For years now the North Yorkshire Moors Railway has been putting on its popular Pullman Dining service, an unforgettable experience where those on board are treated to a delicious dining treat in the luxury of a heritage saloon carriage. All this happens whilst you sit back in comfort and take in the magnificent scenery and dramatic landscape of the North York Moors National Park.
In recent years, though, the Railway has branched out and expanded its repertoire. New services to come to the line have included Wine and Cheese evenings, Curry Trains, Pie & Pea Trains and Ladies that Lunch services. However, I’m sampling a wholly different kind of event as I’m jumping aboard the Gin Train.
We arrive early evening in Pickering, a bustling market town on the edge of the North York Moors. Pickering is famous for many things from the beautiful Saxon Church through to its Medieval Castle but it is surely best known for its heritage railway which since 1973 has been a significant tourist attraction for the area.
Crossing over the station’s bridge to get to platform two, we’re treated to a great view of our engine warming up for the trip ahead. We climb on board one of the heritage carriages and make our way down the train to first-class which is where we’re greeted by Stephen Colling, the NYMR’s resident gin expert who’ll be taking us on our gin voyage this evening.
It’s impossible to have failed to notice the explosion in popularity of the gin market in recent years. Long gone are the days of bars having a solitary bottle of Gordon’s on the shelf as a wave of artisan gins have popped up, all infused with different, unique flavours and Stephen is here to talk us through a variety of different treats.
Up first, we’re served a gin cocktail of Chase gin with prosecco and blueberries – a fresh, sparkling number to get the taste buds going which goes down a storm. We’re then served a measure of our first gin tasting for the evening – Martin Miller’s Gin.
Now traditionally when I think of gin, I think of a gin and tonic with a wedge of lemon or lime, I wouldn’t generally think of drinking it neat. However, Stephen encourages us to try the gins on their own as each one has its own unique style and flavour, and I’m surprised with just how much variety the different gins we try have. Martin Miller’s Gin tastes crisp with a hint of orange on the nose, then there’s Brockmans Gin which has an intensely fruity smell of wild berries and then there’s Monkey 47, a gin from the Black Forest in Germany with a remarkable backstory which blends together 47 different botanicals perfectly to create a hugely complex, spicy yet well-structured taste sensation. Whilst I’m not going to always choose to drink gin neat in the future, I most certainly will be inclined to sample a little bit of it on its own first.
A particular highlight for me from the Gin Tasting was the fact that three Yorkshire-made gins are present during our tasting. We try a gin from Bedale-based Mason’s Gin which has been infused with the robust flavour of Yorkshire Tea to create an unusual & unique, herbal gin, there’s Slingsby’s Rhubarb Gin produced by the Spirit of Harrogate which is fabulously fruity with rhubarb, raspberry and grapefruit combinations coming out and then there’s Whittaker’s Gin Pink Peculiar (from Nidderdale) which gives off complex aromas and tastes of pink peppercorns, pink hibiscus, cardamom and lemon. It’s quite fantastic to see (and sample) first-hand that Yorkshire is playing a starring role in the current gin revolution.
The service is friendly from the NYMR staff throughout and we’re presented with a sharing board of breads, meats and other tasty morsels to fill us up along the journey. Our host, Stephen, regularly stops at our table, as well as everyone else’s, to get our take on each gin we try and to educate us on the history of these drinks too.
There’s plenty of debate throughout the carriage too, as people from different groups engage with one another as we try to identify aromas, tastes and flavours, which adds to the occasion greatly. Then, in between drinks and conversation, you can just look out the window as the evening sun beats down on the remote, picturesque North York Moors National Park passing through picture-postcard stations like Levisham, Grosmont and the home of Heartbeat, Goathland.
All the gins had different ingredients, as did the journey. An evening on the railway, with a gin in your hand. Just the tonic.
Services depart from Pickering Station at 18:45 and the session last roughly 2 hours 45 minutes. The Gin Tasting train costs £72.50 per person, for further information visit www.nymr.co.uk or telephone customer services on 01751 472508.