A little while ago, a particular gin was brought to my attention; Aldi have produced a premium gin and it has won a rather prestigous award. Oliver Cromwell 1599 premium gin won the 2010 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), Gin & Vodka Association trophy – two months before it launched. A full list of awards and their winners can be found over at BarLifeUK.
I find it rather amusing that this gin is named after the famous Parliamentarian, Oliver Cromwell (as well as the year of his birth). This famous puritan was rather well-known for being a bit of a kill-joy; while ruling as Lord Protector, Oli managed to close down inns and theatres all over the country, banned make-up, Christmas and most sports, as well as being savage toward the Irish, massacring thousands of them following the sieges of Drogheda and Wexford.
All-in-all, Oliver Cromwell was a warty gimp that changed the face of England through a series of wars and repression. The saying “warts and all” is actually attributed to Cromwell who instructed a portrait painter to paint him faithfully and not flatteringly.
Anyway, enough about Cromwell. As a London dry gin, it has a guarantee of a certain underlying quality but its botanical list is hard to come by – although the label proclaims some of the usual flavours. I would have assumed that it was distilled by J & G Greenall, but it appears to be a product of The Netherlands.
It is sold in 50cl bottles and retails at £7.99. Although in a smaller bottle it still comes in at the lower price-bracket: £12 on the 75cl or £16 on the litre.
The sniff-test was rewarding; loads and loads of juniper streaming out of the bottle-top.
The initial neat tasting revealed a powerful but not particularly smooth gin. Is carries a tremendous load of juniper; almost too much in that it overrides absolutely everything else. It is powerful in the mouth and leaves you reeling – almost like being beaten with a branch from a juniper bush.
Mixing up a gin and tonic drove off heaps of powerful juniper aromas. Using either Schweppes or Fever-Tree tonic water produced an intense G&T that saw the tonic water take a back-seat to the indomitable power of the juniper. There are very few citrus or spice notes in the attack, middle or finish and nothing to round it out; to my palette, this gin is too potent and too simple.
In an attempt to provide more subtlety to the drinking experience, I reached for one of my few remaining bottles of Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water. I also dropped a hearty slice of lemon into the glass after giving it a little squeeze to liberate more juice and oil. The added citrus and floral flavours made this a more palatable G&T but the juniper still rode proud at the head of the column. A dash of Angostura aromatic bitters added some spice to round off the experience into something a little more like what I expect from a gin and tonic, but while balanced, the taste was fierce and potent, like drinking concentrated G&T.
While it is hard to argue with over 300 experienced judges and the chemical analysis of the IWSC, I personally can’t see how this gin beat the likes of Sipsmith and Whitley Neill. It is too single-minded in its pursuit of of juniper.