Tanqueray Rangpur

What did I know about this gin before I took my first taste? That is was made by Tanqueray, that it is much loved, and that it is infused with Rangpur limes, but is often described as being simply citrusy or lemony.

Tanqueray RangpurI love Tanqueray London Dry and Tanqueray 10, and I love lemony things – lemon meringue pie; limoncello ice cream; lemon drizzle cake; lemon tart; and lime things like chocolate limes, Key Lime Pie,  and the barrels of limey goo you used to get in a box of Terry’s All Gold. Furthermore, citrus flavours often improve things – lemon bleach is much nicer than natural, lemon hand towels you get in Chinese restaurants – much better than the manky flannel my mum used to wash my face with when I was a kid.

However, I will say that generally speaking I’m not so keen on lemons and limes in liquids. There is nothing worse than ordering a Coke and forgetting to stipulate ‘no slice’, its subsequent arrival, with thin limp slice of lemon and a rogue pip floating loose among the ice cubes, renders it ruined. In a glass of Hoegaarden, meh, I can take it or leave it, and in the vast majority of gin and tonics, I’d rather let the drink speak for itself than add either lemon or lime. So then, this review is probably going to go one way or the other.

On the nose it doesn’t actually seem all that lemony, but, over some ice you really get a hit of… I’m struggling to find the right word.. Ajax? No, that is a little harsh, but then so is the taste. So I added a little tonic, but this just seemed to make the whole experience worse. I remembered that my ratios of gin to tonic recently have been 1:1 or 1:2 at best, so I added some more, to bring it back into the realms of normalcy – and it got better. By the time I had added the rest of my bottle of fever tree I was much more comfortable, and could imagine myself on a balmy summer’s evening sitting on a garden terrace enjoying a long cool Rangpur and Tonic.

Further improvement was found by adding some fresh ginger, as recommended by the Ginventory app. The addition of the ginger gives the drink a far more complex nature, no longer could you be convinced you were drinking a vodka and sprite.

I’m not overly enamoured with this product, or rather, it did not live up to my expectations, but it is nice enough, and if you are prepared to make it long and throw in some fresh ginger, then you really have something – roll on summer.

Tanqueray Rangpur – £25 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating – 3 (on condition of ginger, sunshine & plenty of tonic)

 

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G’Vine Floraison Gin

Happy new year gin drinkers, let me kick you off with a little French fancy, a floral number from the fine folk across the channel, or, la Manche as I believe they like to call it once you’ve alighted from your ferry.

I am not madly keen about floral things generally, and without giving the review away too early, I can tell you that this has ended up being no exception, although I will say that, of the floral gins I have had, this one is so floral that it is perhaps my favourite among that particular branch of the gin tree.

It is unconventional, perhaps it is not surprising that our oft-rivals have not decided to head down the London Dry route (or root if I am keeping my Tree metaphor, which I’m not) but they do seem to have taken it to some extreme. The base is not a standard mash, but distilled from grapes instead; we can probably agree that, generally speaking, the French know what to do with their grapes and so can not be surprised at that. g_vine_floraison_70cl_1

‘Unconventional’, it should be noted, is also not my word but theirs – ‘Traditionally Unconventional’ in fact according to words upon the heavy based clear bottle, which is pleasing both to eye and touch. Ten fruit botanicals are listed on the label, but on the nose you get nothing much more than a hint of turpentine, which is a little off-putting to say the least. Neat, or over ice, it is not much better, certainly not a sipping gin, but the addition of a little tonic does improve it, and, having tried it with a few variations, I can tell you that good old Schweppes Indian Tonic water works far better than any of the five or six other ‘premium’ tonics I have experimented with. Which just goes to show that you need to keep an open mind about all things, even the tonic.

I can’t really recommend it, but neither can I say it is unpleasant. Furthermore I am not sure that the deep mid winter is the time for such drinks. Perhaps a balmy summer’s evening, with plenty of Schweppes and a garden full of flowers in bloom, buzzing bees and the like, is a more suitable setting, or perhaps, if you are fond of all things floral, then you should ignore me and give it a go whatever the season.

The French are, of course, experts when it comes to all sorts of other drinks – beers, wines, brandy, and so perhaps one day we can add gin to the list, but just not today. For now, spend your £30 on a nice bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape or two cheap bottles of champagne – either will be a better use of your money.

