Thursday, August 4, 2016

Christopher Wren Gin with The Diary of John Evelyn

I'm not really making this gin journey in a very logical order, but I bought my bottle of 'Christopher Wren Gin' on the same day I got the 'Bloomsbury', it's the creation of the same master distiller, and it seems obvious to continue with it.

I went to the City of London distillery to buy it (again, it's easy enough to buy online, but I'd never actually been up close to St Paul's cathedral so it seemed worth making the trip). Until Sipsmiths changed the game in 2009 by getting the first licence to open a new distillery in London since 1820 (they had to change the law to do it) there was nothing like this happening. Now distilleries are opening up everywhere and the first thing to appreciate is how small they can be. Basically all you need is enough space for a good sized garden shed, so having a distillery in a basement bar below St Bride's (just of Fleet Street which somehow seems extra appropriate) is no problem at all. Having a distillery in the heart of the city again is an appealing idea, so it's maybe ironic that the gin I've chosen from doesn't actually seem to be a London gin style (I don't care).

We got gin from the Dutch, it became popular here after William and Mary came over in 1688, though if you haven't tried it, it's worth noting that Dutch genever is quite different in style to London dry. At that point it was a reasonably respectable sort of drink (not yet the low quality, flavoured with turpentine, gut rot, that Hogarth would immortalise - though that happened pretty quickly) so I assume that Wren would have indulged.

It was also at the City of London Distillery that I met Tom Nichol (master distiller) who told me it was far to expensive (and very honest man). It was £42 and the gin to share with my architect/architectural historian partner, that the bottle echoes the dome of St Paul's made it more perfect and worth at least £5 of that £42 to me. It is expensive, there's no need to spend as much to get a good gin, but I'm a sucker for shelf appeal - and I'm happy to pay for it (within reason) because the beauty of the bottle is part of the fun.

Meanwhile what to read with a gin like this? Pepys would be one obvious answer, but I don't have his diaries (does listening to bits of them on radio 4 count?). I do have John Evelyn's diaries though (not well read unfortunately - either by me, or generally, he's been totally overshadowed by Pepys) but he seems to have been friendly with Wren and it's the perfect sort of book for dipping in and out of whilst enjoying a good gin and tonic of an evening. There's nothing especially authentic about that combination, except that when I look at the bottle I'm reminded of that visit to the city and the history that stretches back to Evelyn and Wren's day.


  1. That is a very pretty bottle, worth the extra I feel.

  2. Absolutely worth the extra, and a good gin inside it too!