Our distillery is owned by a friend in the Ruhr Valley, Germany. It was founded in the mid 1700’s by two friends Mr Eicker and Mr Callen but after a few years Mr Eicker left the business, however, it retained the original name and eventually moved a short distance to the current location in 1889. The business supplied many local businesses throughout the area which included ‘drug shops’ (I suppose we would call them chemists), including one owned by the family of the present owner Mr Meinken. Mr Thomas Callen (great grandson of founder) and his sister remain involved with the distillery, however, the business is currently owned and run by my police colleague and friend Peter Meinken.
Whilst the distillery has for over a century been producing hand crafted products they have never before supplied commercially outside of the local area and it was a dream of Peter to have at least one of his drinks being served in a bar in Newcastle. I should mention he is a big football fan and a member of the Newcastle supporters club and usually visits several times a year.
During a visit to Germany Peter and I discussed his dream of being served one of the family’s drinks during a visit to his 2nd home and the idea of the House of Ruhr was born.
With gin sales on the increase it was an obvious choice to introduce three unique gins to the UK and Peter and his team went to work producing them. I saw the shared mining heritage of the Ruhr Valley and that of the North East so we branded our drinks to celebrate that heritage BERGMANN (German for Miner) VOGEL (German for bird, ours being a yellow canary) and I also wanted to remember my own heritage – we named the strongest gin after my maternal great grandfather (Captain James Ogilvie) RENTON – my paternal great grandfather is Thomas Jones and we were wary of calling a gin Tom Jones so we included his image on the bottle – Tom, his father, siblings and own sons were all miners which tied into my branding.
Back in November I was invited to an exclusive tasting with The House of Ruhr Gin. The directors of this amazing company, Brynn Jones and Richard Nelson, presented us with the full range of their drinks that evening, and all of us present left as devout fans of the brand!
Over his years serving as part of the International Police Association, Bryn met Peter, a German police officer and now owner of an amazing gin distillery in the Ruhr Valley. On visiting Newcastle, Peter said he would love to see one of his gins served in a Newcastle establishment and, thus, the seed of an idea was born which later germinated and grew into The House of Ruhr as we see it today.
Richie and Bryn made several visits to the distillery in Germany, which has been crafting spirits in its current location since 1889. Working with Peter, they decided on the recipes for four different gins, three of which are featuring on the blog today!
The distillery itself is steeped in history and has led quite a lucky and charmed life! During the Second World War, legend has it that a rich Irish mine owner made some agreements with the RAF to avoid the area in which the distillery stands during bombing campaigns and, indeed, the distillery survived with only minor shrapnel damage. It is also believed that in the aftermath of the war, breweries and distilleries were under the protection of Russian soldiers. However, after the destruction of a few from careless smokers, Major Wakefield from the British Military took control of all infrastructure and the distillery survived!
Due to the mining history of the Ruhr Valley as well as that of the North East of England, there is a link between the three main gins and this area of industry, a kind of tipping of the hat to such an essential and amazing service. Each bottle of gin, cleverly styled as the type of hip flask a miner would carry, is hand-filled with hand signed and numbered labels attached. Currently, there are only 2500 bottles of each of the gins in the UK, so it is a huge honour (and responsibility) to have these in my collection and I have thank Bryn deeply for trusting me to do justice to them!
Starting with Bergmann, the German word for miner, so an appropriate place to start. Coming at 41% in a 50cl bottle, this gin is infused with physalis, Goji berries and yerba. This gives the gin a definite fruitiness and, on the nose, an almost peachy aroma, reminiscent of a dry version of peach schappes – kind of reminding me of my teenage years!
On the palate, there is a sweet berry taste which makes way for the traditional juniper burn. There is still, however, a delicious smoothness to this gin.
My first serve once I’d tasted neat and over ice was as a traditional G&T. I paired 50ml of gin with 100ml of Artisan Skinny London Tonic and garnished with Club Botanical’s mixed blue flowers. The gin marries well with the tonic giving quite a crisp and refreshing drink. I imagine that this one would be lovely on a sunny afternoon with friends as it is light and quite unobtrusive. Of course, the danger with that is that you could easily drink a lot of this without realising! Oh well, what’s the harm in that, once in a while?
Moving on, the second gin I have for you is Vogel. I love the name of this gin and what it stands for. Vogel is the German word for bird, and this lemon and allspice-infused gin represents the tradition of sending a canary into the mine to test for gas. If the bird returned, it was safe to go in and mine. If not, run for cover and, well, poor birdie!
I think this is definitely my favourite of the three. Again this is 41% ABV and 50cl, but carrying a stunning yellow label. Neat, on the nose, there is an aroma of citrus with a hint of spice, just what you’d expect with lemon and allspice being among the key botanicals. This is a gentle gin, in no way overpowering, and carries what I feel is a very clean scent. Flavour-wise, there is an initial warm tingle on the lips and the back of the mouth, showing that this is still quite a juniper-led gin. The overall mouthfeel bears a smooth warmth. In its neat form, the gin carries a subtle lemony taste but with a definite spiciness!
