My story with Hernö gin started back in January 2012, before their distillery was built and not even the merest drop of this juniper spirit had been tasted. At the end of November 2012, two bottles arrived on my doorstep (one for me and one to be shared by the Modern Madame of Juniper and the Queen of Gin at the Juniper Society).
Hernö Gin is made in small village of Dala, just outside the City of Härnösand in the Northern part of Sweden, making it the world’s northernmost gin distillery. The gin is made using organic spirit in “Kierstin”, a 250 litre, hand-beaten copper still from Germany. It’s bottled at 40.5%ABV and is made using a mix of 8 botanicals:
#1) On its own
Nose: Juniper and lemon verbena; piney and perfumed.
Taste: Juniper to start and then a full, zesty, jammy and floral combination of orange-coriander, followed by some orange and lemon blossom mixed with lemon balm and verbena. The finish is long and lingering, with plenty of citrus. The citrus and floral notes give this gin a contemporary character, but it’s backed up by plenty of pine. Very enjoyable and a fine gin to enjoy on the rocks.
#2) Gin & Tonic
Really flavourful and very tasty: fresh, crisp, sappy pine and plenty of coriander, as well as some lighter herbal and floral notes. This is crisp and refreshing and reminds me of when I tired Hendricks for the first time – simply superb.
Taste: Lovely – cool and crisp with both some zesty citrus notes and a deep flavour of coriander; the other herbal botanicals stop it from becoming too zesty. There’s also lots of pine on the finish. There are a lot of classic elements to this Martini: it’s clean, cool and crisp, and gives you that Martini woosh! At the same time, it’s a little twist away from a traditional Martini.
Quite sweet, but with lots going on. There’s a hint of lemon balm and lemon verbena, along with low herbal and high floral notes and a fair bit of coriander. Not too bitter, but the familiar Negroni finish is there (although perhaps more dry than bitter). I really like this, a treat to drink.
Floral and herbal notes make this quite unusual. There’s lots of coriander and piney juniper, but, despite the mix, I think that it works surprisingly well; you might do a double-take after the first sip, though.
#6) French ‘75
A rather odd French ‘75: the heavy citrus and coriander combine with the Champagne to create both a very dry and very citrusy drink. This cocktail actually appeals to me quite a bit and, as the sugar cube dissolves, the drink does improve.
Hernö Gin is a great example of how craft gin distilling is moving out across the world, after a concentration in the US and some parts of Europe. It is a gin with a distinctive character and one that reflects the individuality of the distillery and distiller.
Despite the heavier citrus and coriander notes, there is something about the deeper herbal flavours in this gin that sets it apart from the “coriander monsters” of the USA. It makes some unconventional cocktails that some people will think are superb (the Gin & Tonic and Negroni did it for me) and also has a lot of potential for bartenders to experiment with. A great gin with which to launch another year of gin reviews.
No:3 Gin is one of those spirits that, along with Tanqueray No:10, is one of the favourite brands of both myself and externally acclaimed gin aficionados. In addition to this high status, it has a bottle that attracts many folks and, even in the short time that I have had one sitting atop my cocktail cabinet, it has been admired by almost all of my visitors.
No:3 Gin (or Number 3 St. James Street, to give it a fuller title) is named after the address of Berry Brothers & Rudd, wine merchant to the House of Windsor. The bottle is in the style of an early Genever case bottle and the key embossed on the front is a reflection of the parlour key in BBR’s establishment.
The gin is actually made in the Netherlands and is made using 6 botanicals:
1) On its own
Nose: Full, fresh and green; lots of piney juniper with a hint of cardamom – lovely.
Taste: Initially, silkiness with some building power; juniper upfront, then a clean citrus and slightly creamy middle, before a juniper finish with cardamom at the very end. The flavour of this in is long and very tasty.
2) Gin & Tonic
Plenty of sweet, spicy cardamom on the nose, which follows through on the taste. It’s really rather lovely, being full of ripe and juicy flavours: citrus, juniper and an earthy spiciness, all tied up with a cardamom cord of flavour. Very refreshing and succulent.
