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So many gins at the record-breaking Feathers
We were enjoined at The Feathers Hotel in Woodstock last Friday to drink gin out of respect for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee, she being fond of a drop of the spirit — as was her mother. Dubonnet was the preferred accompaniment in both cases.
I did what I was told, more than once, during an event that was planned with another celebration chiefly in mind.
This was a splendid lunch, hosted by the hotel’s general manager Jeremy Duplessis, to mark The Feathers’ inclusion in Guinness World Records for having the largest collection of gin on the planet. Since the lunch actually preceded the counting of the 162-bottle hoard by adjudicator Jack Brockbank, chickens and hatchings came to mind.
All was in order, though, I am delighted to report, and a certificate authenticating the hotel’s special claim to fame is now proudly on view in the bar.
That so many different varieties of gin are available for display and sale is evidence of a remarkable transformation in the market that has taken place over the past few years.
Barely a month goes by without some new product being added to the range on offer. Only last week I was sent a sample of a new product from Britain’s longest serving gin distillers. Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin is distilled in small batches of 5,000 bottles, with juniper and coriander the main botanicals, and then stored for three to four weeks in whisky barrels. What effect this has on its flavour I am unable at present to say, since my sample remains unbroached at the time of writing.
A key role in the gin revival has been played by Martin Miller’s gin, introduced in 1999 and the first product in what is now know as the “super premium gin” market. It was fascinating to hear on Friday from the firm’s representative Liam Murphy concerning the genesis of the brand.
I was already aware of its most famous feature — that having been distilled in Langley, near Birmingham, in a hard-working still called Angela, it is then shipped out to Iceland to be cut with the purest water. It came as news to me, though, that its creator, Martin Miller, made his moolah from the Miller’s antiques price guides.
Liam proved an entertaining presence at our table for the fine lunch prepared by the Feathers’ chef Kevin Barrett. This included Hendrick’s cured salmon, a sensational duck dish with duck liver and hawthorn blossom (perfectly teamed with Crawford River Riesling 2005, as was the diver-caught scallop that followed) and grilled wagyu (well-marbled beef).
Further pleasures of the lunch for me were the companionship of my old friend Bill Heine, of Radio Oxford, on the opposite side of the table, and the chance to make a new friend in my immediate neighbour.
He was eminent mixologist Jared Brown, a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of gin — and many other drinks besides — whose skills were employed in the distilling of another popular recent addition to the gin market, Sipsmith.