Gin, a white spirit, distilled from barley, oats and wheat, was first produced in Holland apparently for medicinal purposes - kidney disorders in fact. Franciscus de la Boe, a Dutch doctor was responsible for this, in around 1650. Soon gin distillation started to take place in England. William of Orange encouraged gin production and the spirit was sometimes given to his workers as a part of their wages!
By around 1730 London had more than 7,000 spirit shops and gin was sold cheaper than beer. This caused a serious alcohol abuse problem, particularly by the poor people, who could obviously afford it. Five or six years later the "Gin Act" was introduced, which made gin more expensive. The license to retain gin cost £50, and duty was raised. Six years later, only a couple of distillers took out licenses. The Gin act policy was modified several years later to become more attractive, and it still exists today.
Finsbury London Dry Gin is a traditional London Dry Gin. It is still produced using a 250 year old recipe, which as the best ones are - is a secret. All we know is that it is based on juniper, fruits, herbs and spices. Finsbury's motto is "originals don't change". All Gin is flavoured with juniper berries, however different gin distillers has their own secret mix of other ingrediants. It is common to add things like coriander, lemon, orange peel, angelica, cardamon, cassia bark, licorice roots and almonds. It maybe subtle, and sometimes hard to tell, but each brand is distinctive in some way. The word "gin" actually originates from the French word for juniper - "genièvre", but shortened to make it easier to say (especialy when drunk).
The bottle I had with me was a 1litre size, and it's 37.5% alcohol content. Other sizes are available including a 4 cl miniture, 70cl and 1.5l. A 1 Litre 60% variety is also available.
Gin bottles on the whole always seem to look very classy! Finsbury is too, with thick chunky glass to protect the contents, raised glass lettering so you can feel it's gin, even in the dark. The neck and the bottle label are well designed in matching yellow and red, with gold borders, a line drawing of London and coats of arms too. It gives the impression of a quality and expensive product. But let's not admire the bottle too long, but move on to drinking it!
Smell and taste
Have a sniff from the bottle first - mmmm, smells really ginny! It's does ooze a nice aroma, but it's very hard to describe it. Pour a nice measure of gin over a couple of ice cubes into a long glass. Add tonic water, and a slice of lemon. There, the perfect gin and tonic! Personally I don't tend to drink it any other way, well unless the tonic has run out. I guess the best way to describe the taste of Gin, is "Vodka with flavour". It's hard to compare with other gins, unless of course I have them all lined up, but it does seem to me to be one of the finest I've tried. It's a popular drink, which most people seem to like to have a glass or two. Too much gin though does get you rather drunk, and it will give you a hangover.
Apart from the Gin & Tonic method, another popular and very famous mix is Dry Martini - take 2 1/2 measures of Gin, 1/2 measure of Dry Vermouth, 1 olive and lemon peel. Fill a container with ice, add gin, vermouth and stir. Strain into Martini glass, add the lemon peel. I've added some more recipes at the bottom of this review.
Price & Availability
I picked this bottle up in Duty free in Crete, a real bargain about 8 Euros I think. I'm sure your more well-stocked off-licence will have it though, but not as cheap as I paid. I would expect it to retail at a slightly higher price than Gordons. If you are in a bar, you may also find it. When in London, try out your Cockney slang when ordering - these few words may come in useful:
Vera Lynn or Needle & Pin - Gin
Philharmonic - Gin and Tonic
Kitchen Sink - Drink
Elephant's Trunk - Drunk
Son 'n Daughter'd - Slaughtered
Scotch Mist / Oliver Twist - Other words for very drunk!
More gin cocktails
(taken from the bar section of my own website)
Pink Gin : 1 1/2 measures of Gin, 3 dashes Angostura Bitters, 1 measure water, ice. Shake the Angostura Bitters into a glass to coat the inside. Add ice cubes, followed by Gin and water.
Alexander: 1 Measure of Gin, 1 measure of brown crème de cacao, 1 measure of fresh cream. Shake ingredients together and serve in a coktail glass.
Angel Face: 1 Measure of Gin, 1 measure of Apricot Brandy, 1 measure of Calvados. Shake ingredients together and serve in a coktail glass.
Barrier Reef: 1 Measure of Gin, 1 measure of Cointreau, 1 dash of Angostura Bitters, few drops of blue curaçao, 1 scoop of Ice Cream. Mix a scoop of vanilla ice cream Gin, Cointreau and bitters. Pour into a glass and add a few drops of blue curaçao.
Pink Lady : 2 measures of Gin, 4 dashes of Grenadine, and 1 dash of egg white. Shake the egg white, Gin and Grenadine. Using a strainer, pour mixture into a chilled cocktail glass.
Silver Streak : 1 1/2 measures of Gin, 1 measure of Kummel (liqueur), ice. Put several ice cubes into a glass, and pour on Gin and Kummel, then stir.
Roles Royce : 1 measure of Gin, 1/2 measure Dry Vermouth, 1/2 measure Sweet Vermouth, 1/4 measure of Benedictine, ice. Stir the ice, Gin, Benedictine and Vermouth. Strain into a Martini glass.
Strawberry Dawn : 1 measure Gin, 3 Strawberries, 1 measure of Coconut cream, ice. Mix all ingredients using a liquidiser, keeping one strawberry for decoration. Pour into a cocktail glass and serve with a straw.
Bronx Cocktail : 1 measure Gin, 1/2 measure of Orange Juice, dash of dry vermouth, dash of sweet vermouth, slice of orange, ice. Shake gin, Orange juice, vermouths, with ice. Pour into a cocktail glass, decorate with Orange slice.
Tom Collins : 2 measures of Gin, 2 measures of lemon juice, soda water, slice of lemon, 1 teaspoon of sugar syrup, 1 cherry. Fill a large glass with ice, add Gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Top with soda water. Stir and serve with cherry, a slice of lemon and a straw.