A very silky Martini that initially deceives you into thinking it’s a bit soft, but the finish redefines it as a drink of sophistication and power. Strong cardamom and juniper-pine finish, with plenty of citrus, too. Serving this gin ice-cold is the only way to go. I love it.
Deep, complex and intense, with plenty of juniper coming through. This is a textbook Negroni that is bursting with flavour and should be right up the street of the Negroni aficionado. Not for the faint-hearted, but I think it’s just peachy.
No:3 Gin is one of the few gins made in the Classic style that have really added something to the gin market in the last couple of years. I really enjoyed all of the drinks that I tried and, when asked what my favourite was, was torn between the Gin & Tonic and the Negroni.
No:3 Gin is available for around £34 for 70cl from Waitrose or for around £32 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.
Beefeater Crown Jewel
The first was Beefeater Crown Jewel, this gin was launched in 1993 for the Duty Free market, although some specialist shops in the UK occasionally sold it. It was based on Beefeater’s standard mix of 9 botanicals, plus grapefruit. Additionally, it was bottled at 50% ABV.
With introduction of Beefeater 24 in 2009, Beefeater Crown Jewel was discontinued. It is worth noting that Beefeater 24 still contains grapefruit as an additional botanical, as well as two types of tea.
On its own
Nose: Pine, initially, then some savoury notes, a hint of orange and some other zesty citrus.
Taste: Powerful in flavour and alcoholic strength, this is pretty classic start, but, in addition to its sheer intensity, the main difference between this and original Beefeater is the long finish of grapefruit; this is a simple variation, but a great one and one that should add a new dimension to cocktails.
Very thick and viscous; very smooth, but the flavours remain intense: juniper, citrus, angelica, coriander and then a zesty finish with some marmalade sweetness. Very, very pleasant to sip.
Gin & Tonic
This has a zesty nose and is very dry, indeed. It’s refreshing, with plenty of citrus and the grapefruit coming through at the very end. I quite like it; served ice-cold, it is rather delightful.
Very intense and exceptionally cold; simply, excellent. It has a marvellous, sweet and citrusy finish. This is one of the best Martinis out there and I’m surprised that I have only just discovered it. Brilliant.
An exceedingly intense Negroni; for some, this will be absolute bliss. The extra citrus from the grapefruit comes through the drink like a knife and gives you a pow in the kisser. The hard-core Negroni fan will love this, as it turns the bitter-sweet balance and intensity up to 11. Superb.
Beefeater Crown Jewel was made using only a small variation on the original Beefeater botanical mix, but it was a welcome feature of duty free for many years and a bartenders’ favourite. Now discontinued – and I have it on good authority that it won’t come back – it’s over; time to move on. Sad, but we’ll always have the memories.
Beefeater Wet, released in 1999 (and discontinued 2005), was designed to be a different style of gin – slightly sweeter and more fruity – than Classic Beefeater and, along with Tanqueray Mallaca (1997), they laid the groundwork for the new way of thinking about gin that eventually led to the rise of Contemporary-style gin. Interestingly, both of these gins were marketed in the US and, today, this is where this style of gin is most popular.
Beefeater Wet departed from the classic recipe with the addition of extra spice, pear essence and a little sugar. It is also bottled at 37.5%ABV, rather than the usual 40%ABV for the UK or 47%ABV for the USA.
On its own
Nose: Juniper upfront, and then some earthy notes that are followed by notes of freshly cut pear, with just a hint of oxidation. Unusual, but inviting.
Taste: Quite smooth and sweet, with the pear coming through again. This is particularly unusual and, given when it was released, I can see how it can be considered as one of the gins that paved the way to the wave of New Western or Contemporary style of gins.
With a little water, more coriander comes through and makes the drink fresher and the pear even more prominent with a final, soft, creamy citrus flavour.
Sweet and silky, silky smooth. There are hints of marzipan and pear, as well as some vanilla creaminess and a finish of piney juniper. Pretty good and rather liqueur-like.
Gin & Tonic
Beefeater Wet was created for the US market, where Gin & Tonics take a backseat to other gin drinks, and, as such, this doesn’t work that well. I used Schweppes EU, which is typically more generous to a gin than the UK version or the even sweeter US variety, and it still pretty much overpowered the gin, even at a 2:1 ratio. The gin comes through more on the finish with notes of pear drops and marzipan. That said, after a little ice melt it does become more refreshing (as long as you like the taste of tonic).
