be fine), and this too is benefiting from the pan’s Midas touch.

Next, tomatoes. Don’t faff around skinning them. Hell, don’t even bother de-seeding them. Just quarter them and chuck them in. Four or five? However many you want. Turn the heat down to a simmer. I didn’t, but if you’re feeling fancy, you could dosh in a bit of vermouth or sherry or white wine at this point. DESPAIR NOT if you have none open, or (indeed) if you’d rather save it for your parched Thursday evening gob.

Speaking of parched — you have a drink, right? I mean, I just assumed… Mine’s a Negroni Manzanilla, since you asked.

Our courgettes and tomatoes are simmering nicely and we have our negroni. At this point, we see what herbs present themselves for duty. Since I’m a smug wanker who recently planted a bloody herb garden, I’m spoilt for choice, so I’ve picked out some oregano (not too much) and quite a lot of mint. You, though, might prefer basil or parsley or chives or thyme…

Grab a good old bunch of whatever herb(s) you favour and get them washed and ready.

Now, what you’re waiting for is for your tomatoes to start to collapse and release their juices and to commingle milkily with the oil. You don’t want this to go to pulp; you still want those tomato quarters to retain some structure. Have a taste and if it seems a bit sweet, squeeze over some lemon.

Season the crap out of it (don’t hold back with the salt). Scatter on your herbs. And you’re done.

Scoop this out of a bowl with some good bread. Or just eat it with a spoon, you animal.

Tomato, courgette, garlic and herbs in a bowl, ready to be EATEN.

Bargain Booze: Esprit de Puisseguin Saint-Émilion from Waitrose

Today’s Bargain Booze is a Bordeaux from Waitrose. 1/3 off at the moment. It may not set your meticulously curated world alight, but it’s pretty good. A proper everyday Bordeaux.

Consider this a weary, ambiguous gesture in the direction of topicality. Another occasional series of posts wherein I’ll highlight alcoholic offers and deals that you might find interesting.

Today’s is Esprit de Puisseguin 2016, a Saint-Émilion that’s currently 1/3 off at dear old Waitrose, bringing it from £13.49 to £8.99. As I said: BARGAIN BOOZE.

It’s not bad stuff. Sure, there’s a bit of tannin grabbing away at your cheeks like an old granny at those of a chubby baby, but whack it into a decanter (or just a bloody measuring jug for all I care) for half an hour and it softens up nicely.

It’s not going to set your meticulously curated world alight, but it’s pretty good. A proper everyday Bordeaux.

I’ve said before that I don’t tend to buy supermarket Bordeaux in this price bracket, as I think there tends to be better price:quality ratio elsewhere — and I probably wouldn’t steer you towards old Esprit de Puisseguin at full price, to be honest. But reduced to under a tenner, it’s rather a good shout.

Also: Puisseguin in my mind has become Pissed Penguin. Extra marks.

The Society’s High Strength Gin Martini

This is wonderful gin. It’s not trying to be anything else. It’s juniper and citrus and booze. And it’s smoother than you could ever hope to be, mate.

Christ, yes. A martini with the Wine Society’s High Strength Gin.

I know it’s been a while, and I know this is going to look cursory. Like I’m fobbing you off.

Fob fob fob.

But, listen. The Wine Society’s High Strength Gin costs £19 for a bottle. That’s got to be some kind of fabulously benevolent joke, right? I mean, every artisanal gin-wanker on the planet is selling their wares for £30+ a pop — and good luck to them. But, right here, you have a bloody fantastic gin (at 50% ABV, no less) for nineteen sodding quid.

So you get home. You grab your martini glass from the freezer. You lace it with a dash of vermouth (mine’s Noilly Prat at the moment, but more often Dolin). You swirl the glass to get that vermouth coating the sides. Then you lift your Wine Soc Gin out of the freezer and you pour it on top. Generously.

You sling on your lemon twist. And you Friday.

This is wonderful gin. It’s not trying to be anything else. It’s juniper and citrus and booze. And it’s smoother than you could ever hope to be, mate.

Fob fob fob.

Fort Gin Review: Mighty Fortress or Crumbling Ruin?

Now, a fort is supposed to protect you against danger, right? I’m not convinced. Fort Gin, y’see, is pretty damn dangerous in itself. Take a gulp and you’ll understand why…

Portsmouth! Following last week’s account of our adventures at Portsmouth Fish Market, we’re back to Pompey today — but this time we’re swapping fish for fortifications. Specifically, Fort Gin (£31.95, Master of Malt), which is made by the Portsmouth Distillery.

