Oranges are such bright, happy fruits – I know some people hate them, but they are one of my favorites, and seem to be everywhere right now. I’ve been tasting gins recently (as I do!) and became aware with all of the oranges hanging about that I’ve only been identifying citrus strength and nature in my notes as a part of a flavor profile rather than by specific fruit, and could use some home schooling in the citrus peel department.
There are so many citrus options in gins today: lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, tangerine, orange, bitter orange, seville orange and lime are the ones I’ve seen listed, but there are likely others as well. Oranges seemed like a logical place to start.
I chose the three gins to compare carefully as I wanted two with orange peel and one without, but I didn’t want the two with orange peel to be so similar that their common botanicals could lead me astray. I looked at comparing some UK and North American gins together, but my purist side won out and I settled on three UK gins: Bombay Sapphire, a London dry style gin that only uses lemon peel for citrus, Sipsmith London Dry, a London dry style gin, and Hendrick’s, a non-traditional style gin, which both have lemon and orange peel in them. I’ll likely repeat this botanical tasting with a set of NA gins in the future, so stay tuned.
Result: Just by scent, the three gins revealed very different citrus characters – Hendrick’s citrus is delicate, Sipsmith’s smells bright and warm and Bombay Sapphire’s citrus smells crisp and clean. Tasting them neat really revealed the influences of the different types of citrus, despite their different characters. Hendrick’s is a sweet, complex, and delicate gin, where juniper and citrus play a supporting role to the more dominant yet delicate and warm floral and cucumber notes. On the other hand, Sipsmith’s London Dry is a juniper and citrus bomb that is rounded by a complex warm spiciness at the finish. However both of them, when tasted together with Bombay Sapphire, showed sweet, warm orange notes in strong contrast to Bombay’s light, yet crisp, clean and simple lemony citrus. Not surprisingly, all three worked well in a gin and tonic with lemon peel.
Bottom line: As soon as I focused my attention on tasting for orange, the Hendrick’s and Sipsmith orange influences became obvious and showed themselves to be completely different than Bombay Sapphire’s lemon. Orange seems to lend a warm sweetness to the gins that compliments and highlights complex florals and warmer spices, whereas lemon on its own, while clean and delicate, showcases more peppery spices and earthy tones, bringing a completely different flavour profile to the gin. Bombay was such a good comparison point with the lemon on its own that I will probably carry on using it for exploring the affects of other citrus botanicals in the future.
Go ahead. Try this at home! Just maybe not on a school night.