I intended to start off these blog entries with the first of a series of guides to the gin haunts of Reading but, unfortunately, my partner-in-gin wasn’t so well this weekend so instead I find myself sitting on the floor – as a choice I hasten to add; I’m not living in some Hogarthian slum where all worldly possessions have been sold in the pursuit of one more gin hit* – with only a bottle of Darnley’s View and some Fever Tree for company.
I’ve chosen Darnley’s View as it won my very latest 7 Deadly Gins tasting session (carried out at the invitation of Phamie’s Kitchen), so it’s underlying quality certainly isn’t an issue, but is it going to be your kind of gin?
Bottle: I’m not one to be impressed by a bit of bling so this simply labelled, slightly tapered bottle, which is both practical, sitting comfortably in the hand, and physically pleasing, approaches an understated perfection.
Label: “Small batch gin infused with elderflower and citrus”
- Strength: 40%
- Style: London Dry.
- Botanicals: Juniper, Lemon Peel, Elderflower, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root and Orris Root.
- Distiller: Wemyss Vintage Malts Ltd..
- Distillation: Five times in a pot still.
Having only recently tried this I know there’s nothing too nasty to shock the olfactory senses so I confidently take a good sniff of the neat spirit: It’s a pleasant, gentle aroma, with the headline elderflower and citrus infusion discernible. An earthiness keeps it balanced and the juniper is present but far from overpowering. My nasal hairs thankfully remain in tact and I shall live to smell another day!
To taste, citrus is firmly to both fore and aft; lemon peel is the botanical but the result seems more to the grapefruit end of the spectrum. The meat in this citrus sandwich is a definite juniper bitterness. The mouthfeel is clean. The high quality of the spirit makes this perfectly drinkable neat, and I have no intention of advising you against imbibing it like that but, for me, it lacks the complexity to make it a truly satisfying experience, however …
… add a bit of tonic and it’s a different story altogether. This is a fine, subtle gin so don’t drown it; somewhere around 2.5 parts tonic should hit the sweet spot for most people.
On the nose the citrus still leaps out and, buoyed by the tonic’s effervescence, is even more dominant than in the neat spirit. The big revelation though is on the tongue where the elderflower, which previously your taste buds had to go looking for, now hits with a pronounced floral sweetness. This may divide opinion between those who want to be smacked in the face by a big hunk of juniper and those who, on balance, prefer not to be. The addition of the tonic has a final and very welcome gift to give: that citrus finish from the neat spirit really goes on… and on… and on…Right until you’re ready for that next, refreshing, mouthful. Yumm!
I’m sure many garnishes would work here and today I enjoyed a pink grapefruit twist which enhanced the citrus nose and kept that long aftertaste zinging until the end. If all that citrus sounds a bit much a slice of apple should keep the nose fresh and bring the elderflower a bit more to the fore.
A high quality, subtle, gin which, while pleasant enough to sip neat with an ice cube or two, needs a bit of good quality tonic to really bring the best out of it. The resultant combination of the floral and the fruit ensures that, even at a low dilution, you have a great crowd pleasing, thirst-quenching G ‘n’ T. It’s easy drinking, perhaps devilishly so, but always remains a rewarding experience. If you’re a pure juniper head, though, maybe not the one for you?
Remember… The Devil knows all the best gins!
*Well not quite yet, anyway