I feel the same about Gin as Coco Chanel felt about Champagne “I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not” so, it’s fair to say that I’ve tried a few brands of gin. The latest to be sent to me to review is Gin Lane 1751.
Gin Lane 1751, is a nod to the portraitist and printmaker William Hogarth who’s paintings and then engravings took a satirical look at London life. Gin Lane in particular is set in the slums of Covent Garden, quite hard to imagine now, but Gin was the death of London in the first half of the 18th century.
The etching tells the story of a half-drunken and naked woman who doesn’t notice her child is about to fall to its death, whilst a skeleton singer represents Death. The main point is that there’s chaos ensuing and everyone, from infants to the elderly, are drinking gin. ‘Gin Lane’ forms a pair with the other etching ‘Beer Street’ but I’ll save that for another blog. The point is that back then, Gin tasted better than water and stills were prolific in households, one in six sold Gin. Infant mortality was a big problem and the birth rate lowered and despite immigration to the capital, the population fell. The ‘Gin Lane’ etching formed part of a campaign which led to the introduction of the Gin Act of 1751 and ensured that only licensed retail premises were allowed to sell gin, which in turn had an effect on consumption.
London Dry Gin, Royal Strength is one of a series of four, produced by Thames Distillers for The Bloomsbury Group (a band of professionals and gin-lovers) and includes London Dry Royal Strength Gin; Victoria Pink Gin; Old Tom Gin and London Dry Gin.
Charles Maxwell is an eighth generation distiller who can date his family’s involvement in the Gin trade to the 1680’s. The group turned to him to help develop a range, made in small, numbered batches. Thames Distillery is the first port of call for brands who want to develop a new gin, and Charles develops and tweaks age-old recipes. It’s here that thousands of litres of Gin is made, some brands will give the buyer the idea that they’re the producer, when in fact Charles has done most of the work in the Clapham distillery, distilling, bottling or shipping concentrate overseas for bottling to take place elsewhere. Their Gins are made in traditional pot stills beaten from copper or steel and are called Tom Thumb and Thumbelina.
I could think of only a handful of gin producers here in the capital, including the guys over at Sipsmith in Chiswick, Beefeater in Kennington and Dodd’s in Battersea. Jamie Baxter a master distiller, gives me a nod on Twitter and tells me there are a few more which include the City of London Distilery, East London Liquor Company, 58 Gin, Jensen’s Gin and Sacred Gin.
My favourite Gin drink, which will test the might of any decent tipple, is a classic Gin Martini and for me always shaken, never stirred, straight up with a twist.
With eight botanicals (Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Orris, Lemon, Orange, Cassia Bark and Star Anise) what shines for me is the citrus notes, the Sicilian Lemon and Seville Orange, cut with the Juniper berry. It delivers a kick at 47% ABV but has a smooth finish. The gin is made from a Victorian recipe. Juniper, as you’d expect, is the main ingredient with a noticeable, lingering liquorice flavour from the Star Anise. The citric notes give the palate a clean and refreshing finish.
I tried the gin with a Fever Tree mixer in a highball glass, the aniseed notes were particularly clear and I loved the uniqueness of this gin.