G’Vine Floraison Small Batch Distilled Gin – £29 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating – 2/5

 

Bertha’s Revenge

Autumn has arrived; Halloween is upon us; leaves are rusting and rustling; and, it is darker, quicker, colder outside; the now-burning fire in the lounge is accompanied by crackles and bangs of fireworks on the heath and in the parks. Balmy summer evenings of garden-dwelling gin-drinking are passed, and I am about to take a 35ml shot of gin from a bottle of Bertha’s Revenge that I bought in the height of summer. This will be my third gin from this particular bottle, my fifth slug of Bertha’s altogether.

Why then, has this bottle of gin lasted me from a balmy summer afternoon all the way through to the last knockings of October? Do I dislike it that much? Do I not care about it and pass it over for other gins? No. Bertha’s Revenge is about to break the blog, if I were Paul Hollywood I would be giving it a hand-shake, if I were Len Goodman I’d be furiously scrubbing the number 11 on a blank piece of paper and holding that up instead, but I’m not a judge from a BBC light entertainment show, I’m a contented gin blogger who has guarded his bottle of Bertha’s Revenge from others, and even from himself, waiting for just the right moment to pour himself a glass of some of the finest gin it has ever been his pleasure to taste, over four large ice cubes, with the merest hint of Fever Tree Indian Tonic water.bertha's revenge

Bertha’s Revenge is a gem; it is easy to sip neat, with a velvety texture on the tongue and a smooth balance of juniper and coriander, distilled on a base of whey alcohol. Among the other ingredients listed on the bottle: spring water, bitter orange, grapefruit, cumin, love, and childish enthusiasm – I can’t really taste the grapefruit, but the others come through clearly enough.

Bertha was a cow, a famous one at that, having lived into the record books – 48 summers and autumns to her name, as well as 39 calves. She appears on the front of the bottle along with the words ‘Small Batch – Irish Milk Gin’ and a healthy 42%.  I was lucky enough to meet one of the proprietors of the brand earlier in the year and he was waxing lyrical about both Bertha and the gin and he was the first person to give a me a sip of this most wonderful drink. Ten minutes later I had bought a bottle, and I’ve somehow managed to restrain myself from finishing it within the week.

The coriander and cumin are there, but with sublime subtlety. It really is the smoothness of the thing that makes it so wonderful, so rich and almost creamy in its texture. I really do recommend the slightest splash of tonic is all that you need, please do not waste it by adding more than that. For a garnish, if you really feel you need one, then a simple twist of lemon peel will do the job.

The story of an ancient cow, brought back from the dead by Irish farmers and turned, quite literally into a spirit, might sound like a Halloween tale in the making, but there is nothing scary in this drink, except for the fact that it is now a couple of shots closer to the bottom of the bottle, and the thought of being without it sends shivers down my spine for sure.

For Bertha’s Revenge, my first ‘five star plus’ rating, best of breed.

Bertha’s Revenge Small Batch Irish Milk Gin – £35 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating – 5+

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Fifty Pounds Gin

fifty_pounds_1The first thing you should know about Fifty Pounds Gin, is that it does not cost fifty pounds. I’m sure if you try really hard, you can find someone charging a bullseye, but generally, you’re looking at around £32 for a 70cl bottle.

I wondered if perhaps they started out with the idea they might get £50 a bottle, or at least if they pretended that was its worth, then people would think paying £32 was a bargain and thus quickly part with their readies. The web site corrects me – £50 was the levy imposed by the 1736 gin act, imposed upon distillers to help weed out the home distilleries that were destroying the lives of common gin-drinkers.

The recipe, like the bottle design, harks back from these early days of gin-swilling, with both revived to plug a hole in the ever-expanding gin renaissance. Distilled in a traditional John Dore still, in a traditional south London distillery, this has all the hallmarks of something that is over-reliant on tradition and branding to sell it – and yet, it is also rather delicious.

A little harsh neat, it turns into a refreshing and zingy little gin and tonic with, in this case, 1724 tonic water. At 43.5% it is both punchy and smooth, ‘exceptional velvetiness’ as described on the bottle, and I will just about allow that. I would argue with the shoddy quality of the cork, a cork that did not want to come out of the top of the bottle in one piece. Crumbled cork is annoying enough in a bottle of wine – but at least you finish the wine in one night. I will have to remember that my bottle of gin needs sieving for the next few weeks. Not the end of the world however, so dwell not, just be warned when you come to pop the lid.

