London No. 1 Original Blue Gin
Review: London No. 1 Original Blue Gin 87/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 6, 2012
London No. 1 Original Blue Gin is a product of Gonzalas Byass who are a Spanish wine/cellars company which also produces a variety of distilled spirits including brandy, anisette, botanical vodka and of course gin. Their gin is triple distilled (from English grain in London, England) on a traditional pot still in small batches by Master Distiller, Charles Maxwell. According to the London No. 1 website the gin is distilled with 12 key botanicals which include: Juniper from Croatia; Angelica root and Savory from France; Coriander from Morocco; Cassia bark from China, Liquorice from Turkey, Cinnamon from Ceylon, Almond from Greece; and Lemon peel, Orange peel, Lily root and Bergamot from Italy.
The product was first test marketed in Spain, and is now being launched in limited quantities internationally. It is bottled at 47 % alcohol by volume ensuring a more concentrated flavour than more traditional spirits which are bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.
I was given a bottle for review by Woodman Wines and Spirits Inc. who have informed me that this product is already available in limited quantities in Ontario.
In the Bottle 4/5
The bottle of this Blue Gin is pictured to the left. This bottle has apparently won a few design awards, and I agree that the look is classy, clean, and masculine. I like the squat decanter with its solid synthetic corked closure, and I like that the bottle is clear allowing you to see the pale turquoise blue colour of the gin. My only quibble is that I find the label hard to read. There are some orange fonts on the label which look nice and clear in the picture to the left; but which are in reality extremely difficult to see against the blue coloured label. The small type written font underneath doesn’t help my eyes either. In a retail setting, I might get frustrated trying to read the label and pass on this product in favour of something my eyes can focus on. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth, nonetheless.
In the Glass 8.5/10
When the gin is poured, it is hard not to be impressed by that pale blue turquoise colour in the glass. Referring to the technical information sheets which I was provided with, I learned that the colour is “derived in part from gardenia flowers and a final infusion with bergamot oil”. (I should point out that the statement says that the colour is only derived in part from the gardenia and bergamot oil. The back of the bottle tells the rest of the story as it contains the additional label, “Gin with Colour Added“.)
However the colour is completely derived, it looks very nice in the glass (and in the bottle).
The aroma from the glass is intensely floral. It has a sharp quality which similar to freshly bloomed lilacs. The more familiar gin aromas of earthy juniper, spicy cardamom, lemon peel and orange citrus lie somewhat behind that floral intensity. There is also a light astringency in the air above the glass stemming from the higher than normal alcohol content, and this sharpness combined with the intense floral characteristic of the gin seems to be serving as a warning that the Blue Gin just might be a little more intense and flavourful than I had expected… even for a 47 % abv spirit!
In the Mouth 52/60
The gin enters the mouth with all the intensity that I was expecting, with strong floral flavours leading in front and a ginger-like spiciness which heat heats up the palate. Strong impressions of lavender and lilac seem to be omnipresent tainting the more familiar sensations of juniper and orange citrus with their presence. Lemongrass and balsam weave in and out, and I admit the London No. 1 Gin is just a little too full of flavour and spice for me to sip comfortably. When I add an ice-cube, the strong flavours are muted; but the spiciness of cardamom (tastes like ginger) continues unabated. Fortunately, I rarely consume gin neat or on the rocks. This is a distilled spirit meant for the cocktail, and I decided to continue my analysis in that format.
The first cocktail I constructed was a classic recipe called the Pegu Cocktail (see recipe and picture below) made with Cointreau and fresh lime. I followed this up (the next day) with a Lime Fizz and then a Gin and Tonic. All of these cocktails tasted great, and all those intense flavours which were making this gin hard to sip neat, made the London No. 1 Original Blue Gin a great cocktail spirit. It just goes to show that just because a spirit is not suited to one format doesn’t mean it cannot be great when it is used in another. I made more than a few cocktails over the next several days and thoroughly enjoyed each one.
In the Throat 13.5/15
When sipped neat, the London No. 1 Gin finishes with a rush of ginger spice that knocks the tonsils back. There is little burn in the throat followed by what I am going to describe as ‘a flowery fade’ of juniper, orange peel and balsam. I was perplexed as how to score this aspect of the review. These features are uncomfortable when encountered in the undiluted gin; but, when the gin is added to the cocktail, they are most definitely welcome assets. In the end, I decided that for a quality gin, the cocktail is really what is important, and my high score in the finish reflects that reality.
The Afterburn 9/10
What a delightful spirit. I began my review sessions with concern over the intense flavours which I could not really wrap myself around when I sipped the gin by itself. But I was hooked as soon as I mixed my first cocktail. This Blue Gin brings welcome spice and floral character to the cocktail experience. Although it is not by any means a sipper, it is amongst the best mixing gins I have encountered.
You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
An excellent choice for the London No. 1 Original Blue Gin is the classic Pegu Club Cocktail.
The Blue Pegu
1 1/2 oz London No. 1 Original Blue Gin
3/4 oz Cointreau
1 tsp Lime Juice
dash bitters (Angostura)
Slice of lime for Garnish (optional)
Pour the ingredients into a metal shaker filled with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a chilled glass
Garnish with a slice of lime if desired
Please Enjoy No. 1 Original Blue Gin Responsibly!
My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)