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.
First thing to understand about Pothecary is that it’s a floral gin. You might think that means it’ll be delicate, dainty, eyelash-fluttering stuff. No. It’s extremely fragrant — with abundant lavender in particular — but by Christ there’s nothing mimsy about it. It’s stingingly floral, in the rampant, untamed way that a hedgerow in spring is floral, not a Chelsea Flower Show arrangement. Thrillingly uncivilised. Flowers aren’t just about looking pretty, after all. Flowers are about sex and competition and death.
Nothin better than a gin that tastes of sex and death, eh?
Pothecary Gin manages something that sounds like a contradiction in terms: it has flavours that are fiercely distinct yet it achieves an excellent blend and balance. That may be at least partly to do with Jennings’ methodology: he distils each of his botanicals separately before blending. At very least, it must allow him a high degree of control and precision in combining flavours (and it explains the brand name).
Enough of that. I suppose you’d like to know how it fares in a few drinks.
Pothecary Gin & Tonic
In your G&T, Pothecary has a good gob-tingling oomph of crisp lemon (Sicilian, organic lemon, don’t you know? The kind of beautiful big yellow bastards they peel into your martini at Duke’s Hotel) and a decent juniper ballast too. The most noticeable deviation from the norm is the lavender note — which you both smell and taste. I think this is rather fabulous: that wild florality underpinned with bitterness. There’s a not unpleasant medicinal quality (‘propriately enough, I guess) and a very subtle note of sweetness that balances the savoury and bitter flavours.
Add it all together and the verdict is:
I suggest you serve your Pothecary G&T with Fever Tree Light Tonic and a wedge of lemon. Classical.
Pothecary Gin Martini
Right, bugger, this is also excellent. Probably my favourite way to drink this splendid gin is in a martini. Drink it Duke’s Hotel style and it’s a bloody explosion: a blasting, nose-filling, jubilant blare of flavour. Almost impossibly fragrant. Still floral, but, like I said, wildly, grittily, dangerously floral. It’s also damn good in a classic martini. The liquid comes out cloudy and languid from the mixing glass and the ice-melt endows it with a creaminess that you don’t get as much Duke’s Style, but the lemon is pronounced enough to keep it perfectly in check. If you don’t like lavender, you may find a Pothecary Martini a bit much, but, Jesus, get a life. Lavender is great. Just make sure you drink it in your gin rather than rubbing it on your chest, chaps.
Suggested serving is, again, classic and simple: Duke’s Martini with a twist, if you please.
Pothecary Gin Negroni
Okay, I did not expect this gin to make a good Negroni, I’ll be honest. But bugger me, it’s not bad at all. Against expectations, the lavender actually (I think) works rather nicely. Perhaps not the gin of choice for a regular Negroni with Campari, but I tried it with Sacred’s excellent Rosehip Cup (£26.95 from Masters of Malt) and Dolin Red Vermouth: it blended fabulously, making for an extravagantly aromatic summer-friendly Negroni.
I’d still rather save my Poth for a Martini, but you may push it to a Negroni with my blessing if you wish.
This is a damn fine gin and one I’d urge you to sample. Its most remarkable quality is its combination of finesse, power and florality. It’s a gin whose flavours are all turned up to full volume, yet somehow without the crackling, distortion or aggression that might imply. I find it rather impressive. Impressive enough, certainly, to warrant an Old Parn’s Fave label — and, natch, an enthusiastic round of ‘plause.
You can buy Pothecary Gin from Master of Malt (£40.45)
or Distillers Direct (£39.50). Pothecary also makes a number of other gins, I should add, and you may well read more about those in the near future…