Gin seems to be enjoying another mini-revival, particularly with the rise in popularity of Gin Tonicas or GinTonics—a Spanish craze for bar-specific riffs on the classic summer refresher, featuring various spices, tonic flavors and more among the ingredients. Designed to assist specifically these sorts of drinks and add a colorful flair along the way: London No. 1 Gin, which hit U.S. soil this summer.
Bottled by Spanish Sherry producer González Byass using a French-made gin for its base, the product features 12 key botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica root, lemon peel, licorice, cinnamon, almond, savory, iris root, orange peel and bergamot). Added to the mix are bergamot oil for an "Earl Gray" aromatic influence and, inexplicably, a bit of "certified color" for a faint tinge of blue in the glass. It makes for an intriguingly colored martini or gin and tonic in a stylish Stone Rose-style underlit bar, but might wreak havoc when blending with other "colors" of mixers.
Despite its international origins, the gin is named for a London address: In 1771, the 1st Duke of Wellington built a townhouse on the southeast corner of Hyde Park, and it apparently became known as No. 1 London, due to its prominent location. The producers of the gin pay tribute to the grandeur of the home and hope (we assume) that consumers will view the moniker as suggesting the gin has a similar complex and prominent place among gins.
Juniper is prominent on the nose, as most good gins will profess. In the background are warm baking spice notes of cinnamon, orange oil and lavender. Drunk neat, it is round, sweet and smooth again with a juniper dominance, and bright spicy character. The clean menthol finish rounds out with hints of chocolate and licorice. It is an intriguing, if not particularly "ginny" combination (and in fact, despite the moniker, does not bill itself as a London Dry Gin). Mixed with a little vermouth, the floral character of the gin clashes a bit with the vermouth, so a milder expression is recommended (if you prefer a significant helping of vermouth in your drink). But as we noted, it looks fairly cool in the glass, with its blue tinge. This seems clearly to be a gin designed for stylish social bars, rooftops, poolsides and the like, with plenty of underlighting. A darkened lounge or speakeasy would risk losing one of the standout features of the spirit.
We feel like this is a gin that will show up in spots like STK or Lavo in New York or Hyde in Las Vegas. Not a bad thing, but for a very specific audience. Of course with its Spanish roots, it should also be on the menu at GinTonica destination Cata.
London No. 1 Gin has an ABV of 47% and a suggested retail price of $39. It is imported by Vin Divino, a subsidiary of Gonzalez Byass. Please drink responsibly.
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