Search for sloe gin champion

The finished brew awaits judging

I’ve finally worked out the details of our Rye News sloe gin competition. The date: Monday January 26. The time: 7.30pm. The venue: Rye Club, Market Road, Rye. Judging will start at 8pm.

Entries must be in a glass container containing at least 150ml – more if possible so we can all have a taste! So, if your sloe gin is sitting there maturing nicely and looking horribly tempting, taste it but don’t drink it all – save some for the competition.

The brew must be homemade; no shop-bought entries will be eligible, but could be brought along to be compared with the home brews. The label must show the entrant’s name and include the year as, in the spirit of fairness, there are two categories: for 2014 and for vintage. As the gin should be left to mature for at least 10 months, according to the experts, 2014 entrants would be at a distinct disadvantage were they to be judged against a 2013 vintage.

There will also be a general fruit-based tipple category – blackberry whisky, elderberry liquor, raspberry gin, damson gin, elderflower gin, for example – for which the label must clearly state the main spirit and fruit used.

There will be a panel of at least three judges (as yet to be appointed but definitely to include me) to sip, swirl and sniff their way through the entries. Afterwards, everyone is invited to sample the entries to find their personal favourite – if there’s enough to go round.

On a more professional level, Glasgow-based “liquid deli” Demijohn was recently crowned Sloe Ginster world champion for 2014. The annual competition is hosted by The George Inn at Frant, near Tunbridge Wells, and all proceeds were donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The world’s finest artisan sloe gin makers gathered at the pub to vie for the title on December 10. Demijohn, which also has outlets in Edinburgh, York and Oxford, ships its liqueurs worldwide through its mail-order operation.

Sloe Seduction based in Marden, Kent, was named gold medal winner for the South East. The company is also known for its award-winning chocolates, marmalade and chutney – all on a sloe gin base.

Winner in the homemade category was Grace Winey, who travelled to the event from her home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.