The last few months have involved quite a lot of gin, which is no bad thing. Gin is another of those spirits that is so often just lumped together in the “it all tastes the same” category, and until recently I half believed it. However, as I try more of them I am starting to notice the differences and similarities, and my recent dabblings have been rather helpful.
At the London Cocktail Society Christmas party we were all handed a slip of paper. Mainly I noticed the bit on it which said ‘fill this in and win some gin’, but there was also space for you to write in what you thought your three favourite gins were – thought being the operative word. The lovely folk of the LCS tabulated results, ran whatever numbers they wanted to run and produced a list of the top 5 gins according to the tastes of the party goers. However, rather than just tell us they decided to do a bit of brain tweaking and put on a blind tasting of the winners to see what we thought when not confronted with the baggage of pretty bottles and brands. Hosted at gin loving bar Graphic, of Juniper Society fame, we were presented with 5 plastic cups, unmarked apart from a coloured sticker so that we could match them up later. As hoped they all tasted rather different, although my notes are rather light (and mainly from memory).
- Hendrick’s – Nice and spicy, good flavour, hints of sweetness.
- Sipsmith – this one mainly sat in my mind has being the most ‘gin-like’. Solid juniper, quite dry and nicely balanced.
- Bombay Sapphire – very lightly flavoured. Most repeated comment – ‘Is this a vodka you’ve slipped in as a joke?’.
- Number 3 – the most complex flavoured with lots of juniper, clove, cinnamon, pine, butterscotch and a bunch more. My favourite
- Tanqueray 10 – quite piney (which I think is the juniper coming out) and complex. My second favourite after the No. 3.
Along with that I also went to a Beefeater Gin evening at the Juniper Society (turning Graphic into a bit of a regular haunt), including some cocktail making as well as a talk through the creation of Beefeater with master distiller Desmond Payne. All three of Beefeater’s gins that I tasted (as well as the five above) are distilled gins, meant that the botanicals are added to neutral spirit before redistillation, rather than the cheaper cold compound method of having flavourings added to neutral spirit without redistilling. London Dry Gin has recently been defined as ‘a type of distilled gin’ in a similar fashion to Plymouth, although with a larger number of producers than the single distiller of the latter style.
- Beefeater London Dry Gin – The botanicals in this are fairly traditional – juniper, Seville orange peel, coriander, angelica root and seed, almonds, oris root and ground liquorice root. Beefeater’s other trademark is that the botanicals are steeped in the alcohol for 24 hours before distillation to allow for greater infusion. The nose started with bitter orange and finished with some spicy coriander and liquorice. To taste it had a fruity juniper middle and some sweet liquorice at the end.
- Beefeater 24 – A new premium gin recipe put together by Desmond, in comparison to the regular London Dry recipe which hasn’t changed significantly since the distillery’s opening in 1820. The secret ingredients in 24 are tea, both Chinese green tea and Japanese sencha, as well as a bit of grapefruit in with the other peels. It was inspired by the lack of quinine sources in Japan, leading to the use of green tea as a gin mixer rather than tonic water. The nose started off grassy with a big citrus middle. The taste was less sweet than the London Dry, with some bitter wood and a hint of tannin.
- Beefeater Winter Gin – a special edition gin put out last Christmas, this added nutmeg, cinnamon, and lime and orange peels to the mix. While the London dry and 24 were noticeably different but similar, this was a total change – a nose of Christmas spice and a taste of almost gingerbread. Luckily it seems that there are a few bottles of this around still, although my urge to drink it neat might well lead to destruction.
On top of those two events I also had a couple of miniatures of gin knocking around that I’ve been meaning to taste for a while:
- First up, I was sent through some samples of Edgerton Original Pink Dry Gin. This is distilled and bottled in London and is mainly a distilled gin, although with pomegranate added afterwards to give it a distinctively pink colour. Botanicals-wise this has juniper, coriander, angelica, orris root, sweet orange peel, cassia bark and nutmeg. The idea seems to have come, according to the bottle neck tag bumph, from the old idea of pink gin (gin with a dash of bitters, turning it pinkish, rather than the long drink of that with lemonade that you will normally find these days) but taking it in a slightly different direction. On the nose it has quite a lot of juniper, with some spiciness that I suspect is from the coriander and nutmeg. To taste it’s quite sweet, with a burst of fruit (it might be sweetened pomegranate, but that could be my expectations), orange and a quite flat finish with some sour woodiness. Most of all though, it is very pink indeed.
- Lastly is Hayman’s Old Tom, which came in my goody bag from the previously mentioned LCS Christmas party. Old Tom is an, appropriately, old style of gin that is currently being revived by a few manufacturers, including Hayman’s. It’s similar to a London dry gin but, earning the former it’s ‘dry’ tag, is slightly sweetened. Hayman’s is a new gin with history, using a recipe from James Burrough’s recipe books (the founder of Beefeater and great grandfather of Christopher Hayman, current Hayman’s chairman) from the 1860/70s, and it seems to have kickstarted the rebirth of the style as a commercial proposition. On the nose it has quite a bit of juniper (which is slightly redundant when talking about traditional gins) and a little bit of sweetness. To taste it is noticeably sweet, with a hit of sugar syrup, which helps bring out lemony flavours. Mainly it’s overpowered by the sweetness.
So, that’s a gin roundup for now, and I didn’t even include the genever tasting I went to at the most recent Juniper Society. But as we were told several times on that evening – Genever is not Gin.
Many thanks to the LCS for putting on events and giving me goody bags, Sarah and Adam at Graphic for feeding me gin on Mondays, and Daisy at Ian Scott for sorting me out some samples of Edgerton’s. Also thanks to James Hayman who pinged me a mail telling me what I’d got wrong about the history of his family’s gin.
Distilled gin, 41.4%. ~£25
Sipsmith London Dry Gin
London dry gin, 41.6%. ~£30
London dry gin, 40%. ~£20
No 3 Gin
London dry gin, 46%. ~£35
Distilled gin, 47.3%. ~£35
Beefeater London Dry Gin
London dry gin, 40%. ~£15
Distilled gin, 45%. ~£25
Beefeater Winter Gin
Distilled gin, 40%. ~£20
Edgerton Original Pink Dry Gin
Distilled gin with pomagranate, 47%. ~£30
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
Old Tom gin, 40%. ~£20