Hortus Gin

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.hortus

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



Jensen’s Gin

jensens_dryThe gin shelf was looking a little low on clear liquid, somewhere near the bottom of several quality gins, and half a bottle or more of those that I am less keen on, but intend to re-visit with different tonics at some point. But for now I needed something new for the shelf, and while shopping for wine for my Easter Sunday lunch, I asked the very helpful shopkeep at Theatre Of Wine in Greenwich about the various curiosities he had on their gin shelves. After hearing several descriptions for a variety of London Dry and Old Tom style gins I plumped for a bottle of Jensen’s London Dry Gin from the local distillery based in an old railway arch at Bermondsey. I think it was the word ‘peppery’ that sold it to me as it wasn’t an adjective I could readily apply to any of the other gins I had tried in recent memory.

The bottle is simple and sleek, clear glass, silver screw top and white labels front and back with a few notes on both the distiller and the gin itself. The 70cl bottle is a shade under £30, my hopes are pretty high. The 43% volume is higher than bog standard, and sometimes this can mean added harshness, but when I taste my first measure poured over ice cubes then I get none of that, but I do get the ‘peppery’ I was warned about.

I half fill one of my new Balloon glasses with lumps of large ice cubes and pour a measure in. My Ginventory and Ginto apps both recommend tonic water I do not currently have, so I add Fever-Tree Indian Tonic water and the result on the nose and in the mouth is pleasant enough. Another mouthful and I’m hooked, and by the time my glass is empty I am certainly wishing I had another.

Botanicals include Coriander, Juniper, Liquorice root, Almond and Violets. The distillers have attempted to re-create a classic old-fashioned London dry style and recommend its use in a dry martini, and so I will do that soon and update this post then. I’ll also get some of the recommended mixer and see if they elevate this fine gin even further. This is a really classy product, a gentleman of a gin that is a pleasure to share an evening with.

And another thing to try – they do, by arrangement, distillery tours – so that is something to put on the wish list. Wish #1 – I wish I had enough time to do a distillery tour.

More details about where to purchase or taste at their web site www.bermondseygin.com

Jensen’s Bermondsey London Dry Gin – £28 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating: 4.5/5 (Provisional based on Fever Tree Indian only)

Buy Jensen’s Dry at The Gin Box Shop