Good, but, even with my standard amount of vermouth, it is a rather wet Martini with a fair bit of sweetness and the flavour of fruity, spiced pear. This is very different, and not at all classic in style, but it will appeal to some.
Beefeater Wet makes quite a sweet Negroni, but one that is particularly smooth. The fruity pear comes through on the finish, especially. Whilst this isn’t as intense or powerful flavour-wise as many Negroni fans would like, it is, by no means, a bad drink.
I had tried Beefeater Wet before (in 2007) and, to the best of my recollection, it was “not that great”. Five years on, my palette has developed and I thought I’d give it another go.
I was surprised at how much of the pear came through and that the flavour seemed pretty genuine. The gin is smooth, but you would expect that, given the lower %ABV and slight sweetening. Its freshness makes it great for long mixed drinks such as the Gin Collins.
I think that if this gin was released today, then it would enjoy a lot more success than it did, as palates have changed or, more precisely, a whole new generation of gin drinkers with different tastes have “joined the party” and with them comes a demand for the more contemporary products.
My favourite way of drinking the Beefeater Wet was either straight from the freezer or in a Gin & Tonic.
I remember when Bulldog was first launched in the UK; Gerry’s in Old Compton Street had a display full of these unusual, smokey, purple-grey glass bottles. This was back in October 2006* and, since then, Bulldog has gone from strength to strength, even having a listing in Waitrose, where I gather it is rather popular. When Bulldog was first released, it was stated that it had been designed with making the ultimate Gin & Tonic and Dirty Gin Martini in mind.
Bulldog Gin is made at the Langley Distillery, is bottled at 40%ABV and contains a mix of 12 botanicals.
On its own
Nose: Juniper, coriander, and floral hints, including lavender.
Taste: Soft and sweet, initially, followed by some dry juniper and some sweeter floral notes, as well as the perfumed hint of dry petals. Both the flavour and alcohol build to a pleasant warmth at the end, making this rather accessible.
Gin & Tonic (with Fentimans Tonic Water)
I’ve tried a few tonics with Bulldog and I think that it works best with the zestiness of Fentimans. The result is a lively and refreshing drink, with the powerful flavours of the gin coming through afterwards. Most cooling.
Not bad. This has some classic elements – juniper and coriander – but also takes on a rather odd, bitter twang at the end. Overall, it’s not bad, but not that great, either.
There’s definitely some juniper, but it’s also quite sweet, too, with additional notes of coriander. Whilst this isn’t a classic style of drink, it still has some traditional elements and a peppery finish.
Quite smooth and soft, with a range of fruity notes. This is quite good, with the gin working well alongside the Campari and vermouth, curbing the drink’s bitterness. A surprise, but a good one.
Smooth and clean, with some of the finer gin flavours, such as juniper and coriander, on the finish. Very easy to drink and rather rousing to the appetite.
This is rather a pleasant drink and a rival for the Gin & Tonic in terms of refreshment. The spicy and sweet floral elements of the gin come out especially well alongside the ginger ale, making this a thirst-quenching and flavoursome drink.
Bulldog Gin is a rather accessible spirit; I certainly know of folks who don’t usually like juniper, but enjoy this gin. My favourite drink with Bulldog was the Negroni, although I also found sipping it straight from the freezer rather pleasant.
* 2006 being the Chinese Year of the Dog.
As part of my recent trip to New York, I arranged a Navy Strength Gin tasting, which was kindly hosted by New York Distilling. Upon our return to the UK, we decided to hold a second tasting in London, which also coincided with the UK launch of FEW Spirits by Ginuine Spirits.
Navy Strength Gin dates back to the days of Empire and British naval superiority. At this time, gin for ships (the drink of naval officers) was bottled at 100 Proof (on a scale developed using the Bartholomew Sikes hydrometer), which is the modern equivalent of 57%ABV.* At this strength, if the gin was spilt on gunpowder (they were often stored together), the powder would still ignite.
