After having had a few people round for Coq au d'Oc, someone noticed the fancy-looking bottle of Hendrick's gin among the modest bottle collection. Being of curious mind, gins were poured.
Without wishing to sound too obsessive (although that is the point of this writing), I got curious as to just how different Hendrick's might be. So after a bit of a root, I managed a line up of Larios, Bombay Sapphire, and Blackwood, to go alongside the Hendrick's. In true Eurovison-style reverse order, here's what I thought.
The Larios was unsurpisingly the least sophisticated of the bunch. In comparison with the others, it had a harsh acetone-like aroma (think nail varnish remover), with hints of the characteristic botanicals that are in all gins. Juniper was particularly prevalent, with little else. That said, a G&T made from Larios, with a squeeze of lime and a drop of Angotura, is a classic - mouth-puckeringly astringent and an excellent aperitif.
In third place came the Blackwoods gin - a bit of a surprise, as it seems to be winning quite a few awards at the moment. It was a little on the light side in terms of aroma (although the coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg were easy to detect), and while it is true that it is smooth enough to sip it neat, who on earth would want to do that?
In second comes Bombay Sapphire, with it's light orange pith dimension and prevalent cinnamon just pipping the Blackwood into third, although it was a close run thing. There is very little to choose between them, although in a G&T, the effervescence of the tonic seemed to free the spice aromas a little better in the Bombay than the Blackwood.
In first place comes Hendrick's. The burst of orange and rose-petal aroma from the glass have to be experienced to be believed - very intense. The much-touted cucumber flavour is noticeable and refreshing, although really quite low down in the mix. The great thing about this gin is that all you need for a great cocktail is this, ice and tonic. Adding lemon, lime or bitters seems a waste when there is so much flavour present.
While Hendrick's is undoubtedly a well-marketed product, the apothecary-style bottle, cucumber flavours and "It's not for everyone" tagline adding to the English eccentric image, it really was the best of the bunch on this occasion.
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