Another relative newcomer in the past few years, Whitley Neill is a premium London Dry Gin launched in 2005 by Johnny Neill. It contains two African botanicals – Baobab fruit and Cape Gooseberries that give the gin an exotic touch to the palate and sets it apart from others.
The gin, distilled near Birmingham, is made from a 100% grain spirit that is steeped with the botanicals prior to distillation in beautiful antique copper pot stills, reputedly over 100 years old. They use only the purest water and each of the nine botanicals is carefully selected to ensure they are of the highest quality. Whitley Neill’s tag of “made in London” and “inspired by Africa” goes a long way to describing what those botanicals might be. Bringing together innovative botanicals like gooseberries and baobab fruit to its flavourings, the other botanicals are classics such as juniper, coriander, lemon & orange peel, angelica root, cassia bark and orris root. The tag line also lends it’s cues to the attitude taken by the creator Johnny Neill, as it reflects his fresh outlook whilst also making a reference to the years of London based gin distilling experience put into use at the distillery.
Bottled at 42% ABV, subdued juniper and citrus notes come to the fore at first, followed by a subtle spice and complex finish. We would recommend using Fever Tree for a G&T, but marking their difference further, they recommend adding fresh ginger root, or lemon juice and honey!
As a whole the gin is not too juniper dominant and has a distinct zing to it, so perhaps it’s one for fans of the lighter styles; however there is enough in there to hold the traditionalists’ attention too so don’t go writing it off either. Out of all the drinks we have tried it in, the Martini was most successful as the well-balanced citrussy nature of this gin provides a great background for a dash of vermouth.
Interestingly 5p from the sale of each bottle go to Tree Aid in Africa to help with reforestation. With one look through the story of how the gin was created, one can see the passion creator Johnny Neill has for the place. At the time of writing (June 2011), it must also be said that with the most positive of sentiments attached to the following comment – their website really needs an update… as the story is a great one, both inspiring and full of passion; and deserves to be told – properly.
The man himself founded the company in 2004 with the aim of offering consumers a new and totally different gin to those already in existence in the market. Despite the brand being 5 years old, their family origins are linked to the distillation since the mid-eighteenth century (Johnny Neill is from the fourth generation of the Greenall Whitley distilling family). Expect to see more of this gin in years to come, especially as other markets adopt it and although it’s not set to grow at the same rate as the Sipsmith’s of the gin world – don’t be surprised to see their numbers rise in the UK too, as more and more gin fans try the gin made from the “tree of life” and whose advocacy holds strong.
For more information about Whitley Neill Gin, visit their website:
They are also on Twitter: @WhitleyNeill