Welcome to the pleasure gardens …
Thomas Greenall founded Greenalls in 1762, when London’s Marylebone Pleasure Gardens were the place to be seen. Moving on to the 1830s, his son-in-law John Neill joined the family firm to create gin: ever since, the love of the craft has passed through eight generations of the line to Johnny Neill, who carries the family torch onward today at Marylebone Pleasure Gardens Distillery Company in Bond Street.
We have previously mentioned that gin was known as ‘mother’s ruin’ in the past, before ‘cleaning up’ its image to suit the trendy modern palette: similarly, the pleasure gardens of London back in the 18th and 19th centuries did not enjoy a reputation of being for the clean-living. Although Marylebone’s green enclave started out innocently enough – with a bandstand and a couple of bowling greens – it soon became better known for gambling, boozing, cock fighting and boxing. Eventually an entry fee was imposed to ‘clean it up’ and return it to a place of music, innocent pleasure and frivolous flirtations.
So, Marylebone London Dry Gin reads, on the bottle, as ‘Mary-le-Bone,’ inciting an image, perhaps, of a London housemaid in the gardens on her afternoon off, flirting outrageously with a handsome young subaltern in uniform; or a pretty French maid – maybe called Marie – falling for a prince: in these gardens where rich and poor could, for the first time, mingle without drawing attention; anything was possible.
So what did I think of my flirtation with a miniature of Mary Le Bone? A pleasing aroma of chamomile, lemon balm and lime; but with a lingering spicy finish of coriander and cloves balancing sweet orange peel. Cassia bark provides the warmth, which would make this a lovely treat on a cold winter’s day.
Other botanicals include angelica root and liquorice root, as well as the warming finish of anise and hot cloves.
I initially tried Mary Le Bone gin in all her purest grain spirit – neat, at 50.2% ABV, before flirting with a splash of Fever Tree regular Indian tonic – both were equally good. I’m looking forward to trying Johnny Neill’s Marylebone Orange & Geranium Flavoured Gin and the Marylebone Cask Aged Gin – the latter apparently flirts with vanilla pod …