Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Gin Lane 1751: Victoria Pink Gin

Juniper, a crucial ingredient in Gin, has been revered for at least two thousand years for medicinal purposes. Around the 16th century, it would be the Dutch who would finally distill a juniper-flavored alcohol, which they called genever, creating a spirit that was intended to be something other than a medicine. Around the 1690s, genever began to be exported to England and it quickly become the most popular spirit, especially with the lower classes, and it was renamed gin.

It helped that unlicensed gin manufacture was legal in England, so gin proliferated across the country.  By the 1730s, people in London were drinking an average of 2 pints a week. However, all of this gin consumption was alleged to lead to increased crime and other undesirable attributes so the government took some steps to curb consumption, starting in 1729 with a law that increased the retail tax on gin. Then, in 1736, another law was passed that imposed a draconian expensive license fee for gin retailers while also raising the retail tax. In essence, the fee was so high, only two licenses were ever obtained and consumption dipped for a short time.

However, illegal gin shops started to sprout up and riots occurred, protesting the 1736 Act. Eventually, the Act was changed, leading to decreases in the retail license fee and retail taxes. However, the government was still concerned about gin consumption, leading to The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (known as the Gin Act 1751) which prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed retailers and also increased retailer fees. The effect was to eliminate most small gin shops, limiting sales to larger distillers and retailers, and making gin more expensive for consumers. This was more successful and within the decade, the so-called Gin Craze had ended.

In homage to this Act, Gin Lane 1751 was established, a company which produces gin that hearkens back to Victorian times. The company is a partnership between Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers, an eighth generation distiller, and The Bloomsbury Club, a group of gin lovers and drinks industry professionals. As their website states, "Our beautifully handcrafted family of gins is of a classic Victorian style originating in an age when there was a bold predominance of juniper berries, hints of liquorice and a refreshing citrus finish. For your edification, we have created a well-balanced, complex gin of eight natural botanicals."

They currently produce four gins, including the London Dry Gin, London Dry Royal Strength Gin, Old Tom Gin, and Victoria Pink Gin, each priced at about $24.99 to make them more affordable. "Gin Lane 1751 is going back to gin’s roots with a bold yet refreshing profile along with three varietals that all have history and origin in the Victorian period.” Each gin is handcrafted in small traditional pot stills and contain eight natural botanicals, including juniper, orris root, Seville oranges, angelica, Sicilian lemon, star anise, cassia bark and coriander.

I received a media sample of the Victoria Pink Gin, which has a beautiful pink color from the addition of natural blended spiced bitters, and doesn't contain any artificial colorings or flavoring. It is said that the British Royal Navy was the first to mix gin with bitters, allegedly as a cure for sea sickness. You may see the Pink Gin cocktail at some local bars, which simply adds bitters to gin. The Victoria Pink Gin does that blending already for you, so you can drink it as is, or use it as a primary ingredient in a cocktail.

The Victoria Pink Gin possesses a prominent juniper aroma so there is no mistaking that it is gin. However, on the palate, this is a very balanced gin, with a complex and interesting melange of botanicals and a strong spicy element from the bitters. It is smooth and easy drinking, with a lingering and pleasant finish. The spiciness within this gin was intriguing, placing it above many other gins, and I think that element would elevate your usual gin cocktails. I'm very choosy about the gins I enjoy, and this is one I would strongly recommend.

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