East London Liquor Company London Gin Review

So East London Liquor Dry Gin is apparently made somewhere near Victoria Park, which is not so far from where Amy used to frolic and kick her heels until I gentrified her with my ludicrous Putney ways. Yes, Amy used to be cool until I appeared in her life, like a branch of Jojo Maman Bébé opening its doors in a street of trendy record shops and fashion boutiques.

Anyhow. The East London Liquor Company makes a range of gins, another of which I have lingering in my gin cupboard awaiting review. This, their ‘standard’ London Dry Gin, is the lower priced option, weighing in at about 20 quid.

Twenty quid well spent? Let’s see, shall we?

East London Liquor Co. Gin & Tonic

So this works quite nicely. I’d put East London Liquor Company’s London Dry Gin in the spicy category, with the dominant flavour to my taste buds being cardamom — though there’s pepper, allspice and aniseed hanging around in the background like recalcitrant teenagers at their parents’ dinner party. We have a decent dose of juniper, plus lemon to keep it balanced. Pretty nice, assuming you like cardamom. By dint of fate or circumstance, I’ve found myself tasting a bunch of cardamommy gins lately (Hidden Curiosities and Norwich Gin are two more) and I will stick my scrawny old neck out and say that — in my humble — cardamom is a flavour that can become a little wearisome to excess. It’s very dominant, and as a result, I’d keep this family of gins as an occasional rather than staple boozy pleasure.

Of course if you’re the kind of macho champion who munches through a pot of cardamom pods for breakfast, you’ll disagree. Come at me, you freak.

Verdict: Gulp it!
G&T Grade: B

ELLC London Gin Martini

First, Duke’s Hotel style. Again, it’s spice-led. Cardamom first, then the piney juniper backed by pepper. There’s a general sense of sweetness and roundness, even though the initial kick is fairly strong and there’s a bit of booze burn. I like this gin with a twist rather than an olive, as I think you want to raise the citrus profile a little to balance the spice.

In classic martini it is still damn strong and assertive. Better, I think, with the meltwater influence which softens it a little. The flavours blend more, and it certainly still has punch. That said, the Dukes-style martini is more zingy and tingly, sends that boozy jolt up yer nose. So I suppose it’s a question of what you want.

Verdict: Gulp it!
Martini Grade: B

ELLC London Dry Gin Negroni

I think the cardamom gubbins works particularly well in a negroni, giving it a pleasant additional warmth and blending rather well with the vermouth (I’m using 50/50 Dolin and Punt é Mes). I’m not normally an advocate of including premium gins in the negroni, as I think you struggle to get much of the spirit’s complexity when it’s rubbing up against such burly bedfellows as Campari and Vermouth, so a cheaper gin such as this is a nice option.

Verdict: Gulp it!
Negroni Grade: B+

In Summary…

East London Liquor Gin bottle label

So that salvo of ratings suggests a gin that’s very good but not quite great — falling short of the coveted ‘Neck it!’ award in any category. But, again, bear in mind this gin’s lower-than-many price, on which basis I think it’s pretty damn commendable. Question is, I suppose, what the East London natives would make of it, rather than some one-time SW15 posho like myself. I would ask Amy her view, but she’s too busy on the Jojo Maman Bébé website…

(Oh god, what have I done?)

You can buy East London Liquor Company’s London Dry Gin at Master of Malt, where it’s normally £21.95 but currently reduced to £19.95.

Pothecary Gin Review

I strongly ‘prove of Pothecary Gin. One might say I ‘preciate it. Over the course of the next few paragraphs, I’ll present to you my ‘praisal.

(‘Pologies.)

Aside from its excellent name, I bought a bottle of this fine liquor for three reasons. Firstly, it’s local — another Hampshire Gin — albeit from the other end of the county. Secondly, it’s won a few awards and I’d heard good things murmured (or read good things twittered, more like) about it. And thirdly, the man behind the brand, Mr Martin Jennings, has an excellent social media game. When I read one of his brutal takedowns of [redacted Gin megacorp] pretending to be indie, I thought: if this bloke’s gin is as punchy as his online persona, I want to try it.

I’m bloody glad I did.

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Dà Mhìle Seaweed Gin Review

Bloody hell. My quarantined buddies, there are a lot of gins in the world. I have tasted a fair few of them. Enough of them, at least, to render me somewhat blasé about cracking open a new one. What surprises, after all, can remain to a seasoned gin hound such as Old Parn?

Well. This.

You see, Dà Mhìle’s Seaweed Gin is exceptionally good. Your schnoz tells you it’s going to be rather special as soon as you sniff the newly uncorked bottle. And your schnoz isn’t wrong. Your schnoz is so seldom wrong. Dependable schnoz.

