I have been wanting to try Adnams First Rate Gin (or “Finest Cut First Rate Gin”, to give it its full and slightly cumbersome name) ever since trying Adnams Copperhouse Gin toward the end of last year. So, a few weeks ago, when Adnams advertised a period of free delivery, on Twitter (@Adnams) I caved-in and added another bottle to the collection.
I was a little disappointed that it didn’t come in the cardboard tube that it is often pictured with. I know that this makes no difference to what’s in the bottle but I like those little points of detail that make the packaging of a premium gin feel properly premium.
The bottle itself is the same heavy-bottomed, round-shouldered affair that Copperhouse (and many other gins) comes in. The label has the familiar deep blue and copperplate too, but it’s supplemented with the clean, crisp, sky-blue and nautical imagery of a mast and sail.
Adnams First Rate Gin uses a better quality of alcohol than its cheaper sibling and, as with all Adnams’ spirits, the alcohol is produced by Adnams. It also shares a core of botanicals with Copperhouse but there is a raft of additional botanicals to differentiate it.
Speaking of botanicals, these are…
- Juniper Berries
- Coriander Seed
- Orris Root
- Liquorice Root
- Angelica Root
- Sweet orange Peel
- Lemon Peel
- Cardamom Pod
- Cassia Bark
- Angelica Root
- Caraway Seed
- Fennel Seed
- Vanilla Pod
This is a “distilled gin”, not a London Dry, presumably because of the vanilla pod which I have heard cannot be distilled and requires the addition of a post-distillation infusion or essence.
The finished product is bottled at 48% and corked with a wide-bore squeaky cork.
Pouring a little into a glass and giving it a “good nosing” was an interesting experience. This is the first gin I have come across that smells of toffee – I am guessing this this is the vanilla. This in underpinned by juniper and it doesn’t smell like a 48% ABV gin.
Tasting First Rate neat reveals an incredibly complex flavour profile; rich and oily. The attack has a big ol’ juniper hit that is smoothed, even muted, by the vanilla toffee notes. It’s also somewhat prolonged and lingers a fair while before giving way to a short, sharp middle palete filled with prickly, peppery, herbal notes. There’s a heavy, complex aniseed finish which is probably a combination of liquorice, fennel and caraway. There’s also a long-lasting, stinging mouth-tingle in the after taste.
Mixing First Rate into a G&T (Fever-Tree, 3:1), the first thing I noticed was that it turned cloudy. This was no great surprise as really oily gins do tend to drop oil out of solution when diluted.
The tonic water really brings out the cool fennel and some stronger hints of the citrus, cinnamon (ok, cassia) & cardamom. The aniseed finish is tamed a lot and there is more of the fennel identifiable. While it is quite an intense G&T it still contrives to feel light and breezy in the mouth.
I suppose the name begs a question: if Good Ordinary Gin is good but ordinary, is Adnams First Rate Gin, first rate?
Well, it’s no No.3 and, as such, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it “first rate” but then, it isn’t in the same price-bracket either; at £26 a bottle, it’s significantly cheaper. It’s certainly a powerful, flavoursome gin with some significant departures from the classic style and it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. However, if you like the heavy, powerful, complex gins, then it’s certainly worth a look-in.