Gin and Tonic

Gordon’s Gin or Gilbey’s Gin?

Types of GinYes, I know. I’ve written my share of posts about alcoholic beverages. First, there was the post on rum, then the one about wine, and more recently ones on gin and cocktails.  I write these posts not because alcohol is always on my mind (disputable by some :-)), but rather because I am fascinated by all the different alcoholic beverages that exist and the even greater variety of drinks that result when you mix these beverages together or with other non-alcoholic beverages. For instance, think about how different a rum and coke is from a vodka and coke, even though both look the same and vary only by the clear spirit used to make each drink. Then compare the latter to a Bloody Mary (a cocktail made of vodka and tomato juice), the difference this time being the mixer used.

Well, that’s all great and good, but today I would like to talk about a difference that is a little more subtle. Imagine making the same drink, say a gin-and-tonic (G&T), and varying the type of gin used. Do you think this difference would be noticeable to anyone other than the greatest connoisseurs of gin? I didn’t think so for the longest while and then one day, I clearly learned from experience that I was…wrong! Allow me to start this story from the beginning.

Gin and TonicIn my early twenties, my drink of choice was a gin and tonic. I loved G&Ts because they were so refreshing. Poured over a lot of ice, a cool G&T went down smooth and fizzy and caused me little trouble the following morning, what with gin being a white spirit (as the say: the darker the spirit, the worse the hangover). Whenever I would order a G&T in Nairobi, though, I would often get asked a question that I was rarely clear on how to answer. The question was “What gin would you like, Gilbey’s or Gordon’s?”. Frankly, I thought all gins were essentially the same, and since Gilbey’s was usually less expensive, that is what I would choose. That was until one fateful afternoon in Arusha.

On a beautiful sunny Sunday, a couple of years ago, I found myself traveling from Moshi to Nairobi, via Arusha, where I had a one-hour layover before changing shuttles. This was not a problem for me because this layover was at Arusha’s The Impala Hotel, where I absolutely love hanging out on the outdoor terrace. I love the warm mid-day sun on this terrace, with the beautiful blue of the swimming pool not far away. The people on the terrace always seem particularly jovial, possibly because the majority of them are on holiday. Whatever the case, this joyful mood is always contagious for me. Being at The Impala Hotel terrace instantly puts me in a happy mood. And so, on that beautiful, sunny Sunday as I sat on the terrace waiting for my shuttle’s departure, I ordered a drink—a gin and tonic to be precise.

When my drink finally arrived, I took a sip while letting the pleasure of my surroundings soak in. Wow! My drink tasted unusually good. I sipped and sipped and sipped, thinking that maybe, my drink tasted so good because I was in such a happy place. But no, after a while, I had to concede: this G&T was special. Not one to leave a mystery uninvestigated, I decided to find out more from the bartender. As I got up to order another G&T (you know I had to! :-)), I asked my bartender what he had used to make my drink. He seemed a bit confused by my question and told me that he had simply given me a double Gordon’s Gin as well as the tonic water which had come in a bottle so I could mix my drink for myself. The difference, I concluded, must have come from using Gordon’s instead of Gilbey’s.

When I finally got to Nairobi, I put my hypothesis to the test. When next asked what gin I wanted when ordering a gin and tonic, I alternated between choosing Gilbey’s and Gordon’s. Whenever I ordered Gilbey’s, I got the same G&T that I had become accustomed to prior to my experiment. Whenever I ordered Gordon’s, my drink tasted as superb as it did that afternoon in Arusha.

Gordon's GinI quickly became a convert. For me, if you ask me whether I prefer Gilbey’s or Gordon’s, my answer is clear: it’s definitely Gordon’s. I am not sure what makes Gordon’s a tastier gin—I am not a connoisseur of gin like that—but in laywoman’s terms, there’s just something more aromatic about Gordon’s. I like to say it has a “rounder” taste by which maybe I mean it has a more complex, symphony of flavors (as opposed to being flat and one-dimensional), but that’s just me. After all, taste is a highly personal thing.

How about you? Which do you prefer? If asked Gilbey’s or Gordon’s, what is your response? Why? I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Until the next time,
Biche

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Photo Credit: Bethany Khan

  • http://deezy22kitten.blogspot.com Loco

    Hehe, personally I tend to lay off the spirits, they make me too sick! And it all started with that sapphire pictured there! The horror I went through! LOL!

    I’m thinking of starting a review website, and I would love your input in it, seeing as how your blog is absolutely fantastic. If you’re interested do let me know and we’ll discuss.

    cHiArZ!!

    • http://www.ChickAboutTown.com Biche

      Hi Loco,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

      Bombay Sapphire – say no more!:-) Though I am an avid gin drinker, there is something about Bombay Sapphire that I just can’t stand – that’s despite it supposedly being a very good quality gin.

