I've had a bottle of Silent Pool gin kicking around for a while now and I don't know what to do with it. Actually, let me rephrase that a little: a Silent Pool gin bottle has been hanging around. The gin itself is long gone, but the bottle is too beautiful to throw away.
I have a bottle of Tanqueray 10 gin that's almost finished, and I don't think I'll want to throw that one away either. It just seems like a waste.
If only there was something good to do with them.
Well, it turns out there is: they can hold spirits again. A growing number of distillers now offer refills as a way of capturing some extra trade while reducing their carbon footprint. Silent Pool will refill your empty gin bottle for £33.30, which is 10% less than you'd pay for a new bottle of gin. If you've been drinking Adnams Copper House Gin you can get that refilled too.
The only problem is, you have to bring that specific bottle back to its source to get it refilled. I couldn't rock up at Silent Pool and get them to fill my Tanqueray bottle. But I could take it to East London Liquor Co. They'll refill any empty bottle and slap a new label on the front so you know what's inside it now.
Another option is to order your refills in another, recyclable container. Bullard's Spirits offers eco-refill pouches that can slip through your letterbox. In fact they're far from being the only ones to do this; booze pouches are becoming more popular and you can also get cans to refill your bottle.
It's a no-brainer once you think about it. In fact, I can imagine a retail model for a refill-only off licence that buys its spirits in bulk direct from the distillers and refills whatever bottle the customer rocks up with. I wonder what sort of discount you'd get on a 25-litre drum of gin...
🍸 Hilltop Martinis 🍸
Back in May I took a trip to Northumberland to visit the moorland home of Hepple Spirits. A growing number of gins these days seem to be eschewing juniper in favour of other botanicals. Not Hepple. Their spirit is rich with the piney-turpsey kick of this wild plant. It’s a native tree here in the UK, but one in serious decline.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself: do you know what juniper looks like? Have you ever tasted it on its own, without all the citrus, coriander and whatnot that come along with it in your favourite gin?
To be so unfamiliar with this native plant would once have been unthinkable. It was woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Lovelorn maids concocted potions from its berries with which to bewitch their crush, and later (perhaps if that worked a bit too well) to hasten unwanted pregnancies to an end. Its branches, people said, could protect against evil spirits; hanging them over doorways on the eve of Beltane (now May Day) was a sure-fire way of keeping mischievous fairies out, while burning them on Samhain (Halloween) repulsed your bothersome dead. Romans turned to juniper berries to give their gut-rot the heave-ho. Ancient Egyptians sought them out to rid themselves of tapeworm. English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper recommended them to Jacobean gents plagued by flatulence. If you needed to clear the air, burning its boughs delivered purification and blessings.
Read more in my latest story for Ferment magazine. As well as replanting juniper you’ll find wild horses and hilltop martinis at sunset. What’s not to like?
🍻 GBBF Giveaway 🍻
It’s not long now until the Great British Beer Festival returns, and I have two free tickets up for grabs. Make sure to follow me on Instagram to find out how you can get your hands on them.
🌿 Absinthe 🌿
Time now for me to ask you for something. Did you know that London has its own absinthe distillery? I will be visiting soon, and also checking out their “absinthe parlour” in Hackney. (Of course it’s Hackney.) But before that I want your absinthe stories, tips, recipes, recommendations — anything you’ve got on the green fairy. Drop some wisdom in the comments.
That’s all for this time. Looking ahead, I’m going to be celebrating with Anspach & Hobday on a year since the wonderful London Black nitro porter launched, exploring orchards and graf, the beer–cider hybrid, and checking out a project that turns brewery waste into eco-leather. Keep your eyes peeled for more.
I don't know if you've tried Batch Absinthe Gin, but it's pretty damn special and Psychopomp Absinthe is a truly unique spirit. Earthier than the French versions, more reminiscent of a Pastis, but still fabulous. Also Stig from Bareksten's Absinthe is heavenly on ice but lacks the colour I enjoy from adding to a cocktail.