When the PM was recently asked a question on a subject that caused him some visible unease, his response to the question was: “Total rhubarb” and in so doing he maligned a plant whose history dates back over 5,000 years.
An extensive history
As explained on a website dedicated to rhubarb, High Altitude Rhubarb, the plant has only been used for culinary purposes for two hundred years: “Many consider rhubarb a fruit due to the dominance of rhubarb dessert recipes. Although botanists and horticulturists do not agree on the taxonomy of this species it is considered a dessert vegetable.
“More surprisingly, rhubarb’s role was medicinal rather than culinary throughout the majority of its period of use. Indeed, widespread culinary uses began only two centuries ago, whereas medicinal uses go back 5000 years or more.”
The Chinese were using dried, ground rhubarb as a laxative and nearly 3,000 years later the Romans and Greeks were incorporating rhubarb into various medicines.
A more contemporary use for rhubarb can be found at Pinnock Distillery, based in rural Warwickshire, where they created a rhubarb and strawberry gin, which we were delighted to have sampled.
To produce this unique gin, they combine locally sourced fresh rhubarb and strawberries with their award winning dry gin, which is made with juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia, liquorice, Seville orange peel, with Warwickshire honey and quince.
The dominant flavour of this gin is rhubarb, which I very much enjoyed, but if you don’t like rhubarb this isn’t one for you. I very much enjoyed the confident flavour and the slight acidity that came through from the rhubarb.
The finish of the gin was also very much dominated by rhubarb, which I sampled with and without tonic. Over ice, it makes for an interesting apéritif, and with a good tonic it was a refreshing long drink; my preferred option was for a long drink with a fresh strawberry garnish.
However, the strawberry flavour wasn’t very obvious and that could perhaps do with being dialled up, especially as this ingredient has equal billing on the label.
Award winning gins
The distillery’s Rhubarb & Strawberry Gin joins their award winning Pinnock Warwickshire Dry Gin, a multi-international award winner (double IWSC Silver Medal Winner 2019 and 1-star Great Taste Winner 2019) and their Pinnock Sloe, Damson & Honey Gin, made using foraged sloes and damsons.
All three gins are made using their traditional 40-litre copper alembic still in small batches. The owners bottle, label and wax-seal every bottle by hand; in every sense they are a true cottage industry.
We wish the company well for the months and years ahead, and we look forward to the next time we review one of their fine gins.