Back in 2009, in the early days of The Reconnoisseur, I espoused the virtues of Martin Miller’s gin. I had recently discovered this UK-distilled, Iceland-blended spirit and it remains a favourite, partly because of its excellent flavour and purity, but also because drinking it is my way of paying respect to its creator, the late publisher, collector, hotelier and all-round bon viveur Martin Miller, who went shooting through to the great distillery in the sky a couple of years ago.
But while I’ll always remain loyal to Miller’s, I must admit that my head has recently been turned by a truly brilliant “small batch” gin called Wicked Wolf (around £35 for 70cl), which is being produced right here in my home county of Devon by one of those great institutions – a husband and wife team. Pat Patel and Julie Heap moved from London six years ago to live full time at their weekend bolt hole in Exmoor, where they continue to pursue successful careers in marketing and graphic design. Keen to add another string to their bow, they decided to tap into the current enthusiasm for artisan gins last September by setting up a copper alembic still in an outbuilding – and are now producing 300 bottles a week, with rising demand promising to see production double within the next few months.
What makes Wicked Wolf special is the fact that it contains 11 carefully balanced botanicals (typically, a fine gin contains six to 10), each chosen and blended by Patel, who has honed his senses of smell and taste over a lifetime of hanging around in his Indian family kitchen. In addition to the essential juniper, Wicked Wolf also contains lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, cardamom, hibiscus, lemon and orange peel, grains of paradise, angelica, coriander and cubeb pepper. Only one of these botanicals is added to each distillation, with the resulting 11 separate distillates being carefully blended to create a uniform (and delicious) flavour.
After the delightful aroma and superb taste, the thing that strikes me most about Wicked Wolf is there isn’t even a hint of “burning” on the way down – even when drunk neat. Patel recommends serving it that way over a sprig of thyme, complemented by ice and lime – but it’s equally good with a quality tonic water.