The name Fort isn’t arbitrarily chosen: the distillery occupies one of Portsmouth’s old naval fortresses — designed, I suppose, to ward off whatever bunch of undesirables Portsmouth was worried about at the time.

You’d expect a gin called fort to be rather solid, heavy, strong — wouldn’t you? Probably pretty classic, punchy stuff? Well, follow me, my pretty one. Follow me into the Fort and you may be surprised…

I had my first gulp of Fort Gin at a tasting here in Petersfield, organised by the lovely General Wines. But a gulp was not enough. On the back of that gulp, I went to General Wines’ shop and bought a bottle of the stuff.

Fort Gin, you see, is bloody delicious. This is so smooth a gin that you can very happily sip away at it without any tonic or other accoutrement, pretending to be all mannered and sophisticated. Because that’s how society regards people who drink gin neat, isn’t it?

It’s smooth and it’s sweet. I don’t mean actually sweet in the sense of being sugary, but the botanical elements give it a powerful impression of sweetness. There’s definitely juniper there, but there’s also a lot of (warm, aromatic) spice, which we’ll talk about more below.

As usual, I’ll burble a bit about how Fort Gin tastes in three contexts: the G&T, the Negroni and the Martini. But I do suggest you try this bugger on its own too.

The Fort Gin and Tonic

Right. You need to use a light tonic here. Fever Tree Naturally Light is the one I’d suggest. And don’t you go sloshing it into your glass like a maniac. Because this gin needs remarkably little tonic to reach its ideal balance, in my view. Try it with 1:1 ratio and see what you think.

The Fort G&T is bloody good. It has that delicious creaminess of toasted nuts (almonds or cashews), and while there’s plenty of juniper to keep us anchored, the dominant flavour I taste is cardamom. Which is good, because I happen to like cardamom quite considerably. There’s also coconut and plenty of floral shenanigans going on. In concert, those flavours gel beautifully, as they might in, say, a South Indian curry. Double down on that, I suggest, by chucking a wedge of lime in there. Sodding delicious. A benefit (or danger) of the fact that Fort requires so little tonic is that you can get a good few drinks from a single Fever Tree mini-bottle or can.

You’ll get through them quickly, I’ll warrant.

Fort Gin and Tonic Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

The Fort Gin Negroni

Hmm. This one’s a bit weird. The negroni context amps up the sweetness already present in Fort Gin, which isn’t really called for. What’s more, adding cardamom to the negroni’s already crowded flavour profile turns it into a bit of a riot. It’s still nice, I should say, but rather all over the place. You don’t get the benefit of Fort’s elegance and subtlety, here, that’s for sure. It does have a rather lovely creamy aftertaste though.

Personally, I’m not sure you’d want to spend over 30 quid on a bottle of Fort Gin only to use it to make negronis.

Fort Gin Negroni Verdict

Sip it!

No. Instead of negronis, you want to use it ALL for…

The Fort Gin Martini

Christ, this is smooth. Smooth and sweetly floral. Rose. Soft cinnamon. Vanilla. Cream — oh god, cream.

A Fort Gin Martini is alarmingly easy to drink. It makes a martini that slides down your throat in the sweetest, softest, most beguiling way. It’s rather a long way, then, from the typical experience of this noble cocktail: if you’ve read me blathering on about the perfect martini, you’ll know that my platonic ideal of the martini is a pretty punchy piece of work.

A Fort Martini, though, caresses rather than thwacks. It’s, as I may have mentioned, extraordinarily, creamily smooth. It makes an extremely accessible martini. It is not standard Parn issue stuff, but it is bloody delicious nevertheless.

Serve it with lemon twist, for god’s sake; an olive in this context would be barbaric.

I tried it with Blackdown Vermouth (£20.15, Master of Malt — made in neighbouring Sussex; review in the works) and the result was almost indecently floral. Genuinely quite extraordinary. I also tried it with my staple, Dolin Chambery (£10.49, Waitrose). I prefer it with the more austere and pared-back Dolin: I don’t think Fort Gin needs extra florality and sweetness, and the Blackdown slightly over-eggs a pretty damn deliciously eggy pudding. The Dolin keeps it in better balance.

Fort Gin Martini Verdict

Verdict: Neck it!

In summary, then: this is a very fine gin. If you prefer your gins trad, or aggressive — or if you don’t like cardamom — it won’t be for you. But otherwise I urge you to give it a gulp. Hole yourself up in your fortress, mix up a martini, sit back and enjoy the siege.