There is little to inform you about what botanicals they use in this gin – it is juniper forward, but certainly has more than a hint of lavender, rosemary or something else herby to go with the coriander seeds and dried peel. All in all, this hand-crafted, small batch London Dry gin, deserves a greater profile than it has. You can see why it costs over £30 a bottle, and while there is nothing in its make up to make you jump up and down with excitement, it is quietly wonderful and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that, all the time it stays well under £50, you give Fifty Pounds Gin a go.

Fifty Pounds Gin – £32 for 70cl (43.5%)

Gin & Tonic Rating – 3.5/5

 

 

Sabatini

London and gin, are, of course, synonymous, perhaps more than any other location on the planet: London is Gin and Gin is London. But other places lay strong claims to a place in gin history – the Dutch will tell you that jenever comes from their fine country and one of the most famous brands in juniper based drinks – BOLS – that has been perfecting jenever for over 440 years and even today employs one recipe that will soon be having its 200th birthday. There is also plenty of history within the UK outside of London – not least of all in Plymouth, and around Europe the French and Spanish have been making and perfecting gin for centuries. New York did the world a great favour by exploding the cocktail scene, and then during the prohibition era, exporting it to the rest of the world. But, as much as I’d like to be jetting off to Manhattan to drink cocktails, the real gin pilgrimage I would like to take is to Harry’s Bar in Venice, for a dry martini, knowing that I follow in the footsteps of Earnest Hemingway, Evelyn Waugh, Truman Capote and a whole host of other icons.

But it is not just in Venice that we find Italy’s gin connections – the Negroni was invented in Florence after all. The invention of the Martini is unclear, but to many minds all roads point, if not to Rome exactly, certainly to Italy. It is amazing then that they do not have a thriving gin distilling culture in Italy, but there simply isn’t one, and that is that. They exist, but the likes of Malfy and Sabatini are not easy to find, in the case of the latter you really need to find a specialist online retailer, or visit high end department stores like Fortnum & Masons.

In Italy itself Sabatini is far more popular, which is perhaps made all the more strange by the fact the distillation process happens right here in London. The Sabatini family have had the recipe for decades, and take the main botanicals all from the family farm in Tuscany, but the distillation takes place at Thames Distillers in the heart of London, and actually, for all the tradition in distilling that it brings, I find that fact rather disappointing. sabatini

My disappointment ends there however. The styling of the bottle is beautiful, clear glass with a greeny blue transparent label featuring a Tusacan landscape and simple clear lettering and cork lid. This is a drink that summer evenings were made for – on the nose, you get the floral, herby notes that come from the 9 botanicals brought from the family farm and that carries through in the drink. What you end up with is a 41.3% London Dry Gin – a very traditional juniper flavour is complimented by this wonderful blend of ingredients that naturally grow side by side on the land. The Gin & Tonic I started to sip as I wrote the first few words of this post, featured a sprig of thyme (one of the botanicals) and Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water. My glass is now empty, but the flavours linger long in the mouth and most pleasantly so.

I was interested to note that lavender is another of the Sabatini botanicals, and there is certainly a similarity at some level between this and the beautiful Pothecary gin I recommended earlier this month, which also boasts a lavender ingredient.

I expect Sabatini would make a wonderful Dry Martini, and will be attempting this at a later date, and perhaps even at Harry’s Bar – should I ever make the pilgrimage.

Sabatini Gin –  £29 for 70cl, if you can find it (41.3%)

Gin & Tonic Rating – 4/5

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Rock Rose

Something that never ceases to amaze me about the gin revival, is that some of the most amazing gins are so brand-spankingly-new. Brighton and Cotswolds are two such examples of gins that have gone from 0-100mph in astonishingly quick time, and I sit down and tuck into my bottle of Rock Rose I am flabbergasted to find that a mere 2 years and 1 month ago I could not have been writing anything about them, because they did not exist.

Rock Rose lends its name to more than one variety of gins distilled by this Scottish distillery, and the bottle I have is the standard bottle – a white glazed stoneware (I think) bottle with a blue design, which puts me in mind of another great Scot – Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Each bottle would appear to have a hand written date and initialling on the reverse, which lends to the ‘handcrafted’ description. rockrose

No shrinking violet or wallflower, this Rock Rose is 41.5% and is very punchy. You get a real flavour burst from the initial ‘on the nose’ floral notes, to the piney and citrus flavours that mingle in the mouth. It is distinct, without being too flowery or remotely harsh. The trick they have managed to pull off, is that it is also unmistakably a good juniper gin too. Not cheap, it is £33.65 at The Gin Box Shop, but worth every penny.

