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Gin Society talks to James Atkinson, award-winning journalist and creator of the insightful Drinks Adventures podcast.
In your 10 years as a drinks journalist, how have you seen the industry – specifically the gin industry – shift and evolve?
The number of new distilleries there are and the number of new products – just the breadth of what’s out there – is incredible. Nowadays, across all drink categories, and none more so arguably than gin, we’re seeing the splintering of gin into lots of different categories. Like pink gins and contemporary Aussie gins made with native botanicals.
There are now all these subsets that exist within that one category. I think it can be quite confusing for people and it’s something the industry – and distillers – could work on. To make it easier for people to find a gin that’s going to best suit their flavour preferences and work with the drinks they’re using them in.
Tell us a little about the Drinks Adventures podcast.
After some seven or eight years of writing about drinks, I noticed that most of the industry media were all very focused on one category – wine. For many people who are really ensconced in the wine industry, it’s almost like they don’t know there are other categories.
Rather than focusing on one category of drinks, I became more and more interested in trying a broad array of things, like whiskies, gins and sakes. I found I had preconceived notions about some beverages. For example, I would have said, ‘I never drink cider.’ Then I discovered that cider can be amazing, like French ciders and, more recently, Australian ciders that are more like fine wines.
From that, I thought there was a place for a podcast exploring the whole world of drinks with an open mind. I wanted to look at them equally and challenge listeners to perhaps reconsider some of the drinks they might normally not go to. That was how it all started.
What do you like most about gin as a spirit?
Probably its versatility and the freedom that it gives to distillers to create something new. As long as they start with juniper, there is an incredible amount of freedom in working with botanicals – especially in Australia. There is also such a diversity of flavour profiles.
To put it really simply, whisky is made from grain, rum is made from sugarcane, and where gin comes from is really diverse, and that’s quite unique in the world of spirits.
How do you like to drink gin?
I tend to stick with the classics. I enjoy a good G&T, a Martini and a Negroni. They are probably my most frequently consumed.
What’s the most enjoyable gin experience or adventure you have ever had?
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go to Japan with Suntory. I toured Japan and visited a couple of their distilleries. Part of that included learning about how Roku Gin was made. There is something very mystical and clever about the way that the Japanese go about crafting their spirits.
You are on a desert island. Which three gins do you bring with you and why?
Sipsmith London Dry Gin. It’s a real favourite of mine. I think that if I’m going to be on a desert island, I’ll want a classic, reliable, everyday dry gin that makes a brilliant G&T.
Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin, because it’s my partner’s favourite. We’d need a nice after-dinner digestif to have and I do enjoy a Bloody Shiraz on the rocks.
Another one I’ve enjoyed in recent years is Underground Spirits Gin from Canberra. It’s a really good Australian interpretation of a dry gin using native botanicals that are delicately and beautifully balanced. It’s another favourite of mine.
You’re a gin-based cocktail. What are you and why?
A Martini. It’s direct, concise and gets the job done.