The Gin Explorer Club: January Box Review

March 08, 2017

If you think back to summer last year, then you may remember that I wrote a blog post about my first ever Gin Festival, which took place in Leeds. It was a completely new experience for me as I had only ever been to beer festivals before - but me and Martin had a whale of a time, and since then my appreciation for gin has grown tenfold. Now, if I'm not having a beer as my alcoholic beverage, then you can bet that it is a gin I'm having! Over the last eight months or so, I've managed to try some truly exceptional gins, but I'm always curious about trying new ones. This is where the Gin Explorer Club steps in! I was asked if I'd like to review their January box*, and of course I grabbed the chance with both hands. Now, I had indeed (and mentioned in said blog post linked above) heard of the Gin Explorer Club, but didn't get to spend a lot of time at their stand at the festival as it was too busy. Therefore, I didn't know exactly what I was going to get in my exciting new box - I deliberately didn't look online in order to not spoil myself! Continue reading to find out what was in the box and my thoughts on it.

The Gin Explorer Club - January Box Review
The Gin Explorer Club - January Box Review
The Gin Explorer Club - January Box Review
The Gin Explorer Club Pamphlet

Before I delve into the contents of the box however, let's talk about the packaging. When it arrived, I didn't even know that it was the box at first, as the outer packaging was absolutely huge! I was grateful that it was well protected, but it did seem quite excessive - I'd like to see the Gin Explorer Club cut down on this in the future. However, once I wrestled my way inside, my box finally rose up to greet me. I really liked the design of the box - it was designed to mimic an old-fashioned suitcase, and put me in mind of a traveller setting off on their adventures! Now, as mentioned previous, I had no idea what to expect from this box - I didn't know whether it was going to be one full size bottle, or a few smaller ones. I was very pleased to discover that it was the latter! I know there are other gin subscription boxes that offer you the former each month; but I think the downside to that is if you don't end up liking the product, you're stuck with a big bottle and nowhere for it to go. I like the idea of being able to try a few gins each month, and by the end of it picking a favourite to potentially buy a full size bottle of - this you can do directly from the Gin Festival website. Inside each box for the month comes a pamphlet, telling you all about the products included in the box. This not only tells you what you are getting, but some interesting information about the products in question and some suggestions as to what to do with them. January's theme was "Ginuary", and celebrated making it to the end of "Dry January" and rewarding yourself with a nice glass of gin and tonic. I never participated in it, but I wasn't going to turn their advice down! It also takes you on the journey around the world, starting from Bedale, through Thornbury, Chiswick and finishing at Still Bay (a total of 6374 miles!) with the four gins that are in the box. I really liked the pamphlet, and think that it adds a nice touch to the box - I love to read everything there is to know about new products that I receive!

Spare Fruit Pear Crisps in the The Gin Explorer Club January Box
The London Essence Co Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonic Water in the The Gin Explorer Club January Box
The London Essence Co Classic London Tonic Water in the The Gin Explorer Club January Box

So, let's get into what's actually in the box, shall we? I will get to the gins in a moment, but first let me tell you what was included with them. The mixer of choice for any gin is of course a tonic, and in this box there were two new ones for me to try, both from The London Essence Co. I've never heard of this brand before, let alone tried anything from them, so I was excited to have these with my new gins. The London Essence Co aim to produce drinks that are both low in calories and naturally sweet, to provide the most authentic flavour. The variations included in January's box were the Classic and Grapefruit & Rosemary; the latter sounded particularly interesting to me, as I had never tried a flavoured tonic before. I couldn't wait to get stuck in! Next up was a packet of Spare Fruit Pear Crisps, again a product I have never heard of before. The ethos behind this product is rather brilliant; the company buys fruit that supermarkets won't accept, and that would otherwise be going to waste. From all this fruit (and there will be a lot - think how many will not look perfect, but will still taste fine?), they produce these 100% natural, air-dried crisps that have no added sugar or other flavourings. It's a simple idea, but one that I've personally never seen done before. These tasted great, really fresh and full of flavour; I would never have guessed that they were made from 'wonky' fruit! The final two products were two teas from The English Tea Shop; Organic Super Berries and Organic Calming Blend. Now, I'm sorry to admit that I don't really have anything to say about these two products, as I don't like tea - sadly even ones as lovely sounding as these! However, these have been passed on to those who will appreciate them, so they haven't gone to waste.

