Gin O’Clock – Part Twenty Four
March 8, 2017
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We have come across London’s oldest wine merchants, Berry Brothers and Rudd, before as we were tramping the vicinity of Pickering Place. They occupy number 3 St James’s Street and it is appropriate, therefore, that their address is enshrined in their addition to the ginaissance, No 3 London Dry Gin. For such a long established company with a fine tradition, the addition of an in-house gin to their stable is a recent event with the hooch launched only on 21st July 2010.
Since the phenomenal growth in the popularity of gin in recent years, what is available now spans the whole spectrum of tastes. Some distillers seem to relish the opportunity to throw as many botanicals as they possibly can into the mix – some successfully, others less so – whilst others believe that simplicity is the key to consumer satisfaction. Perhaps it is not surprising that such a venerable firm as Berry Brothers has chosen the latter route. Their gin follows an old Dutch recipe and uses just six botanicals – juniper berries (natch) with orange peel and grapefruit peel adding the citrus components and three spicy botanicals – angelica root, coriander seed and cardamom pods. These are steeped overnight before the spirit is distilled in traditional copper stills.
Before we investigate the spirit it is worth lingering a while over the bottle. It is a masterpiece of design. The glass is emerald green and the shape, tall and square with slightly indented side panels to aid grip and facilitate pouring – always thoughtful additions after a few glasses – apes the open pontil gin bottles that were the norm, because of deficiencies in glass blowing techniques until the mid 19th century. The left-hand side panel is embossed with the legend No 3 London Dry Gin and the right-hand side with No 3 Berry Bros & Rudd.
The front of the bottle has a silver key two-thirds of the way up the bottle – it represents the key to the Parlour, the oldest room in their premises and symbolic of the tradition and reliability of the firm – and the label contains sky blue and white lettering. The stopper is made of natural cork held in place by alloy foil which, unlike many others I have tried, came away very easily. Whilst removing the cork my ears were greeted with a delightfully full plop sound. There is no getting away from it – this gin is presenting itself as a luxury product, a cut above the rest, perhaps gratifyingly so as it retails at a price beginning with a three.
Once the cork is opened, the first sensation is that of juniper, first and foremost, with a hint of sweetness. A clear spirit which packs a punch at 46% ABV, it is remarkably subtle in the mouth. The benefit of limiting the number of botanicals in play is that each has the opportunity to play its part – the citrus sweetening the juniper and the spicy botanicals giving a peppery spiciness. Although the juniper dominates the aroma and initial tasting, there is a rich, dry, peppery feel to the aftertaste. It is a wonderfully subtle and well-balanced drink and is testament to the wisdom of keeping things simple but doing the simple things well. If you can afford it and like a straightforward, no nonsense London Dry Gin then you cannot go wrong with this. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.