Over the holidays, I tried Tanqueray gin for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The flavors were good, the price was right, and the bottle was a killer. But Tanqueray isn’t the first gin to use a cobbler shaker shaped bottle — in fact, their other half Gordon’s was actually first to market with that. Given that both are made the same folks, I figured Gordon’s was a safe bet… and I wasn’t totally wrong.
Alexander Gordon was a businessman who was born in London to a Scottish family. Reportedly, one of his ancestors once saved the King of Scotland from a wild boar while on a hunt; so, ever since, the boar has been their family’s symbol (including being the logo for their gin). Gordon opened his first distillery in 1769 and started experimenting with botanical components to create his idea of the perfect gin. The recipe he eventually landed on was labeled their “Special London Dry Gin” and it remains a popular fixture on British navy ships to this day, the recipe unchanged since it was introduced.
The Gordon’s Gin company would remain under family ownership until 1868 when they decided to merge with Charles Tanqueray & Co (another gin producer) to better compete with the wave of gin distilleries popping up all over London. The two companies split their focus: Gordon’s Gin aimed at domestic tastes in London, and Tanqueray focused on the export market (and, specifically, the United States).
Business was great, with prohibition barely a stumbling block for the brand. When prohibition ended in the United States, the first legal cocktail served in the White House was reportedly a Tanqueray gin and tonic. The distillery would be bombed into near destruction (with only one pot-still surviving) during World War II, but the company re-built bigger and better on the same site. Even that wasn’t enough, however, and in 1995 the company relocated to Scotland.
In 1922, the company was acquired by The Distiller’s Company, which was in turn purchased by the British spirits giant Diageo in 1997.
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This is one of the more mysterious gins when it comes to discerning how it’s made, and the fact that this is the “export” version for the American market makes it even more murky.
The label is our best friend here, and lets us know that this was actually made in Canada (and not the UK-based distillery that Gordon’s and Tanqueray share). Apparently, this starts out as a 100% neutral grain spirit — which is really just raw alcohol that is distilled from grains, and at such a high alcohol content that none of the flavors remain in the liquid.
Once the initial spirit is produced, it is typically watered down and botanicals are added for flavoring. There’s no indication of exactly which botanicals are used — but since this is a London Dry Gin, the defining feature is juniper so it is likely that juniper berries are in there along with (reportedly at least three) other components. Supposedly, those ingredients are juniper, coriander, licorice, and angelica root… but there’s no confirmation from the company on that.
After flavoring, the spirit is distilled again to produce a clear spirit that retains the essential components of the flavoring ingredients.
This is a pretty boring bottle, to be frank.
The bottle itself is a non-standard design, with a flat face and a rounded back, made of clear glass. The bottle has a medium length straight neck that is capped off with a screw-on plastic top. Really, the only thing of note is the “GORDON’S” embossed in the glass along the back of the bottle.
On the front, there’s a small-ish yellow, red, and metallic silver label with the company name, the legally required details, and the boar’s head family crest. And that’s it. This isn’t something you’ll want to put in a place of honor — instead, it’s something that is perfectly suited for life in the sped well of a bar.
My biggest fear the second I saw the “100% GRAIN NEUTRAL SPIRITS” on the front was that this would be a poor quality spirit that had a lot of solvent tones (much like other cheap gins). The good news, though, is that this is absolutely not the case here. What you’re getting is a nice clean aroma coming off the glass, and it’s is spot-on for a London Dry gin: bright and pine-scented juniper up front, followed by a good bit of lemon and some orange citrus along with that coriander spice.
Taking a sip, the juniper is definitely present but much more muted than I’d expect. It’s an earthier take on the flavor that seems to be balancing quite nicely with the coriander and the lemon citrus components. I suspect that there’s some attenuation going on thanks to the licorice flavoring, which is also adding a bit to the weight of the spirit and that earthy character.
For a cheap gin, it’s actually remarkably good all on its own. There’s no bitterness or bite to it, just a nice, clean traditional gin.
A little bit of ice really helps to let the juniper come out and be a bit more clearly heard. It still isn’t overpowering or shouty, but at this point it is much more clearly a London style gin instead of a modern take.
I think what’s happening is that the darker and richer licorice flavor is being reduced here, which allows the infused juniper come through more clearly. There’s still some good lemon citrus and a touch of the coriander spice to round things out, so it isn’t a one note show — but the juniper is definitely large and in charge.
In terms of the cocktail itself, I think this is one of the more balanced versions of a Negroni I’ve had recently, and I think that’s down to the licorice component in the gin. That earthy tone has helped to calm down the Campari enough for things to start to mellow out, and the result is something pleasantly drinkable.
That said, the remainder of the flavors are imperceptible here. There’s no juniper or lemon citrus, just the impression of licorice added to the frenzy of Campari and vermouth. Which, to me, it a bit of a disappointment when the gin is supposed to add something unique to this drink.
Fizz (Gin & Tonic)
I was expecting that this would follow the same flavor profile as we saw on the rocks: a more juniper-forward version of the gin. But, with a splash of tonic water, this seems to be back to being an earthier take on the cocktail with the licorice hiding a bit of the juniper flavor. It’s all still in there — the juniper, the lemon citrus, the coriander — but it’s all more muted than I’d like to see.
I think what this needs is a splash of lemon or lime juice to set things right — just something to enhance the flavors a touch. It isn’t unbalanced, it’s just a touch subdued for my taste.
For a brand with such a storied past, this is a fairly mediocre gin. There’s nothing wrong with it — the flavors are good, there’s a good balance to it, and it works in cocktails — but there’s no “wow factor” here like I had with its brother Tanqueray. The flavor profile is just pretty much a poorly saturated version of what you expect coming out of a gin bottle.
For the price, though, that’s not a terrible thing. It’s perfectly fine — and for a drinker on a budget, it is absolutely a great value. But there’s much better stuff out there if you know where to look.
|Gordon's London Dry Gin|
Produced By: Gordon'sProduction Location: United Kingdom
Classification: London Dry Gin
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $10.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A famous gin with a bit of a muted juniper note that performs best on the rocks.