A genuine gem of a gin, or a doppelganger distillation? –
Several times in recent month’s we’ve suggested the German discount stores have been delving into British history and culture to lend their gins a helping hand in terms of a back story they don’t really possess. Oliver Cromwell was probably the most obvious ‘person of interest’ but Lidl and Aldi also have a track record of packaging their own brand groceries to look a lot like much more expensive brands: with clever use of colour, fonts and sound-a-like names.
Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, I therefore wish to draw to your attention to Topaz Blue – Aldi UK’s “Superior Small Batch London Dry Gin”, which sells for £13-99 a bottle; some two-thirds the normal retail price of Bombay Sapphire to which we think the bottle bears a fair resemblance.
As a gemstone found in igneous rocks from Russia to the USA and Japan, Topaz can be coloured yellow, red and even green though, significantly, the blue ones are also known as Brazil Sapphires. Meanwhile the shape to the bottle as well as the style of the label have plenty of echoes with the Winchester made gin introduced in the late eighties. What then about the contents?
According to the keyhole shaped blue and gold label, the 10 botanicals which go into making Topaz Blue are cassia, orange peel, lemon peel, liquorice, almond, angelica, coriander, orris and cinnamon; along with the juniper which jumps out at you when you unscrew the lid. If you switched the orange and cinnamon for cubeb and grains of paradise, you would have the same recipe as Bombay Sapphire, though to be fair these are botanicals used for many London dry gins; and processes are shared too.
“Maybe then, instead of getting picky about plagiarism we should just concentrate on value for money?”
Well it’s pretty difficult to criticise Aldi’s distillers on that one, because at 40% ABV Topaz Blue tastes and smells a damn sight better than the Esso Blue I sometimes spilt on myself when filling my parents’ paraffin heater. The first bite is full on with the juniper and citrus, while the spices deliver a pleasant finish. Pound for £, Topaz is arguably up there with its much more famous counterpart – but leaves one main question unanswered?
If you have your spirits out on a drinks cabinet or on a Del Boy style bar, do you really want your friends to know you’ve catered for them on the cheap?