I experienced another gin this week – Saffron Gin from Gabriel Boudier in France, and it was almost the polar opposite – it was harsh, it was repellent on both the nose and as part of a gin and tonic. At a Forest Hill Gin Club event this weekend I sought the opinion of others, desperate to find someone who could add a positive note to a review for it, but I could find no one prepared to defend it more than to say it was ‘ok’. So I’m not even going to bother reviewing Saffron Gin, it is the closest thing to nail varnish remover I’ve had so far, and that is that.

In the 140 or so years that Saffron Gin has been going, they have missed a trick that Rock Rose has pulled off in under 2 years, and while I am sure people will continue, and perhaps even enjoy products like Saffron Gin, I’m going to be flying the flag for the new guys – vive la revolution!

Rock Rose  – £33.65 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating – 4.5/5

 

(Gabriel Boudier Saffron Gin  – £29 for 70cl  – Rating 0/5)

Daffy’s

I’m jumping off the usual format to review Daffy’s – heading into unchartered territory, so hold on to your hats. Usually I pour myself a glass of gin and tonic, add a garnish and write a review, but this time I am pouring myself… wait for it… two glasses of gin and tonic and writing a review. Tiny minds blown yet? No? Drat, ok, if that is not impressive enough, I can pretend I am travelling on a rocket to Mars if that helps.

The thing about a rocket trip to Mars is, it is rather boring, and long. You really need something to take your mind off the long, boring journey through the blackness of space as everything you love is left behind you. Fortunately I have a bottle of Daffy’s gin, and two glasses, so I’m as happy as larry.

The makers of Daffy’s, or, to give it its full title – Daffy’s Small Batch Premium Gin – will tell you that ‘Daffy’ is the goddess of gin. Daffy, their web site tells you, was first written about in the 1700’s. The story of who wrote what, where or how is then missing, which is a shame, but artist Robert McGinnis has done his best to capture her image on the bottle’s label. I’m guessing fashions in the 18th century were very similar to those in the early 1980’s as Daffy has the appearance of someone who is up for a leading part in Charlie’s Angels.daffys-gin

I digress, somewhere beyond the stratosphere, passing the moon at warp speed, I am sitting with two glasses of gin and tonic and I have failed to explain why. It is a question of mint. I don’t really like mint, be it chewing gum, sweets with holes, lamb on Sunday or freshly picked and popped into my gin. But Daffy’s recommends this as a course of action, so I have reluctantly agreed (which is more than I did for Brighton Gin and their stick-of-rock idea)  and am broadening my horizons. When you are in a space ship heading for mars, your horizons are certainly going to be widened.

Within the Botanicals of Daffy’s gin they boast Lebanese Mint, Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Lemon Peel, Cassia and Orris. The gin bottle itself is an elegant shape, with a cork lid and heavy bottom, an IWSC gold medal (2015) adorns the label. 70cl bottles at a robust 43.4% vol will set you back just under £35 from The Gin Box Shop. On the nose you get the traditional Juniper as well as coriander notes. They slow-distil this gin from French grain spirit in an old copper whisky still.

I batter my mint a little (something I learned from the good folk at Pinkster Gin – give the mint a smack first) and, with no small pang of worry, place something I really do not like, into a glass of something I really really do like. The result, I report happily, is a lovely product that is not at all diminished by the mint. Somewhere on the roof of my mouth and the back of my gums, there is a minty freshness left after my glass is drained, but that is the extent of the minty feeling. It reminds me that there is an occasion where I do like mint – I like that zingy feeling you get from mint extract shower gel. I don’t want to compare Daffy’s to a bath product, but they are both things that I really like, so lets go with it. Meanwhile, my second glass, sans mint, is perfectly acceptable – this time garnished with Blueberries, as recommended by the Ginventory app.

Scottish Gins are really rather marvellous I’ve decided, there has yet to be one that I haven’t enjoyed. Perhaps it is something in the distilling tradition, but they really seem to nail a good gin north of the border. Daffy’s is a fine example of a Scottish craft gin, and I’m quite prepared to embrace the mint and recommend you give it a go, if only I could brush my teeth with it, I’d be set for life.

Daffy’s Small Batch Premium Gin – £34.60 for 70cl

Gin & Tonic Rating – 4/5

Buy Daffy’s at The Gin Box Shop

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