Fentimans Tonic Water

Yesterday I spotted some Fentimans Tonic Water in the delicatessen near where I work, so I jumped at the chance to pick up a few bottles.

Firstly, I was a little confused by the bottling; some were in brown bottles and some were in green. After some judicious label inspection, I came to the conclusion that there was just some inconsistency in packaging.

Secondly, I nearly coughed-up my own pelvis when I found out the price; at £1 per bottle, I was about to fork out four of my hard-earned English pounds on half a litre of tonic water. Now, Chandos Delicatessen isn’t cheap; in fact I would go as far as saying it is eye-wateringly expensive and situates itself well within the ripping-off-the-middle-classes niche that so many trendy little places like it inhabit. But it is within 20 yards of where I work, it sells sandwiches (which aren’t cheap either) and I am lazy.

Fentimans Tonic Water

Fentimans Tonic Water

Anyway, back to the Fentimans Tonic Water. I got back to my desk and ate my tasty (but overpriced) steak pie and cracked open a bottle of (overpriced) tonic. I will hasten to add that you can get this stuff for 60p per bottle online and £1 doesn’t appear to be indicative of its retail price.

My first impressions were those of shock and mild horror. The stuff is incredibly lemony – too lemony – in fact it is Lemongrass that is providing the overriding taste. It sort of tastes like posh lemonade (the harsh lemony stuff, not the sweet cloying type) but the quinine gives it a chemically post-mix taste. At £1 a bottle, I was heartily disappointed.

But, its main purpose is to be mixed with gin and as I learned with the Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water, first impressions can be deceptive and I had to reserve judgment until I had used the Fentimans for its intended purpose, to make a G&T.

It is at this point, I hit a quandary; I finished my Plymouth Gin a couple of nights ago and I strongly suspected that the other gin in the cupboard, the Blackwood’s Gin, was going to be too subtle for the rampant lemonyness of the Fentimans Tonic Water. I felt I needed something with a little more juniper hit.

I have a bottle of Oxley in the cupboard, but it is the 75th bottle they produced and I am loath to open it. Do I open the Oxley to try with the Fenimans or do I keep it? If I do open it, it wouldn’t last forever, but then, gin is created to be drunk. I could keep this bottle and buy another, but that wouldn’t solve my immediate problem and it is £45 a bottle. What to do?

I left the Oxley alone and made a G&T with the Blackwood’s and I was right.

Firstly, the bottles are only 125ml, so with a 40ml shot of gin (I said I like them large) the thing was 25% gin, but it wasn’t too unpleasant. Note the emphasis on the word “too”. At this strength, the gin was in dominance, although the overpowering lemongrass wasn’t far away and it was still fairly astringent in the mouth. Adding a second bottle of the Fentimans was a mistake; all I could tast was the tonic water and it still didn’t fill my glass.

So as predicted, with the Blackwood’s, the Fenitmans wasn’t very good at all and with that inside me, I am not driving to the co-op to buy a bottle of Plymouth – don’t drink and drive.

I have one more bottle of Fentimans Tonic Water, so I will buy another bottle of gin (maybe Plymouth, or maybe something new) to try it with, but I think it will take a very big gin indeed to make a good gin and tonic with this stuff.

Update – 17/07/2010

As I wrote up in my review of Juniper Green Organic Gin, I tried this big gin with the last bottle of Fentimans. It was a pleasing drink but it wasn’t a G&T to my mind. The Fentimans contributed too much to the drink and the boldness of the Juniper Green was still playing second fiddle to the overpowering Fentimans.

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10 thoughts on “Fentimans Tonic Water

  • October 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm
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    I haven’t had a chance to try Blackwood’s, though I would love to do so.

    With Fentiman’s tonic water, what you want to do is to pour 60ml of Plymouth and 125ml of Fentiman’s over plenty of ice in a tall, heavy-bottomed glass (giving a gin-to-tonic ratio of just under 1:2). No lemon or lime is required. If you don’t like the result, I’ll eat my hat (metaphorically).

    Reply
    • October 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm
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      I need to give Plymouth another chance – I have learned a lot about gin since I first tried it. I will give your ratio a go.

      Thanks for the suggestion.

      Reply
  • October 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm
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    I was surprised by the taste of Fentimans’ when mixed with Hendricks and cucumber. Light, refreshing and no offputting aftertaste at all.

    I don’t consider myself an expert in gin at all but I’m certainly enjoying the exploration and pleasant discoveries along the way!

    Reply
  • November 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm
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    My absolute favourite drink at the moment is Fenitman’s tonic mixed with Hendricks gin lots of ice and a slice of cucumber as Hannah above says. Trouble is finding the tonic to buy on line!

    Reply
    • November 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm
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      What sort of ratio do you drink it in? I found Fentiman’s to be so overpowering in the lemongrass department that I would think that Hendrick’s would be lost in it. Saying that, with more gin and less tonic the gin will come to the fore.

      Reply
  • June 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm
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    i live in Belgium and just had a gin-tonic. Fentiman Tonic with Spring Gin. Unknown to you because it is a gin that is made in Belgium by bartender Manuel Wouters of the SIPS bar. This goes well together. 9€ worth.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm
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    I purchased a package of four 275ml bottle in the US to the tune of $8.99, or roughly $2.25 per bottle. Right now this works out to £1.49, is decidedly less per ml than is your £1 per 125 ml bottle.

    In any case, I sought this out because so many tonic waters (and everything else) here are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, and I wanted cane sugar. My immediate reaction upon tasting it alone was, “mmm, this is tasty on its own,” which is not really what I look for in a tonic water, and is probably a direct result of the lemon-y flavor.

    I made the mistake of trying it with Tanqueray Rangpur, which has a lime flavor and is much smoother than regular Tanqueray. Though Tanqueray Rangpur is not as “premium” a gin as Hendricks, to me it falls into the same category of smooth and light gins. As I suspect Hendricks would be, it was rather lost to the Fentimans. The result was a tasty alcoholic citrus drink, which was not at all bad, but simply didn’t taste like a G&T. Regular Tanqueray would likely fare better, but I suspect the result would still be a bit too citrusy to really taste like a classic G&T.

    Nevertheless, the whole drink tasted less artificial to me than one made with something like Canada Dry or Schweppes, typical grocery store brands here.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm
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      I’d sugest hunting down Fever-Tree; it’s the bee’s knees. I’ve heard very good things about Q Tonic (which might be easier to find in the US) but have yet to try it myself.

      Reply
  • December 29, 2013 at 9:15 am
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    Why waste your time? the best gin and tonic in the world is Fever tree tonic and Little Bird (formally Sparrow) gin.ratio is subject to individual taste but the flavour of these two mixed, is sublime!

    Reply
    • December 6, 2014 at 12:39 am
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      I must try Little Bird. I don’t hear about it often, but when I do, it is always good praise.

      Reply

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