In the German-speaking cocktail and bar scene (as in any other) of course also different trends occur. These can have various causes, but often they were more or less triggered by someone. A person who is very good with that is Joerg Meyer (founder of Bar Le Lion in Hamburg), since he is quite successful in using social media. But of course there are also more down-to-earth “hard facts” that are the secret behind many of Mr. Meyer’s influence. (provided test product)*
And by these “hard facts” I simply mean nothing else but high quality. We don’t even have to talk about a Gin Basil Smash – and when I think about my tasting experience with the Vestal Vodka, I still get enthusiastic. The Hepple Gin has also become nothing less than one of my personal Martini favourites. All this clearly speaks for Mr Meyer’s really extraordinarily good intuition. But when he contacted me and told me about the bottle for today’s article, I was very sceptical at first. Because on paper the Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin is basically anything but what I expect of a good gin. Most likely juniper will only play a minor role and in general it is a prime example for the controversial question of how far one can extend the limit of what is still a gin.
Now it has to be said that Joerg Meyer does not import the Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin with his distributing company Tender Spirits. Instead, he became aware of this gin because it was the most successful gin in its price range in the United Kingdom during the last two years. He also did not really give me the impression that he was trying to promote a product that is comparable in terms of outstanding quality to a Hepple Gin or a Vestal Vodka. It was probably just a bit of curiosity, but also recognition of the gin’s success.
This gin is produced on a wheat basis (like the regular Whitley Neil London Dry Gin). However, unlike the classic Whitley Neill, two botanicals are omitted here: “Baobab” and “Cape Gooseberry” (Physalis) do not find their way into the Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. This leaves juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia bark, lemon peel, orange peel and iris roots to be the only botanicals in here. So, the question arises: how do rhubarb and ginger get into the gin?
The answer lies in the special production method. First, a concentrated gin essence is produced in a so-called shot distillation and this is then blended with a small proportion of potato alcohol – according to the manufacturer this leads to a softer mouthfeel. Then rhubarb is distilled separately with wheat neutral alcohol and also married with the gin. Finally, a 6-week-old ginger macerate is produced and finally added. To “round off” the gin, sugar is added, just like some rhubarb essence and citric acid. After all, it comes with a drinking strength of 43% ABV. Phew, this is truly miles away from a London Dry Gin intended for purists. Anyway, obviously the “Flavoured Gin” (a daring category) seems to appeal to a very wide audience. So I’m curious.
Aroma: Ok, this definitely does not have much (or nothing) to do with a classic gin anymore. At first, I smell berry notes that make me think of sherbet powder. I’m not sure how distinctively there is rhubarb among these notes, but that is a question that I would probably only have been able to answer correctly if I had approached the tasting blindly and without any knowledge about the product. Under the given circumstances, however, I also find rhubarb, yes – which even becomes clearer over time. Ginger is also present, yet I also find strawberries and raspberries, strawberry cream sweets, actually herbal notes, but over time I always fall back to a bag of sherbet powder. Citrus peel (lemon, orange) and a hint of green apple are also there. I actually only find juniper in my imagination.
Taste: On the palate, the Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin is more like gin liqueur than gin, at least that’s how it seems to me. It’s extremely sweet, which doesn’t diminish over time, but becomes more penetrating. Again I find berries, especially strawberries (yes, I know that strawberries are not berries botanically) and cream sweets again. Rhubarb is there, also ginger, but especially the latter disappoints me a little bit regarding the typical fresh and spicy note I expected. Whether it’s the sweetness or not, they seem more like ginger sweets to me than fresh ginger root. Lemon peel, coriander and orange are present; juniper too, yes, but very discreet.
Finish: I definitely like the finish the most here. Ginger and spices dominate (and even last pleasantly long), whereas the sweetness finally takes a back seat and even lets some juniper through.
Well, what can I say about it? This Flavoured Gin is definitely not mine. Not at all. But I immediately believe that this is a bestseller, because it’s not complicated to drink, has hardly any alcoholic sharpness and is unquestionably mass-compliant with its sweetness and the berry and rhubarb notes. That may not really speak for the masses, but even if I have no elitist thoughts here, I cannot help but draw no positive conclusion today. But I do not want to give up so quickly. For it would not be the first gin that I would not recommend for neat enjoyment. So maybe there is undreamt-of potential in this gin as a cocktail ingredient. And here I’m banking fully on a kind of sparkling Highball that tries to pick up the aromas of Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. Next to the gin, some Ruby Port, a hint of raspberry eau de vie and Luxardo Bitter find their way into the drink as a counterpoint to the sweetness of gin and port. In addition, the Italian bitter liqueur lends a depth that was definitely missing here. I called this creation “Red Right Hand” after a song of one of my favourite bands, which has become very popular in the meantime.
Recipe “Red Right Hand”:
3.5 cl Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin
2 cl Luxardo Bitter
1.5 cl Ruby Port
2 bar spoons raspberry eau de vie
Preparation: First pour all ingredients except the soda water into a glass filled with ice and stir briefly. Finally add the soda water.
Garnish: Griottines cherries
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online
*The fact that this product has been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.