Gin O’Clock – Part Sixty Six

The vigour of the ginaissance is such that distillers you normally associate with other spirits are getting in on the act. I have discussed before the difference in time and cost between distilling gin and a spirit like whisky. The latter is a long-term project requiring considerable investment, time and storage before the spirit is put on to the market. Gin offers the opportunity for a much more immediate return.

It is always a pleasure to see a new gin nestling on the shelves of our local Waitrose and a bottle of Wildcat Gin proved too much of a temptation to pass up. It is distilled by Whyte & Mackay, a name normally associated with whisky and proof positive of my opening point.

I normally spend some time describing the bottle and this one is an absolute stunner, one to keep on the shelf even if it is devoid of content. It is tall, thin and round with a fluted extended neck and a n artificial cork. As well as the shape what is also stunning is the labelling. There is a majestic golden emblem with a cat astride a key with a rubric assuring us that it is “distilled with distinction.” Below the labelling, embossed in the glass of the bottle is the legend, “knock once, knock twice, knock thrice.

The clue to what all this is about is provided at the back of the bottle with a quotation attributed to Captain Dudley Bradstreet, from 1739; “it occurred to me to venture upon Trading in Gin, the people being clamorous for their beloved Liquor on account of its prohibition by Act of Parliament. I secured Premises and nailed the Sign of a Cat to my Window. Those with Knowledge of the Secret could Knock Thrice, Placing money in the Cat’s mouth to receive a generous Measure of Gin. This Scheme of Pass was a great Success, netting me Considerable Fortune.

No such subterfuge is required today but it is a charming story that takes us back to the days when Government tried to put the brakes on gin consumption. I went into more detail when I was discussing the origins of Old Tom Gin a while back

As well as an insight into the history of gin, the label introduces us to  a botanical I had not come across before; “London Dry Gin with Cat’s Claw Botanical”. For the uninitiated, that included me before I bought this bottle, what we are talking about is Uncaria tomentosa, a woody vine to be found in Central and South America. It gets its name from its claw-shaped thorns. Notwithstanding the thorns, its bark is said to have medicinal properties.

Having got top marks from me for the quality of the design of the bottle and the informative nature of the labelling, how does it rank on taste? Uncorking the bottle, the aroma is a reassuring mix of juniper with hints of citrus, spice and pepper. To the mouth it is a smooth spirit, refreshing with a nice blend of juniper and spice leading on to the citrus elements. It made for a well-balanced and crisp drink. The aftertaste is pleasant and long-lasting, with a spicy citrus again to the fore. With a premium tonic it was wonderfully moreish. I can see this bottle disappearing quickly.

It weighs in at a respectable 41.5% ABV and whilst Whyte and Mackay are a little circumspect in identifying all ten botanicals in the mix there is definitely liquorice root, coriander, angelica and citrus to accompany the juniper and cat’s claw. After some of the concoctions I have reviewed recently, a well-produced juniper-led gin was just what the doctor ordered.

Until the next time, cheers!

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