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:

Fig. 1. Taken from

fig. 1. How British ethnicity is broken down. Source:


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.”

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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 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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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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