Lidl Schwarzwald Gin Review

Schwarzwald distilled Dry Gin. Does what it say's on the can.

Schwarzwald distilled Dry Gin. Does what it say’s on the can.

This is something of an oddball gin. It’s sold through the Lidl supermarket chain in Germany and branded quite plainly as Schwarzwald distilled Dry Gin. The gin is distilled by the privately-owned Edelbranntweinbrennerei Bimmerle KG deep in the heart of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in the little village of Mösbach, which itself is not far from Strasbourg (thanks Google Maps).

The Bimmerle distillery is responsible for a raft of distilled products, including their own Needle Gin and Lörch schnapps, as well as Aldi and Lidl schnapps. Their Lörch schnapps range covers from the classics “Kirschwasser” (cherry schnapps) to more modern liqueurs, such as the “Happy End” blackcurrant liqueur. I should warn you that Happy End is also an own-brand toilet roll from the Penny supermarket chain, so be careful what you wish for.

Going back to the Schwarzwald Gin we have a more basic Lidl product. What you get is a half litre bottle of 43% abv Gin. Fortunately the Lidl webside has a good write up of the eleven botanicals involved. On top of the juniper you get lavender and ginger, as well as oranges and lemons. The most intriguing botanicals are naturally the ones not revealed. These are the “heimischen Botanicals aus dem Schwarzwald verleihen dem Gin seine pikanten Akzente“, roughly speaking the local botanicals from the Black Forest which give the gin it piquant accents. I’m a big fan of another Black Forest gin, the wonderfully floral Monkey 47. This Gin gets many of its subtle flavours from local herbs, so I was hoping that this budget gin may bring some of the same flavours. As a side note I noticed that the distillery’s own-brand gin, the Neeedle Gin, also uses 11 botanicals (including what look like sloes as well as cinnamon, lavender, oranges and lemons), I wonder if there is a connection ?

Enough of the back story, what’s the gin like ?

Day or Night Gin ? Well this gin is a hard hitting 43% gin, so best not to drink it straight away as you sit in the Lidl car-park. Better to head home and find a comfy couch before you start.

What does it smell of ? Juniper and something herbally, much like I image the Schwarzwald smells

What does it taste of ? The first thing I would recommend is not to drink this pure. In it’s pure state it’s a little rough and quite herbally – imagine mixing a herbal cough syrup with strong vodka. However if you match it with a good tonic water, say Fever-Tree then you end up with a very nice traditional gin, you start with a bitter citrus taste, followed by a full-on juniper hit and finally a nice spicy finish.

Buy it ? There’s only one place to go for this, the Lidl. I bought mine in store, just before Christmas. It retails at €7.49. I’m not sure if this is one of their seasonal products, but perhaps that depends on sales numbers. Anyway, if it’s sold out at your local supermarket you can still buy it on-line from the Lidl. I must admit I had a bit of a Ron Weasley moment (Bloody Hell) when I checked the Lidl website. Not only do they e-tail this gin, but they even have a bunch of premium brands, including Beefeater, Tanqueray and my beloved Monkey 47. You could start your own gin bar from their on-line selection.

Overall I’m giving it 4 out of 5. That’s not to say it’s as good as a €30 bottle that gets 4/5, but this is extremely good value.

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REWE Diamond of Marrakesh Gin Review

This gin is a bit of an odd sausage. It’s made for the REWE supermarket group here in

The bottle is really a rather nice colour.

The bottle is really a rather nice colour.

Germany. The REWE Group (pronounced Re-ve) is Germany’s second largest supermarket chain. To give you an idea of how ubiquitous they are in Germany consider the town where I live. There is one Aldi store, one Edeka store and three REWE stores.
The gin is part of REWE’s “Feine-Welte” gourmet line, which covers everything from Avocado oil to Venezuelan chocolate.  All Feine-Welt products are branded with the same white/gold colour scheme. As the bottle matches the brand colour scheme it has golden base that works through to a transparent top. The shape also changes from completely round at the base to almost square at the top. (I’m now beginning to worry I have a gin-bottle fetish).
As for the gin, the bottle tells us that it’s “Fünffach Destilliert” – distilled five times and that it’s signature botanical is Neroli Extract. As my good friend wikipedia informs me, Neroli is the taken from the blossom of the Bitter Orange tree, so we are expecting to add a little citrus to our mix.

