Following tradition since 1762…
We have always enjoyed the array of orange flavoured gins out there, so were pleased to pick up a bottle of J.J Whitley Blood Orange Gin – too sharp or “harsh” according to some, but I felt it to be pleasingly tangy and bitter-sweet, like a good Sicilian orange marmalade.
Interestingly, the Whitley family boasts over eight generations of distilling heritage, dating back to 1762. John James Whitley was the Managing Director of Greenall Whitley & Co Ltd and G&J Greenall Ltd until 1942. His grandmother, Isabella, was the daughter of Edward Greenall, Chairman of Greenalls & Co, and son of the Greenall’s founder, Thomas Greenall.
John James Whitley developed a curiosity for finding fine ingredients from a young age. Indeed, in his formative years, he spent days exploring expansive gardens and natural hedgerows for wild vegetation while living in the Daresbury countryside. This inherent love for nature would underpin his life as a master distiller.
I confess, though, to thinking I’d picked up a Whitley Neill gin, which we’ve covered in the past, when out shopping: it was not until reading the label more carefully at home, and then doing a little research, that I discovered Johnny Neill was John James Whitley’s great-grandson, who mirrored his relative’s love of distilling and branched off to create the award-winning Whitley Neill brand in 2005.
To this day, great-grandfather John’s thirst for original flavour lives on in the Whitley name, of which both are now brands under London-based Halewood Artisanal Spirits Plc*. J.J Whitley started creating Vodka in 2017 at its distillery in St Petersburg on the Baltic Sea. Using the winter wheat combined with naturally soft water from its own 160 metre deep artesian wells, the spirit undergoes four stages of filtration to achieve the optimal balance for distilling in its snowy surroundings …
I digress, but a short history of the Whitley name was worth a little meander. At 38% ABV, J.J Whitley Blood Orange was inspired by the family expeditions abroad to Sicily where they would roam the orange groves under the balmy Mediterranean sun.
This gin has a hint of sun kissed Sicilian orange on the nose with flavours of candied orange peel infused with a subtle earthy sweetness of liquorice root. All these flavours are followed by the warming spicy finish of cassia bark, liquorice root and Macedonian coriander seeds.
So how does it compare to other orange gins we’ve tried? Aber Falls is sweeter and, like J.J Whitley, can be enjoyed neat; while Tovess’ recipe impressed neither of us. Tanqueray Flor De Sevilla Gin is less strident than Tovess Clementine & Orange and remains our favourite orange gin, being a little less ‘in your face’ than the other three – more G&T in the shade rather than the harsh midday Mediterranean sun.
J.J Whitley Blood Orange gin can be purchased from most supermarkets and online for around £15
* Halewood Artisanal Spirits Plc focuses on seven core artisanal spirit brands across four categories – gin, vodka, whisky and rum – out of a product portfolio of 17 brands.