The Great British Blind Gin Taste Test

I have had the best few weeks. It was my birthday so we had three weeks of celebrations including Avenue Q, power ballads, rugby, taxidermy, Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch, massive roast dinners and, to round it all off, the Great British Blind Gin Taste Test.

Admittedly that isn’t the name I used when I pitched it to my friends. I believe it went along the lines of “guys, so I have a lot of gin and I always say I don’t really like Bombay Sapphire and love Gordon’s but what if I can’t actually tell them apart?” I already owned a bottle of Gordon’s, but thanks to the lovely Natasja I now also have a bottle of Hendrick’s, thanks to the wonderful Jo and Rach I have a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and the awesome housemate Jenny Bernarde participated and donated her Greenall’s. Alongside myself and Jenny B (yes, Jenny and Jenny live together), we had Catriona helping to taste test and Lisa (the gin hater) being the controller and gin administrator.

The gin line up
The line-up

Few quick facts. Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire are both English gins started in 1769 and 1987 respectively, Hendrick’s and Greenall’s started in Scotland in 1999 and 1762. All are readily available in supermarkets for anywhere between £15 – £28. Hendrick’s is pricier than the other three, but is usually roughly the same price in bars as the others. All four are big brands and between us we all had a favourite.

The drinks
The drinks

So how did we do it? Lacking four glasses the same, we used plastic pint cups. Each filled with a double shot of spirit and a mini tumbler of Co-op tonic. At this point, I left Lisa alone in the kitchen with a pack of straws and plastic mixers whilst the three of us sat (rather nervously) in the lounge.

One at a time the drinks were bought out to us. We had to write down our thoughts on each and not discuss it until the end as we didn’t want to influence each other. I was really nervous. This could all go horribly wrong. We were allowed to taste each one more than once to compare, and we could change our answers as many times as we want until we start reading them out.

So, how did we do?

The samples
The samples

 

The actual gin 1 – Greenall’s 2 – Gordon’s 3 – Hendrick’s 4 – Bombay Sapphire
Jenny M Guess Greenall’s – smooth and I originally thought it was Gordon’s until I tried the second one Gordon’s. Recognised this straight away. Because I recognised this I changed my first answer to Greenall’s as I know they taste similar Bombay Sapphire. I originally thought this was Hendrick’s, but after Catriona had her massive adverse reaction to number four, I thought I was maybe missing something. This is why we weren’t meant to say anything! Hendrick’s. I thought this was really bitter and originally thought it was Bombay, then Catriona freaked out as she really hates cucumber and I thought her hatred of cucumber was higher than my hatred of Bombay. I wasn’t certain but I went for it. Damn her!
Catriona Guess  Gordon’s. Lemony and non-descript Bombay Sapphire. It tastes fancy. Greenall’s (although she called it Hendall’s). Fresh and nice (Catriona always goes on about hating Hendrick’s. Look who’s wrong now) Hendrick’s. I quote “fucking cucumber”.
Jenny B Guess Gordon’s. Really nice and a slight bit of the Gordon’s tang. Smooth and classic. Bombay Sapphire. Had a really bitter after taste. Shocked when finding out it was Gordon’s as that’s the usual order when out, and apparently I don’t like it. Hendrick’s. Fresh and I could definitely pick out the fresh cucumber and could taste the quality Greenall’s. Smooth but not quite as fresh as gin number three and less tangy.

Jenny M – 2/4 correct (although so nearly a perfect score!)

Catriona – 0/4 correct (sucks to be you)

Jenny B – 1/4 correct (winner of the wooden spoon)

So I won. But only just. I’m glad I recognised the Gordon’s and the Bombay Sapphire, even if I went by Catriona’s apparently terrible taste buds. We all had some revelations. For me, whilst Bombay Sapphire is still a bit bitter and not to my taste, it isn’t as bad as I built it up in my head and I will definitely be tucking into my birthday bottle. For Jenny B, she doesn’t like Gordon’s as much as she thought and does like Bombay Sapphire more than she thought. For Catriona, she doesn’t hate Hendrick’s. Her usual drink is Bombay Sapphire and whenever I mention Hendrick’s her reaction would be “bleugh cucumber”. Oh how we all laughed when she got it wrong.