Day or Night Gin ? It’s a respectable 40%, so you could have a little gin mixed with the REWE Valencia-late harvest orange juice, whilst enjoying a lunchtime picnic of the “Feine-Welt” gourmet line. As an aside, I can recommend the “Feine-Welt” vanilla ice-cream; it’s excellent and is totally free of additives, colours and artificial flavouring.

What does it smell of ? Quiet a strong floral bouquet, but very little juniper.

What does it taste of ? It’s quite a smooth gin. A little juniper at first, followed by a rather pleasant mix of the bitter-sweet citrus taste and something spicy, probably cardamons. A short, slightly spicy, finish. Paired with a tonic water you have a very good G&T, with the gin flavours adding and enhancing the quinine from the tonic water.

Buy It ? You’ll need to go do to the REWE for this, €12.99 for 70ml, or you can order it for their home delivery service here.

Overall ? 4 out of 5. This was my favourite gin from our 6 gins deathmatch. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good value. Try it and feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section.

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My LivingDNA Test Results

As of September 2016 there is a new DNA testing company battling for consumers money, Living DNA. They offer a single, €159/£120/$159 , 3-in-1 test, covering autosomal, male-line yDNA (males-only duh) and maternal-line mitochondrial DNA. Even though I’ve already taken a bunch of DNA tests there are still some things that make this test interesting for me.

  1. There is a a heavy focus on genetic heritage – where in the world do your ancestors come from. Currently they aim to match your DNA against 80 worldwide reference populations (see fig. 1). More importantly LivingDNA follows on from the People if the British Isles project and breaks Great Britain into 21 regional areas, (see fig. 2 below).
  2. The company is British, I’m British, so I like to support British companies. More seriously, the company has a very structured, privacy-orientated approach to your data, security (they are ISO:9001 certified for quality controls and ISO:27001 for information security) and how your data is used.
fig 1. The 80 regions LivingDNA can use to break down your ethnicity

fig 1. The 80 worldwide regions LivingDNA can use to break down your ethnicity. Source: https://www.livingdna.com/en-eu/worldwide-ancestry-regions

Fig. 1. Taken from https://www.livingdna.com/en-eu/uk-regional-breakdown

fig. 1. How British ethnicity is broken down. Source: https://www.livingdna.com/en-eu/uk-regional-breakdown

 

If you are interested in the technical details of the LivingDNA test, then this paragraph from their launch PR probably covers most of the stuff you will be in interested in:

“Living DNA’s test itself is run on a custom-built “Living DNA Orion Chip”.  It is one of the first bespoke DNA chips in the world to be built using the latest GSA technology from market leader Illumina, and tests over 656,000 autosomal (family) markers, 4,700 mitochondrial (maternal) markers and 22,000 Y-chromosomal (paternal) markers.”

Continue reading

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Gordons London Dry Gin Review – Has it got to be Gordon’s ?

Growing up in 1970’s Great Britain there was only one gin, and it’s was Gordon’s. Gordons

Gordon's London Dry gin - it looks better in the green bottle.

Gordon’s London Dry gin – it looks better in the green bottle.

kept the world supplied with gin, long before the artisan gin renaissance. It was rather like the a ginny version of Light of Eärendil, to misquote Tolkien “May it be a gin for you in dark places, when all other gins are out”. These days Gordon’s feels distinctly old-fashioned, rather like your Aunt Petunia. OK, enough fantasy book references, what do we know about the gin?

Gordon’s is currently part of the Diageo drinks giant, but has a long history. It was first distilled in 1769 by Alexander Gordon. A little over a century later the firm merged with rivals Charles Tanqueray & Co. to form Tanqueray Gordon & Co. The gin comes in the iconic green bottle, unless you are some poor soul like myself, who gets the clear glass export version. The gin itself is triple distilled for “extra dryness and smoothness“. Looking at the all-important botanicals the website explains it way better than I could “As well as juniper berries our recipe includes coriander seeds, angelica root, liquorice, orris root, orange and lemon peel. Coriander gives the dry and citrus taste (rather than lemon or orange peel that gives a blunt and overpowering taste in many other gins). Angelica is the magic ingredient that ties together the other botanicals to give a long and complex flavour.” Enough of the theory, how well does the gin stand up to tasting ?

Day or Night Gin ? Gordons is a 37.5% vol. spirit, so you could have a G&T for lunch and slip back to your desk for an afternoon pretending to check your emails.

What does it smell of ? Beyond the slight juniper smell it has a slight citrus tone, but nothing as strong, or offensive, as “the great smell of Brut“.

What does it taste of ? It’s very much the classic combination for a gin, juniper starters, citrus main-course and a spicy dessert. The citrus peels and coriander in the botanicals list come out here. Somehow the whole package is very polite, not too sharp, edgy or aggressive. In a gin & tonic Gordon’s blends, which means it tastes like a G&T, but doesn’t have much oomph.

Buy It ? I vaguely remember buying a bottle (70cl) on discount at the Lidl for €12.99. Looking on-line today (Jan 2017) see that you can buy it somewhere between €10 and €12, plus postage. To be honest I expect you could pick up a bottle for under €15 anywhere in Germany (but not at the Galeria Kaufhof, my benchmark German booze retailer). In the UK, Tesco’s have it available for £14.00.

Overall 3 out of 5. The Gordon’s rather surprised me. It’s not a complex gin, but it does the basics well. Do try to use a good tonic water if you make a G&T with it, Schweppes just doesn’t help it. Given the low price point it’s not that bad.

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London Hill Gin review – Citrus a-peel

Normally I’m excited to be writing about gin, however today I’m dreading it. My gin review today is, as you will have gathered from the title, is for London Hill Gin. The reason for my dread: London Hill Gin is from Ian Macleod Distillers. These are the same people who make my gin nemesis, Marlborough Gin. London Hill is another of their value brands London Hill Ginwhich their website describes as “a versatile base for cocktails and long drinks alike”. At least the website also gives us some hints on the botanicals being used “The botanicals, which include juniper berries, citrus peels (lemon and sweet orange) and coriander seeds, are first macerated with neutral grain alcohol to extract their individual flavours“. The bottle itself is a little more forthcoming on the botanicals used “coriander, cassia bark, cinnamon, angelica, orris root and liquorice“. It sounds quite a solid start.

The gin is made at the Langley Distillery and is batch-produced in a copper pot still “Jenny“. Interestingly a Google-search of the Langley Distillery turns up the drably-named alcohols.co.uk. This site has a good page about the general process of gin distillation, and lists 10 botanicals. It’s unclear which of their gin(s) use these.

Now I’ve reached the point of no return, time to sample the gin:

Day or Night Gin ? My bottle is a healthy 43% abv. , although the London Hill Gin webpage has images with it at either 40% abv or 43% abv, so I guess it depends where in the world you buy it. Nevertheless it’s not a bottle you want to be seen with in daylight hours.

What does it smell of ? Nothing too strong, a bit like a light pine room freshener, but there are some nice orange flavours in their.

What does it taste of ? Surprisingly, in the raw, it was really quite good, a little floral at first, before a nicely balanced juniper/citrus/spice  hit and a pleasingly-long spicy finish. I must admit I was so surprised I had to haul the Marlborough Gin up from “Gin Dungeons” to side-by-side taste it and see if these were really from the same distiller. Side-by-side the London Hill Gin was just better, it had more taste and held the flavours better. In a gin and tonic it mixes OK, which is, I guess, damning a gin with faint praise.

Buy It ? You can get a litre of the hard stuff for around €15.

Overall ? 3 out of 5. I must admit I liked this a lot more than planned. It’s a good value gin, nothing special but, as they say, a “safe pair of hands”. A bit like your friend “Big Mick”, it’s probably good to have around next time you are holding a party.

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Blackfriars London Dry Gin Review – a Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference experience

Sainsbury’s is, for the uninitiated, a British Supermarket chain. It targets middle-class shoppers. That is to say it is posher than, Tesco or Asda, but probably not as posh as Waitrose. As such it’s obviously a good place to sell folks gin. So good that Sainsbury’s  sell

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Blackfriars London Dry Gin

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Blackfriars London Dry Gin

5 different own-brand gins. One of these is Sainsbury’s Blackfriars London Dry Gin. Where it fits in their portfolio of gins is not quite clear, although I guess it’s somewhere above Sainbury’s Gin, basics but is not quite a green-bottleish as their Sainsbury’s Green Bottle Dry London Gin.

Enough of Sainsburys, this is what you need to know about the gin? Probably the most important is that it’s made for Sainsburys by G&J Greenalls up in Warrington, Cheshire (England). Greenalls have been making gin for over 250 years and sell their own Greenalls brand well as other brands. As for the gin itself, it’s quadruple-distilled and the 10 botanicals include “juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica roots and orange and lemon peel”. I’m thinking that Sainsbury’s should have used an Oxford Comma there, but I’m not that smart. As for the Blackfriars motif, I assume the lack of an apostrophe in the title suggests that the gin is named after the Blackfriars district of London, rather than this gin being made/owned or indeed consumed by the Blackfriars themselves.

As ever the bottle designs contains some interesting details, including a picture of St. Paul’s cathedral – just like the Marlborough Gin. Are they implying that this is the spiritual home of London Dry gin ? In addition the cap mentions that the product is “Taste Tested by Customers”, is this another 2016 post-expert motif ? Did I mention the following stand-out other features mentioned on the bottle, well not only is the drink suitable for Vegans but the bottle closure is “Screwcap”. Enough babbling, on to the hard stuff.

Day or Night Gin ? Well it’s an export strength 43%, so unless you are one of those hard-drinking foreigners I’d suggest you leave it for the evening.

What does it smell of ? It’s not a strong smell, juniper (duh), but with something a little petrol-like in there.

What does it taste of ? Drank neat it’s a very smooth – I guess that’s the quadruple distillation process. The main taste is slightly sweet with citrus notes and a short finish. In my gin and tonic test the Blackfriars went AWOL, there was nothing, zero, zip of the gin taste coming through.

Buy it ? In this case you need to buy it from Sainsbury’s (link here), where you can buy 70cl for £13 (although this is a special offer, saving you a £1).

Overall ? 1 out if 5 – I had high expectations of the Blackfriars. It combined Greenalls distilling skills with Sainsbury’s push to create a quality own-brand product. Indeed the base gin wasn’t a bad sip, however sadly the Blackfriars was unable to deliver anything to the gin and tonic. I even began to think I’d forgotten to add it to my G&T. That’s bad.

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Marlborough Gin Review

Marlborough Gin describes itself as “a light, dry and subtle distilled gin, produced in a traditional way. It’s smooth taste makes it an ideal base for all gin cocktails“. I must admit I’m not sure if this isn’t a case of damming a gin with faint praise.

Is this a simple, dignified label, or just plain ?

Is this a simple, dignified label, or just plain ?

The gin itself is a product of Ian Macleod Distillers, a Scottish-based privately-owned drinks business, whose main products are whiskies. As they say themselves, they are “A major supplier to the Buyer’s Own Brand market“. The Marlborough Gin is meant to invoke the famous Dukes of Marlborough, who built the magnificent Blenheim Palace and provided, arguably, Britain’s Greatest Leader, Winston Churchill. The label is a classy red, white and blue affair with a picture of the London skyline, just to remind you it’s a London Dry Gin. On top of this you have a couple of different images of a cavalry officer to emphasise the fighting Duke of Marlborough ambience. However non of that is really important when you are trying to judge a gin. So lets start with the review:

Day or Night Gin ? Well, it’s a mild 37.5% abv gin, so theoretically it’s a day drink, but as the bottle itself suggests it’s suggested as a base for cocktails. Now most of the cocktails I’ve drunk are not the sort of things you want to be drinking during the day, unless you are planning a mid-afternoon nap.

What does it smell of ? I’ll be honest, not too much. Snorting a nose-full of this gin is not something that is going to get you breathalysed. Still there is some juniper in there, as well as some thing citrus.

What does it taste of ? The website lists “juniper berries, coriander seeds and grains of paradise“, so as you would expect it on the spicy side of life. While you may have been hoping to get whisked away to a citrus grove in Provence, you are more to be at the spice shelf in Poundland.

Buy it ? I must admit I had some trouble tracking this one down online. None of the places I would normally look for gin stock it. My own bottle I bought a couple of years ago, I think it was on offer for around €10 for a litre, so fits firmly in our value category.

Overall ? 1/5 There is a good reason that this bottle has hung around for a couple of years here.

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