Berkeley Square Gin is the brother of Bloom Gin, both are the brain-children of Joanne Moore, Master Distiller at Greenalls. They caused a little controversy when they first launched as they were each marketed at different sexes (Bloom for the ladies and Berkeley Square for the gents). While marketing gins like this is a little frustrating in this day and age, I might accuse those that see floral designs and elegance and being “aimed at women”, or strong lines and dark colours as “aimed at men”, as being guilty of stereotyping. Blue is for boys, right? Pah, tell that to my pink shirts.
Anyway, all this talk of design leads nicely on to the bottle. It’s a tall, chunky, rugged, square design, made of thick-walled green glass. The sides are ribbed, for a firm and secure grip, and the black and silver label girds the middle of the bottle like a weight-lifter’s belt. Above the label, there’s an angry-looking lions-head door knocker, lending it a air of majesty and aggression. Below the label, the word “GIN” is embossed into the glass in a bold font, giving the bottle an assertive aspect. The wide-mouthed neck is stoppered with a cork of significant girth, which is itself topped with a tall black cylinder of wood, like a Queen’s Guardsman’s bearskin. Holding it makes me want to growl and shout ‘oorah’.
Okay, I will stop with the deliberately over-the-top stereotyped descriptions. Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.
Berkeley Square Botanicals
- Kaffir Lime Leaves
No citrus! Unless you count the kaffir lime leaves. Also, while only one root is far from rare, it’s more common to see two or three.
Berkeley Square Gin is distilled in a pot still. The botanicals are steeped in the alcohol for 24 hours before distillation and the herbaceous botanicals (sage, basil and lavender) are wrapped in muslin before being steeped, like a giant bouquet garni. Normally a bouquet garni is used to flavour a dish without leaving bits of herbs floating around in it – what purpose it serves in the making of Berkeley Square is not made clear – maybe it is removed before distillation? The distillation run is then carried-out slowly over another 24 hours.
Uncorking greeted the ears with a delightfully hollow ‘plop’ but there was no squeak.
Berkeley Square: Nose
Giving Berkeley Square a good sniff reveals a very complex nose. There’s a definite pepperiness to it with basil undercurrents. There’s a dusty, floral lavender that balances very well against a woody, resinous juniper. There are also flashes of angelica and, a somewhat out-of-place but persistent, aroma of chamomile.
I’m usually not very good at picking-out distinct botanical aromas from a gin, needing a lot of sniffing to pick-out even a few. Today though, either my nose is on top-form or Berkeley Square is a gin that makes it easy. Given my observations on orris root, and how it integrates the other botanicals, I wonder if the low root-count might be responsible.
Berkeley Square: Neat
Powerful, intense and very complex.
A sweet attack of deep, resinous juniper which quickly evolves into a rich herbal peppery crescendo, fading into a sweet, floral late-middle palate with a strong blast of angelica making the transition to dry peppery finish. While there is definitely an alcohol-burn, it is very well restrained (possibly due to the lack of citrus).
The angelica note is possibly the strongest I’ve come across in a gin – it really reminds me of the crystalised angelica I used to eat as a child.
It’s a strong, robust gin with a unique and distinctive flavour-profile. Drinking it neat is a delight – a mind-blowingly-good sipping gin.
Berkeley Square: With Water.
Blimey, Berkeley Square is a gin that can take a lot of water – at 50/50 it’s still powerful and flavoursome and can go to more dilution without suffering too badly. Water takes away a lot of the pepperiness but leaves all of the higher aromatics free to be appreciated.
Berkeley Square: Gin & Tonic
The lavender becomes quite prominent, as do the savoury herbal flavours, but they become a lot more integrated. It’s a fresh, breezy drink that’s surprisingly sweet. The angelica is still quite prominent in the late-middle palate and there’s a slightly astringent, bitter finish that’s reminiscent of aspartame. The whole experience is fabulously luscious and breezy; it’s a very moreish G&T.
I think that, like No.3, while Berkeley Square Gin makes a very good G&T, it’s a bit of a sacrilege to mix it because it is such a good sipping gin.
I need to get some more Campari, so I can try this in a Negroni.
I have to ask myself if Berkeley Square is worth £35 a bottle; that’s a very “special-occasion” price tag. I got this one for a tidy £27 via a combination of two special offers, and I would say that it’s well worth this price. I’d happily pay £30 for Berkeley Square and would snap it up when on offer.
Okay, so I tried Berkeley Square Gin in a Negroni.
Wow, what a negroni.
The rich savoury depth of flavour really compliments the already strong flavours of the Campari and Vermouth Rosso. It’s exquisitely balanced and really rather invigorating. This is, by far, the best negroni I’ve tried.