“The key thing is the recipe. The reason gin is back on the agenda is that there’s a range of really good products out there. You could pick them all out in a blind tasting.”
Andrew Sinclair of The London Gin, promotes one of the most unique gin brands of all, as there’s juxtaposition between the cool, elegant image of the brand and the heady 19th century style gin in the bottle.
“The idea was to hark back to the classic period of gin and the romantic notion of London’s gin palaces and cocktails at the Savoy,” he says, “But we also wanted to shake off gin’s tarnished image and place it in a modern context.”
Sinclair seems a pretty modest chap but there’s no doubt that The London Gin, one of a handful distilled in the Capital, is intent on becoming an iconic brand. Firstly there’s the ‘does what it says on the tin’ name, the subtle but ‘come to me’ hue of baby blue, then the first sip hits you with an enticing but old school blend of 13 botanicals, ensuring this will be a gin you’ll never forget.
Master Distiller Charles Maxwell is straightforward about the process, “Creating this gin didn’t present much of a challenge as we were making something in the classic mould.” So why does the gin stand out in a blind tasting? “Although it is a classic blend, it’s a complex one,” he says, “It has a range of flavours: citrus, spicy and herbal but there’s still something complete at the end of it all.”
Sinclair credits the gin’s finish with a nod to another British icon: Earl Grey Tea. “Charles uses Bergamot in the blend, which gives the gin an aromatic quality like the tea but also comes from the citrus family and gives notes of Seville orange. Bergamot plays the role of binding everything together like orris root does for many other gins.”
This unique nuance has inspired a range of cocktails around the brand and Sinclair thinks Hoxton Pony’s Andy Pearson has come up with one of the best, “Andy’s Lady Grey cocktail made with Earl Grey syrup is very special and it’s exciting to see the fresh things all the mixologists are using London Gin for.”
This may be due in some part to London Gin’s high 47% abv. “That’s when you can extract most of the flavour from the botanicals,” explains Sinclair, “It’s a gin that can be sipped on the rocks and is great to experience that way. With 13 botanicals it’s a big recipe, so we also rest it for three weeks after distillation, which enables the oils and the botanicals to blend with the alcohol.”
Sinclair is in no doubt about the customer he’s trying to attract: “ A gin fanatic! Someone who’s interested in trading up to a super premium product, understands the nuances of a complex recipe and how the botanicals bring out the flavour of different cocktails. This would usually be a profile of a male customer but we have had a really good response from female gin drinkers too and that’s very encouraging.”
After all that hard marketing work’s over where does Sinclair like to wind down? “The Donovan bar at Brown’s hotel is great for martinis and a bit of a splurge! For the theatre and a great atmosphere I’d choose Pinchito on Old Street – mixologist Toby Blasquez-Garcia is a real wizard – and for working my way through the gins it has to be The Establishment in Parson’s Green.”
His favourite cocktail is the Negroni, “One of the most challenging drinks but also the most rewarding.” His recommended G&T serve? “For me it has to be with a wedge of lime and Fentiman’s tonic. The quality of the ice is very important: the cubes should be thick and dense and not melt quickly; many bars let themselves down with poor quality ice.”
Charles Maxwell is completely straightforward in his cocktail choices: “For a long refreshing drink a Tom Collins can’t be beaten and if you’re looking for a 6pm kick, a dry martini.” For those of us who like to consider ourselves gin connoisseurs, Maxwell recommends the Pink Gin, “I would always happily drink a Pink Gin, it’s one of the best ways to understand what has gone into the distillation and in my opinion the master distillers drink of choice.” We won’t argue with that!