You’d think that the oldest continuously operating gin distillery in the world would be a bit more flashy and ostentatious with their packaging, but in fact you are looking at it right here. Their flagship product, Original London Dry Gin, can be found for the incredibly reasonable price of $20 or less in the US. Today we’re taking a deeper look at this historical-yet-affordable bottle to see how the contents stack up.
Greenall’s claims the title as the world’s oldest continuously operating gin distilling company, beating out the folks at Plymouth by about two years. The distillery was originally founded by a 25 year old Thomas Dakin in 1791, who perfected a recipe of botanicals that would eventually be the blueprint for pretty much every gin to come after. The distillery flourished, and in 1860 it was purchased by Gilbert and John Greenall, who renamed it the G&J Greenall Distillery.
The distillery would continue operating in the same location and using generally the same recipe until 2005 when the facility was destroyed by a fire. They relocated to a new facility in Birchwood, halfway between Liverpool and Manchester, and re-opened in 2008. Three years later, the distillery was purchased by a company called Quintessential Brands, who also make a number of other gins, Irish whiskies, and cream liqueurs.
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As is typical with a gin, the Greenall’s distillery starts with a pre-existing wheat-based raw neutral spirit that is manufactured elsewhere in the country and shipped into the distillery.
That raw alcohol is proofed down with water and added to their copper pot stills alongside the same eight ingredients used since their original 1790’s recipe: juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel, angelica root, orris root, licorice, cassia bark, and bitter almonds. The mixture sits in the pot for at least eight hours to give the spirit time to absorb all of the flavors before the stills are heated and the mixture is re-distilled into newly made gin.
After distillation, the spirit is proofed down to 43% ABV using local water and bottled for sale.
For an inexpensive bottle of gin, Greenall’s does a pretty good job with the packaging.
The bottle itself is pretty standard in size, roughly square in cross section with some clipped edges, and sporting straight walls that round at the shoulder to a medium length neck. The bottle is capped off with a metal screw-on top. It seems perfectly designed to fit into the speed well of a bar, but not really intended to be displayed on the back shelf.
What I really like is the label. It is just large enough to make a statement without obscuring the crystal clear spirit inside. They went for a British racing green background, which looks pretty nifty especially when the same green is used on the inside of the rear label and refracts through the front facets of the bottle. It has just enough character and design to be recognizable and interesting without being over the top.
A good combination of aromas comes out of the glass here, going beyond just the typical juniper. There’s plenty of the berry in there to make this a traditional London style dry gin, but it mixes nicely with the lemon citrus, licorice, and coriander to provide a bright but well-balanced aroma.
That balance unfortunately doesn’t quite make it into the flavor. This is a touch on the bitter side unfortunately, with the lemon peel citrus being louder than it should.
Juniper is one of the first flavors I pick up, but it quickly gets overwhelmed by the lemon peel citrus (which is, metaphorically, screaming its head off). The licorice tries to provide a bit of depth to balance things out but it doesn’t quite work, and the coriander seed spice seems to be playing catch-up near the finish, rushing to make itself known in a rather haphazard fashion that only seems to add to the chaos.
I was hoping that the ice would tone down the lemon citrus and let everything else mellow out and balance — and, thankfully, I think that’s exactly what I got.
Up front, that juniper flavor is still prominent but not so overpowering as to drown out the rest of the flavors. The lemon peel is next in line and, while still a little loud, it’s nowhere near the level it was just a few moments ago. As a result, that licorice component now has a fighting chance to balance out the texture and flavors and make for something downright drinkable. There’s a good bit of pepper spice on the end from the coriander seeds which adds some interesting textures, and the coriander, licorice, and lemon are pretty much the flavors that linger into the finish.
This wasn’t a sipping gin when taken neat, but this might actually work on the rocks.
Fizz (Tom Collins)
I think this is a good example of a Tom Collins. Not a great one, but a good enough one (especially for the price).
There is some good flavor interaction between the gin and the lemon juice that allows for some balance, without going too far in either direction. There’s juniper adding a bit of an herbal lift, coriander adding some spicy notes, and even a touch of almond in the background. I feel like the overpowering lemon peel issue we saw when we tried the spirit neat unfortunately keeps the licorice flavor from actually doing its job and properly balancing the cocktail, but it does a good enough job to be drinkable. Even if it is still on the citrusy side.
Negroni can be a really tough cocktail for a gin because of the strength behind the Campari — it’s a difficult flavor for a mixer, and one that often causes weaker gins to get lost in the mix. Which is, unfortunately, exactly what is happening here.
As far as flavors, the only thing I’m getting is a touch of orange peel and coriander spice on the finish. There’s not a shred of juniper to be seen, and as a result the Campari absolutely runs away with the flavor profile. It’s a tart and bitter cocktail without much else interesting going on.
I’ll give it some points for making a contributions on the finish, but otherwise it’s a fairly unremarkable cocktail.
This is a good, solid gin that probably works best on the rocks or in a gin & tonic. It has some issues with the level of citrus and lack of licorice to balance things out properly — but, depending on the cocktail you are going for, that might be a feature and not a bug .
I think I can understand how this recipe simultaneously stood the test of time and also isn’t that widely known in the market. It isn’t going to knock your socks off but it will make for some pretty good and economical cocktails.
|Greenall's Original London Dry Gin|
Produced By: Greenall'sProduction Location: United Kingdom
Owned By: Quintessential Brands
Classification: London Dry Gin
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $19.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A solid performer with some overly citrusy flavors that works best in a cocktail.