Gin and tonic: From Holland to India and all the way to London

NB Gin

If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably be sitting down at the end of a long week to a well-deserved gin and tonic right about now but have you ever thought about where it originated?

Okay, your thoughts might not be as consumed with gin as ours are, but it does have a fascinating story since it was first produced in the 1600s.

A chap named Sylvius de Bouve is credited with the development of what we know as gin today in the 16th Century, although it was probably rather less refined than the spirits we enjoy now.

Mr de Bouve – a Dutch physician – wanted to create a spirit with strong medicinal qualities and it’s well documented that it was believed to help circulation and other ailments. The juniper berry had been used as a medicine for centuries before Mr de Bouve got his hands on it and records also show it was even used in the fight against the plague!

There’s some debate about just how gin became such a massive hit in London and subsequently throughout the UK but many gin experts believe that it was brought back by English soldiers fighting in the Dutch War of Independence in the 1580s.

By the early 18th Century, gin was at the centre of a spirits revolution in London and its popularity explosion had politicians worried. Public drunkenness, illegal distilling and general unruly behaviour lead Parliament to slap the drink with huge taxes.

But what about the tonic, we hear you say. You can’t enjoy a refreshing G&T without the tonic! Okay, okay. We’re just getting to that bit.

Ah yes, the ‘T’ in G&T has an equally fascinating story and it centres around quinine from the bark of the cinchona tree. Europeans discovered the value of the plant in fighting malaria during the 17th Century, after the Spanish had conquered parts of South America.

But how did these two drinks marry into the delicious couple we all enjoy today? Well, we have India to thank for that, or British soldiers stationed in India to be precise.

Around the 1820s the soldiers began to add gin to their tonic ration, why not, and as time moved on this became pretty much THE only way to enjoy your tonic. The G&T was born.

It should also be mentioned that there were health reasons behind the ration of tonic. It was seen as a vital tool in the fight against malaria in the colony and gin was added to cut through the bitterness. Sounds like as good an excuse as any…

From fighting the plague and malaria, inebriating war-ravaged soldiers and worrying Parliament to once again being the drink at the centre of a London spirits revolution, our old friend gin has had quite a history.

And you thought it was just a pleasant drink to enjoy at the end of a long week. Have a wonderful weekend! Chin chin!

The kink that makes NB Gin perfect, in an imperfect kind of way

NB Gin waitresses

Would you rather be perfect or unique? For NB Gin, those two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, we like to say that we are unique in our own perfection.

Not many would consider a kink to be perfect. It’s usually the result of a mistake; of a heavy hand or an unfortunate collision but the kink that we are talking about is now integral to the gin we produce. You could say it’s engrained in what we do.

When the copperhead still was being lovingly put together, we ended up with a kink in one of the pipes. Others would fix that sort of thing right away but when NB Gin was first crafted in that still, the result far exceeded what even our high expectations were. Why would we want to change that?

You see, fads come and go in a flash, especially when it comes to drinks, but quality will always endure.

We’re most definitely at the centre of a gin revolution, as many of our fans will tell you, and we’re definitely not stuck in our ways but there are some things you simply don’t change. That kink would probably drive neat freaks to distraction but to us – in a weird kind of way – it’s as an integral to our artisan gin as the eight botanicals that go into NB.

All this talk about kinks and imperfections might make you think that we are nonchalant about how we produce our gin but that could not be further from the truth. We spent countless hours in the early days making sure absolutely everything that went into NB Gin was as perfect as it could be and, believe us, that commitment has not changed since those formative distilling days.

Our master distiller would never compromise on anything. You could call him a hard task master distiller… but we would never say that.

It goes back to that word, perfection, again. For him anything less than perfect just will not do. It’s that simple.

Okay, so practically every fine drinks producer might wax lyrical about quality and perfection but to many of them, they’re just words. They’re part of a marketing operation to sell more units. Talk to our master distiller about marketing and watch his reaction. He doesn’t have time for that – there’s another batch of NB Gin reaching a crucial stage in the distilling process!

Long before we thought of telling the world about our drink, we tested, we trialled, we plagued friends to sample our product. Only once we were absolutely sure that the artisan gin we had produced was of a quality that could rival the best gins in the world, then we cast a fleeting glance at the market. Not the distiller though, his focus is only ever on that still, with its little kink.

 

All this talk of kinked pipes might lead you to think we’ve spent too long tucked away in the distillery. Maybe we have, but give NB Gin a try and you’ll probably understand why we’re so keen to keep our process consistent. Like we said, we’re unique in our own perfection… or imperfection.

Visit our website for more information or to contact us. Chin chin!

Come in, sit down and make yourself comfortable! Can we get you a drink?

Viv and Steve photo

Creating something that people love is an odd thing, especially when you started out just tinkering with ideas and having fun.

NB Gin was borne out of a desire to create something that we could be proud of and that we would enjoy doing. Something that we could say, “Yip, we made that.” Nothing else.

We really had no grandiose visions of creating a brand that people would come to love. We didn’t even think about people buying the product at first.

But first thing first – you must create something that is truly the best you can make it. That was crucial at the start for us. If it’s not going to be the best you can possibly do, then what’s the point?

Perhaps experimenting with botanicals and an old bashed pressure cooker were not the most auspicious beginnings but, hey, we had to start somewhere.

We like to think that all the quirks and backstories, trials and errors, have all gone in to make NB Gin what it is today and we are routinely blown away by the feedback that we get from those who drink our produce.

The stories we could tell you… wow! There have been some really exciting days, some very tough days and some days that we’ll never forget. It has always been fun though. If it weren’t fun, then what would be the point? We aim to create something that people enjoy and that they want to talk about and share with their friends.

To that end, we thought it was about time to start talking to you in a little space we can call our own. This is for those who love gin, those who buy our gin, those who don’t and those who might just be interested in learning more about the gin revolution – welcome to the NB Gin Blog!

It’s really quite exciting to think that over the coming months and years, we get to share all the stories and news about our artisan gin in this little digital corner of the world.

The next 12 months look set to be massive for us and we’ll be telling you all about it all right here.

It’s been a real adventure from day one for NB Gin and every day seems to bring a new opportunity or challenge, which we relish.

We have a passion for what we do and we want to let you in on that. Whether you love artisan gin or not, we want to make this a welcoming and enjoyable place to come. There will be a prize or two and perhaps even some exclusives to those who follow the blog.

So, pour yourself a drink (it is Friday evening after all), settle in and enjoy our stories. We’ve got lots to tell you!

And to think it all started with an old pressure cooker.

Chin chin!

Want even more news about NB Gin? Follow us on Twitter here and like our Facebook page here. We have a competition where you can win a bottle of our gin right now (entries close on Monday, January 26th 2015) so head on over!