Readers, if you have any budget or obscure gin recommendations, let me know. Do send a comment with your reasons.
Sarah Rainey, a Daily Telegraph journalist, reports today on budget gin:
"In 2011, an advertisement by the budget supermarket chain Aldi became an internet sensation.
An elderly lady – 83‑year-old Jean Jones from Middlesbrough – is sitting at a mahogany dining table, comparing a popular make of tea with an Aldi own-brand product
“I buy this tea for my husband,” she says, deadpan. “He likes tea. I don’t like tea.” She picks up a glass of clear liquid, complete with ice and lemon, hidden behind one of the boxes. “I like gin.”Aldi’s gin is making headlines once again. Its Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin (£9.65 for a 70cl) has won a silver medal in blind taste-testing at this year’s International Spirits Challenge.
A slightly more expensive bottle from Asda won gold. But those in the know say Aldi’s is the top tipple, beating mainstream brands such as Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks, and comparable to upmarket rivals, including gins from Harrods and Waitrose.
“Price isn’t everything,” Charles Maxwell, master distiller and one of the judges, insists. “With gin, you’re governed by two things: juniper must be predominant, and the strength must be at least 37.5 per cent. After that, the botanicals [the combination of aromatic plant extracts that create a 'signature’ flavour] are your toy cupboard.”Lucy Britner, Bars Editor at Drinks International, says:
“If citrus botanicals are present, we assess whether they are balanced with the earthy notes of juniper, and whether the finish is pleasant.”Now, I’m no gin expert, but there is nothing more pleasant on a spring afternoon than a cool, tinkling glass of gin, tonic and a slice of lime.
Wine will become 'unaffordable' luxury and gin is fast-becoming Britain’s spirit of choice. Last year, sales rose by 12 per cent in pubs, with supermarket sales up 5 per cent.
Sitting in the sunny gardens of London’s Goring Hotel, I put Aldi’s £10 tipple – and six others – to the test.
Gordon’s London Gin £17.69 from Sainsbury’s
The market leader (50 per cent of gin sales in the UK), Gordon’s is the most iconic.
But I don’t know why. Bland, tart and one-dimensional, it’s not worth savouring. “The variety of gins is tremendous – they can be complex or straightforward,” explains Maxwell. “Some contain up to 19 different botanicals; others, including some of the better-known brands, only have four.” 1/5
London No 1 Original Blue Gin £35 from Harrods
At 47 per cent proof, it’s the strongest by alcohol volume – and you can certainly taste it. Sharp and punchy, this is one of the most expensive on the market. Its translucent blue colour (from being infused with gentian flowers) mimics Bombay Sapphire, but it’s superior in taste and texture.
The makers describe it as “uniquely elegant”, and I could happily sup this refined spirit all day. 4/5
Sipsmith London Dry Gin, £27.95
Another iconic brand, this tipple is produced in a residential street in Hammersmith, west London, by a small team of enthusiasts. Delicate, herby and full of citrus, it’s my favourite.
“Sipsmith’s is a good quality gin,” says Brian Kinsella, bar and lounge manager of The Goring, where gin is the most popular drink on the menu. “It’s one of the only distilleries to use a copper still, which gives great flavour.” 5/5
Oliver Cromwell Dry Gin, £9.65 from Aldi
The critics’ favourite comes in a dark green bottle, with italicised label and royal crest, which looks an awful lot like Gordon’s. It’s refreshingly crisp, lemony and smooth – as every good gin should be – and unbeatable on price.
But, for me, the flavours are too subtle and my drink tastes more of tonic than gin. “The Aldi gin has been consistently good,” says Maxwell, “but it’s competing in a vibrant marketplace.” 3/5
Heston from Waitrose Earl Grey and Lemon Gin £23
More like an alcoholic cuppa, this gin has been subjected to Heston Blumenthal’s madcap molecular gastronomy, using bergamot to “make this spirit a real spirit”. Sadly, it hasn’t worked.
There’s far too much going on to taste even a hint of gin, and I can’t take more than a few sips. Interestingly, it’s the only one to offer nutritional information – but the 220 calories per 100ml only puts me off more. 2/5
London Dry Gin £11 from Asda
Despite its gold medal, this is sweet and too sickly for me. Liquoricey and tangy, it’s like a bag of pick’n’mix has been dissolved in my glass. The bottle, decorated with a green London skyline, makes it look downmarket. 2/5
Bathtub Gin £32.95 from Master of Malt (masterofmalt.com)
Part of a range of spirits supposedly cooked up by a wacky fictional amateur distiller, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, this is wrapped in a Prohibition‑esque brown paper. Made in small batches of 30 to 60 bottles, it is noticeably spicier, tasting of Christmassy cinnamon and cloves. 4/5