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Sun, 8 Aug 2010

Gin tasting notes

Another tasting at The Whisky Exchange, another spirit I didn't know much about. My gin drinking to date has been almost entirely in the form of gin and tonic, with occasional cocktails. This evening was a tasting of eight different gins, plus some cocktails.

Interestingly, while you usually get much the same crowd of people at TWE's tastings - they're mostly whisky drinkers, but plenty of them also came along to the armagnac and rum tastings and some to the tequila tasting - I didn't recognise anyone at this gin tasting. They missed out on a good evening. What's more, it was a green evening: gin has fewer food miles than whisky, as much of what we tried was made in or very near London - Jensen are based in Bermondsey, Sipsmith in Hammersmith, Beefeater in Kennington, and Plymouth in, errm, Plymouth.

The evening started with some twat with an "amusing" topper perched on his head mumbling to himself while pretending to mix a drink. He had all the usual stupid cocktail bar rituals, including pouring his ingredients from as high up as possible and looked like a right 'tard. He looked even more like a 'tard because he wasn't pouring anything at all: there was no liquid in his bottles. Thankfully, he fucked off pretty quickly and we were all given a GnT jelly cube, made with (I think) Hendricks gin, Battersea Quinine Cordial (which appears to not be available for the general public, boo, hiss) and elderflower syrup. This was lovely and had even captured the fizz of a good GnT.

There were two presenters. One was a foreign chappy whose name I forget, who talked a bit about the history of gin and seemed to get excited about the history of cocktails. The second, and more interesting, was Desmond Payne, the master distiller at Beefeater. This wasn't just a Beefeater evening though, and Desmond very knowledgeably took us through ...

  1. Beefeater: nose, citrus, grass and licquorice, becoming overpoweringly citrus with water. The taste was as the nose but with a dash of salt and bitterness from the juniper, becoming sweeter with water.
  2. Tanqueray: floral nose with some juniper coming through, floral alone after adding water. The taste fiery, bitter and licquorice, less bitter with water.
  3. Jensen: not much nose other than alcohol, becoming slightly floral with water. Tasting sweet and floral with just a hint of bitterness. This should on no account be drunk neat as it's rubbish without water.
  4. 209: an American gin, the nose is floral, blackcurranty, citrus and a spice market - predominantly cardamom, with water becoming all cardomom and ginger with a dash of turmeric. The taste is very very cardamom, with ginger and sweetness. Add water and the juniper comes through. I was shocked that I liked this, as I normally can't stand cardamom. My drinking buddy James was the opposite: he normally loves cardamom but couldn't stand this gin. Weirdo. I bought a bottle.
  5. Jensen "Old Tom": "Old Tom" is an older style of gin that Jensen have re-recreated. The nose is of turmeric and tamarind, becoming a little sweet with water. The taste is woody with burning paper and bitter chocolate, with water becoming pepper and paper. Very interesting, but I didn't like it.
  6. Plymouth: the nose is citrus and floral, the taste sweet and lemony. Not significantly different with water, becoming perhaps a dash oily.
  7. Sipsmith: a citrus, licquorice and almond nose which doesn't change much with water. The taste strongly juniper with sweet spices - Christmas in a glass! This is dangerously drinkable with a splash of water, and I bought a bottle.
  8. Beefeater 24: this unusually uses tea as one of the botanicals. The nose is warm and sweet, the taste of spices and grapefruit, and it doesn't change much with water.

And then on to the cocktails. We had an excellent Tanqueray GnT and one not quite so good (but still very good) made with Beefeater 24. The feeling in the room was overwhelmingly that lime is better than lemon for a GnT, but Desmond Payne disagrees.

Unfortunately the rest of the cocktails were a bit rubbish. We started with two sweet martinis, supposedly made in the style of the original martinis before they became dry. The cocktail historian chap said that they became dry because tastes changed - so, given that that's what modern tastes are, why make sweet martinis? Both were interesting (one made with 209, one with Jensen) but too sweet to enjoy.

Then we had a "margarite" made with Plymouth gin, which appears to be a sweet martini with a cherry in it. The drink was revolting, but once removed the cherry was very nice. Then a sweet martini made with Old Tom. I didn't like the sweet martinis made with decent gin, and this was, predictably, even worse. It was revolting, tasting like gin that had had an aniseed twist dissolved in it and mixed with cherry syrup. Old Tom is rubbish, but it's still better on its own.

Finally, two negronis, made with Beefeater 24 and Sipsmiths. Both tasted overwhelmingly of bergamot oil. They differed slightly, the one made with Beefeater being "fucking horrible", the Sipsmiths cocktail being "nasty", according to my notes.

So, Executive Summary time: gin can be really nice. If you're going to mix it with anything, make a GnT. Anything else is a SIN.

Posted at 17:48 by David Cantrell
keywords: alcohol | gin
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