In the 19th Century, Plymouth was home to Britain’s naval fleet and the distillery on the quayside (Blackfriars Distillery, the modern home of Plymouth Gin) was the supplier for much of the fleet. Subsequently, for many years, Plymouth Gin 100 Proof was made on and off, as required.
When Plymouth 100 Proof became a permanent feature of the distillery’s portfolio in 1993, the term “Navy Strength” was used over “100 Proof” as it was easier to understand and more clearly illustrated that the gin was stronger. It also seems a particularly fitting title, given the distillery’s historic naval connections.
Fast forward to 2010 and the start of the current gin boom. The global availability of Plymouth Navy Strength was limited and US demand for stronger gin led to some distillers coming up with their own varieties of Navy Strength Gin.
So what’s the current definition of Navy Strength Gin?
Navy Strength Gin = Gin at 100 Proof (57-58%ABV)
Anything below this strength is “under-proof”, whilst anything above is “over-proof”. Thus, gins such as Old Raj Blue (55%ABV) and Finsbury 60 and Blackwoods 60 (both of which are bottled at 60%ABV) are not Navy Strength Gins.**
All of the gins that we tasted were 57%ABV and were tasted blind (even I didn’t know which was which). Here are our notes in the order in which the gins were tasted.
Made by FEW Spirits at their distillery in Illinois, USA and recently arriving on British shores this gin has a different base and a different botanical mix to their American Gin.
Nose: Quite fragrant, with some vegetal notes, perhaps luscious tomato. There’s also some piney juniper, a fair bit of coriander, and some flowery notes, too.
Taste: With some maltiness and creaminess, everyone in the panel agreed that this had plenty of flavour. The grain elements came across as notes of toasted cornflakes. There was also plenty of coriander and other floral notes, such as honeysuckle, followed by a leafy herbalness and sweet pepper toward the end. The finish was pleasant and dry.
FEW Standard Issue is available for around £38 for 75cl from Master of Malt.
This is the original Navy Strength Gin and a long-time favourite of mine. It dates from the days of the Distillery’s origins in the naval town, although, for many years, it was not made on a regular basis. In 1993 (Plymouth Gin’s bicentenary), the Navy Strength became a regular in their product assortment. For Plymouth Gin, the term “Navy Strength” is simply an alternative to using 100 degrees proof; no more, no less. Plymouth Navy Strength is a higher strength version of their standard gin or, simply put, “The 42.4, but with less water”.
Nose: Juniper up-front, followed by citrus, coriander, earthy notes and a touch of cardamom.
Taste: This had a strong and intense flavour; almost a little peppery. It was very classic in style, with piney juniper, fresh and zingy citrus, and a slight sweetness towards the end, which was slightly reminiscent of caramelized orange peel.
Gin & Tonic: A very classic style of Gin & Tonic, this was very crisp, with juniper, some sweetness and a bitter finish. Quite a lot of citrus, too.
Martini: Flavourful and powerful, with juniper, some sweet citrus and spicy coriander. This cocktail had a long finish with plenty of cardamom, which I love. It had a real “wow” factor; simply superb. A textbook drink, worthy of the name “Silver Bullet”.
Negroni: Superb; perfect bitter/sweet balance, sweet jammy citrus, and hints of dark chocolate. Bold, intense, and delicious. My favourite.
Plymouth Navy Strength Gin is available for around £28 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.
#3 – Perry’s Tot by New York Distilling (57%ABV)
Made by NY Distilling based in Brooklyn, New York, this is a mix of 10 botanicals, including cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. It named after Matthew Calbraith Perry who served as Commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1841-43.
Nose: Complex, with overriding characteristics of pine and coriander and some other, deeper herbal notes.
Taste: This was a departure from the classic style of gin, with an immediate POW! of flavour that’s invigorating and exciting. Notes of citrus and coriander were quite powerful, with some sweet liquorice root, too.
Gin & Tonic: Refreshing, complex and herbal, with a big dose of coriander. Whilst this drink sets itself apart, it’s not one for traditionalists.
Martini: Sappy and piney juniper, this cocktail was quite spicy with coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Negroni: Slightly sweeter and spicier than a typical Negroni, with notes of juniper and milk and dark chocolate. Very tasty.
