Snoop Dog said it best; ‘rolling down the street sipping that gin and juice, laid back got my mind on my money and my money on my mind’. I’ve never been a big fan of gin and tonic, until a few weeks ago, when I visited the City of London Distillery, for a gin tasting and a tour of their distillery.
So, why go to a gin tasting and distillery tour if I’m not a fan of G & T? Well, I’m always up for experiencing new things and it’s a different way of spending a Saturday night with friends (you can also try these free things to do in London). Plus, I felt all sophisticated and distinguished as I learnt about the roots of gin. It’s scandalous past that took five major acts of parliament to stop gin from flowing into the streets of London in the eighteenth century. After being absent for two centuries, the City of London Distillery has brought gin back to London with a vengeance.
Here’s my review of the City of London Distillery – Distillery Tour and Gin Tasting!
The City of London Gin Distillery is tucked away on Bride Lane. You enter via a foyer area and then descend the narrow staircases into an underground bar.
I was welcomed by the illuminating state-of-the-art Christian Carl copper stills, sparkling in the room like a beacon. Separated from the bar only by giant sheets of blast-proof glass.
The bar has a speakeasy/modern gentlemen’s club vibe to it (think Tom Ford London) with dim lights, high back armchairs and easy listening music playing softly in the background. You’ll feel sophisticated just walking into the place.
The staff are impeccably dressed, friendly and well versed in their knowledge of gin. The bar offers an extensive list of G & T, classic gin-based cocktails along with wine, beers, and Champagnes (for those times when plain gin just isn’t enough).
But, the focus is the gin and the City of London Distillery’s own gin range to be exact.
I started off with these lovely cocktail
At the start of the Gin tasting, we’re given our complimentary gin and tonic, which was a far cry from some of the bitter G & T’s, I’ve endured over my drinking years. I like a sweet or fruiter alcoholic drink.
The tasting began with Alfie, our host for the gin tour and tasting, who guided us through the history of how gin ended up in London. Gin was originally based off the Dutch drink Jenever and was drank by the Dutch Navy during the Thirty Years’ War.
Apparently, this is also where the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ comes from as the Dutch soldiers would go into battle drunk as a bat.
We were also told of the history of Gin Alley, ‘mother’s ruin’ and a brief explanation about the differences between wet and dry gins. The difference falling on how and when the botanicals (the three main ingredients to every gin being juniper, coriander seed, and angelica) are added. We got to smell the botanicals that go into the gin at this distillery. We even learnt why a gin like Hendricks is considered a ‘wet’ gin, and what Old Tom and Sloe gins are.
We then tasted three versions of gins distilled at the City of London Gin, which ranged from dry to sweet and it was a treat.
City of London Distillery Gin Range
City of London No.1 Gin
This can also be regarded as the workhorse of the range. The City of London No.1 Gin is a classic introductory gin and a classic London dry gin. The ingredients include juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice, fresh orange, lemon, and pink grapefruit, and it has a 41.3% ABV. Great for a simple gin and tonic.
City of London No.2 Gin (Christopher Wren Gin)
Christopher Wren Gin was designed in partnership with Master Distiller Tom Nichol. This premium gin combines the subtle flavours of five botanicals – juniper, coriander, angelica root, liquorice and sweet orange to give a complex gin that balances both quality and flavour at 45.3% ABV.
This gin was also the winner of a Double-Gold Award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2016.
If you’re wondering who is Christopher Wren and why name a gin after him. Well, if you’re not a history or architect buff, it’s Sir Christopher Wren (to you) and he was one of the most acclaimed English architects in history, with his most notable work non-other than the masterpiece that is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is located nearby. An illustration of the cathedral is noted in the design and shape of the bottles.
City of London No.3 Gin (Old Tom Gin)
City of London Old Tom is a classic twist of what is an Old Tom with the core botanicals juniper, coriander seed and angelica taking centre stage. This gin is lightly sweetened and has a hint of spice and is great for cocktails.
City of London No.4 Gin (Sloe Gin)
For the City of London Sloe Gin, the distillers used their classic City of London No.1 Gin as the base with less sugar.
City of London No.5 Gin (Square Mile Gin)
The City of London Square Mile Gin is a one-shot London dry gin flavoured with juniper berries, coriander seeds, orris root, angelica, liquorice, fresh orange & lemon and a few other botanicals (at 47.3% ABV) and was developed alongside distiller Charles Maxwell. This gin is named based on its location.
But that’s not all!
Along with their own range of gin, City of London Distillery also does exclusive gins for the Dorchester Hotel (aka The Dorchester Old Tom). So, if a £60 Martini at the Dorchester doesn’t tickle your fancy, then you can always try the reasonable priced Martini at City of London Distillery bar.
If you’re not satisfied with merely tasting the house gins and you want to get fancy like P. Diddy, you can make your own customised gin and have it engraved with your name or whatever amuses you (I think this would make a great and unique gift for any gin lover or that hipster in your life).
My friend Wing (who is a hipster) was really impressed when our host told us about these services (his little eyes light up with so much glee, I thought he would order a whole case of personalised gin called ‘Wing Juice’).
They also keep a record of the ingredients used in any personalised gin, so you can always call and re-order a bottle or two for those special occasions.
I found the gin tasting and distillery tour (be it small) at the City of London Distillery, a great way for getting a group of friends together and learning about gin while getting a nice buzz on.
At only £25 per person, the gin tour and tasting was worth every penny. Plus, the next time someone orders a G & T, you can impress them with your new-found gin knowledge and be considered a connoisseur of the fine stuff.
If you like this post why not check the best coffee shops in Shoreditch.
22-24 Bride Lane
London EC4Y 8DT
Distillery: Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM
Bar: Monday – Saturday 4PM – 11PM
Office: Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM