Last night I attended an event with a local business forum at a pub. I say pub, they describe themselves as a ‘bar’ I think. Anyway, it’s a nice place, the guy who owns it has been there for well over a decade and is still as enthusiastic today as he was when he first opened up. They have their own brand IPA and a pretty good wine list; the food they laid on was excellent and a good evening was had by all. When I first arrived, and I arrived first, I took a look at their gins – Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Opihr, Hendricks and Bombay Sapphire. I ordered a Hendricks, but it turned out the bottle was empty, so I attempted the word Opihr but it was apparent as I hit the first syllable that it too, was just a bottle. My choices were, in fact, Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray, although they did have some Gordon’s Sloe gin, enough for about one glass. My Tanqueray came in a highball with some ice and a bottle of Schweppes, not so much as a slice of lemon, but at least he didn’t pour the tonic in for me. I subsequently switched to lager for my second drink of the night..
My frustrations at perception and reality being in stark contrast did not ruin my evening – the food and the company was more than good enough to make up for my lack of a decent G n T, but I do get annoyed when you are lead to believe you are getting melons when you are getting chicken fillets, or vice versa, if indeed that is even possible. (I don’t think it is, this is a bad analogy – looked promising, feel let down? Ok so now you get it.)
Blackwoods (they don’t care for the apostrophe, so I’m omitting it) Dry Gin is, according to their press: the world’s first vintage gin (note they do have an apostrophe there, so I’m guessing the name is non-apostrophe deliberate). This is explained by way of the harvesting of botanicals, which may change from year to year, but is done when the botanicals, in Shetland, are perfectly ready for harvesting. These botanicals are then steeped in natural mineral water with juniper, coriander, limes and ‘other botanicals’. So, in other words, they use lots of botanicals, some of which are harvested locally in Shetland, and those bits are tied to the vintage, but none of the others necessarily are. Which is probably true of pretty much every gin imaginable. But I suppose it is a good way of labelling that one years Blackwoods may taste different to the next. I am, for the sake of full disclosure, drinking the 2012 vintage. So far, despite a wide search of various online retailers and indeed their own web site, I can only find images of, and references to, the 2012 vintage. Draw your own conclusions.
It’s nice though, don’t get me wrong. I like it, it is rather distinctive – I’m sure I am actually getting the limes and citrus notes, which is more than can be said for most of the botanical claims one gets with gin. It is only about £22 a bottle – which is pretty reasonable for a 70cl – and it is the standard 40% strength. I think if you like your Gin with a distinctly citrus vibe, then you’ll love it.
It has won awards – in 2013 a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirits awards and a double gold medal at the same event in 2009 – proving there was life before 2012. This ‘vintage’ business still bothers me however; like the bar with the pretend bottles of gin on the shelves, no matter how good the food was, I don’t see the point of keeping the empty bottles to taunt the gin-drinking public anymore than I see the point in vintage gin.
Nice gin though, I’m now approaching the bottom of my second bottle and will buy a third, hopefully now we’re in 2016, it might be a newer vintage.
Blackwoods 2012 Vintage Gin – £22 for 75cl
Gin & Tonic Rating – 3.5/5