Introducing the Gindex
Lovers of liquor are spoilt for choice. There’s no shortage of drinks out there to tingle our tastebuds, but such pleasures come at different price-points.
Beer or cider drinkers are free to explore unfamiliar brews and spice up their sipping habits for as little as a few quid per bottle. Wine is a bit further along the spending scale, but extending your palate can still be done for not too many ₤s. However, if gin is your thing—and I applaud your fine taste—then you’re in pricier territory, and will want to see a strong return on your juniper-based investment. Bad gin is much harder to swallow than bad beer. Making things trickier still is the fact that gin bottles are some of the prettiest on the planet. Browsing for gin, you’re certain to be bombarded by eyefuls of appealing bottle shapes and labels, which’ll distract you from what counts the most—the spirit and the botanicals it holds.
Focus on flavour
So how do you go about picking a top gin and avoid being dazzled by the branding? Well, the good news is that it’s nothing to stress over—I’ve been researching gin and am happy to share my findings. Readers, the moment has arrived for the Alderman to remove the packaging and unbox the Gindex, my gin buyer’s companion. You may, you probably will, disagree with some of my ratings, so why not tell me what you think in the comments below and vote in the Gindex poll. Suggestions for future tasting are welcome. Note: the ratings below are the author’s, not the Alderman’s.
Navigating the Gindex is refreshingly simple—most-enjoyed gins at the top, least-enjoyed gins at the bottom. Also, you’ll notice the £ signs, which reflect the retail price at independent UK off licences. (International readers, close your eyes and imagine, say, dollar signs, or Euros.) Alderman Lushington encourages you to support your local traders as they should almost certainly be able to direct you to a fabulous gin and save you money in misspent drinking.
Gindex 1.1 (a list of 14 gins in order of preference)
Williams Chase GB Extra Dry Gin £££ Spearmint bubblegum notes make this the undefeated champion of Gindex 1.1. It’s an incredibly well put together gin that will make you smile from the first sip. Buy it wherever you see it and enjoy.
Old Raj Gin ££ Very dry and very elegantly done by Cadenhead. The infusion of saffron adds a smart twist to the flavour and also to the colour.
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin £££ A real sherbet fizz on first tasting, mellowing to softer notes. The botanicals—22 according to the label—are foraged on the island.
Williams Chase Elegant Gin £££ A second entry into the Gindex from Williams Chase and their craft has to be applauded. Also, the spirit for this one comes from apples, which will please any cider or Calvados fan. Smooth.
Pickerings Gin £££ The use of coriander, cardamom, cloves and fennel, to name just a few botanicals on the team sheet, ensures that PG lives up to its billing as “flavoursome”. Throws off notes of dark chocolate orange when loosened with tonic.
Portobello Road Gin £££ We’re still getting to know each other, but it’s got the makings of a beautiful friendship. PR has echoes of menthol/eucalyptus on the nose and really seems to shine in a less sweet tonic such as Fever-Tree naturally light.
Plymouth Gin ££ An oily gin with a strong punch full of persistent flavour. The Royal Navy’s gin of choice.
6 O’clock Gin ££ A top tipple if you can get hold of the companion tonic (6 o’clock tonic). Together they’re an A+B magic formula that brings out the taste of wine gums—superb.
Burleighs London Dry Gin £££ A gin inspired by botanicals sourced from woodland adjacent to the distillery, which makes for a great story. For the price, though, the gin feels underpowered.
Beefeater Gin £ Hits the mark. A staple.
Bombay Sapphire £ Particularly agreeable in gin and tonics served with lime or with lemon and celery added instead, as long as you’re happy to go heavy on the gin (see photo for serving suggestions).
Hendrick’s Gin ££ Packs a massive hit. Too dominant for the Gindex’s top echelons, but could appeal if you‘re willing to apply strong citrus to the mix.
Juniper Green Organic Gin £ Receives rave reviews across the internet, but the Gindex finds it hard to tame, even with the mighty Fentimans herb tonic.
Gordon’s Crisp Cucumber Gin £ I don’t know what to say: if you want cucumber in your gin, get one; chop it up and add it. There are no short cuts.
New entries scheduled for Gindex 1.2 include Sloane’s Original, Tanqueray, Harrington Dry Gin by Warner Edwards, Gin Mare (possibly), Sipsmiths London Dry Gin, and Beefeater 24.
G & T à la Gindex
Add either a slice of lemon, quartered and accompanied by celery cut into three slender sticks. Or a slice of lime halved. In both cases, the gin (50 ml) is joined by 100–120 ml of tonic, depending on the strength of the spirit.
‘Lionheart’ (Bristol, March 2015)
Lionheart is a gin fan based in the south-west of England. To find out more and to get in touch, visit his website 200gins.