Needle gin is all about the Black Forest in Germany, from its name, design, and use of pine needles as a botanical.
Price: ~ £15 (50cl)
Anyone who hunts around for ‘budget’ gin may well recognise this bottle as having appeared on the shelves in their local Aldi, which is pretty much the only place in the UK you can get hold of it as far as I understand (and even that may now be difficult).
The recipe for Needle apparently dates back to 1799 and it is produced by ‘single-batch distillation methods’ which may mean it’s a one-shot gin. At first glance it could be construed as a budget version of a certain other gin from the Black Forest, but aside from the significant difference in price, there’s possibly an even bigger difference in the botanicals. There are 10 in Needle, so I assume coriander seed and orris are in addition to the above list.
The bottle is a simple, small, antique green glass with wooden stopper which doesn’t exactly stand out, aside from the fact that it’s not clear which is the more common style. This type of glass always manages to suggest an air of antiquity, which might work better if the age of the recipe were given more prominence. Anyway the diamond label is lovely and simple, giving the bare minimum of information and styled as the spruce trees that are intrinsic to the brand. On the back is a square label with a little history, and the usual information. It’s minimalist, which I like, but also a little drab and is unlikely to take pride of place on anyone’s shelves. Still, its price reflects that.
First on the nose for me is a rich and creamy, warming spice, followed by citrus and pine. It has real depth, and next to no burn whatsoever, which is impressive at 47%. The cinnamon is sweet, but given a little kick by the ginger which quickly gives way to lemon, but in with the citrus there are hints of the lavender. All of this is set to the background music of the juniper and pine needles, which carry everything along. To me, it’s a wonderful smelling gin.
Neat, the pine is front and centre, turning from bittersweet to a sharp, fresh green in no time at all. The lemon shines at the front too, mixed with the ginger but given a slightly peppery tone. It’s subtle though, so the flavours are definitely on the fresh pine and citrus end. That warming, creamy spice is much less prominent and only really comes through right towards the end as the cinnamon gives a little warming finish. Again, there’s almost no burn whatsoever. Hard to believe for the strength.
Water intensifies the fresh pine flavours without making them overpowering. Instead they become an amazing, mouth-filling experience. It’s like I can taste the gin three different ways around my mouth. There are sweet notes, fresh grassy floral notes, and zingy spiced citrus notes. It was full of flavour on its own, but with water it becomes quite something! I’m not sure I’ve had a gin that’s expanded with flavours when adding water quite as much as this before.
Finally, I served a G&T (3:1 Lixir Blood Orange & Cinnamon tonic) with a stick of cinnamon and some grated nutmeg (as per Needle’s suggestion!). Funnily enough I’d been wondering what to pair that tonic with so this review is rather fortuitous! Anyway the drink… Well it’s delicious, I won’t deny that. It’s obviously a bit ‘Christmassy’ but it all works extremely well. I’ll probably have another with regular Indian tonic later, but for now this will certainly do. All the flavours work extremely well together so while it’s got that winter spice element to it, it’s still also lovely and fresh tasting.
Needle is, in my opinion, a ridiculously good gin for the price. It is absolutely bursting with flavour, and really wonderful flavour at that. It’s stupidly drinkable for its ABV, and it’s one of those gins that, somehow, you can taste almost all of the botanicals that go into it at some point in the process of drinking it. It is, absolutely, not to be dismissed simply due to its price, and the fact that it’s (or was) sold in Aldi. The fact that last time I saw it, it was priced at £12.99 is insane and if you can find it, I highly recommend (nay demand!) you get a bottle.
According to the website, Needle was re-launched with an updated bottle (which is much the same but has embossed ‘needles’ on it to match the label) in February 2019 so fingers crossed it’ll be back on shelves in the UK.
Add half a feather if you live in Germany and can actually get hold of it.
Needle is available in some Aldis and online in Germany / EU
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.