Gin selection from the The Gin Explorer Club January Box
Inverroche Gin Amber and Masons Slow Distilled Sloe Gin in the The Gin Explorer Club January Box6 o'Clock Damson Gin and Sipsmiths V.J.O.P. in the The Gin Explorer Club January Box

Finally, we're onto the gins - this is what we're all here for, right? All of these bottles were a generous 50ml each; enough for two servings from each one, giving you eight gin and tonics in total. First up is the Inverroche Gin Amber, 43%. Hailing from South Africa, Inverroche Distillery lies in the convergence between the Goukou River and the Indian Ocean, near the resort of Stillbay. The star ingredient in their gins is Fynbos, a type of vegetation that grows specifically in the Western Cape of South Africa. The Fynbos used to create the Gin Amber is selected from the coastal regions (meaning it is more aromatic and spicy), and the spirit undergoes a secondary infusion with this strain of Fynbos before bottling. This is why it has the unusual deep, amber tone that characterises this gin. I tried this gin with the classic London Essence Co. tonic and it was a surprise to me, as I had never tasted anything like it before. If I'm honest, it was a little too dry and bitter for my taste, but I noticed a pleasant warmth that I've not found in any other gin. A really unusual gin that I'm really happy to have tried!

Next is Masons Slow Distilled Sloe Gin, 42%. This is a company that I'm familiar with as they are based in Yorkshire (represent!), and I have tried their Original Yorkshire Gin before. This Sloe edition is their latest addition to the family, and is limited edition - so it will not be around forever! This gin is a bit unusual in comparison to other sloe gins, as the production process is slightly different. Instead of infusing the gin with sloes, as is traditionally so, Masons distill their sloes with Harrogate spring water and juniper - which is grown in their own garden. This is more like the traditional 'London Dry' method, and in turn produces a warming, mellow gin with a natural sweetness. This was my second favourite out of the four, and I believe that you can really taste the difference between this and other sloe gins. Sometimes the sweetness can taste artificial, but not so in this case. I tried this with a classic and an elderflower tonic, and preferred it with the latter.

Third in line is the 6 O'Clock Damson Gin, 26%. Obviously the first thing to note is its striking colour, which looked beautiful when served in a balloon glass. Using their 6 O'Clock Original Gin as a base, it is still made in the traditional way; using hand-picked British damsons and sugar to bring out the natural flavour. It doesn't taste dissimilar to the Masons Sloe Gin, but I found this to be a lot sweeter. However, it still had a rich dryness to it, which made it incredibly well balanced. This was my favourite gin out of them all, and I'm hoping that I will be able to afford to buy myself a full size bottle in the future! I've already recommended this gin to others, and very highly recommend it for any gin aficionados out there. I need to try and find their original gin now!

Last, but no means least, is Sipsmith's V.J.O.P., 57.7%. This was the strongest ABV of them all, and you could sure taste it! Standing for 'Very Junipery Over Proof', this gin, as the name suggests, contains a lot more juniper berries than their London Dry - three times more, in fact - and is distilled in three stages. The end result is an extremely aromatic gin, that worked beautifully with the Grapefruit & Rosemary tonic. Having tried their London Dry gin before, I was curious to see how this compared, and also to other London Dry gins I've had in the past. This was definitely a more heavy-going gin than the other three, but this was by no means a bad thing - the flavours really shone through, even when paired with a flavoured tonic. I found it to be extremely decadent (without being overpowering) and without losing any of the high quality that Sipsmith is known for - quite an achievement. If you're looking for a gin that will immediately impress, this is the one for you.

The Gin Explorer Club Pamphlet

These four gins lasted me for the month, and I have to say that I was really happy with the products that I received. Each gin was unique - some from familiar names, and some from not - but there was no "standard" gin here, which to be honest I was a little apprehensive about receiving. These are gins that are not going to be readily available in your nearest supermarket, and that was exactly what I was looking for from this box. I really enjoyed exploring the individual flavour profiles of each gin, and it has helped me on the journey of discovering what I like and don't like to have. I'm not a picky person, and am always willing to try something once - and this box has allowed me to do that! I was pleased to discover one gin that I really, really enjoyed - enough to want to own a full size bottle - that I would have never tried elsewhere. So, in short; if you enjoy your gin and are looking to shake things up and try something new, I would highly recommend the Gin Explorer Club. It offers good value for money, and is an excellent way to begin your gin journey and open yourself up to a whole new world!

The Gin Explorer Club is a monthly subscription service costing £24.99 per month.
Visit their website for more information and to subscribe!


Disclaimer: This box was sent to me for reviewing purposes, but this does not affect my opinion in any way.

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2 comments

  1. Great article, love your sharing so much, thank you!

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