Gin O’Clock (102)

Ah, February 2020. In retrospect, it seemed such an innocent time, barely touched by the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Life went on as normal and inventive distillers, fuelled by the demand created by the ginaissance and seeking to carve out a space for themselves, continued to ply their trade to come up with new, beguiling concoctions for their eager public. Little did we know what was ahead of us.

I am less enamoured with what could be described as contemporary gins than I am with London Dry, but I have to confess that if I want a break from a heavy juniper-led drink, I find Hendrick’s Gin, a quirky spirit infused with Bulgarian Rosa Damascena and cucumbers provides a refreshing and welcome respite. As far as the new wave of gins goes it is now firmly established, having been launched from its distillery, the Gin Palace, just outside Girvan in Ayrshire in 1999. It is now owned by William Grant & Son and is here to stay, something that cannot be said with any degree of certainty about many of the gins that cross my path.

The temptation to stray from the tried and tested is too strong even for the most established master distiller and Lesley Gracie is no exception. Over the last year Hendrick’s have released a couple of her concoctions as limited editions under the tag of Lesley Gracie’s Cabinet of Curiosities. The first out of the traps, released in early 2019, was Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice, followed, in February 2020, by Hendrick’s Lunar Gin. I picked up a bottle in our local Waitrose.

The bottle itself is that familiar squat shape, popularised by Hendrick’s, but instead of a bottle green colour the glass is a dark blue, if not black, signifying the night. The principal labelling at the front of the bottle is attractive with a lighter blue background and using lettering in an even paler blue and white. Above the name Hendrick’s there is a charming illustration of the moon, with a man in it (natch) surrounded by a selection of constellations and a banner either side nestling on a bed of flowers and bearing the legend “Limited Release”.       

The bottle comes with a little booklet tied to the neck, replete with marketing spiel and recipes for servings but, alas, no details about the botanicals that have gone into the mix. That is particularly disappointing as part of the marketing puff talks about the gin being inspired by a moonlit evening spent tending botanicals in the hothouse. It would have been nice to know what they were and in what way the components differ from the Hendrick’s mainstay. All the marketeers will say is that the limited-edition releases are “designed to enhance and accentuate the existing elements of the Hendrick’s Original house style”. Mmm.

Anyway, there is nothing for it but to release the agglomerated cork stopper and sample the spirit which weighs in with an acceptable 43.4% ABV. On the nose it is somewhat floral with violet and lavender to the fore. The spiciness of the juniper and some citrus elements are detectable but take a back seat.

In the glass the spirit is crystal clear and gives the drinker a really pleasant sensation, a mix of floral elements, providing waves of different taste sensations, and enticing spices, perfectly blended so that they compliment each other rather than detract. There is a lot going on in there and it is a pleasure to see that each element plays its element, like individual instruments in a symphony orchestra. Too much of one or a reticent other would spoil the effect. As for the aftertaste, it was long and a continuation of the exotic blend of floral elements and peppery spices.

All in all, I was not disappointed. This was a classy gin, the sort that you would expect from a distiller that has lasted the pace and still rates amongst the best. It just would have been nice to know what was in it.

Until the next time, cheers!

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