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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Best Value Gin in Germany 2017 – A Budget-Gin Deathmatch

I’m drinking cheap Gin, so you don’t have to.

Now for something a little different. Gin is getting to be an immensely popular drink (and something we’ve being enjoying here at learnalittle-towers for the past few years). To put this in context, in the UK gin sales are now worth over £1bn per annum. This enthusiasm for gin has been largely driven by the development of new boutique distilleries creating unique and expensive gins. These are the gins I love to drink and write about.

However I’m also a sucker for “value” gins. These are the bottles than go on sale for around €10 (or £10 in Britain) and, against my better judgement, tempt me. Sadly the promise of complex gins at single-digit prices is never quite fulfilled and I’m often left with fairly base spirits that hang around in my cellar waiting to be converted into sloe gin. This year I’ve decided to rescue the bottles and give them a proper test, in the form of a “Deathmatch”. A Deathmatch, for the uninitiated, is a sudden-death battle of drinks. Each drink goes head-to-head (or mano a mamo) with another drink. The winner goes on to the next round until you reach the final, where I’ll crown the victor as my Budget Gin of 2017. Naturally I’ll use this blog posing to keep you up to date with the Deathmatch and the winner will be named here, hopefully early in 2017. As each gin is eliminated I’ll post a review up here, until we’re left with the last man standing.

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32 Ancestors – The people who didn’t move much

One of the things that fascinates me as a genealogist is how our ancestors moved around the country following the ebb and flow of economic fortune. Except, in my case, I’ve the feeling that, until recent generations, my ancestors didn’t move around much. To examine this further I’m looking at two different generations; My great-grandparents, born during the height of the Victorian age, and their grandparents, born roughly 60 years earlier, around the start of the nineteenth century.

To show the earlier generation I’ve  mapped the 32 ancestors that are my ggg-grandparents. They are clustered into groups of four based on my eight great-grandparents (shown in black). There is a good reason for doing it this way. When the “Peoples of the British IslesProject were looking for sample DNA they looked for people where all their four grandparents were born within 80 kilometres of each other (the Irish DNA Research Project uses this same methodology). This was basically their definition of someone who was “born-and-bred” in a particular region. Looking through my own ancestors it’s only when I go back 3 generations to my great-grandparents does this test hold true, as shown below:

 As you can see 23 of my 32 ancestors are mapped. Round circles on the map show a point where multiple ancestors were born in the same place. The other 9 ancestors I do not have enough information on. Continue reading

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Finding Sarah Ann Stewart – a DNA success story

I’ve written in the past that my Stewart ancestors (my Mother’s Mother’s family) are a bit of an enigma. Their Stewart line are sons of Kings, as confirmed by my Stewart cousin who has tested his yDNA, but by the 19th century they were poor Ulster men who emigrated to the boom-town of Shildon  in County Durham. This year (2016) I’ve begun to find out a little more about them. I’ve managed to find the Ulster roots of the Stewarts in the small town of Lissan on the County Tyrone/County Derry border. On top of that my research has confirmed that my Ulster ancestors John Stewart and Jane Marshall had a daughter Eliza no one realised. I’ve often wondered if Eliza was their only daughter amongst their four sons, or if there were others.

Recently I was contacted by someone who believed that their ancestor Sarah Ann Stewart was another daughter of John and Jane, and that our shared DNA result at proved this.

It's not much of a shared DNA link, just 13.7 CentiMorgens over 2 segments.

It’s not much of a shared DNA link, just 13.7 CentiMorgens over 2 segments.

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From STRs to SNPs – An update on my yDNA Testing

Back in 2014 one of my earliest blogs was about my yDNA testing (If you remember your school biology, yDNA is the sex-chromosome that sons get passed, virtually intact, from their father, daughter’s get a second x chromosome). Things have moved on since then, so I thought today would be a good chance to update this. I also want to use this blog to explain the processes I went through to get further information on my paternal line.

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The Lamberts and the Great War

Last week marked 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of mankind, with over one million men wounded or killed. It’s a reminder to us all of the industrial-scale death that happened during the First World War. In this posting I want to look at how the First World War affected one family, the Lamberts. These were the family of my Gran, born Eleanor Annie Lambert, and her parents, Thomas and Sarah. But first I need to introduce Thomas and Sarah a little.

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