Half a millennium ago, give or take a couple of decades, Bishop John Ponet of Winchester was kicking up all sorts of fuss. He was a resistance theorist who dedicated himself to fighting the divine right of kings. He was a political thinker and staunchly anti-monarchy, sort of like the Morrissey of the 1500s… Bishop’s Gin is a tribute to this maverick, aiming to capture his character in spirit form and unleash it on the world. The gin is owned by Ponet Spirits, which in turn is owned by Thierry Ponet, an ancestor of John Ponet. In 2014, after spending 15 years fully ensconced in London’s financial industry, Thierry headed home to Belgium. Keen to restore his family’s ancestry of distilling Genever, but influenced heavily by his time in London, Thierry decided to create a gin.
Nasturtium is the most unusual ingredient here; it’s a bright, oily flower that carries a huge floral bouquet and a hint of watercress to taste. In Bishop’s Gin, it brings flowers to the nose, with hints of an almost honey-like sweetness. Perfumed and delicate, the gin’s aroma gives little hint at what’s to come, and what’s to come – we’re happy to say – is juniper. To taste, liquorice envelops the tongue almost instantly, coating it in a sweet film upon which the nasturtium flower sits. Lemon brings a fresh burst of citrus, while lemongrass brings its tangy warmth, before juniper sweeps everything out of the way to reign, dominating the finish and roaring with gusto. The lasting taste is one of pine and of flowers, with the watercress elements of the nasturtium creeping in, but ultimately being dominated by its sweeter side. That watercress bitterness is much, much louder in a G&T, with the quinine proving a fine wingman. The sweetness is still there, but it’s lessened, with a more savoury gin emerging. It shows the complexity of the spirit at hand – the flavour journey is interesting and involved.