Review: Hendrick’s Gin 76.5/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted December, 7 2011 (Revisited May 26, 2014)
The people who make Hendrick’s Gin pride themselves on being just a little quirky, and perhaps a bit eccentric. Their offbeat website revels in the odd and the peculiar and tries to convince all who peruse the site that Hendrick’s Gin is special exactly because of the things which make it odd and peculiar. The gin is produced in Scotland, in the village of Girvin, Ayrshire by William Grant & Sons (who are perhaps better known for their whisky distillations than their gin). It is made small batches (450 litre batch size) using two unusual stills, a copper Bennett Still which has been dated to 1860, and a Carter-Head still made in 1948. These stills each serve a different purpose, but together they create a unique gin made with 11 different botanicals, and infused with cucumber and rose petals one batch at a time.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
To the left is the bottle presentation for Hendrick’s Gin. The bottle sent to me for this review is only slightly different from the one shown, as my bottle is the North American 750 ml bottle rather than the 700 ml bottle sold in Europe. The label on my spirit also states a 44 % alcohol by volume bottling strength which is slightly higher than shown to the left.
The back of my bottle contains the statement…
This handcrafted gin is distilled from a proprietary recipe which includes traditional botanicals such as juniper, coriander, and citrus peel. The “unexpected” infusion of cucumber and rose petals result in a most iconoclastic gin.
It is not for everyone.
It is a clever statement, as it seeks to put its consumer into a special class of people. This gin is not for everyone; it is only for the special few who can throw off the yoke of traditionalism and appreciate something which is extraordinary in spite of its peculiarity. Almost everyone I know at one point or another has felt that they are unusual and peculiar in some way. This statement speaks to that angst, and tells everyone who tries it that they may be a little like the Hendrick’s Gin, under appreciated by all but a select few; but extraordinary in their own unusual but special way…
I like the bottle which I see, and I like the witty subliminal notation on the back of the bottle. I am however, not as enamored with the front label which lacks any kind of ‘pop’. I believe the company is trying to imply hand craftsmanship with a label which looks like I could have printed in my home office.
In the Glass 9/10
Although gin is not considered by most to be a sipping beverage, it still can be appreciated in the glass prior to mixing a nice cocktail. The Hendrick’s Gin is clear in my glass, but it carries a nice aromatic aroma up out of the glass to my awaiting nostrils.
The nose begins with mild citrus tones which are accented by juniper. I catch hints of lemon-lime and orange as well as a fleeting impression of black licorice and fennel. The impressions continue to be fleeting with hints of light familiar scents, perhaps a touch of lilac, and perhaps something more earthy like damp moss. This is very complex, but also very relaxed and inviting.
In the Mouth 44/60
Sipping the Hendrick’s Gin neat was a very different experience than nosing it in the glass. Although the citrus flavours and light juniper come through easily, there is also a peculiar lightly bitter backdrop which seems to grow as the glass is sipped. The gin also carries quite a bit of spicy pepper forward which heats the palate. As I sip, I can taste orange pith clearly which might be the source of that peculiar bitterness. Other vague impressions of flavour slip and slide throughout the palate; I taste cucumber occasionally and dollops of licorice now and then, but that relaxed pleasantness I noticed on the nose has been replaced by a stronger more assertive taste profile which seems to demand more of me than my mood wishes to give.
I decided to try a few cocktails. I tried a Key-Lime Gimlet, but was forced to convert it quickly to a Lime Fizz. The first cocktail seemed to carry far too much citrus pith and bitterness into the flavour stream. The second while not as pithy or bitter seemed reluctant to charm me as well. Given the nature of the unusual ingredients, I decide to try a Gin and Tonic, following the suggestion of a friend to use cucumber as the garnish instead of lime. The first Gin and Tonic I made was slightly better, but it was not until I switched to a more expensive (lightly sweet) tonic water called Fever Tree that I found enjoyment.
In the Throat 11.5/15
Whether sipped neat, or consumed in a cocktail, the finish is dry with pithy citrus peel dominating the exit. At times I did taste cucumber in the finish, but to be honest, not once did I believe I tasted anything that resembled rose petals (unless rose petals are curiously bitter…).
The Afterburn 7.5/10
The website for Hendricks Gin makes the claim that their product is much-loved by a handful of persons worldwide. I guess that I would fall outside of that privileged circle. The Gin is exactly what its website says it is, it is unusual, and peculiar. Those things in our life which are unusual and peculiar are often interesting and charming. The Hendrick’s gin is very interesting, but unfortunately for me, it displayed very little charm until I discovered Fever Tree Tonic (see recipe below). I did adjust my scores upwards slightly because of how nice the Hendrick’s played with Fever Tree; but it is hard for me to give the spirit a higher score when it is so reluctant to play with other ingredients or mixes.
You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
When I revisited the Hendrick’s Gin recently, it was with a few friends of mine who I had invited over for a spirit tasting and gin cocktails. I had asked one of those friends to pick up some high-end Tonic Water, and he brought me a few bottles of Fever Tree Tonic. This is a sweeter tonic water than I normally would use, but that added sweetness and the unique taste of Fever Tree made a tremendous difference when I mixed it with the Hendrick’s Gin. In fact, I enjoyed the Hendrick’s and Fever Tree Tonic so much, I spent part of the next morning re-tasting the gin and adjusting my scores for this review.
Hendrick’s and Fever Tree Tonic
1 1/2 Oz Hendricks Gin
2 1/2 Oz Fever Tree Tonic Water
Cucumber sliced lengthwise
Place a slice of cucumber into a tall glass
Add the Hendricks Gin and Fever Tree Tonic into your ice filled glass
Squeeze the Juice from the Wedge of Lime into the drink
Stir, Serve and Enjoy!
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)