As a gin and tonic, this is lovely! I paired 50ml gin with 100ml Ledger’s Tonic and garnished with a frozen lemon slice and some allspice berries over ice. At first, this smells like lemon Opal Fruits (I’m an 80’s child, I can’t call them Starburst!). The tonic accentuates the sweetness within the gin and it becomes a far tastier affair.
However, you will have noticed that the image above does not show a G&T! As I’d had this gin before, I decided to be a touch more adventurous with it and wanted to try a martini with it. From being an avid reader of Nigella Lawson’s books I had seen that she had made quite a unique dirty martini using the brine from preserved lemons. Me being me, I had to try and will now be looking for as many recipes including preserved lemons as I can as I now have so many of them! The lemon brine adds a lovely citrusy saltiness and I garnished with lemon zest, and the sunny day just added to the enjoyment! I stirred 60ml gin, 15ml Lillet Blanc and 7.5ml of lemon brine over ice, then strained into a chilled martini glass and sprinkled the lemon zest over. It was stunning! I’ll be on the lookout for further cocktail recipes for this one!
Finally, we come to the granddaddy of the trio: Renton. This gin is, indeed, named after Bryn’s maternal great-grandfather, Captain James Ogilvie Renton. The picture on the bottle is of Bryn’s paternal great-grandfather, Thomas Jones who was a miner, thus allowing Bryn to personalise the bottle incorporating all aspects of his heritage.
This gin comes in at a grand 44.7% ABV (again, 50cl bottle) and is infused with twelve botanicals including cubeb pepper, mace, coriander, allspice, rosewater and lavender. As with the others, there is a distinct uniqueness to this gin.
On the nose, neat, there is a floral scent, with a surprising fruitiness, given the higher percentage. On the palate, there is a smooth mouthfeel that leads to a crisp dryness. Juniper is definitely present, with a mild peppery finish. Over ice, this could very easily be a lovely sipping gin.
My first G&T serve was with Luscombe Grapefruit Tonic (again a 1:2 ratio), garnished with pink peppercorns and grapefruit. I found that the gin really pushed through the tonic, with the tonic making for a longer drink rather than actually altering the taste of the gin. We were having chicken for dinner that evening and the gin was a lovely pairing with the meat. I also wanted to try it with Artisan Skinny Tonic (same ratios). This was a really tasty G&T – the gin, again, is predominant over everything. With strong flavours, this is a gin for true gin fans, and I’ll definitely be trying this one again!
Currently priced at £40 per 50cl bottle, available from House of Ruhr themselves, or Master of Malt.
I was first introduced to the House Of Ruhrs gin back in November 2019 at the Continental a gin bar in Newcastle. After tasting the three gins i really enjoyed them all but had a firm favorite in Vogel. I was really keen to add these gins to my collection, so I was absolutely delighted when Bryn contacted me to ask if he could drop me off a set, and true to his word the next day he hand-delivered three bottles.
Vogel – this is my favorite out of the three gins 40% ABV a nice smooth gin with botanical’s including lemon balm and all spice. A lovely sweet citrus hit with a little spice on the finish. I paired this with a plain tonic and garnished with lemon, but different tonic bring out different botanical’s its also a great gin for cocktails, Bergmann – 41% ABV botanical’s include mix Goji/wild berry, Physalis fruit and Yerba Mate. This gin makes an lovely bramble but equally as good in a g&t. The suggested serve is Artisans violet blossom tonic but i’m not a lover of anything violet so I used a plain tonic and garnished with frozen mixed berries. Renton – 44.7% the strongest out of the three with lots of botanical’s including cubeb pepper, mace, corriander, rosewater, all spice and lavender.
Agasin a nice smooth gin with a punch on the finish, I followed suggested serve with this one and it worked so well Merchant hearts pink peppercorn tonic and garnished with pink peppercorns but grapefruit works well also, This is very much a family run business, and they guys are so passionate about their gins and the history behind them. I would advise you take a look at their page and read all about the coaling mining back ground and how they got involved distilling gin in Germany its all very interesting. The bottles are an unusual shape they designed them on the shape of a hip flask and look amazing on my gin shelf, they also make amazing reed diffusers. I have never seen bottles this shape this they are definitely unique.
All three Vogel, Bergmann and Renton are 50 cl and retail at £40 a bottle which is on the higher end of the scale but i believe you get what you pay for and in these gins that’s definitely the case. They recently have had some fantastic offers on such as three bottles for £100 and 20% discounts, (June 2020). If you want a good quality craft gin with unusual bottle design in your collection i would defiantly recommend The House of Ruhr. I have nothing negative to say about these lovely gins, I have had excellent service from the guys they are so friendly and enthusiastic. I now look forward to them releasing their liqueurs which were so good.