I get a little bit obsessed by damsons, and quinces for that matter, neither are impossible to get hold of but both are elusive enough to present a challenge. Last year was a poor one for damsons round my way and I failed to get any at all from any source. This year is looking more positive, on a cool and frequently wet day (no romantic summer memories to attach to this lot) I managed to secure the last two punnets on the farmers market. That gave me two kilos of quite small very dark damsons to play with. They would have been a pain for jam making - to much stone and skin not enough flesh, okay for jelly, and perfect for gin.
In my young day if you wanted damson or sloe gin you had to make it. You could, and can still, buy a Gordon's sloe which tastes a lot like cough mix. It's not unpleasant but it always seemed a bit pointless, though at least back then it came in a pretty bottle. I favour damson gin rather than sloe because in town you can at least occasionally buy damsons (picking sloes presents more if a challenge), and because they're that bit fruitier (less cough mixey). What with progress, and the current love affair with gin it's now fairly easy to get very good sloe and damson liqueurs from Plymouth, Hayman's and Sipsmith amongst others- for a price. Though as a nice man from Sipsmith's pointed out it's expensive because they're using their own excellent gin or vodka as a base.
I've never really understood how someone happy to spend upwards of £25 on 50cl of someone else's sloe gin will, when it comes to making their own, insist on the cheapest possible spirit. The cheapest gins are often made from a molasses based spirit (same as rum, and useful to know if you want to be sure it's gluten free) with the juniper and other botanical flavours added as essences and without re distillation (compound gin). For not very much more you can get a grain based gin that's been distilled with its botanicals in the proper manner (Sainsbury's is generally a good bet for finding something decent on offer in the UK). It's the price of a coffee well spent, the end results will be noticeably better and home made will once again be the best.