Last night, Thursday January 28 saw the Rye News Sloe Gin Competition, which was held Olde Worlde Wines in Cinque Port Street.
The wine bar was packed with the entrants as well as eager spectators as samples of the 15 entries (11 ‘nouveau’ from this years crop and four vintage) were poured out by Rye News director, and organiser of the event, Dennis Leeds-George. The judges were Margaret O’Neill, a Ryer of long standing who was a judge last year, John Minter, representing Rye News and Graham Foster and Danny Delenio, both from Olde Worlde Wines.
The colours of the drinks varied from pale pink to ruby red and the flavours also provided considerable variation, from sweet to quite dry, some with herbal overtones, one with more than a hint of liquorice and the occasional sample that was felt, perhaps, to be lacking in intensity. It must be stressed,at this point, that none of the judges knew whose drink they were tasting – the judging was completely blind. Each gin was discussed by and then given an individual mark by every judge, the marks being totalled up at the end to give a winner.
In accordance with time-honoured tradition, the results were announced in reverse order. There was a three-way tie for runner-up: Ollie Campion, the Tomkinsons and the Old Surgery. The clear winner, however was the entry from John Minter, with three of the four judges awarding full marks. Although he was also one of the judges, John did not know which gin was his and afterwards thought he had marked it lower than the others. There will doubtless be a fair amount of grimacing and gnashing of teeth when the experienced sloe gin makers realise they were beaten by someone for whom this was the first attempt at making the brew.
In the Vintage section, the winner was a 10-year-old gin from Colin Robertson and which had a velvety smoothness that was unsurpassed by any others. Lucy and Dan Hardiman were runners up with a highly rated and slightly younger entry. Which just goes to show that if you can resist drinking the stuff for long enough, it really does improve with age.
Photo: Kenneth Bird