This was a really interesting experiment, and I challenge everyone to do it. We spoke about repeating it in the future to see if our taste buds improved and to see if it got easier/harder. It was a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, so gather together your friends and your gin! In the pipeline is also the “Tonic Taste Test” because again I LOATHE Britvic, so want to see if I can pick it out from Schweppes, Fevertree and Fentimans.

Big shout out to Catriona and Jenny for tasting with me, and to Lisa for overseeing it all and for trying all of them afterwards with the comment “Greenall’s was the best of a bad bunch and Bombay Sapphire was the worst of a bad bunch”. She isn’t a gin fan. My lovely friends are all over social media and the interwebs:

Catriona – has Twitter but barely uses it, but is fun when she does.

Jenny Bernarde – big Twitter user who always has good music recommendations and writes a blog about making her own clothes (which she is very good at).

Lisa – also all over Twitter, Tumblr and blogs, most recently about her recovery after heart surgery but also less terrifying things. She is also the author of our A-Z challenge of Brighton pubs brightona2zreviews.blogspot.co.uk

As for me, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our gin tasting, you can tweet me @jennifermclaren or message me on Instagram – that’s a thing right?

Opihr gin – a review

Afternoon gin times!
Afternoon gin times!

If you read my blog last week about Blackwoods gin, then you’ll know that I spent a gloomy Sunday afternoon drinking gin and wine with the bestie. The second gin on the menu from that afternoon was Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin. I have seen this gin in a few bars before, the distinctive bottle draws your eye towards it but I have never been brave enough to try it.

Opihr gin
Opihr gin

Spiced rum I understand. Spiced gin is a bit more unusual. The adventure of something new is important to their brand – check out their website and go on the journey with them to discover the flavours and inspirations. Pronounced “o-peer”, the London Dry Gin is made using traditional botanicals from the old spice route starting in Malacca, Malaysia, for cubeb peppers before venturing round the Bay of Bangal to south-east India for Tellicherry black peppers aka The King of Spices. Joined by Turkish cumin, Venetian juniper, Moroccan coriander and Spanish oranges, Opihr gin creates their distinctive and unique taste. Seriously, check out their website. Great stuff.

The bottle was a slight challenge to get into. The stiff cork took me more than one attempt to wrestle out, leaving Catriona worried I was about to throw the bottle across the room once it popped. The second we got it out, the smell hits you. Normally at this point, it’s all about the juniper and citrus. This is different. Rich, spicy, warm flavours waft out of the bottle hinting at winter tipples and aromatic curries.

Granddad Anderson’s glasses

Poured into Granddad Anderson’s glasses, the water brings out the subtler flavours. Pepper. Turmeric. Dark bitter chocolate. It is a strange flavour, and one that doesn’t taste the best with water but it feels as though it would work brilliantly in a mulled, spiced gin cocktail.

Not one to give up at the first hurdle, we make a g&t and the flavours mellow out and it becomes more palatable. I admit that this isn’t my type of drink. This feels heavy, whereas I like my gin light and refreshing. But we were able to agree that of a cold evening, in a mulled cocktail under a blanket, this would be perfection. The mix of spices feel slightly overpowering, which is perhaps why spiced gin isn’t particularly common. I imagine swapping the tonic for ginger beer would compliment and enhance the flavours, whereas the bitterness of tonic seems to bring out the harsh edges of the botanicals. We had made banana muffins and even the cinnamon from them took the edge off the gin and made it easier to drink.

photo 4
All the botanicals

I will happily drink this again, but in a cocktail or as a warming winter’s drink rather than as an evening g&t. I realise this blog sounds rather negative, but I believe that by pairing this with the right mixer and the right food, this will be a wonderful drink. Different to the usual G&T, this will appeal to those looking for something out of the ordinary, a taste adventure if you will.

The 40% proof gin is available on Masters of Malt for £23.26 making a good mid-range gin, and the distinctive elephant adorned bottle can be found in Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons. You can also check them out on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also find out more about me through Twitter and Instagram (warning: I’m not super interesting).