Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin
Review: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin 89.5/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
April 21, 2016
Berkeley Square London Dry Gin is produced by G and J Greenall. The company likes to bill the spirit as the ‘single malt’ of the gin world based upon the production methods used which they trace back to the late 1700s. An overview of the gin’s distillation is provided on the Berkeley Square website:
On day one, the traditional four core natural botanicals, which ensure Berkeley Square can officially be called a ‘London Dry Gin’, Juniper, Coriander, Angelica and Cubeb berries are placed by hand in copper pot still No. 8 along with the Kaffir Lime Leaves. The remaining three unique botanicals of Lavender, Sage and Basil are wrapped in muslin and immersed in the triple distilled spirit to infuse their essential oils …
On day two, the still runs at a very slow rate to simmer all the ingredients gently which allows the delicate essential oils of the botanicals to develop, letting the flavours release further into the spirit. Once the temperature inside Still No. 8 reaches approximately 80°C the spirit will vaporise and travel up the column of the still. As the vapour passes over the swan neck, it takes with it the essential oils from the eight botanicals …
Berkely Square is bottled at 46 % alcohol by volume.
In the Bottle: 4.5/5
Berkeley Square Gin is sold in the tall rectangular bottle shown to the left. The bottle has a masculine look and I like the fact that it is cork sealed rather than sealed with a metallic screw cap. I also like that the sides of the bottle are ribbed with vertical ribs above and below the wrapped around label. These ribs make the bottle easier to hold on to as you are pouring the gin into your glass or shaker.
I would prefer if the neck were just a little longer as this would aid in making the gin just a little easier to pour without spilling. As well it would be better if the bottling proof were printed upon the front label where I can see it plainly, rather than upon the back label, especially as this is a non standard 46 % alcohol by volume offering. However, these are two very minor quibbles in what is otherwise a very nice bottle.
In the Glass 9/10
My initial impression as I nose the gin for the first time is that the spirit has a nice fresh appeal. The juniper is crisp and is surrounded by fruity lemon and lime scents. There is a ribbon of earthy bitterness which seems to entwine itself into that fresh juniper and citrus fruitiness. As I let the glass sit I sense a very appealing floral component which reminds me of a bouquet of spring flowers. There is also a vague underlying grassiness which reminds me of the green stems and leaves which would accompany that springtime bouquet.
I find the scents and smells play nicely together, and I like that the menagerie of scents both crisp and soft serve to elevate the juniper rather than to confuse it.
In the Mouth 54/60
Juniper and lightly bitter angelica root seem to dominate the gin just a little more forcefully across the palate than they did in the breezes above the glass. This brings a firm but soft bitter earthiness forward with flavours of juniper and dark (Ouzo-like) licorice playing within that construct. Some spicy heat comes forward as coriander makes its presence felt, and then a cascade of floral flavours and yummy citrus seem to wash over the palate. Lavender in particular seems to shine brightly giving that final cascade a bit of a perfumed tone.
I was in an experimental mood and so I constructed a few cocktails (see recipes below) and enjoyed a lazy Tuesday afternoon with the gin on my back deck. The floral nature of the gin did push through the cocktails (as did the firm juniper), but not in a manner which was distracting. This encouraged me to move up the ladder and I mixed Martini which I enjoyed even more as the freshness of the gin seemed to elevate the serving. I am very happy with the versatility the Berkeley Square Gin demonstrates.
In the Throat 13/15
The floral nature of the gin shines brightest in the exit as the lavender gives the finish a perfumed note similar to blue iris. I am glad that this aspect is reined in as if the lavender had been allowed more expression I believe the floral tones would have become cloying. There is also a nice rush of spice (coriander in particular) which bodes well for cocktails.
The Afterburn 9/10
Normally I am not enthusiastic with respect to floral gins. I like them, but the floral/perfumed tone of these spirits easily distracts me and seems to take away from rather than lift up the juniper which is the most important botanical in any gin. The Berkeley Square Gin is an exception. It has a firm floral note of lavender running throughout, yet the juniper remain the focus of the spirit and the lavender embraces and uplifts the juniper rather than diminishing it.
My final score of 89.5/100 reflects my appreciation of the Berkeley Square Gin which is almost of sipping quality, and certainly is a great cocktail mixer (see more recipes below).
Leo Engels, published his Bartender’s Guide, American and Other Drinks, in 1878. It is a fascinating glimpse into early mixology at a time when bar drinks and cocktails were just beginning to evolve and spread through North America and Europe. At that time, the word ‘cocktail’ was reserved for a specific type of bar drink, which resembles what we call the Old-Fashioned cocktail today. Other styles of bar drinks had their own names, the Crusta, the Smash, and the Julep just to name a few.
Nowadays, these bar drinks are part of the entire class of mixed drinks called cocktails; but back then, they were each their own class of bar drink and the cocktail was class of mixed drink, separate and distinct. How the word ‘cocktail’ evolved to encompass all classes of bar drinks is unknown to me; but if you want to go back in time and build an original ‘cocktail’, Leo Engels’, American and Other Drinks is a great starting place.
Here is a modern version of Leo Engels’ recipe for the Gin Cocktail:
Modern Gin Cocktail
2 oz Berkeley Square Gin
1/8 oz Orange Curacao
Dash of Angostura Bitters
1/8 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
Fill the shaker 1/3 full of ice
Add all ingredients and shake well
Strain into a glass
Garnish with a strip of Orange Peel and Enjoy!
Pegu Club Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Berkeley Square Gin
3/4 oz Cointreau
1 tsp Lime Juice
Dash Bitters (Angostura Bitters)
Strip of Lime Zest for garnish
Pour the ingredients into a metal shaker filled with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a chilled glass
Garnish with a slice of lime if desired
Note: If you are interested in more original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)