Review – Whitley Neill Gin
Recently re-branded in an attention-grabbing bold black bottle, Whitley Neill is the African gin, made in England. Launched in 2005 by a chap named Johnny, this isa gin inspired by the cross-pollination of inspiration from beneath-the-stairs gin stores in his Grandmother’s house and evocative stories from his wife’s African travels. In addition to the relatively standard botanicals of juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica, cassia, and orris Whitley Neill adds in the African botanicals that are the Cape Gooseberry and the Baobab fruit.
Nose: Smooth and balanced is the overriding impression. Green pine is restrained but still suggestive of a classically-styled gin. Subtle citrus, fruit and earthy notes are delicate, and suggest a lighter style of gin.
Neat: Juniper is restrained too on the palate, but not so much as to be dominated by the other botanicals. In fact, the balance between all elements is a success here. Relatively sweet for a ‘dry’ gin but in a liquorice sort of way, fruity and floral notes shine throughout, although it feels perhaps less exotic Africa and more English garden. Just enough coriander spice and a perky hit of orange peel on the finish lift things and maintain interest as the full mouthfeel which is responsible for fantastic sip-appeal tempts you to lose focus on the finder points of which there are many. Although nothing stands out as being definitively different so as to be able to singularly identify the African botanicals, they are clearly contributing much to the citrus element.
Mixing: The smooth and understated character of this gin make it a preferred candidate for simpler drinks that allow its subtleties to shine. A Martini or a G+T are thus hard to beat, the latter benefitting greatly from the suggested ginger garnish to add a contrasting spice to the smooth citrus-led profile that otherwise pervades. Equally, Whitley Neil offers an excellent alternative option in cocktails where the gin is intended as a supporting role, such as in the Martinez. Here it works in harmony with the sweet vermouth to create a wonderfully rounded flavour. Citrus and floral-heavy cocktails such as the Aviation do not play to this gin’s strengths; the combination of a lighter style being overtaken by the other flavours, and dominance of citrus being a less than outstanding one. That is not to say however that it cannot make a decent base for bolder flavoured cocktails, particularly where a contrast in flavours develops layers of complexity such as is the case with the Gin Basil Smash. Overall this is a utilitarian gin, there being few cocktails in which this wouldn’t be a respectable choice. The signature King Solomon’s Cooler (recipe below) is certainly evidence of this being a most quaffable gin.
Signature Cocktail – King Solomon’s Cooler
1.5oz Whitley Neill Gin, 2oz Pressed Apple Juice, Cloudy Lemonade.
Build first two ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice. Top with lemonade and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Whitley Neill gin is an smooth, balanced, and easy-drinking gin that is hard to find fault. Whilst restrained on intensity of flavour, it is superbly blended and hence immensely versatile.
Whitley Neil Gin is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.