Can BULLDog beat the Welsh Dragon?
I know that it’s only round three of the Six Nations coming up, but rugby pundits are already heralding this weekend’s clash between Wales and England as this year’s “Grand Slam Decider”; after the manner in which the men in white disposed of the reigning champions, Ireland, and the forlorn French in two hugely dominant performances.
So as a lifelong rugby fan I decided it would be good to stage a spiritual showdown as part of the build-up to Saturday, by having a head-to-head between two gins from the respective countries. For those not familiar with the culture of the oval ball game, or this particular fixture, I quote former England hooker, Brian Moore, from his column in this Monday’s Telegraph: “The feud has many origins. In rugby terms, and for the older England fan, it goes back to having to listen to endless lectures – and Max Boyce – about the great Welsh side of the 1970s.”
To be honest, Gareth Edwards’ men were the core of the legendary Lions side which toured New Zealand undefeated. However, at that time I worked weekends in Stow-on-the-Wold’s White Hart Hotel, where on the morning of the match, the Welsh landlady would make me decorate the bar with leeks and daffodils, ready for us to watch England receive their ritual thrashing.
The psychological scars have never really healed, so don’t expect me to be even handed about anything originating from over the Severn Bridge.
“The feud has many origins. In rugby terms, and for the older England fan, it goes back to having to listen to endless lectures – and Max Boyce – about the great Welsh side of the 1970s.” Brian Moore, former England hooker.
So for this blog I’ve selected Brecon Gin from the Penderyn Distillery to go up against a bottle of BULLDog London Dry Gin, which we’ve purchased from Waitrose: the supermarket so beloved of Middle England.
I chose to try the BULLDog with a slice of lime and Fever Tree Indian tonic, mixed in a ‘high ball’ glass – because I’m convinced Wales’ back three won’t cope with Owen Farrell’s pinpoint aerial bombardment. The Brecon I put in a nice round goblet to signify the large zero I hope the home side score. However, I have a confession to make regarding BULLdog’s real nationality.
International rugby’s rules have long allowed ‘Flag of Convenience” selections, with some of England’s finest – such as 2003 world cup winner, Lawrence (Lorenzo) Dallaglio and the current side’s Vunipola brothers – being qualified for other countries. So while the Waitrose website claimed our purchase to be English, it turns out the brand was founded in America in 2007 by a character called Anshuman Vohra, who targeted the European market in 2009 in response to a Spanish boom in gin consumption; and then sold it to Campari. Production may be undertaken in Warrington by G J Distillers, but the BULLDog Gin Company has a Scottish address.
As England football legend Jackie Charlton decided when he took over the management of the Ireland team – “It’s where your granny was born that really matters”; and mine came from Edinburgh.
The BULLDog website is one of the most enigmatic I’ve come across- the home page listing such headings as MY ATTITUDE and MY MESSAGE, while I finally found the recipe under MY TRUTH. (Wouldn’t you have loved to sit in on that marketing meeting?)
The botanicals are no less tantalising with the 12 listed sounding even more cosmopolitan than the typical Barbarians team sheet – encompassing White Poppy from Turkey, Lotus Leaves from China and Italian Oris. Even the Lavender comes from France, though maybe the demineralised water is home grown.
As for the taste, BULLDog is described by its producers as strong but smooth; though I would say that the flavour is as multi-dimensional as England’s attacking capabilities: robust and revealing fresh surprises just as opponents think they’ve worked it out.
Rather like Wales’ “Warren-Ball” tactics, the Penderyn Distillery website is much easier to read than that detailing BULLDog: revealing that Brecon’s botanical blend includes liquorice as well as Angelica root, cassia bark and ground nutmeg, while complementing coriander seed and citrus peel. Like the trans-Atlantic spirit it also includes Oris.
While revealing Brecon is a traditional juniper gin with layers of spice and orange, the tasting notes also suggest that it can be as easily enjoyed by a roaring log fire in winter as on a hot summer’s evening. I would therefore conclude that Welsh fans will be able to pour themselves a large one to ease the chill of another home defeat by England.
On paper the Welsh competitor may be a couple of points ahead at 43-40%but on the day I predict the score will be more like 16-38 to England.