I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 2013 is going to be a very exciting year for gin. Signs that “the gin fad is passing” are few and far-between, and this year in the UK will be even more exciting, with a good half-dozen distilleries starting to produce gin for the first time. At least three of these** are based in London and the one we are looking at today is The London Distillery Company in Battersea. In addition to making gin, The London Distillery Company will also be making whisky.
Testbed is a set of four gins created by distiller Andrew MacLeod Smith at The Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, New York, as a part of his MSc in Brewing & Distilling from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. They serve to tantalise consumers before the first gin is distilled by the chaps in London, as well as providing an insight into the product development of gin. This is a rather exciting product and, for those who are really interested in gin, a useful tool to better understand its characteristics. But enough of my prattle – how do they taste?
Each Gin has a different botanical mix:
Testbed 1.1 Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Bilberry, Pink Grapefruit, Earl Grey Tea.
Testbed 1.2 Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Bilberry, Pink Grapefruit, Lovage Root, Liquorice, Bergamot Oil.
Testbed 1.3 Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Bilberry, Pink Grapefruit, Lovage Root, Liquorice, Bergamot Oil, Lavender Flowers.
Testbed 1.4 Botanicals: Same as 1.3 but with different quantities.
#1) Nose: Quite light with some liquorice and vanilla as well as a touch of toffee and sarsparilla
Taste: Smooth initially with juniper and coriander at the front, quite powerful. Some good earthy angelica notes and a slight tannin dryness two third of the way in. Long dry dry pine and citrus finish where the pink grapefruit makes itself known.
#2) Nose: Quite fresh, with a touch of savoury brine, like pickles, and some fresh cucumber. This is followed by some floral citrus.
Taste: On the taste, a little saltiness is followed by plenty of citrus and then some warm, spicy notes: nutmeg, cinnamon and a hint of hazelnut. This is quite a warm gin (in terms of flavour, not alcohol burn) and would be well-suited to the colder months.
#3) Nose: Soft, ripe berry notes: blackberry and cloudberry, with a hint of sweetness and almond.
Taste: The berry notes from the nose are also found on the taste, accompanied by a slight creaminess, like a Fruits of the Forest syllabub. This is very pleasant and would surely be a treat in a Bramble. There’s also quite a dry sweetness, which stops the spirit from becoming too sickly.
#4) Nose: Far more classic, with notes of juniper, angelica and coriander, plus a hint of chocolate.
Taste: A more intense flavour, with plenty of dry juniper and zesty citrus, especially from the grapefruit and, to a lesser extent, the bergamot. As with the nose, this is far more Classic in style than the previous three, with some additional citrus notes and more sweet spice.
Gin & Tonic (with Schweppes EU)
#1) Quite citrusy, but also quite dry, with some of the tannins of the tea coming through. Probably not enough juniper for my liking, and maybe a bit too sweet, too.
#2) A lovely, spicy Gin & Tonic; really fresh, with some refreshing and crisp cucumber notes. A lovely, dry finish.
#3) Nice and pretty classic in style: with zesty citrus and jammy notes, this seems well-rounded. Pretty good. Refreshing and easy-to-drink, with a zesty, citrus finish that signs-off the drink well.
#4) A particularly dry Gin & Tonic with lots of citrus; I think this needs a juicy garnish to redress the balance, maybe lemon or orange. I prefer #3, although this one grows on you and is fresh, refreshing and zesty.
#1) Very, very smooth and quite short, but with a nice initial burst coriander and citrus, including grapefruit. Zesty.
#2) More earthy and floral, with notes of liquorice; this is sweeter at the end. Again, rather smooth.
#3) More floral and citrus (coriander) notes that are generally lighter, along with a little, sweet jamminess.
#4) The softest and smoothest of the four Martinis with some sweetness. Juniper, sweet floral and citrus notes, as well as a spiciness at the end. Classic, with a contemporary twist.***
#1) Quite an intense Negroni, with an intensely bitter finish. There are some nutty, herbal notes, too and a fair bit of citrus on the finish. The notes of pink grapefruit work really well. There’s a real “pow!” of flavour.
#2) Soft and smooth, with less bitterness and a good bitter-sweet balance. Some orange notes come into play, too; this is really, really good. Equilibrium.
#3) More enhanced bitterness and citrus, with some floral notes and coriander; rather intense with lots of high notes. Some sweet jamminess, too.
#4) This is a very neat drink; smooth initially, with building flavour and a bitter-sweet finish. Good, juicy citrus and piney juniper berries.
Testbed Gin are available for around £28 for a pack of four 10cl bottles from Master of Malt.
*But not non-existent – does anyone know what had happened to Edgerton Pink?
** C.O.L.D actually started production in Mid-December 2012
*** The hallmark of a Trans-Atlantic, Cary Grant or Anglo-American Gin