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Wessex Gin Review

Let’s talk about Wessex, shall we? Back in the Dark Ages, there was no England (which must be a concept that’s upsetting for people like Mark Francois). Instead, an ever-changing mishmash of kingdoms, of which Wessex was one, incorporating, at different times, a sizeable chunk of the south of what’s now England.

One of the last kings of Wessex was Alfred, who seems to have been a fairly good chap. Not long after his reign, seemingly on the basis of much of his canny political manoeuvrings, Wessex expanded and became the dominant party in the newly unified English nation.

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Hampshire Navy Strength Gunpowder Gin Review

About as local as gin gets (for me, that is), this distillery is practically my neighbour. And the best kind of near-neighbour: one that supplies me with bloody good booze.

Why do none of my actual neighbours do that?

I mentioned Hampshire Gunpowder Gin before, en passant. But it deserves a proper review, I think. One of the things I want to do this year is — in a spasmodic bout of localism — to write more about drink and food from my surrounds, meaning Hampshire, Sussex and thereabouts (where I live) and perhaps also London (where I work). So what better, SEO-friendly means by which to do this than by reviewing something that’s actually got the (key)words Hampshire Gin in the name?

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Copperfield Gin Review

‘Do you like Dickens, sir?’

‘I don’t know. I’ve never been to one.’

That was a favourite joke of Mr Jarvis, my A Level English teacher. To the degree, I seem to remember, that he had to ask someone in the class to provide him with the setup question in order that he might triumphantly deliver the punchline. Which is nice for you to know.

What’s also nice for you to know is that Copperfield Gin may be the most handsomely packaged gin I’ve seen. Obviously I dig it because it’s literary, innit, and given that my idea of a perfect sitting room is one bedecked with books floor to ceiling, how could I not be seduced by a book-themed gin bottle? Or, at least, one so bloody well executed. Hats off to the designers, who presumably like Dickens.

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The Best Tonic for your Gin — 2019 Edition

Which tonic is supersonic? According to the laws of physics, none of them. But what care we for physics? We have gin. So the idea of this post, in case the title didn’t tip you off, is to taste and rank the numerous premium tonics in a quest to crown the best tonic for your gin.

You remember, don’t you, my pretties, the time that we blind tasted ten gins in an attempt to crown 2019’s best gin for a G&T? Well, this is the inevitable tonic-centred follow-up.

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Commuter Belters 1: G&T-in-a-Can

You’ll have observed, no doubt, my proclivity for starting new ‘series’ on this blog which fail to extend beyond their first post. And I’m sorry if you mistook the expression on my face for that of somebody who gives a shit about THAT. It is with an arrogant, Dominic Cummings-esque defiance bordering on sociopathy, indeed, that I double-down and inaugurate another. This one I shall call ‘Commuter Belters’: chronicling a journey both literal (Waterloo to Petersfield, many many times) and metaphorical (the search for BELTINGLY good alcoholic beverages with which to aneasthetise oneself against the tedium of the aforementioned).

Let’s have at it.

Waterloo. It’s Friday, 6.15. Amongst the thronged congregation on the concourse, eyes raised reverently to the departure boards, waiting for the hallowed platform number to blink into existence; ‘on time’ to flip to ‘boarding’.

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Boxer Gin Review. Punchy or Paunchy?

I mean, when a gin’s called Boxer, how am I meant to avoid the most bloody obvious metaphor? Christ. Give me something to work with. Fortunately, Boxer Gin does exactly that, in abundance, as soon as you get it into your gob. Here’s how it measures up.

I bought Boxer Gin because it was the gin of choice at Poco Tapas Bar, the excellent Bristolian tapas restaurant at which I first discovered the Negroni Manzanilla. And given my predilection for punchy gins and stooping to lowest-common-denominator wordplay, what could be more auspicious than a gin that is literally punchy?

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The Society’s High Strength Gin Martini

This is wonderful gin. It’s not trying to be anything else. It’s juniper and citrus and booze. And it’s smoother than you could ever hope to be, mate.

Christ, yes. A martini with the Wine Society’s High Strength Gin.

I know it’s been a while, and I know this is going to look cursory. Like I’m fobbing you off.

Fob fob fob.

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Fort Gin Review: Mighty Fortress or Crumbling Ruin?

Now, a fort is supposed to protect you against danger, right? I’m not convinced. Fort Gin, y’see, is pretty damn dangerous in itself. Take a gulp and you’ll understand why…

Portsmouth! Following last week’s account of our adventures at Portsmouth Fish Market, we’re back to Pompey today — but this time we’re swapping fish for fortifications. Specifically, Fort Gin (£31.95, Master of Malt), which is made by the Portsmouth Distillery.

