Islington, London. One of the most densely populated restaurant hubs in the UK, home to Europe’s third longest escalator, and the resting place of Jeremy Beadle (turns out, he’s no longer ‘about’!).
Yet all being told, other than a quick scour of the internet, I know absolutely nothing about the place. This, in itself, is not an overly surprising admission. As previous reviews have uncovered, I once thought that The Lake District was in close proximity to Cornwall, and have started many reviews with reminiscions (not a word, but I like it) of my map reading misadventures.
But Londoners really don’t help my cause. Indeed, ask most well meaning folk from south of the boarder where they’re from, and they’ll likely answer you in one of two ways;
1. ‘I’m from <North / South / East / West> London’; cheers for that guys, because I usually have a compass on hand to decode the vaguest postcode on earth…
2. ‘I’m from just outside of London’; oh great. Thanks. Which part of London aren’t you from?!
But luckily for me, there’s something distilling that is pushing to put Islington firmly on the map once and for all…
In a similar way to stress eating and knee surgery, Islington’s restaurant scene is rather fattening – I’m pretty sure my trousers felt tighter just by assessing the foodie landscape during a quick Google search. But with all that grub, it’s eventually going to need washing down. So it is then perhaps fitting that a liquid, befitting of such lofty responsibility, is on the case. Welcome to fold; Hanbury Gin.
Much like the third longest escalator in Europe, it looks like Islington is going places…
Hanbury Gin; Putting Islington on the map
Habury Gin was initiated with one overarching ambition in mind; “to develop a new London Gin with greater flavour, character, and quality”. And in 2021, the wheels were set in motion when Islington’s newest distillery opened its doors, followed by their official launch in April this year.
All of Hanbury Gin’s liquids are produced using their 140 litre copper Still Éace (pronounced “ACE”), so named after creating a clever combination of one the founders two daughters. And like a proud parent shows off their child, Éace sits pride of place in the distillery window at the teams address on the corner of Linton Street and Mary Street.
Refreshingly, Hanbury Gin don’t hide behind ‘secret ingredients’, tall tales of ancient recipes that were written on scrolls hundreds of years ago and hidden in a safe, or a facade of gimmickry. As they openly explain;
“Our gin is inspired by London’s rich gin legacy. In terms of botanicals, there really is nothing new. What’s new is how we make the best use of the flavours…We don’t push our ingredients too far to maximise the bottom line; we prefer to maximise the taste of our gin”.
Rounded off at 40% ABV, each is bottled & labelled by hand at the distillery, before making it’s onward journey.
Hanbury Gin; The Style…
And whilst we’re on the subject of the bottle…oh my. A thing of absolute beauty.
Adopting the aesthetics of a high end perfume, it’s ridged body and elegant labelling exudes luxury and class. The floral depictions of the botanical lineup, and beautifully inscribed branding, give a ‘top shelf’ appeal that (in my opinion) would demand your attention from the back bar.
In a heavily saturated market, where look & feel have never been so important, Team Hanbury have nailed it!
Hanbury Gin; The Substance…
So what of the liquid? All well and good that ‘the eye test’ has been successful, and my interest has been piqued. But reaching for the bottle is only half the battle (as important a half as it is). If the gin inside doesn’t live up to the hype of the design, then longevity and retention can’t follow.
I had been invited to the official launch and tasting of Hanbury Gin earlier this year, which I was gutted to have to miss out on. However, in lieu of my attendance, I was lucky enough to be sampling my way through the three gins of the core range; the London Dry, the Rhubarb & Rose and the Orange & Thyme. So what will it be; ‘All the gear & no idea’? Or a case of style & substance in equal measure?…
Hanbury Gin to Taste
Hanbury London Dry Gin
On the nose there is a citrus blast of pink grapefruit and bright tangerine, which combine to give a vibrant and lively zest to the aroma. But it is heavily influenced by a herbaceous backdrop of greenery, which brings a more savoury feel. I pick out a strength of coriander, a soothing eucalyptus/chamomile tea vibe, with a lingering menthol finish to the back notes. The juniper feels bold and generous, steeping the vapours in pine on each return to the glass.
