My recent involvement in CAMFEST 2019 has meant that I have spent more time than I usually do in Camberley and its appallingly rebadged shopping centre, The Sq. The main supermarket in residence there is Sainsbury’s, a store I do not normally visit. With some time on my hands I had a perfect opportunity to investigate what that store was doing to cash in on the ginaissance.
The first bottle I selected was a rather dumpy, bell-shaped affair called Blackfriars London Dry Gin, distilled for Sainsbury’s by our old friends, G & J Greenalls from Warrington. The front labelling contains a floral design with a central plain strip in which the name of the gin is displayed together with a facsimile signature of the distiller, Mark Parton. The front label also contains two important bits of information, the first being that it has been “taste tested by customers”. I’m not sure what this is meant to tell us but I suppose it is mildly comforting to know that some people have had the hooch in their mouths, I assume not the very spirit I have bought. But what happened to them? Did they like it? Did they spit it out in disgust?
The second is that the spirit is “distilled four times using ten botanicals”. Readers of this blog will know by now that I like to know what the botanicals are that make up my gin. Frustratingly, having trumpeted the fact that it has used ten botanicals the labelling gives nary a clue as to what they may be. Trawling the web for enlightenment, I can only find five identified – juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica roots, and the peel from oranges and lemons. And that’s it. What the other five is anybody’s guess. The consumer needs greater clarity, I feel.
The cap is a black screwcap which, once removed, reveals an aroma pungent with juniper, always a good sign in my book, with some citric hints. To the mouth it has a reassuringly solid junipery taste, slightly oily, at least when sampled neat, but revealing a certain sweetness as you roll it around your mouth. The aftertaste is warm, spicy and earthy. At 43% ABV I found it a surprisingly complex drink which worked well with a tonic making it a crisp and moreish drink. Definitely a hit.
The other gin I picked up was in an even squatter, dumpier bottle, Drury 173 London Dry Gin. It has a rather striking front label, a mix of geometric and floral designs in gold against a turquoise background. The label tells me that “our gin has been skilfully distilled to create unique spicy notes with a lovely lemon finish”, that the distiller is Natalie Wallis and that the finished article is Recipe no 19. If at first you don’t succeed, I guess, try, try again.
Again, there is no mention of precisely what has gone into the gin but on removing the artificial cork stopper the aroma was a pleasant mix of juniper with hints of citrus. To the taste the juniper was foremost, giving a warm, spicy taste and then the more citrusy elements came into play, leaving a pleasant and lasting aftertaste. At 40% ABV it is fine to open an evening’s drinking with but a bit more information about its contents wouldn’t come amiss.
Both gins are exclusive to Sainsbury’s, so I believe, and were launched in June 2017 along with a gin in a tin, a Pink Gin and Lemonade Can.
Until the next time, cheers!