Book Review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Gin, Cake and Rucksacks: A Fun-Filled Tour of Lakeland Distillers. By Beth Pipe and Karen Guttrridge. Palatine Books. £9.99.
Gin’s the thing, so my daughter tells me, and she should know. And she’s not the only one. Beth Pipe and Karen Guttridge are equally or more committed. In fact they are so committed that, even though they’d never met – they had shared their passion on line – they decided to meet up nd go in search of the best Lakeland could offer in terms of gin.
Such a voyage of discovery, involved a great deal of self-sacrifice. Twelve days with someone you don’t really know suffering from a gin-sodden hangover every morning is not for everyone. The pair of them weren’t alike. In fact, apart from their love of gin and their being girls at heart, they were polar opposites. “Karen,” Beth tells us, “hates rain, I really don’t mind it. I hate shopping, Karen loves it. Karen loves Gregg’s sausage rolls, and I can’t bring myself to set foot in the shop.”
But the girls did get on and they did get round the distilleries, an amazing number of them altogether. Bus, shank’s pony and motorised sheep took them from Ulverston to Keswick via Cartmel, Cowmire, Bowland Bridge, Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere.
At Cartmel, after a rain-soaked day, they met Judith Wren, who is the woman behind Kin Toffee Vodka. It’s “a beautiful, rich, deep golden brown colour . . . rich and warm after a long soggy walk”.
Day Three began with gin for breakfast. The intention was to observe “the blue hue of Sharish blue Magic Gin turn to pink when mixed with tonic” - a very interesting observation and, when the observation had been made, it seemed a great pity to “leave the drink just sitting thee, so we plunged in with a pair of straws for our first ever breakfast tine G & T.”
On Day Nine they were in Keswick and driving round in an electronic sheep. Surprisingly, there are only ten of them in the county. They’re Renault Twizys, “small electronic cars with big personalities” and they’ve been painted to look like sheep. They’re equipped with two horns. One is serious and there to warn pedestrian’s of the silent approach of the electric car. The other makes a fun sound and can be used whenever you want to draw attention to yourselves, which Beth and Karen enjoyed doing. On the way to the Lakes’ Distillery, they called at the home of Langton’s Gin at the foot of Skiddaw. The owner, Nick Dymoke-Marr showed the eager pair how gin is made. He draws his pure water from an aquifer 330 feet below Skiddaw. His gin “contains eleven botanicals, including juniper, lemon and orange peel, liquorice and oak bark, which is collected from one hundred year old trees in the National Park.” After distilling four times, the slate-filtered water from Skiddaw is added and the gin is poured into seriously stylish bottles. There the spirit waits until, like a genie, it is released when someone opens the bottle.
They found the Lakes Distillery “a different kettle of fish to other distillers in the county”. This was no kitchen sink or garden shed outfit, but “a large, purpose built distillery”. And the gin. You don’t pursue gin with the dedication shown by Beth and Karen without becoming gin snobs. For them “the cinnammon and angelica in the gin gave it a really warm, rosy feel which went perfectly with the Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water.”
And one more useful tip the girls learnt on their exploration of the Lakes. For the inevitable morning after, try mashed bananas spread on toast and drizzled with honey.
I’ll tell my daughter about that one.