Whitley Neill Gin

I’m going to go right ahead and say it. ‘The Tree of Life’ is an awful, awful film. I’m unsure whether my Blogs readership has yet reached Brad & Angelina Pitt (I’m led to believe the plural is actually ‘Brangelina’, though I think a ‘Flock of Pitts’ works quite nicely also) and I appreciate that I risk spoiling what could have turned out to be a beautiful friendship when we do eventually meet. But if friendship is built on honesty then I can’t lie to you Bradley. The film was terrible.

Now don’t get me wrong;

‘Snatch’ – Brilliant
‘Inglorious Bastards’ – one of my all time favourite films!
‘Fight Club’ – I can’t really talk about it (it’s kind of a ‘rule’) but yet another fantastic film!

But ‘The Tree of Life’. Sorry Brad. Not for me.

‘But surely that can’t be it?!’ I hear you ask. After all, can one (frankly) diabolical film really bring a beautiful friendship to such a premature end?…well, fear not my friends. For I believe I have found the olive ‘branch’ that I can extend to repair the damage. And to ensure a common ground, that branch comes directly from ‘The Tree of Life’, only this time it’s an offering I can most certainly get on board with. Served over the ice that will so sorely need to be broken, I feel that ‘Whitley Neill’ Gin may be just the remedy…

So where’s the link? After all, much like myself, ‘Whitley Neill’ Gin hails from the Midlands. But as the saying goes, ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’. And the on the menu here you’ll find a quite unusual ingredient; Baobab Fruit, plucked directly from the Baobab Tree, which is also known as ‘The Tree of Life’! And taking inspiration from his South African Wife, Johnny Whitley has brought together a few other tastes of Africa (namely Cape Gooseberries, or Physalis Plant) to sit alongside the more traditional Juniper, Coriander Seed, Lemon Peel, Sweet Orange Peel, Angelica Root, Orris Root and Cassia Bark. The result? A London Dry Gin that sets itself a part from the rest.

I was fortunate enough to try this little Beauty at the recent ‘Keg vs. Cork’ event, as part of the Leeds Indie Food Festival, hosted by the brilliant ‘Sheaf Street Cafeteria’. Sheaf Streets Warehouse like modern interior, mixed with an arty, alternative edge makes for cool vibes and good times. Add to that a host of knowledgeable booze buffs who’ll happily pour you a drink and talk to you about it and you’ve got yourself a fantastic bar! If you’ve not been there before, I highly recommend a visit!

There’s a mysterious feel to the Gin from the off, given that it’s contents is masked by the ‘blackout’ Matte finish glass of the bottle. Whilst I’m not usually a fan of bottle designs that hide the Gin, I have to admit that it stands out on the shelf – the Red depiction of the Baobab tree piercing against the dark background. The next thing I noticed, which always strikes a chord with me, are the words ‘Small Batch’. It makes the Gin feel ‘exclusive’. But being a descendent of 8 generations of Gin making, how ‘Small Batch’ can it be I wondered? Well, despite the painstaking, hand crafted nature of the Gin making, where the team extract the essential oils from the Botanticals, blend them with the purest waters and then distil them with the alcohol in the oldest Copper Pot Still in England (known affectionately as ‘Constance’) only the ‘heart’ of the distilled elixir (or the ‘best bit’ to you and I) is bottled. This attention to detail and quality means that the end product is something quite special.

On the nose, there’s a definite sense of Spice to suggest a high alcohol content (surprising for its not overly dramatic 42%) and a nod towards those earthier Botanicals we mentioned earlier. There’s a herbal/floral quality to the aromas, which carries a definite hint of the Coriander. But given time in the glass you’ll pick up Citrus notes, with the initial sharpness seeming to identifying itself as Grapefruit zest, owing to the Orange, Lemon and Baobab Fruit cocktail.

Neat on the Pallet, the Gin was lively and long lasting. And it certainly packs a warming punch! It’s earthy and complex, carrying strong flavours of Ginger, Pepper and Coriander.

Initially, I feared that the Gin was too aggressive, the Spiciness perhaps overpowering the other elements. But give this one time. When the Tonic is added, a mellowness is introduced, adding a vanilla like softness, and everything calms down just a notch. Suddenly you’re confronted with a huge Orange blast, with sweet Citrus peels pulled through to sit front and centre. It’s almost like being transported to being sat under the aforementioned Baobab Tree, basking in the African Sunshine. Garnished with Orange Peel and Star Anise, it was very much like Brad Pitts cameo role in the Thanks Giving Day special episode of Friends. Delightful.

And with all this talk of Gin, I’ve almost forgotten what Brad and I were even in disagreement over!

Oh yes-the 139 minutes of my life that were ironically wasted during his feature presentation…

So in Summary – when it comes to ‘The Tree of Life’, do yourself a favour and opt for the version that comes served in a glass with Tonic & ice. Whitley Neill – I’ll drink to that.


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