In the late ’90’s my wife and I decided to have one last holiday with friends before embarking on the journey of joy that is parenthood, and so, in September 1997 I found myself with three mates on a road trip, beginning with a few days bothering Mickey in Florida, and ending with a few days bothering lap dancers in New Orleans. In between, on the leg from Atlanta to Nashville, we decided it would be a good idea to take a detour into the hills to visit the Jack Daniels distillery. Our only cultural reference at that time for the Appalachians was the film Deliverance so we left the interstate with a certain sense of apprehension that was compounded by us getting lost an hour or so later. Stumbling across a small railroad town we decided to ask directions of man who appeared to be the local barber, standing outside the shop with his neighbours. He was dressed in a checked shirt and what seemed to be Waltons-era slacks, and, as if he weren’t stereotypical enough, he actually spat on the floor as I approached. “Excuse me, sir, could you possibly tell me how to get to Lynchburg?” I said nervously. “Why you boys want to go to Lynchburg?” he replied, not quite what I was after. “We want to go to the Jack Daniels distillery” I said, hopefully. “Then you boys want to be going to Lynchburg” he replied, with unassailable logic. “Yes, but how do we get to Lynchburg?” I asked again. “Why you boys want to go to …” – at this point, just as I’m wondering how my pig-squeal sounds, I hear the engine start – my friend has retreated to the car, allowing me and my pert young buttocks to bolt for freedom.
Anyway, we finally arrived at the Distillery, and the tour was excellent. We were led around by a man in denim dungarees, not unlike Uncle Jesse of Hazard County, and I was stunned how rustic the place felt. Uncle Jesse, however, constantly needed to remind us how different their methods were to the “boys in the hills”, and he would wave his arm in the direction of the surrounding country. I’ve often wistfully wondered if those stills really existed, what they looked like, and who was tending them.
Wonder until last Friday that is. Mrs LiveForLunch and I went to a gin tasting organised by Wirral Gin, the brainchild of Eric Healing and his wife. Eric set up mygin.co.uk in order to produce small batches of gin with customised botanicals for the corporate and wedding favours market, and he produces these 3-4 bottles at a time on his still “Thumbelina” (pictured) in Spital. Wanting to produce a local artisan gin, he organised a series of tastings in bars across the Wirral to blind test two candidate recipes against a commercial gin (Bombay Sapphire) which acted as the “control” in the experiment. We could only get the final tasting, at Hoose in Hoylake, as the other remaining tastings were sold out, and clearly the response from other tastings was overwhelming enough that the final recipe had been selected, a wonderful gin featuring bog myrtle notes with a hint of coriander. The tasting was still great fun though, and just to be contrary, our preference was for the losing preparation, a winter gin that tasted to me of oranges and cloves, but that may have just been the weather! I’ll still be grabbing a sneaky bottle come next payday, though. Wirral Gin is available here at £37.50 which strikes me as rather reasonable considering the price of its competitors.