…says PJ (Pat) Rigney, entrepreneur and creator of an Irish gin made in the tiny Irish hamlet of Drumshanbo. This is true, I discovered during my wanderings around the vast Vinexpo halls last month, stopping to try some of the new spirits on offer. One of them was Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin which has derived inspiration from Indian spices, among other magical ingredients.
I sipped the gin and was floored. Here was a gin that was both exciting and unconventional. I probed a little deeper, connnecting with Rigney, the owner of The Shed Distillery where it is made. Traveller and explorer, Rigney is creator of the ‘curiosity’-driven premium spirits coming out of his multi-spirit distillery – super-premium gin, vodka, handcrafted Irish Pot Still and Single Malt whiskey and new liqueurs will all be crafted here.
If you are in Ireland, stop by the distillery; because Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin is slow-distilled by hand in a gleaming medieval copper pot gin still fired by steam at The Shed (in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim in the northwest Ireland). Worth a dekko.
Excerpts from my interaction with him.
What struck me first at Vinexpo was the unusual name: Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin. Could you explain the name? (In India we have a very spicy masala powder from the Andhra Pradesh region known as gunpowder…!)
This is a very interesting question, which leads to the essence of the brand.
Our gin is slow-distilled by hand. The method combines vapour distillation of fresh citrus fruits with a special selection of oriental botanicals including gunpowder tea and local Drumshanbo meadowsweet.
Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin was a long time in the making, and indeed it was my travels across the world, including India, which eventually lead to the final selection of botanicals in the recipe. In fact, two of the 12 botanicals were discovered on my travels through India – cardamom and caraway seed.
On my journey East I stopped briefly in Western India, where I came across a small stand selling sweet, aromatic dishes. I picked up a bowl of shahi tukra, and was hit by the both sweet and savoury flavours of the small, yet powerful cardamom. And I knew cardamom would be key to the final recipe. It was in the bustling street of Kolkata that I was intrigued by the rich scents of sweet spices drawing me to an open-air spice market. A local merchant told me that his caraway seeds were the key to adding flavour to many traditional dishes. I believe strongly in mixing innovation with tradition and so I added caraway seed to my botanical bag.
Drumshanbo is where Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin is made and I included in the name as it is an inextricable ingredient of the gin.
The spices: coriander, star anise, cinnamon and gunpowder Chinese tea combined with traditional gin botanicals like juniper berries…. Isn’t there a concern that it might be too spicy or strong or ‘out there’ for some? I personally thought it was stunning and needed no embellishments or add-ons.
The tiny green pellets of gunpowder tea are probably what started it all for me. During one of my many voyages into terra incognita, I found myself part of a Moroccan tea ceremony. This ceremony is at the heart of all social gatherings, and it was a great honour to be invited.
Here I noticed the small, rolled, green leaves, brought from the Orient since the Tang dynasty of the 7th century. I instantly knew I needed to add them to my secret tabernacle back in The Shed Distillery. So I set off on my next journey to their source: the eastern province of Zhejiang, China, and I discovered many an interesting botanical along the way.
Endless ideas and recipes had been milling around in my mind for a number of years. On travels to China, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Africa and Europe I had picked up many unique botanicals and I had been experimenting with the different blends and flavours, so when The Shed Distillery was built I was ready to bring the experiments to life.
Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin is perhaps a little ‘out there’, but the combination and balance of botanicals with the vapour-infused Chinese lemons, kaffir limes and oriental grapefruits leads to a fresh and rounded experience up front with citrus; spicy notes are immediately evident. The expected juniper follows close behind. Gunpowder tea, meadowsweet and coriander are all notable. The overall impression is of a very well-balanced, surprising gin.
We are delighted to hear that there is so much curiosity around the brand in India as Indian botanicals are fundamental ingredients in Gunpowder Irish Gin! The gin is the essence of curiosity – all our brands are, and will be from the Curious Mind of PJ Rigney.
Founded on Winter Solstice 2014, we made history with the distillation of the first cask of whiskey in Connacht (one of Ireland’s four provinces) in 101 years! Premier Grand Cru Pot Still Single Malt Irish Whiskey are handcrafted in small batches with the emphasis on quality, craft and tradition. It takes three years and a day for whiskey to legally become whiskey so our first whiskey will be officially ready on Winter Solstice (21st December) this year. However, we have some very exciting plans for longer maturation of individual batches and we will be ageing them in an interesting selection of Bourbon and Sherry casks over the coming years.
Meanwhile we have recently launched our second super-premium gin – the Von Hallers brand, in partnership with the Hardenberg family in Germany. Von Hallers is created in Germany and crafted in Ireland.
We are also working on developing a new premium vodka at the moment. Also in the early stages of development is a distinctive Blackforest Gateau liqueur, which was inspired by one of my journeys to Bavaria…. But that’s all we can say for now!
Drink it with a generous wedge of fresh red grapefruit, chilled premium tonic and large cubes of ice to emphasise the gin’s refreshing citrus notes, advises Rigney. If you are adventurous, combine with chilli and mango infusions.
Or, if you are like me, on the rocks will do nicely, thank you.
Gunpowder gin is available in London stores from £35, and will be launched in India later in 2017.