Hendrick’s brand ambassador for Northern Europe Duncan McRae takes us through a “cocktail of cultural and curious occurrences,” as he informs the audience about the world of gin, from its cultural history through to its scientific make-up and how it's made.
McRae's evident joy for gin and for his job mean that his style is educational, engaging and humorous.
McRae is clearly passionate about “flavoured vodka” as he hesitatingly but more accurately calls it. If the audience were not already enthused enough with an early afternoon gin and tonic, his infectious enthusiasm spreads as his tells us how he managed to mould his degree-level philosophy dissertation into a study of gin addiction in 18thcentury London.
He embarks on a cultural history separately of both alcohol and juniper berries. The latter used everywhere from boosting ancient Greeks' physical performance to a diuretic in Holland; the health benefits of the juniper berry seem undoubtable. He guides us through the take-up and stately economic encouragement of gin into England to help prop up low domestic grain prices, and the following cultural collapse, destruction and infertility attributed to mother’s ruin, famously satirised in Hogarth’s “Gin Lane.” We discover how phrases such as “blind drunk” and “Dutch courage” came about, and McRae’s cultural run through history includes Pepys’ and Dickens’ thoughts on the spirit.
McRae explains the distillation process, traditional and modern, explaining how recipes for gin have changed throughout time, and focuses on Hendricks’ modern methods as inspired by whisky distillation methods. Set in a the kitchen of a exquisite Georgian boutique hotel, the use of demonstrations makes the event less like a lecture and more interactive. McRae's at his best, however, when his passion for history shines; I bet that dissertation is really interesting.
McRae's evident joy for gin and for his job mean that his style is educational, engaging and humorous. Refreshingly in a show that makes no attempt to hide its sponsors, despite culminating in a measure of Hendricks (also refreshing with floral tones of rose and cucumber), McRae’s final message for the audience isn't to rush out and buy a bottle of Hendricks, but he entices us buy a bottle of cheap vodka and make your own. I might just dothat.