Perry’s Tot is available for around $33 for 75cl from Park Avenue Liquor of New York City (US only)
A stronger version of their revolutionary Bathtub Gin, which show that, mere “GIN” (by the EU definition) could be mighty tasty. The use of crushed botanicals (a difference to the Original Bathtub) means that the gin is not only BIG in terms of alcoholic strength but flavour intensity too.
Nose: Juniper, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Taste: Soft to start, followed by a huge burst of flavour: cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and cloves. All in all, this was very christmassy and had quite a lot of warmth from the alcohol (but not burn). I think it will work wonders in autumnal and wintery cocktails; it’ll really warm the cockles.
Gin & Tonic: A cloudy mix, with nutmeg and cinnamon and some ginger, too. Quite refreshing, with quite a distinct, savoury side to it, too. Another lovely drink that would be good for Autumn and Winter.
Martini: Flavourful and intense, with lots of coriander, as well as sweet Winter spice. Very powerful, in terms of both alcohol and flavour.
Negroni: This could very well be called a Christmas Negroni; there’s a sweetness upfront, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, as well some juniper and more sweetness towards the end.
Master of Malt Bathtub Navy Strength Gin is available for around £42 for 70cl from Master of Malt
Rebranded and repackaged in 2012, initially for the American market, Royal Dock is now available to us in the UK and beyond. The recipe for the gin itself has been made since 1863 and has been supplied to the Admiralty as well as the wider trade. Made by the Hayman family, it is named after the Royal Dock at Deptford, a one time contemporary of the likes of Plymouth and Gosport. It uses Neutral Grain Spirit and a blend of 9 classic botanicals.
Nose: Classic and fresh, with juniper, citrus and liquorice.
Taste: Again, very classic in flavour, being smooth, clean and crisp. It was well-liked by most of the panel. There was a good amount of juniper, but it wasn’t overly sappy, being freshened up with citrus peel, coriander and spicy herbal notes. Quite excellent. Strong, yet smooth; just what you want from a Navy Gin.
Gin & Tonic: This ticks all the boxes: zesty, refreshing and clean; very classic and solid, with no outlandish characteristics. A real pleasure to drink. My favourite.
Martini: More flavourful than Plymouth, with greater flavours of spice, black pepper and coriander. Delicious and rather dry, in the classic Martini style. A really good, crisp and intense Martini.
Negroni: A clean, crisp and classic cocktail; no Negroni fan would be disappointed with this.
Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange
#6 – Leopold’s Navy Strength (57%ABV)
Launched in the Autumn/Fall of 2011, this is made using a different botanical mix to their excellent Original Gin and was designed to be more botanically intense, using Bergamot rather than hand-zested pomelos. Like the Original, each botanical is distilled separately and then they are all blended together.
Nose: Plenty of juniper, which dominates the nose.
Taste: Sweet and very, very piney, this had plenty of herbal notes. It was very warming, with a warmth that gradually builds over time.
Gin & Tonic: A very herbal drink, with plenty of pine and some juicy citrus, which also made this particularly refreshing. It had intense flavours, with the greater concentrations of botanicals being evident.
Martini: Thick and viscous, with intense green and piney juniper, spicy coriander and crisp citrus notes. This was easily the most intense Martini, flavour-wise, of all that we tried and was certainly memorable. Very tasty and great for a change.
Negroni: Wow! A very flavourful, lively, herbal and piney Negroni. Whilst not to everyone’s taste, many will love it.
* It is worth noting that the strength of the rum of Naval Tots was calculated differently.
**Sun Liquor of Seattle make a Gun Club “Navy Strength” Gin, but, as this is bottled at a mere 50%ABV, for the purposes of this tasting it is not classed as a Navy Strength Gin.
