Flavoured gin, is it all rhubarb?
Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin is one of the most popular rhubarb gins. Its eye-catching purple bottle is a fixture on a lot of supermarkets shelves.
One of my current biggest gin bugbears is the lack of transparency around the provenance of the gin. Too often we are fed marketing fluff about how the gin is produced. And I’m afraid WN is one of the biggest offenders.
According to their website, Whitley Neill is a family owned distillery inspired by South Africa’s Cape Town region, home of their ancestors. The first botanical to be experimented with, and included in the original gin and incorporated into the WN brand, was the fruit of the baobab tree. Now I hate to be picky but the baobab is an iconic tree of the bushveldt of northern South Africa and Zimbabwe, not Cape Town.
The distillery was started in 1762 in rural Cheshire. Johnny Neill now heads the brand reborn in 2005 and claims to be an 8th generation distiller.
Johnny created the original gin from memories of visiting his grandparent’s farm where his grandmother was versed in the art of infusing flavours into spirits. By all accounts, Granny was an expert infuser and Johnny learned his craft from an artist.
In fact, the Whitley Neill gins are 3rd party or contract gins distilled by Halewood Wines & Spirits in Liverpool, a multi-million-pound enterprise that also distils several well-known brands of gin, vodka and rum. Should this distract from the appreciation of the gin? I think, in general, not. For all we know Johnny has a high input on the creation of the recipes. But a little more clarity on the labelling and website would be most welcome and create a level tasting field.
But hey, on with the gin.
Juniper, coriander, angelica root, cassia bark, orris root, liquorice root, sweet orange, lemon, rhubarb and ginger.
On the nose, this gin is sweet, fruity, sherbetty and flowery with a hint of pink baby powder. A smidgen of juniper holds it back from an overwhelming pink powdery frothiness.
Sherbetty fruitiness continues on the taste buds with a little heat, but not much, from the ginger. There is very little juniper too. If it is there at all it is to accompany the rather artificial rhubarb. Citrus pierces the sweetness and angelica root anchors the gin to stop it floating away altogether.
There is a lingering rhubarb sweetness on the finish, but nothing more.
This gin is popular but probably more for the fact that it tends towards a flavoured vodka than a true rhubarb gin. Which is a shame. I’m rather partial to a good rhubarb gin and I so wanted to like this one.
The bitterness of tonic doesn’t suit this gin at all. Try serving it instead with ginger ale to combat the sweetness. Or for a real sugar rush try lemonade.