South-west cities showdown – Round 2.
Having profiled Plymouth Gin in our previous blog, we’re turning our attentions to Devon’s inland cathedral city, where a decidedly smaller and much more recently established operation attempts to capture the essence of the settlement’s Roman past in spirit form.
Accordingly, the clear glass bottles in which the small batch, hand-crafted Exeter Gin is sold are circled by a line of Legionnaires in full armour with helmets, spears and shields to commemorate an occupation which spanned four centuries from AD 55 to AD 380. The distillers also tell us that their recipe uses ancient botanicals favoured by our conquerors, such as tarragon, cardamom, basil, cinnamon and marigold, along with 14 other flavours.
The family run business’s website is minimalist in its provision of information, but does reveal that the easily distinguishable citrus notes which assail you – along with the initial juniper hit – have been enhanced by drying orange and grapefruit peels in the oven prior to the steeping process. Further interest is added with popular botanicals such as all spice, angelica root and cubeb, while Goji Berries are a botanical we hadn’t seen referenced in relation to any of the 50 gins previously reviewed here.
The care and attention which sees the dozen and a half constituents combined with the base spirit in a traditional copper still is, however, reflected in the cost. I paid £42 for a 70 cl bottle of Exeter Gin at our local delicatessen in Bovey Tracey, compared to a typical purchase price for its sea-faring counterpart of around £25. Even the Plymouth Navy Strength can be bought for as little as £37 on line.
Interestingly the Exeter Distillery turns to another invader of the Wessex region – the Vikings – some five centuries later, to name their navy strength offering ‘Ivaar The Boneless’. The makers suggest this can be consumed neat over ice or, if you don’t want to end up ‘Ivaar The Legless’, with a regular tonic, accompanied by orange peel and a stick of cinnamon.
Living roughly midway between Devon’s two centres of population and commerce we have in theory an equal choice as to where we shop, spend a night out, or even watch a game of rugby; but one of them wins out most times due to its overall character and charm.
Our bottle was marked Batch75/54
When I moved here in the nineties, Plymouth Albion was the dominant team playing the oval ball game, but in the past decade Exeter Chiefs have come to the fore; even winning the Rugby Premiership for the first time in 2016-17. In fact the Chiefs’ England centre, Henry Slade, would make an ideal brand ambassador for the local distilled gin: which the makers describe as “Robust but Smooth”. For your bloggers, then, Exeter Gin finishes above Plymouth in the rankings.