Robert BoutflowerWe don’t often get a specific request for a tasting, but such is the resurgence of interest in gin over the last few years that we were asked to put on a Gin Tasting by The Shrewsbury Young Professionals

This required some study on my part – wine’s my thing really, although I like whisky and have been known to quaff the odd beer. The thing about gin is that most people haven’t really thought about it much in the past. It makes the world’s most requested cocktail (allegedly), very refreshing, dry and long. But do you really care what goes into it, and why?

The Guinea PigsA three o’clocker in Ciudad Real last month set me thinking more, as the extremely affable and generous barman set me up with four goldfish bowls of ‘G&T’ – well, until I fell of my bar stool that is. Four huge gins, four significantly different flavours. So when I got back, it was down to some serious work with the other guinea-pigs (I mean directors) as we got to grips with what we are selling here at Tanners.

For homework, apart from our first-hand experiences reported here, I’d recommend The Gin Blog and the fascinating, if bonkers, Institute for Alcoholic Experimentation. These are serious gin seekers – thanks, chaps, for doing so much of the legwork (certainly in the case of the latter!)

The Gin Line UpAnyway, we lined up much of our range at Tanners (see list below) and the results were intriguing. We tasted each in it’s pure form, then with Schweppes tonic. Overall, even for hardened tasters like ourselves, it is particularly tricky to get much more than juniper, citrus or spice out of the aromas, despite the proud listing of botanical ingredients often on the bottle. I’m sure meadowsweet contributes to Hendricks, but we couldn’t spot the flavour! What you do appreciate, much like wine, is the whole impression of balance, weight, zestiness and enjoyment – gin therefore is a quite personal thing. Secondly, this spirit can change very significantly with a mixer, in this case tonic water. Suddenly some of the flavours are much more apparent – ginger for example leaps from Pulling’s, having been obscure in the neat form. Brecon’s zesty citrus becomes even stronger and fresher.

Here are our brief notes:

Pulling’s Hereford Finest 
Neat: Quite spirity, grappa-like with an earthy note
G&T: Transformed, very classic, lemony with lovely juniper, works well

Gordon’s
Neat: Fresh, lemony aromatics, quite caramelly
G&T: Neutral, soapy and a bit flat

Bombay Sapphire
Neat: Complex aromatics, floral, bit of spice, delicate
G&T: Not so good, confused by the tonic, earthy and sweet on finish

Plymouth 
Neat: Subdued, citrussy with cardamom and white pepper.
G&T: Benchmark, middle of the road, round and easy. A good drink.

Brecon Special Reserve
Neat: Sherberty, zesty, then an earthy note.
G&T: Big hit of ginger, lemon, a dry note too. Very vivid, but possibly too zesty?

Tanqueray
Neat: Straightforward, orange and lemon, quite classic with a spirity top note
G%T: Juniper and citrus character, powerful, hefty and somehow ‘old school’ in style.

Hendrick’s
Neat: Very complex, self-assured with pronounced aromatics, very smooth to drink.
G&T: Loads going on, delicious, delicate and lemony. Superb, even without the cucumber.

Chase Williams Gin
Neat: Based on apples, this is quite a different profile. Certainly smooth, caramel, almost Tarte Tatin.
G&T: Way off what you’d expect. Apples to the core, and a touch overwhelming if it’s not you.

So how did the 32 Young Professionals get on?! In the course of 2 ½ hours they had a smashing time, and just about managed to hold it together. Gordon’s and Bombay were left out (six gins were quite enough) and even this enthusiastic amateur bunch could see how the gins changed with the addition of tonic. We discussed, with a former Naval officer among them, the merits of a Pink gin (Plymouth of course, with Angostura Bitters) and that the best cocktail for Hendrick’s requires finely chopped cucumber, black pepper and soda water, not tonic. Brecon was the gin of choice for a G&T with Fentimans tonic, Hendrick’s was the best neat. Chase came out well too in the marking system, but as various tasters couldn’t see the end of the table, let alone vote by this stage, much of the approval was directed in appreciation of the whole subject.

In summary, do something different and get stuck into the gins this summer, in moderation of course!

See all of our Gins