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The Best Gin for Gin and Tonic — 2019 edition

A vain quest, you might say, to find the best gin for gin and tonic. I might agree. But it’s an enjoyable quest nevertheless. And not all gins are equal. Read on for a taste test of 10 common gins and a ranking of their G&T prowess…

You have cash in your pocket, and you have a thirst. Specifically, a thirst for that most noble of drinks, the gin and tonic. But you don’t just want any gin and tonic. No. You’re better than that. You, my friend, want the best. And that means you need to know what is the best gin for gin and tonic.

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Lone Wolf Gin Review

Lone Wolf is the kind of gin of which the captain of secret police in a repressive, totalitarian regime would heartily approve. Question is, does Old Parn feel similarly…?

Come in! Come in! Fortunate favourite of Old Parn — or else not so fortunate.

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Gin Corner: Greenall’s Bloom — The Slug’s Choice

… is a big ol’ herbaceous gin. How will it fare in the Old Parn test-lab? G&Terrific or G&Terrible?

Macro photo of a bottle of Greenall's Bloom, with logo in focus

Oh. The leafy, herby, juicy green aroma of corriander. Heck. It’s like you’re a slug munching your way through a herb garden. (You are such a slug.)

Greenall’s Bloom is, I suppose, aptly enough named. It is a big ol’ herbaceous gin.

Here at Old Parn labs, we put Greenall’s Bloom through a rigorous and scientific testing procedure. I made a gin and tonic with it, and I made a martini with it. Then I repeated these tests several times (purely for scientific purposes, natch). Here’s what the results sheets said.

The Greenall’s Bloom Gin and Tonic

Yeah, it’s all about the corriander, here. In tonic-wedded form, Greenall’s Bloom isn’t as punchy as some (loyal readers will know that I like my G&Ts like I like my women: punchy and bitey*). When I made a Greenall’s Bloom and Tonic with my usual proportions of gin:tonic (don’t ask me what they are; I just feel it, y’know?), the result was a little bit lacking. A tad sweet, even.

But, next time round, perhaps my hand slipped. You know what I’m saying? MY HAND SLIPPED. And I ended up with a higher proportion of gin. And that, a bit like taking the path less travelled, made all the difference.

Suddenly, I was drinking an assertive, confident bastard of a G&T. One that’d just had a massive Thai stir-fry piled with obscene amounts of corriander, I guess.

Pretty nice.

The Greenall’s Bloom Martini

No surprises here, given what I’ve said already: the Bloom Martini is as green and herbaceous as you’d expect. Lighter, more hippyish than your usual Martini. And, yeah, nice for the novelty value. But I’ve not been tempted to make them for non-experimental purposes. Greenall’s Bloom strikes me as more of a G&T-friendly kind of gin; it doesn’t really gel in the context of the Martini. That magical masculine-feminine chemistry isn’t there; it’s all a bit too verdant, too lush, too goddamn fertile.

The verdict

So long as you atone for its slightly less bolshy character by adjusting your gin:tonic ratio, this is a pretty nice G&T gin. I like the grassy, herby ebullience of it — though probably more as an occasional curveball to the palate than as an everyday highball-filler.

I’d recommend putting it with a lighter tonic (something like Fever Tree Naturally Light) — or, if you want to sample the hippy Bloom Martini, try using The Wine Society’s Chambery as your vermouth, and go for a twist rather than an olive.

* That’s not even remotely true. But didn’t it sound cool?

Archive: 2012’s Gin Tasting

In which Old Parn — with the able assistance of Amy — blind-tastes an array of seven gins in a noble quest to find out which gin makes the very finest of gin and tonics

A cut-glass tumbler of gin and tonic, with an out-of-focus blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin in the background

This post is an old one, from 2012. A much newer, bigger, better and ginnier version can be found here: The Best Gin for Gin and Tonic — 2019 Edition.

Below, for posterity/shits & giggles, the old version…

***

Skip straight to the results

How (without the aid of a convenient butler) does one compare seven of the most commonly available gins — side by side — without knowing which is which? Such was the conundrum that faced me and Amy (you remember Amy? She gave me a pear, a few episodes — I mean posts — ago. Get used to reading about Amy, won’t you?).

The difficulty is as follows: whoever mixes ’em will (obviously) know which gin is in each — but when you taste ’em, you both need not to know. Finally, after you’ve tasted ’em, you must both be able to find out which was which.

Sounds complicated, eh?

No. For Old Parn, ’tis a mere bagatelle:

‘So I mix the gins and I make a numbered list of the gins. Then I give you a list of the numbers, Amy, but not the gins, and you make a list of — no — wait … I mix the drinks and I make a list of numbers. I give you the gins, and — um — damn it — wait a minute…’

Amy interjects: ‘Tom. Just make the drinks. I’ll work out the rest.’