      Thanks for the kudos on this site. I’d definitely love to hear more about the review website you would like to start. Tell me more by email. My address is simply: Biche@ChickAboutTown.com. I look forward to hearing more from you.

      Biche

      P.S. I just visited your blog, and I love that poetry entry from April 19. :-)

  • Citizen of the World

    Biche,
    I have never compared Gordon’s and Gilbeys, as I am a sporadic gin drinker. And when I do, it’s usualy a Uganda Waragi( a drink that I shan’t rubbish for purely sentimental attachment reasons). And then one day, one fateful day, I had a gin and tonic made with Bombay Sapphire. A party in my mouth is what I can only describe it as. Wonderful taste, smell and with the crispness(is there such a word?)of the tonic, I was in heaven. Since then, I have been experimenting throwing all kinds of herbs, Rosemary, Mint, lemon rind into my waragi bottle for a few days. It’s not quite Bombay Sapphire but it does hold its end as a one-off drink, boutique Waragi I call it. To the next few drinks at Dar-alive…Citizen of the World

    • http://www.ChickAboutTown.com Biche

      Hi Citizen of The World!

      How great it is to see you, here on ChickAboutTown. Welcome!

      Seeing your choice of handles, I must ask: are you now back safely at home? Or are you still gallivanting the world? :-) (Gosh, I dreamed of your Easter Sunday Dinner/Lunch all day that day and would have loved to be nowhere else more than hanging out at your place! I hope it was as fabulous as it sounded when you were planning it! :-))

      Speaking of boutique Waragi (a drink definitely NOT to be rubbished – I tell you Tanzanian Konyagi can’t even begin to hold a candle to it!), I’ve had some of your wonderful Waragi on occasion. Remember the weekend I was in town and you had limes from your home country? Yummy! Rosemary, mint, lemon rind? Why Citizen – your just so creative! That should make sense though because gins differ simply because of the flavoring added to the base spirit. Which flavor have you liked most?

      But that’s where our agreement comes to an end. Despite Bombay Sapphire being a supposedly really good gin, it’s the one gin that I categorically don’t drink. To me it tastes horrendous. Mais comme ils disent, les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas. :-)

      Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing more from you on ChickAboutTown.

      Big Hugs,
      Biche

  • http://psst-bigworld@blogspot.com Cons

    I have to say that I have recently had to ask myself what my favourite drink is – Gin does not do it for me anymore… (as such I am not able to comment on the debate raging here :-)) One of the commentators said Bombay Saphire setting off a party in his/her mouth – I’d be hard pressed to say that about any one alchoholic drink!! :-/

    • http://www.ChickAboutTown.com Biche

      Hi Cons!

      Welcome back here. I haven’t seen you here in a while. It’s a great pleasure!

      By Gin not doing it for you anymore, are you referring to waragi? Chica, how can you sell out? ;-)

      So what seems to be taking its place? For me, someone recently mixed me a vodka and Krest Bitter Lemon, and to quote Citizen, that set off a party in my mouth! Yummy!

      Talk to me.

      Biche

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  • zelou

    Gilbey’s… definitely. it gets better mixed with tonic i think. the one i would not recommand is larios, which tastes quite acid lol. Shame i can’t find some gilbey’s in my small french town anymore, not even the blue saphirre (but i couldn’t afford the blue one lol)

  • http://www.personalchefnh.com Richard Sharpe

    I really like tangeray better

  • http://www.ChickAboutTown.com Biche

    Hi Zelou and Richard,

    To both of you, welcome to ChickAboutTown!

    Zelou, thanks for weighing in about which of these two gins you prefer. I have never tried Larios but I will keep my eye out for it (out of curiosity). By blue sapphire did you mean Bombay Sapphire? That has to be my least favorite gin ever!

    Richard, I have heard good things about Tanqueray, but I don’t think I’ve ever had some myself. Thanks for weighing in too!

    Biche

  • Matthew D. Erulkar

    Love Bombay Dry London Gin, but couldn’t afford it this weekend and opted for Gilbey’s because it is cheaper. I have drunk Gordons and found it tasting either oily or like paint thinner. Gilbey’s really does not have a pronounced character of any sort, but I prefer that to the citric tones of Beefeaters. So far, Gilbey’s is not bad. I detect some juniper and other aromatics but nowhere near the complexity in Bombay’s gin’s. BTW Biche, Bombay Sapphire is as characterless as any poor gin I’ve drunk. Not too impressed with Tanqueray, either.

    • http://www.ChickAboutTown.com Biche

      Hi Matthew,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown! Thanks for your feedback on your experience with Gilbey’s–you seem to be quite the gin connoisseur! :-)

      Biche