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Gilbey’s London Dry Gin

Review: Gilbey’s London Dry Gin   82.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted June 14, 2014

Gilbey’s Gin is owned by spirits conglomerate Diageo; but it is produced and sold under its current license by Beam Suntory. The Beam Suntory website does not contain extensive information regarding Gilbey’s; however I did find this statement which describes its production:

“In making a fine London Dry Gin such as Gilbey’s, the fermentation process is similar to whiskey production. The fundamental difference is that the congeners, the natural taste elements that are so necessary to Bourbon and Scotch are absent. Instead, gin’s flavor is introduced to the alcohol when it is in a vaporous form and made to pass through a “filter” of juniper berries, herbs and spices.”

Although I believe the bottling proof of Gilbey’s varies depending upon where it is produced and marketed, in Canada the spirit is sold at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Gilbey's SAM_1576In the Bottle 4/5

A photo of my sample bottle of Gilbey’s Gin is shown to the left. The spirit arrives in a medium tall rectangular bottle with a crisp professional labeling. There is a small statement on the side label of the bottle which tells us that the Gilbey brothers founded W@A Gilbey in Soho London  in 1957, and that its recipe features juniper berries, coriander seed, orange peel and other fruits and spices. It is meant to be served chilled, on the rocks, or in cocktails.

In my market, the spirit is very reasonably priced, and so I will not quibble over the uninspired pressed on screw cap (not too much anyways).

In The Glass 8.5

I poured a little gin into my glass and examined it prior to the review. When I gave my glass a tilt and a slow twirl, I noticed a light sheen left on the inside which slowly vanished after dropping a few skinny leglets back into the gin. This is the expected visual profile of London Dry Gin, and I am happy with my visual examination.

When I raised the glass to my nose I discovered a very traditional gin profile with firm juniper aromas leading out in front of lightly sweet citrus scents of orange and lemon. There are some fine spices in the breezes which remind me coriander, ginger and cardamon, as well as some floral accents resembling lilacs and white lilies.

I find the nose balanced and inviting in a traditional gin sort of a way.

In the Mouth 50/60

The delivery across the palate brings forward a strong push of juniper in front of those same citrus and spice elements which were noted on the nose. Clearly it is juniper which is the main focus of the flavour profile. Although I can taste bits of lemon and orange as well as a building spiciness beside the juniper, the floral elements which were apparent on the nose have all but vanished under the omnipresent force of the juniper. Sipping is difficult because firm juniper presence gives the spirit more bitterness than I prefer. There is also (unfortunately) a stronger than usual alcohol bite. Of course, gin is not necessarily a sipping spirit, and my further examinations will be in the cocktail format.

The first cocktail I mix is the quintessential gin bar drink, the Gin and Tonic. (See recipe and photo down below.) Juniper and quinine are a match made in heaven, and the juniper forward flavour of Gilbey’s does not disappoint me as I sip on my Gilbey’s and Tonic.

I also mixed a Gin Gimlet (mixing with real lime juice instead of lime cordial), and then I mixed a Dry Gin Martini. The Gimlet was nice, however to make a more enjoyable Martini, I found myself mixing to Jame Bond’s Vesper Recipe as the strong flavour of Gilbey’s was more suited to a Vesper Cocktail than it was to a straight Martini (see recipe below).

In the throat 12/15

The finish is bitter and punchy with juniper dominating the exit early. Coriander spice arrives late, but leaves a lingering impression as it washes though the juniper and heats the palate. There is perhaps too much bitterness (and perhaps a little harshness) which dampens my enthusiasm for the spirit.

 The Afterburn 8/10

Gin and Tonics rock with Gilbey’s London Dry Gin, and given its affordable price that is enough reason to buy it. The spirit requires a little Vodka added when used as a base for a Martini which makes the Vesper Cocktail my preferred Martini-style drink for Gilbey’s. However, for Gimlets and Collins style drinks, this gin spirit is more than adequate.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Cocktails

With the price of Limes rocketing into the stratosphere this year, perhaps lemons are beginning to be a better choice for the summertime Gin and Tonic. With Gilbey’s Gin the Lemons work remarkably well.

Gilbey's Gin and Tonic SAM_1577Gilbey’s Gin and Tonic

1 3/4 oz Gilbey’s Gin
1/2 oz fresh Lemon juice
1/4 oz sugar syrup
Tonic Water

Add the first three ingredients into a rocks glass
Stir and add ice
Fill with Tonic Water
Garnish with cucumber

Enjoy Responsibly!


The Vesper Cocktail appears to be the invention of Ian Fleming who first published the recipe in his 1953 James Bond novel “Casino Royal“. In the novel James Bond tells the barman to build him a dry martini in a deep champagne goblet. His specific instruction is:

“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”

Of course (later in the book) Bond comes up with the perfect name when he meets Vesper Lynd in the next chapter. James apparently feels the name suits his cocktail and borrows her name.

Gilbey's Vesper SAM_1579Vesper Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Gilbey’s London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Vodka (Alberta Pure is a good choice)
1/4 oz  Vermouth

Measure the first two ingredients into a metal shaker
Fill with ice (the dryer the better)
As James said, “Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold”
Double strain into a chilled Martini glass
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

Of course, Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: Kina Lillet (a vermouth style aromatized wine) is no longer available, however in Ian Fleming’s later novel, “Diamons are Forever“, Felix Leiter orders James the same cocktail specifying Cresta Blanca in place of Kina Lillet. Today most any Vermouth or light aromatized wine is considered proper for the cocktail’s construction, as is any traditional London Dry Gin, such as Gilbey’s.

Note: If  you are interested in more of my 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)

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