And so it came to be that Amy took charge of methodology. And, with the aid of selotape and scraps of cardboard scavenged from the recycling, we constructed our experiment. Amy does this stuff with small children every day. She may not have expected to do it during her weekend as well. But if she felt a sense of weary deja vu, she concealed it gamely.

The upshot? Six anonymous tumblers of blessed gin and saintly tonic. Each with ice, a small wedge of lemon, a measure of gin and regular ol’ Schweppes tonic — to keep things simple.

A line of six tumblers of gin and tonic, receding into the distance

We tasted ’em. We compared ’em. WE EVEN WROTE NOTES. We know how to have a good time, Amy and me. Believe it.

Then we ranked them from one to six. And, finally, we tried to guess which was which.

(Unfortunately, thanks to an administrative failure, we were unable to include Bombay Sapphire in this test. But I blind-tasted it against a couple of others, subsequently, and added it to the rankings.)

Anyhow. You’re slavering like a goddamn pitbull, aren’t you?, to hear the outcome. Well, for god’s sake, wipe your chin and slaver no more. You disgust me. I mean, honestly.

Right. The grand unveiling. Which is the best gin for gin and tonic? Here’s what we thought.

The logo of Beefeater London GinDecidedly our least favourite gin and tonic was made with Beefeater gin: drab, bland and insubstantial. Of all the gins we tried, this’n had the least gob-presence, the least to say for itself. Compared to the others, it tasted generic, weak. The overall effect, in Amy’s word: ‘Lemonadey’ — because the tonic was allowed to dominate the drink, giving it an unpleasantly sugary taste. Nicht so gut. (Tasted blind, we both correctly guessed that this was Beefeater.)

The logo of Hendrick's GinNext from bottom — and the enormous surprise of the proceedings: Hendrick’s. Hendricks! Now, I thought I liked Hendrick’s a lot, and I’d fully expected it to rank accordingly. So I was somewhat alarmed to find that, tasted blind, we found it slightly empty. Not unpleasant, but a tad meek. It has a nice breadiness to it, which I rather like — but not enough to set it apart. (I’d guessed this was Gordon’s, and Amy thought it was Plymouth. Alack!)

The logo of Greenall's GinIn 5th place, Greenall’s. Greenall’s is quite extraordinary: the stuff goddamn-well reeks of violets. It’s like drinking a flowerbed. But without the soil and grubs. It’s heady and hedonistic — and made the least G&Tish of all the G&Ts. Indeed, it was such an anomaly that we weren’t sure how to rank it: it’s undeniably enjoyable, in a decadent, fin de siecle kind of way. But not, really, y’know, what you’d turn to at a time of gin-thirsty crisis. (We both correctly guessed the identity of the Greenall’s gin and tonic.)

The logo of Plymouth GinAnd then, in 4th? Plymouth. Which is nice and dry and punchy and altogether rather satisfactory. Maybe a tad middle-of-the-road, we thought — but when the road is signposted ‘Gin and Tonic’, who cares if you’re in the middle of it, eh? This was pretty much what we expect a gin and tonic to taste like. Bloody nice, in other words. (I identified Plymouth correctly, but Amy thought it was Gordons.)

So — the top three. These were all very sodding good indeed. Any of them would be a credit to your tumbler, and each one takes the noble drink in a different direction.

The logo of Gordon's GinThird place — in the second surprise of the evening — went to Gordon’s. Which was really very good indeed. Crisp and supple and complex and savoury. And citrus, my friend, citrus! It’s got herby shenanigans going on, too, and it’s noticeably deeper and more serious-tasting than many of the rest. I was very surprised when I found out this was Gordon’s, because, honestly, it tasted more expensive. (We both thought this was Hendrick’s. And we were both wrong.)

The logo of Bombay Sapphire ginIn second place, just marginally above Gordon’s, was Bombay Sapphire. It’s a lovely savoury gin, with a riotous fanfare of corriander and brilliant balance.

And the best gin for gin and tonic?

The logo of Tanqueray GinThe splendid Tanqueray. My scribbled note on this bad boy from the tasting: ‘BOSH.‘ Bosh indeed. Because this is a gin and tonic that doesn’t mess. It doesn’t flutter its lashes or mince around on the dancefloor. It grabs you and chucks you onto the bed. Fucking bracing stuff: big and dense and concerted like a punch. Masculine and dominant. Excellent.

So there you go. Of course, there are gins we left out. And to a great degree, the rankings above reflect our own notions of what a gin and tonic should be — a subject of almost philosophical weight. So if you like your G&Ts delicate and floral, you probably won’t agree with our elevation of Tanqueray.

Get over it.

And — hey — if you love gin and tonic as much as we do, I wholeheartedly recommend that you try your own blind tasting. You may be surprised.