There I was innocently enjoying a music festival – the rather splendid Rockaway Beach, if you’re interested in that sort of thing – at Butlins, in the aristocratically named Bognor Regis, when my thoughts turned to gin!
I’ve been to a few festivals down here over recent years and my experience is that there are slim pickings for a Gin Devil in these parts, although Butlins have managed to drag themselves to within 20 years of contemporary by adding Hendricks to their back bar. Well done, Butlins!
One always lives in hope and a bit of poking around on the ginternet revealed a couple of watering holes worth exploring, and I hit gold in the newly refitted The Thatched House, in the nearby village of Felpham.
There’s a relaxed vibe and a good mix of customers. While food is prominent it’s firmly in the category of pubs which sell food, rather than being a restaurant which serves the odd pint. Fish featured strongly on the menu and I enjoyed a fine moules frites while perusing the credible gin menu. I am told they are steadily increasing their range as they spread the word that is gin around this corner of West Sussex.
For digestif, I was unable to resist the call of a local gin, from Chichester, which was completely new to me: Jarrold’s London Dry. The bottle is eye-catching and the spirit clocks in at a meaty 48% with a relatively minimalistic 7 botanicals; the distillers certainly didn’t lack bravery with this one, so let’s just hope they know what they’re doing.
- Persian limes
- Grains of paradise
A gentle bit of nosing revealed a big, soft and warm Juniper aroma, well rounded, enticing and full of hygge; a very promising start!
This full-on, but soft, juniper also dominated the flavour profile. This was firmly underpinned by a deep, earthy richness, which is usually down to angelica, and I admit I’m a bit of a sucker for any gin with a healthy dose of this magical botanical. I suspect calamus is also playing a part here, adding a bit of warmth and fragrance to the depth. It’s not a common botanical but I’ve noticed it cropping up in a few gins I really enjoy, such as the Colonsay from Wild Thyme Spirits.
The liquor is very smooth, with the lime giving a touch of freshness and some gentle spice coming through making this a rounded, balanced and exceptionally well-crafted gin. I highly recommend this to anyone who might enjoy the fir-fresh and earthy smell you get when the rains finally fall in a parched pine forest.
I only had time to sip a glass of this, neat with no ice, and it stood up well completely unadorned but I’m expecting this to really shine in a Martini or mixed with a good full-fat tonic and, with gins this well-balanced, you can choose a garnish to nudge it in pretty much whichever direction your fancy takes you at the time.
I also spotted Jarrold’s at the recently opened Dog & Duck micropub in downtown Bognor. In a town largely bereft of quality booze, and quality boozers, this is a place where it’s well-worth pulling up a bar stool and making yourself comfortable for a drink or two, whatever your tipple of choice.
The Wrap Up
From my brief, but memorable, taste this came across as a very fine gin; a bold opening gambit for a new distillery. I’m already looking forward to our paths crossing again, particularly thirsty to see what other delights they may pull out of their shiny 250 litre copper still in the future.
Back at Butlins I stand listening to Maximo Park, licking my lips and longing for another taste of Jarrold’s, but without having to escape to the nearest village. You never know, if Jarrold’s, and I, can hang in there for another 20 years or so, it may just happen.