My exploration of the ginaissance has exposed my taste buds to a wide array of sensations. I am beginning to get a bit choosy, eschewing those which have gone overboard with presenting the toper with a smorgasbord of sensations for those which add botanicals to enhance rather than overwhelm the basic taste of juniper berries. Perhaps I’m a bit old school in that respect. This week’s featured gin, Langley’s No 8 Distilled London Dry Gin, launched in 2013, is very much in the style that I enjoy.
The gin comes in what can best be described as a medicine bottle with a screw cap. The labelling is rather fetching, being silver-embossed against a black background. The foil at the neck of the bottle proudly proclaims that the hooch is made in England. The front label informs us that it is hand crafted in small batches and that the base is a 100% English grain spirit. The label at the back of the bottle provides a little more information, principally that it is distilled in a copper pot still and that what has been produced is perfectly balanced. I should hope so.
There are two reasons why it is called No 8. The distillers were experimenting on various strengths and blends of gin and it was their eighth incarnation which passed muster. It also contains eight botanicals, the identity of which is somewhat shrouded in mystery. What is for certain is that there is juniper, coriander seeds, sweet lemon and orange peel, cassia bark and ground nutmeg. The final two botanicals are unnamed but are said to be staples of classic gin.
The gin is crystal clear and weighs in at 41.7% ABV, putting it around the middle of the gin strength spectrum. To the nose the juniper is pronounced but there is a hint of the citrus coming through. To the taste it is quite dry with juniper to the fore but with spice and, perhaps, liquorice making their presence felt as you roll it in your mouth. There is a strong after taste in which liquorice and black pepper can be detected. It is a strong, old-school style, heavy gin which goes well with a good mixer and is none the worse for that.
The distillery is based in Langley Green which is just outside Oldbury in the West Midlands which has been a centre of the brewing and distilling industry since the early 19th century. Crosswells was the original brewery which was built atop an ancient underground water source. It was not until 1920 that gin production started there, after it was realised that the purity of the water upon which the distillery was sitting made it ideal for producing top quality spirits.
There are six stills in the distillery including what is claimed to be the oldest working copper still in the UK, dating back to the early 1800s. Our gin is macerated in a 4,000 copper pot still called Constance which, in the scheme of things, is a bit of a youngster, having been built as recently as 1917 by John-Dore. Once the gin concentrate is removed from the still it has an ABV of between 77 and 80 per cent. It is then transported to the Burlington Bottling plant in Witham in Essex where the strength is diluted to commercially acceptable levels and put in bottles which are hand labelled.
It’s a complicated old business!