Special thanks to all our panel of tasters: Michael of Ginuine Spirits, Paul of FEW, Zack and the folks at Graphic Bar, Mr Justin of North Virginia, Aaron of TheGinIsIn (America’s Gin Reviewer), Sean of Plymouth, Emma Stokes of London Cocktail Society, Chris of GinJourney, Dave Hollander of The New Sheridan Club, Clayton Hartley of The Candlelight Club, Dickie the GinSage, Mrs. B., Clint of Imbibe, Kirsty Chant of Chant Communications, Paul of G-Vine, Wilkes of @wilkes888 (The London based food and drink-o-phile), Olivier of TheGinBlog, NY Distilling, MasterofMalt (including photography), Hayman’s, Leopold’s, FEW and TheWhiskyExchange.
It’s been a bit of a Chase Gin week here on SummerFruitCup and today, whilst mooching along to our local Waitrose, Mrs. B. informed me that the Heston Gin has now arrived.*
‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is a designed specifically for Waitrose by Heston Blumenthal and is manufactured by Chase Distillery. Like the new Great British Gin, this Waitrose-exclusive spirit is potato-based (and packaged in the same bottle) and is made using an array of 7 classic botanicals**. The gin is additionally infused with lemon and Earl Grey tea.*** It is bottled at 40%ABV and specifies its suitability for vegetarians on the label.
On its own:
Nose: Simply upon opening the bottle, the smell of the gin burst out: zesty, but sour lemon is followed by wet tea. Overall, it has the feeling of lemon tea, but could be better.
Taste: Smooth up front, very fragrant and very citrusy, with floral tea notes. There’s some coriander, too, but where this gin really stands out is with the lovely Earl Grey tea finish, which is long and delicious. With a drop of water, distinctly piney juniper and a sweet element of liquorice also pop up.
Gin & Tonic
This drink is really the litmus test for this gin, which is primarily designed for the off-trade market and, more specifically, the supermarket shoppers of Waitrose, the majority of whom consume their gin with a splash of tonic water.
A resounding pass with flying colours. Refreshing and zesty, it has some floral tea and orange elements, plus a hint of lemon verbena. I think that a nice, clean (not citrusy) tonic works best; Fevertree or Schweppes work well, although I’d be keen to try it with Fevertree Mediterranean or 1724 for a more herbal twist.
I initially tried it at 2:1 ratio, but also really like it at greater dilutions: 3:1 or 4:1. The drink still works for those who like a little more tonic, but, personally, I think I’ll stick to the 2:1.
Very lemony, with some orange blossom, as well as a crisp dryness from the tea. When I made the Martini (stirred), the gin seemed to have slightly louched, which gave it a misty appearance. I like the flavour of this cocktail: it’s quite complex, but I think that some will find it overly pungent.
This makes an odd Negroni, which is quite soft initially, with floral citrus notes. The nose is very vegetal and, for me, a bit off-putting. There’s some bitterness at the end, but the cocktail overall doesn’t really work for me.
Heston Gin had a lot to live up to, as I’d eagerly anticipated it for several weeks now. Noticeably, by adding flavours to a classic gin make-up and increasing the floral elements, they have produced a gin that is more like some of the contemporary varieties coming out of the USA or Australia.
Given these changes, I found that the gin doesn’t fit into all classic gin cocktails, but, with some tailoring, I think you could get some good results. It will probably lend itself well to some Spring cocktails, too.
As a cocktail ingredient, there is not a lot out there that can rival it (the Spectator Gin is less perfumed) in terms of application and, with some experimentation, some great drinks could be created.
In reality, any gin aimed at supermarket shoppers will be judged by how it works in a Gin & Tonic and Heston’s in works well, giving a slight twist to a familiar drink.
‘Heston from Waitrose’ Earl Grey and Lemon Gin is available exclusively from Waitrose Stores for around £22 for 70cl.
*The Heston Gin as I have eagerly awaited its arrival.
** Including Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Citrus Peel, Orris Root, Liquorice and Almond.
*** Heston seems quite keen on using tea to flavour things – I am quite fond of the Lapsang Salmon.
*** Interestingly, last night, I was tasting some of the MasterofMalt Spectator Gin that also uses lemon (this time lemon balm) and Earl Grey tea as an infusion with the spirit.
If you are looking for unusual and obscure gins, one place to check out is The Whisky Exchange; they never fail to disappoint. A recent addition to their listings was Diner’s Club London Dry Gin Deluxe (40%ABV).
