Whitley Neill dry gin is a combination of English heritage and the flavours of Africa.
Price: ~ £25
Cape goosberry (Physalis)
I imagine it’s difficult to find anyone who hasn’t heard of Whitley Neill, though I would also wager it’s more likely they know the brand for its myriad range of flavoured gins, rather than this one. They have a veritable rainbow of flavours, but those aren’t what we’re here to discuss! This is their one true gin, but is it the gin to rule them all?
This bottle is a matt black angular number, with the name and logo (which I presume is a Baobab tree) printed on the front. Around the base is a lovely textured paper label with a little bit about the gin and the usual info. Around the neck is another patterened paper label, finished with a dark wood stopper. I think the bottle has since been updated, most likely to be more in line with the rest of the range. From what I can see it’s no longer matt, has an embossed shoulder, and the base label is a little simpler and less fancy (which is a shame). Overall it’s nice, and it stands out reasonably well as there aren’t many black bottles around. The sheer ubiquity of the brand though means it’s also easily recognisable.
A rich juniper rises from the glass unabashed, followed by a pleasant citrus. It’s a very classic, dry profile, as expected from the list of botanicals, but it’s still a great aroma with very little burn. Lazily following up on those high piney, citrus notes comes the sweet spice of the cassia. Towards the end a fruity characteristic begins to come through, then right at the finish, as it’s about to hit the tongue, I get a flash of biscoff. Very nice.
Neat it’s crystal clear, to the point that it’s noticeably light and ‘thin’. It’s fresh, with heavy hitting pine and citrus, but it’s also a little harsher than the aroma suggests. It starts off a little sour, but towards the end there are much richer, earthy flavours helping to round things off. The juniper and bitter lemon are definitely the big boys here.
A touch of water turns the lemon a little more sherberty, and while those earthy flavours come out a bit more, the juniper and lemon still dominate. It’s still a little on the bitter and sour side for me and I’m looking for other flavours, but struggling to find them. There’s a woody note, and at the very end a sweeter burnt toffee taste, but it’s fleeting and the juniper and lemon are all I’m left with.
Finally, I served up a G&T (2:1 Lamb & Watt Original) with a sprig of rosemary. It’s a totally different drink. There’s a powdery, floral edge to it (my thanks to Mrs Raven for the description, which is spot on) which is surprising given everything so far! The rosemary goes with it beautifully, adding that gorgeous herbal flavour but also bringing out a hint of violet, presumably through some sort of old earth magic. It’s a lovely, fresh drink with lots going on, but it retains a very classic flavour that I think will appeal greatly to purists.
Speaking of purists, I can only imagine what they think of the brand as it currently stands, but in my opinion they would do well to give this gin serious consideration. It can frequently be found for as little as £20 and for that I think it’s a bargain. For those who like a sweeter flavour, this may be a touch on the bitter, sour side, though I think it would go well in a lot of cocktails. I don’t think it’s a neat sipper, though I don’t think many gins aim to be, but I’m impressed, especially with the G&T. Definitely worth checking out.
Add half a feather if you love classic dry juniper/lemon gins
Remove half a feather if you can’t handle the dryness!
Whitley Neill is available everywhere
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.