Wowzers. To taste, and my palate is hit by a huge herbal assault of hedgerow goodness. The neat spirit carries a luscious fresh feel, transporting the drinker to greener pastures. Coriander is perhaps the most confident player, but a bolder sense of spicing is also evident; cardamom coats the tongue and lingers deliciously on the back of the throat.
I’m pleased by the weight of the juniper that is retained from the nose, routing the gin in classic sensibilities. But I also enjoy some points of difference that the spirit imparts. There’s a fiery heat on the mouthfeel, with suggestions of fresh ginger. It works in perfect harmony with its counter parts in the citrus department, almost transcending in to ginger biscuit territory. There’s a really interesting, and refreshing, kick of mint on the finish that lingers – it provides a complexity and length that draws you back in for more.
The gin itself carries much more weight that the 40% ABV would suggest – at times, the neat gin borders on a tad too aggressive; I would have loved it to have shown a little more restraint. But while I can’t go as far as to say it is ‘smooth’, and I’d likely not opt to sip this neat, it’s still a very enjoyable tasting.
The gin is crying out for a mixer, and would be perfectly at home in a classic G&T. That said, the citrus and spice notes are equally suited to a Negroni.
Hanbury Rhubarb & Rose Gin
Now. If you’re going to write ‘Rhubarb’ on the bottle, then you sure as hell better make sure that the gin tastes of rhubarb! It sounds obvious, but it’s a simple ask on which so many fail.
There’s no such failures here. It’s a delight!
The nose is stacked to the rafters with delicious and fresh aromas of sweet cooked rhubarb, which carry through to the tasting. I worried that the rose would be overpowering, but this profile has been balanced by a deft hand. Rather than entering the unpleasant realms of soapy disappointment, it is delivered with precision and poise to complement the fruitier star of the centre stage.
The gin retains the spice and classic credentials of the London Dry, whilst also delivering an elevated level of smoothness on the mouth feel. Alongside a ginger ale mixer, this has ‘Summer Sipper’ written all over it!
Better yet, Rhubarb & Rose Negroni anyone?…
For me, this is the pick of the bunch. Superb.
Hanbury Orange & Thyme Gin
Unfortunately, the Orange & Thyme is (surprisingly) not the one for me.
I’m a huge fan of citrus forward gins, but there’s something about the expression that doesn’t really work.
I do really enjoy how prominent the orange is on the nose – it’s bright, bold & boisterous. But to my personal taste, the combination of orange and thyme don’t deliver as I’d hoped on the palate. It edges on being ‘soapy’, which leads to unfair concerns of the flavour profile being a little synthetic.
Don’t let this detract from the wider range, which I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Others will try the Orange & Thyme, and it’ll be their BFF. But personally, I feel improvements could be made in the balance of the key namesake botanicals.
Best suited to a Negroni for sure, where the weight of the citrus could add character to the complex heavyweights of the cocktail.
Hanbury Gin; The Spirit of Islington
So there you have it. A thoroughly enjoyable introduction to Islington – and whilst I may not have made it to the cobbled streets of London in person for the launch, it was great to get a taste of Hanbury in the Midlands.
My overall view is positive. I can see what the guys are trying to do and I like the early strides that are being made. A lot. The design is dripping with class, and the gins give you a taste of the ambition of a youthful brand looking to make their mark on the juniper scene. These bottles certainly wouldn’t look out of place on the shelves of Islington’s plentiful eateries.
The Rhubarb and Rose is superb, and I can heartily recommend it for your glasses this summer. The London Dry is an enjoyable take on the classic, albeit I’d perhaps prefer a little more balance on the spicing and finish. My slight disappointment with the Orange & Thyme, to my personal taste, presents an opportunity for further improvement that will only see the Hanbury stock rise further.
So has Hanbury Gin achieved what it set out to do? It’s certainly on the right track, and a welcome addition to Islington. In much the same way as the third longest escalator in Europe, things are looking up for Hanbury Gin.
With huge thanks to Hanbury Gin for my complementary bottle of their London Dry Gin, and miniature samples of the Rhubarb & Rose and Orange & Thyme expressions.
Be sure to get following one of London’s newest distilleries to see how the next chapters of their exciting journey unfold;
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