After some research, it turns out that this gin was commissioned (but not manufactured by) Douglas Denham Ltd., which, until 2003, was a subsidiary of Red Lion Blending Company Ltd., based in Edgware, North London. They did this on behlaf of Diners Club International, a credit card firm.
Red Lion Blending Company Ltd. was founded by Robert Mendeson and David Hallgarlen in 1969 and ceased trading in 2005.
In addition to this gin, Douglas Denham also commissioned blended Scotch for Diner’s Club, such as this 12 Year Old.
1. On its own
Nose: Juniper and some sherbet lemon citrus notes.
Taste: Pretty good and surprisingly smooth initially, although the alcohol’s warmth certainly builds after a few seconds. Quite sweet, there’s a lot of citrus, especially lemon – dry, pure fruit – and coriander. Simple and classic.
2. Gin & Tonic
A bit of a beast with the coriander and citrus although the juniper is pretty strong too. This really feels like an old school gin an tonic dating back to the days before Bombay Sapphire (who knows maybe it does?). Despite its very classic, old school approach it is very refreshing.
Fresh and crisp, with plenty of citrus and coriander notes. There’s a hint of anise, but mostly, lots and lots of lemon, making this a zesty Martini.
A pretty standard, classic Negroni: both bitter and sweet, but without any particular wow factor to it.
Diners Club was probably designed to be a standard, classic-style gin and it delivers. I wasn’t expecting much but actually it was quite good and the citrus emphasis was a nice surprise. At £11.49 a 40%ABV bottle I think it is a bit of a bargain.
Diner’s Club International Extra Dry London Dry Gin Deluxe is available for around £11.50 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.
A Worm’s Eye View of Gin
There are plenty of gin wheezes these days that help spirits to differentiate themselves from one another in a growing market, but English Garden Worm Gin has gone that one step further (so far, in fact, that one notable commentator postulated whether or not this was “jump the shark” moment for gin).
English Worm Gin is bottled at 37.5%ABV and contains an English Grown Earthworm; apparently this adds a “unique taste”. This bonker bottle comes from Edible, the company who also offer Scorpion Vodka and a range of chocolate-covered creepy crawlies.
How does it taste?
Nose: Juniper, with some small hints of earthy, root botanicals along with some musky coriander and a hint of saltiness.
Taste: Quite watery, even for 37.5%. There are juniper notes upfront, followed by some sweeter floral and citrus notes. Slightly peppery at the end. Overall, thought, it was pretty much a let down and tastes like watered-down gin.
I’m not 100% sure what I expected from this gin; I was sure that it wasn’t going to be the best that I’d tried, but I expected more than this. Unlike some mezcals that contain a worm and still taste rather good, this gin just doesn’t deliver and, at £20 for 250ml (£80 for a litre), this is one of the most expensive gins in the country. I wouldn’t waste my money.
There are lots of gins that are made in the USA, but – sadly – few of them make it over to the UK. One of the more readily available, and more popular, varieties is No:209 Gin from San Francisco.
No:209 Gin is bottled at 46% ABV and its botanical mix includes:
Bergamot Orange Peel
On its own
Nose: Juicy juniper, coriander, some sweetness and cardamom.
Taste: Initial flavours of coriander and spicy cardamom, moving to orange. Smooth to start, with a gradually-building strength and warmth, but no burn. Very tasty, with a lot of flavour. Rather classic in style, but with a self-confessed contemporary twist.
Excellent: very crisp and refreshing. There is a strong, spicy edge, especially on the finish. Cooling and very smooth, this is a really good drink.
Gin & Tonic
A rather classic, crisp and refreshing drink with an extra twist in flavour from the citrus boost and green, spicy cardamom. Another classic drink with a contemporary slant and, frankly, a rather delightful one.
The flavours of the cardamom work well with the other bittersweet characteristics of the Negroni and No:209 has plenty of these. There is a running theme to cocktails with this gin: that of classic styles with a contemporary twist and this is no exception. Another superb drink.
I think No:209 is a good example of a Classic London style of gin that has been given a contemporary Californian (or, more generally, American) twist. The spicy cardamom is superb and my favourite drink for No:209 is always a Gin & Tonic.