In November 2019 we brought you the exclusive story of Les’s Damson Plum Gin, homemade from homegrown damson plums and a couple of bottles of London Dry.
The basic, very simple premise is that you put a whole lot of damson plums into a jar. Then you add the majority of the contents of a bottle of gin and a bit of sugar to taste, screw a lid on the jar and go away for a while.
When you come back, about nine months later, with luck you will have a jar of a ruby-red, plum flavoured gin.
And a whole lot of very gin-flavoured plums that look wrinkly like your skin does when you’ve spent too much time wallowing in a hot bath. The plums feel like prunes to eat, but they taste way better!
Not much more to it than that, really.
The first batch of Les’s Damson Plum Gin was most successful.
It had a fairly limited circulation. It was consumed mostly by the manufacturer, his immediate enclave and a few cognoscenti. To my knowledge most of the batch was used up by these worthies, and only a skerick of the Batch 1 Damson Plum gin remains. The by-produced gin-infused plums found another lease of life as a foundation for a boozy dessert at a local eating establishment.
The 2020 – LockDown Gin
Now we come to the second tranche. The 2020 expression.
This has been dubbed the Lockdown Gin. It was constructed in February 2020, just before the shutters came down on NZ. It was exposed to air again just after Auckland was released from its second lockdown in October last.
Hence Lockdown Gin.
In the Lockdown Gin, Les has increased the repertoire to three London Dry gins – a Tanqueray 40% abv, a traditional Gordon’s at 37.5% and a repeat of last year’s Greenall’s, also at 37.5%. To ensure that the relativities between components was maintained, the damson tree in the back yard was called upon for greater productivity. It obliged.
The decanting of the rubied gin has become quite a ritual, with photographs, note-takers and a range of admiring on -lookers.
The audience for the Official Opening of Batch 2 was also enlarged from those present at the first release. The guest list was increased to three couples who, I am sure. were chosen for their discernment in matters alcohol. Or possibly for their air of mild inebriation.
Or the lack of it. (the discernment, not the mild inebriation)
The jars of damson gin are carefully aligned with their donor bottle to ensure that there is no confusion as to sauce source – sorry, my American roots sometimes die hard!
Then begins the painstaking decanting of the liquid and plums into a bowl via a clean muslin filter cloth to keep the plums out of the new gin. This is, in turn, followed by tipping the bowl’s liquid contents into a sealable bottle – all, meanwhile, being kept with the parent gin to avoid confusion.
As with the first batch in 2019, all the new damson gins display a beautiful, stained-glass window ruby red and a flavour predominantly of almonds.
Nose: sweet, almonds and honey
Palette: almonds and stewed rhubarb, plums but no gin flavour.
Finish: tart. But not unpleasantly so.
Nose: lighter almond than the Tanqueray
Palette: tarter, but smoother and well balanced. The gin taste is apparent.
Finish: Plum in the flavour lingers
Nose: the almond flavour is present, but greatly reduced.
Palette: slightly harsher than the other two. The plum crumble that your Gran used to make.
Finish: More acerbic and biting.
There is a school of thought that Les might consider broadening the gin base for batch 3.
Following the success of his first two batches, it would seem fitting to include a wider range of gins – The Botanist from Islay’s Bruichladdich distillery, or perhaps a good NZ gin such as Island from Great Barrier Island or a Reid & Reid.
Les took an unmarked bottle to the annual wine club barbeque on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was very popular, especially amongst those who might have wondered where the CleanSkin Rosé came from.