Cocktails with… Heston Blumenthal’s Lemon and Earl Grey Gin from Waitrose

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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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.

In Conclusion
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.

Hendrick’s Garnish Taste Test

Anyone who has ever bought a bottle of Hendrick’s will know that Hendrick’s and cucumber go hand-in-hand. When I first tried it six years ago, I have to admit to being a tad surprised at being served a glass of gin & tonic with a slice of cucumber in it; surprised, but ultimately delighted, as it was delicious.

Since then, I have come across other gins that suggest garnishing drinks with one of their botanicals, two examples being:
– Pink Grapefruit with Tanqueray No. 10; and
– Cape Gooseberries with Whitley Neill.

I’ve been asked why companies don’t just add more of that botanical’s flavour to the spirit to negate the need for additional garnish. It’s a good question and I’m not sure of an answer.
However, aesthetically, a slice of cucumber or a handful of strawberries makes the drink more appealing, not to mention the fact that you get a little snack you get once you’ve finished the drink.

Hendrink’s is pretty versatile when it comes to garnishes: I have had it served with cucumber, lemon, lime, strawberries, and even rose petals! After I received a bottle of the 44% (Export) Hendrick’s from relatives returning from abroad, I thought I would evaluate each of these garnishes alongside one another in a blind Hendrick’s & Tonic Garnish Taste Test.

Our garnishes were as follows: lemon, lime, cucumber, rose petals, strawberries,  and plain (no garnish, as a control). We tried all six with both the 41.4% and the 44% strengths of Hendrick’s. The gin & tonics were mixed in a 1pt Gin : 2pts Tonic ratio and served in covered coffee cups (thanks to my local Café Nero for supplying those), as we thought this was the best way to avoid identifying the garnish by sight.

Prepared garnishes, clockwise from top left, Plain, Lemon, Lime, Cucumber, strawberries, Rose Petals.

Hendricks 41.4% ABV – (UK Domestic)

No Garnish: The tonic comes through a lot more in this one; there is an initial bitter tang followed by floral perfume notes.

Cucumber: Strong cucumber with a fresh, slightly watery element; it tastes more of the skin than the flesh, but is very fine nonetheless.

Lemon: Exceptionally well-balanced, with subtle citrus and hints of vanilla. Very popular.

Lime: Fresh, citrus and a hint of cucumber, although this was possibly a touch on the bitter side and too sharp.

Strawberries: Hints of cucumber and sweet notes of strawberry. This adds a new flavour to the drink that complements the already summery profile of Hendrick’s. Bright and flavourful. Simply delicious.

Rose Petals: Soft and light, sweet and a touch syrupy, but well-balanced overall.

Hendricks 44% ABV – (USA)

No Garnish: Slightly savoury, with a subtle pepperiness. Well-balanced and complex.

Cucumber: Very strong flavours of cucumber, which dominate the drink. Quite fresh and rather pleasant.

Lemon: A strong bang of citrus, which pleasantly complements the gin, and a fresh sweetness akin to cool lemonade.

Lime: The most bitter and dry of the gin & tonics that we tired. Slightly fruity, but not very sweet.

Strawberries: Very good indeed; sweet and juicy, a touch of strawberry jam.

Rose Petals: Fresh, floral flavours, that aren’t overpowering; sadly lacking in flavour.

In conclusion, we both really liked the strawberries as a garnish as it made the drink rather summery, I was quite fan of the cucumber but Mrs. B found it a little over-powering. In contrast she like the delicacy of the rose petal garnish whereas I thought it too weak. A lemon garnish with the 41.4 also scored well.

The real conclusion we can draw is that we both preferred the 41.4% in a gin & tonic and that my wife and I don’t always agree!

For our coverage of our Tasting of 11 Scottish Gins, click here.