Ten years ago we were holding our noses to knocking back cheap tequila in bars, licking up salt and sucking on limes to get it down.
Then we discovered sipping tequilas. Gold, aged tequilas that had been crafted with as much care as fine whisky.
To sip gin, though, is a different story, isn’t it? A spirit conceived for medicinal use, later becoming a drink favoured by the poor, its recipe has historically been shaped partly by the need to mask its potency and the caustic flavour of the alcohol.
To sip it then, to savour the flavour on purpose rather than attempt to mask it with strong-flavoured tonic, may previously have seemed like madness.
Now though, as more and more master distillers work on small batch gins with cold-distilled botanicals and delicate flavours, sipping gin has become a distinct possibility.
Botanicals like seaweed, heather and foraged violet flowers have surfaced in new Scottish, Welsh and Cornish gins.
Much is made of the process – extracting the botanicals as carefully as possible to allow their flavours to flourish in the finished product, and there really is no need to drown out the flavours with tonic.
Now, this new jasmine gin, Willem Barentsz, takes us yet another step further down the route to sippable gins.
Named after the 16th century Dutch explorer, Captain Willem Barentsz, the light, floral gin has jasmine as its key botanical, along with more classic botanicals like juniper (which all gin must contain to be categorised as a gin), coriander seed, angelica root, orange peel, almond, liquorice, cassia bark and orris root.
It has a split base, made of a combination of both wheat and rye grains, which, says its maker Michael Claessens, gives it ‘added dimension and a unique character’. The wheat, he says, gives a crisp, lively mouthfeel while the rye brings ‘depth, roundness and sweetness’.