Another day, another fascinating new gin to pen a review about.
I want you all to appreciate that I’m sitting here at my desk sipping neat gin – sacrificing one of my 14 units of alcohol a week in the pursuit of knowledge – so that you don’t have to. And of course I’ve had to confirm to the Whitley Neill website that I’m over the legal age to drink before I’m even allowed to read about the stuff.
However, it’s because I’ve always consumed alcohol for pleasure, rather than to get drunk that I’m enjoying the South African DNA of this hand crafted spirit; rather than lying in a hedge somewhere, sucking on a bottle of white cider.
And what a voyage of discovery this 43% gin offers – reflecting very favourably on the family traditions of its creator, Johnny Neill, and offering a tantalizing taste of his wife’s homeland, in a similar manner to one of the show-gardens set out at the Chelsea Flower Show. In particular, ‘The Trailfinders’ South African Wine Estate offering, designed by Jonathan Snow and is a reflection on the Western Cape. The Chelsea judges rather churlishly gave it Silver-gilt medal, where Whitley Neill has won Gold in the past at the world spirits championship.
Being an incurable pedant, I need to point out here that there seems to be a minor contradiction between the description on the label of the Whitley Neill we purchased on offer at our local Co-op, and the detailed list of botanicals to be found on the main website.
Baobab fruit and Cape Gooseberries are amongst the seven botanicals alluded to on the bottle, but the full list on line extends to mention juniper, lemon, orange, orris bark, coriander seeds, angelica root and cassia. Nine in all, but no matter; the overall effect is delicious and has real depth.
I love waxing lyrical about the flavour of gin, but I would struggle to better the firm’s own words: “Softer and smoother than traditional gins, with rich notes of juniper and citrus, potpourri and exotic spices. The finish is a long one with a subtle fade of herbs, cocoa and candied lemon peels, while the nose is both citrus sweet and peppery, with a distinctive floral aroma.” I would add that the strength seems reflected in a tingle which lingers on the tongue, and while we couldn’t find Whitley Neill on Fever Tree’s tasting wheel, we discovered that the mixer masters’ Aromatic Tonic allowed the southern hemisphere fruit and spices to express themselves nicely.
The distiller further offers a number of cocktail recipes as a happy destination for this multi-dimensional dry gin, while the company also produces such specials as Quince Gin, Blood Orange Gin and one combining Rhubarb & Ginger.
South Africa maybe on the same timeline as us for much of the year, but the country is world away in terms of its landscape and indigenous plants. Like a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show, you can let this very individual gin transport you there for a few moments.
“Softer and smoother than traditional gins, with rich notes of juniper and citrus, potpourri and exotic spices. The finish is a long one with a subtle fade of herbs, cocoa and candied lemon peels, while the nose is both citrus sweet and peppery, with a distinctive floral aroma.”