In the run up to Plymouth International Book Festival 2015, we catch up with Ian Buxton, author of the fizzy and brilliant 101 Gins To Try Before You Die


Food and drink writing, food and drink artisanship, craft food and drinkery – it’s a revolution on our doorstep these days. As a consumer it can be a bewildering pick from designer labels and fruity descriptions. But, help is always at hand from true experts in the field, and Plymouth International Book Festival has certainly grabbed one in Ian Buxton, author of the superb 101 Gins To Try Before You Die.

Firstly, knowing that Plymouth’s own Gin features in the book, we were keen to know Ian’s opinion of our city’s own botanical measure.

“I have the highest regard for Plymouth Gin as one of the great classics,” says Ian. “Its history has been a turbulent one but it seems that – at last – it has a steady hand at the helm and has found safe harbour. Things can only get better for Plymouth and that’s as it should be.”

Over the last twenty years, Ian Buxton has secured an extensive and successful reputation in the whisky industry – both as in industry professional and as an author. With his new forays into gin, we tentatively suggested that, to the whisky amateur and Plymouth biased position, gin seems a very different and somehow more accessible drink?

“I’d agree that they are different and that gin is probably more accessible,” says Ian, “but they have a very different history which fascinated and appealed to me. Gin is enjoying an incredible resurgence right now which makes it one of the most exciting things in the world of spirits. I wanted to explore why there are so many new distilleries and why gin is attracting new drinkers in increasing numbers.”

101 Gins To Try Before You Die is a beautifully presented voyage through the gins of the world, from our own in Plymouth, to bathtub gin, Zuidam and beyond. The book describes the history of each gin as well as providing taste note and recommendations for mixers. Knowing the drink’s reputation for laugh or cry extremes if sampled a little too fully, particularly from some of our seafaring forebears, we asked Ian to clear our heads:

“I think they must have been drinking rum; I’m sure that was the cause of all the trouble! But there was certainly much hilarity in researching the book; possibly some weeping as the deadline approached!”

Ian takes alcohol awareness seriously, however, and his book is an accessible and intelligent connoisseur’s guide to the spirit. “There are some great value gins around for the careful shopper,” says Ian. “I’d argue that the main problem with cheap alcohol comes from very low-priced beers, ciders and some bargain basement vodkas. Pay a few pounds more and get the good stuff would be my advice – you’re worth it. Drink less but drink better is always a good motto!”

And what next for Ian Buxton? Unfortunately not a vodka tour for aficionados of that other clear dram of legend …

“Vodka – no. I do prefer my spirits to actually taste of something! I think there is probably more to explore in the world of gin.”

Finally, we had to ask, for someone who has now tasted at the very least 202 nips of whisky and gin – what’s his favourite, and what’s he having?

“Now you’re asking me to choose between my children…it would have to vary by occasion… and how hard you pushed! And, of course, who’s buying!”

Ian Buxton at Plymouth International Book Festival

Ian Buxton reveals the secrets of a spirit, which has its own unique place in the history of the UK and America. What makes a gin special and how does Plymouth’s own gin rate against the competition? The event will include a tasting.

17 October 2015
14:00 to 15:00

The House, Plymouth University
Tickets £8.00, concessions £6

Buy tickets online

101 Gins To Try Before You Die
Cocktails with Ian Buxton