Every few months there seems to be an article saying supermarket own-label gins are better than the big brands.
There was a big one recently from Which, reported here in the Guardian:
Guardian Gins Article
The gist of all of these articles is that own-label gins are better than the big brands.
Not better value – that’s pretty obvious – but actually tastier.
The Which report scored Morrisons as the best gin by taste, and following a big find of sloes at the Trefeddian hotel, we happened to have several different types kicking about.
So we decided to put the supermarket own-labels up against some big brands.
And added Appendices on the Perfect Martini recipe, and why gin is such a great business to be in.
Gins initially tried neat, then mixed 2:1 with Schweppes Tonic, an ice cube, and slice of lemon.
“Which” magazine weighted the scores to have 80% for the mixed drink, which is ridiculous. Like rating a chicken by making a vindaloo.
Who tests a product after mixing it with another flavourful substance? Amateurs.
OK, I’m going to try “Live-Blogging” this, with Bethan pouring.
Round One – Morrisons London Dry (£10.49) vs Tanqueray (£18ish)
I had bought a bottle of Tanqueray when it was last on offer in Morrisons so put it up against the own-label.
The Tanqueray has a good hit of juniper (the whole point of gin) with a good balance of citrus-y botanicals too.
A nice drink on its own.
The Morrisons was very smooth, but didn’t have much going on.
Not as much juniper, more about the citrus, which isn’t really what gin is.
A bit of a gin for people who don’t really like strong drink.
I mixed them with the tonic (2:1 a bit weak perhaps), ice & lemon.
For me, the Tanqueray maintained its lead here too – a very nice G&T with just a little edge from the juniper.
Morrisons gin comes into its own when mixed – a lovely, soft, G&T for a summer’s afternoon, with the gin balancing the bitterness of the tonic (the original purpose of gin, in fact)
Two additional factors – Tanqueray is 43.1% abv to Morrisons miserly legal-minimum 37.5%.
And Tanqueray’s bottle is gorgeous; the Morrisons one is so horrible one has to assume it’s deliberate.
Winner – Tanqueray
Round Two – Morrisons Quad-Distilled (£13.49) vs Plymouth Gin (£20-£25)
I ended up with a minature of Plymouth gin after visiting the distillery a few weeks ago.
If you’re ever in Plymouth, its worth a look. I was amazed at how quick & easy gin production is (see Appendix 1).
And we had some Morrisons Quadruple-Distilled left over from making damson gin.
First up is Morrisons’s Quadruple-distilled.
This has more juniper than its thrice-distilled sibling, and it’s balanced with strong citrus on the (longer) finish.
Smooth, and with a more generous 43% alcohol.
The Plymouth has even more citrus than the Morrisons, and a touch of bitterness in the finish which I like.
There is a nice bitterness on the aftertaste, too.
This has suddenly got more difficult. It’s very gin-y.
Is that a word?
I am worried that it’s all starting to taste like gin. Are different gins really that distinctive? Is that heresy?
How did the people at Which taste 10? TEN.
Now I mix with the tonic, ice & lemon.
The Plymouth gives a complex, interesting drink.
And yet. And yet its slightly over-powered by the tonic.
(I’m starting to feel a little over-powered by the gin, to be fair.)
The Morrisons produces a well-balanced G&T.
I like it.
I don’t like having to use bottled lemon juice because someone used the half lemon I was saving for tea last night.
But I enjoy this G&T.
But I’ve liked all the G&Ts.
If I tried any of them when sat outside in the sun, I’d be delighted.
Is there, really, that much to gin? Really.
Oh no, Bethan is starting to laugh at me now.
But you know what I mean?
You’d never find a selection of malt whiskies a bit samey, or brandies, or beers.
I really, truly, take my hat off to the Which tasters, just for being able to declare a winner.
I have no idea.
I might try Hendricks, if I ever see it on offer, but I’m not at all convinced that gin is really worth throwing the extra money at.
I did try the Which-favoured Castelgy – horrible name, nice gin – which comes in under £10 and makes a nice martini.
At least I haven’t cried. And the days of gin being associated with ladies crying on the stairs, tracks of sooty mascara streaking their cheeks, have gone, which has to be a good thing.
Right, that’s gin done.
But it’s the run-up to Christmas, and Lidl & Aldi are full of their own-label Interesting Whiskies!
Onwards to the next project!
Appendix 1 – Making Gin
You buy your pure alcohol (“neutral grain spririt”).
Then dilute it a bit, and add your botanicals (the Plymouth distillery tour lets you taste these so you can see where the flavour comes from).
You then distil this again, stick it in a tanker, and send it to the bottling plant who water it down to drinking-strength.
It takes one day!
Compare that to a malt whiskey manufacturer – grow the barley, process it, make the mash, distil that, put in a cask for a decade, then bottle it.
You want to double your production? Run a double shift over the weekend.
Macallan must be furious.
Anyone want to start a gin business?
Appendix 2 – Martini Recipe
Ian Fleming drank a gin martini, but decided to make Bond seem modern by having a Vodka Martini – horrific, even before the “Shaken, not Stirred” nonsense (which is a way of saying you like your booze well-diluted).
Martini purists go to a lot of trouble to get their drink cold enough, but here’s a great cheat for you.
Mix one part vermouth (I like Noilly Prat and it lasts ages) to four parts gin, mix in a bottle, then put in the freezer for a LONG TIME.
Pour into your frozen glass.
Add a squeeze of lemon, then (important!) rub the rim with the yellow of the lemon (not the pith, we’re not pith-heads).
Maybe add an olive, and there you go.
It’s basically neat gin, gussied up and over-chilled for people who don’t really like booze but want to get pithed.