Call me a snob if you will, but I tend to turn my nose up at the ‘own label’ bottles of anything, let alone Gin, let alone Lidl. However, with good recommendations and a £15.99 price tag for a 70cl bottle, it was hard to turn down the chance to try it, especially as I didn’t have to brave the dreaded shopping trip myself.
The bottle is pleasing, nice attention to detail, nice swing tag, better presentation than the ‘Castelgy’ gin at £9.99 that Lidl introduced the previous year, or indeed any other own-brand supermarket gin I am aware of. The thing about own-brand stuff is that it always looks like a cheaper alternative, an inferior model, even if it isn’t. But this doesn’t even look like an own-brand gin, let alone taste… I’m getting ahead of myself.
The old axiom of never judging a book by its cover is uppermost in my thoughts as I read the label and open the bottle. Made ‘in partnership with Kevin Love’ reads the swing tag, which makes me think I should know who Mr Love is, but I don’t so I Google him.- apparently he is an American basketball player. Hmmm, I wonder if perhaps he is not the right Kevin Love. Sure enough, there is another further down the results, turns out that our Kevin is a Michelin starred chef, this makes far more sense. I’m not sure it provides me with any more confidence in the brand, but at least he isn’t a baller, which would have certainly provided me with less.
On the nose I get a distinct smell of Gin. This may sound absurd, but sometimes one gets all sorts of other smells – Hoxton with its over-powering coconut smell, Brockman’s that smells like the Wham Bars I used to eat when I was fourteen. Hortus just emits an odour of Gin and little more that I can put my finger on.
I pour some over ice and take a small sip, expecting the worst, but it is rather nice. I take another in fact, yes, I’m certain this is really rather good. I add more ice, more gin, then mix with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water. The result is very pleasing, it really is rather nice. There is nothing special about it, it is the standard 40%, it is not sharp nor smooth, I shan’t rave on about the complexities of the botanicals (apparently Angelica, Lavender, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Cubebs, Coriander and Juniper) because you don’t really get any of these coming through particularly. The label says they are going for subtlety so maybe they have and it is just too subtle for me, but either way, I like it. At this price point it is probably the best Gin I have tasted to date, and frankly anyone grumbling that it is not fine enough needs to take a good hard look at the price you pay for a gin that is. I bought a double Brockman’s Gin and Tonic the other day in a pub in Forest Hill and it cost me £12. A whole bottle of Hortus is £15.99 and there is no idiot barman to kill off the flavour by adding a slice of cucumber to it as if all Gins are now Hendricks.
Value for money, this gets the full five stars, so if you are on a budget then buy this – you’ll get more of a return than you would from a bottle of Gordon’s, and more change back from your £20 note too.
Hortus London Dry Gin – £15.99 for 70cl
Gin & Tonic Rating: 3.5/5