Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Nothing's premium but the price?

The image of gin has changed dramatically in the last few years. It's no longer seen as the stuffy "old lady" drink (although I hope to be drinking it when I'm old). Instead, it's seen as just the ticket for a summer's day, a pre dinner aperitif, a casual post-work drink... I graduated onto gin straight from martini and lemonade, completely bypassing the traditional student drink of choice, vodka, after an unpleasant run-in. Ever since my late teens, it's been my drink of choice.

A discussion at work on the premiumisation of alcohol (essentially people buying more expensive booze) led to a suggestion of a gin tasting, to see if our taste buds really were as perceptive and discerning as we let ourselves believe.

A quick trip to Sainsbury's local yielded fewer varieties than planned, nevertheless we had Gordon's (£21.80/litre), Bombay Sapphire (£27.19/litre) and London Dry (£15.69/litre), as well as some tonic water and miniature plastic cups. Some Hoxton Gin lurking in the cupboard was deemed too "weird" to include in the tasting - if you have ever tried some it really does have a very distinct taste. In fact, the website even proclaims that it's "the most distinctive gin in the world. I'm inclined to agree. (available here: http://www.hoxtongin.com/)

And so, with the utmost attention to detail we set up a 'controlled' experiment, with the little ridges on the plastic cups proving most useful for pouring measures. Crucially, we did not include lime, as we decided it wasn't possible to ensure each drink was "equally lime-y".

Everyone was given three cups, marked A, B and C with each of the different gins, and then allowed to sample at their leisure for about 5 minutes, before rating in order of how premium they were. Not necessarily the taster's preference, but given we like to view ourselves as connoisseurs, we were hoping our preference would be in line with the price!

If you have ever tried London Dry gin, you will understand why all tasters rated it bottom of the three, with comments such as "it tastes like nail varnish" "vile in a cup" "so disgusting" and "it's okay, but I did have a few drinks earlier". Perhaps one best left for the end of the night when you wouldn't be able to tell your friend from the stranger in the corner.
London Dry - one for the plebs only
Fully expecting to know my Bombay from my Gordon's, I was surprised to find out that the gin I liked the most, and thought tasted the most expensive, was in fact Gordon's! It had the clear taste of juniper berries but tasted smoother than I remembered, and unlike the London Dry, did not result in an involuntary body shudder as your oesophagus rejected the white spirit you just swallowed. Two-thirds of our control group (a decisive six people) agreed that the Gordon's tasted best. So Bombay came a valiant second. 
"It just tastes so ginny"

Next time, I'd like to compare Gordon's with Tanqueray, as they are both made by the same company (Diageo). It would be interesting to see, and to find out, how the manufacturing methods and ingredients differ.

And as a closing note, for years, I always thought Bombay Sapphire was indeed, blue.
Top marks for the nice bottle

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