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City of London Gins - By Anastasia Wieclawska-Kyriakou
05 Oct 2019

The City of London has a rich gin history.  


During the Gin Craze in the 18th century there was a gin distillery or gin shop in every street in the City, all benefiting from the spices and citrus fruits coming in to the port of London. Following the Gin Act of 1751, the Gin Craze was effectively ended, with very few gin distilleries surviving, and for nearly 200 years there wasn’t a single gin distillery in the City. That is until the City of London Distillery opened in 2012.



Over these 200 years gin distilling techniques were improved, and gin became more refined with more subtle flavours.  Gin was big business and London Dry Gin became the most popular type of gin. Then came the next gin revolution with the advent of the small-batch micro-distilleries, bringing variety, interest and experimentation; new botanicals, new combinations, and best of all, new gins. It was my pleasure to tour the distillery earlier this year, sampling and even conjuring my own special blend during the visit. 


The City of London Distillery opened on 20th December 2012 inside Jonathan Clark’s cocktail bar in Bride Lane, within the City of London. The first gin, loyal to their roots, was a classic London Dry Gin, followed soon after by the celebration of the City of London – Square Mile gin. Since then they’ve added a very popular Sloe gin, the Christopher Wren and an Old Tom gin, and several flavoured gins to their range. 



It was my pleasure to tour the distillery earlier this year, sampling and even conjuring my own special blend during the visit. 


Often referred to as a hidden treasure, the bar at the City of London Distillery - called the COLD bar, is a retro, speakeasy-style cocktail bar that overlooks the striking copper stills of the distillery. The flickering candles and faint aroma of gin vapour that hangs in the air all add to the bar’s unique and cosy atmosphere, and it is THE perfect place to arrange a sampling of the company’s extensive range. 



Winners of the Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for the City of London Dry Gin, Old Tom and the Square Mile, the distillery also won a Gold Award for the Christopher Wren Gin, in the International Wine & Spirit competition. The City of London, Old Tom, Sloe Gin and Square Mile all won Silver Awards, and the Slow Gin was also given the Spirits Business Double Master Award. So they certainly are all gins well worth sampling! 


The first gin, Authentic Dry (41.3%), was launched in 2012, and was created by the Master Distiller Johnathon Clarke. It’s a classically balanced London Dry Gin, and was the gin to kick start COLD as a brand and cemented it as one of the key players at the heart of London’s gin revival. The botanicals include Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Liquorice Root, Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, and Grapefruit Peel, and the bottle stands strong as the flagship offering and offers great quality for its price. The nose is Classic London Dry, with a strong juniper upfront, and fresh lemon oil, with Juniper taking centre stage, bright citrus, followed by the other aromatics, and a subtle earthy spice to balancing the palate. It has a long and dry finish, with lingering citrus notes. 


The Christopher Wren (45.3%), is an awesome gin, but not for the faint hearted. Inspired by the architecture of famed London architect Christopher Wren this gin celebrates the buildings that make up the iconic skyline of London’s city centre. An excellent collaboration between Johnathon Clarke and the then Master Distillery of Tanqueray - Tom Nicholls, this gin again represents a very classic London Dry expression. This time focusing on just one citrus, dried orange peel, the profile is rounder and richer with the earthy spice and bitter sweet balance taking centre stage.  The botanicals include Juniper, Coriander Seed, Liquorice Root, Angelica Root, and Orange Peel. It is soft and rounded on the nose with juniper still the leading note followed by bitter sweet candied orange. A subtle underlying floral note lightens the nose. The palate has the sweet notes of candied orange, and a touch of white pepper with a solid backbone of juniper. Seemingly a little sweeter and softer than the Authentic, this gin leaves a pleasant oily texture in the mouth. Its finish is long as the orange persists along with the Juniper. All in all a little earthier and woodier than the Authentic. One of my personal favourites. 


Launched in 2016 and named after the City Of London, the Square Mile (47.3%) gin is undeniably at home in classic gin-led cocktails. It shines in martinis, White Ladies, Gimlets and Collins. With a higher ABV of 47.3% it shines through against bold flavours and still delivers a solid punch. The botanicals include Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Liquorice Root, Orange Peel, lemon Peel, and Grapefruit Peel offering an immediate piney punch of juniper, laced with dry peppery notes on the nose. A subtle undertone of fresh peeled citrus lifts the character, and this is unmistakably a classic dry gin! The palate is bold and dry with the juniper remaining the star here, and hints of lemon and grapefruit lending a little zing. There is a subtle softness from the dried orange and the liquorice makes for a great progression of flavour. The higher ABV becomes more apparent on the finish, warming and peppery as it goes down, and leaving lots of pine and lemon on the finish. This is the perfect cocktail gin.


A classic British liqueur, Sloe Gin (28%) became popular when farmers would use blackthorn bushes to separate their fields and keep animals in, they found that soaking the normally bitter and tart berries from this tree in gin would overtime bring out the residual sweetness and plum like flavour of the berry. This simple and classic rendition, using the Authentic Dry as the space and soaking Sloe Berries for between 6-9 months to extract as much depth of flavour as possible has resulted in la crème de la crème of Sloe gins. Its botanicals are a simple combination of Authentic Dry Gin and Sloe berries, leading to a sweet and fruity nose, full of forest fruits and with little oak and nutty notes. The palate is dominated by rich stewed plums and black cherries, and a little marzipan delivers depth and character. It is sweet but not cloyingly so, as some juniper shines through the top notes, and the finish is sweet and full of rich dark fruit. Mouth-watering and moreish, I enjoyed this with a slice of lemon to cut the sweetness.


An older style of gin pre-dating London Dry, Old Tom was originally born as a response to poor-quality alcohol being produced in people’s own homes in London. Sugar and strongly spiced botanicals were added to make it more palatable and to hide the flavour of impurities in the spirit. Now it has been used to create a more boldly flavoured gin, (43.3%) using some extra spice that is then balanced by a small amount of sugar. This is still by no means a sweet gin, rather a balanced one to produce a more rounded end profile. The botanicals include Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, Cardamom, and Cassia Bark. It is best served with a good ginger ale and a cinnamon stick. There is a little alcohol on the nose, with definite notes of orange, however, sharp pine notes and aromatic baking spices make for a beautifully blended aroma. The palate is well balanced, with a subtle sweetness accompanying the orange and cassia notes, and the citrus leaning more toward bright lemon on the palate. The soft sweetness contused with rounded orange and spice notes makes for a marvellous finish. 


Developed for Craft Gin Club in a run of 30,000 bottles, then launched it at the end of 2018, the Six Bells Lemon (41.3%) takes its name from the classic nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements.’ Rather than a normal flavoured gin with full focus on one flavour followed by other botanicals, this is unmistakably a gin drinkers’ gin. Well-balanced, and highlighting the characteristics of the prominent botanical without overpowering the rest. Botanicals include Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Liquorice Root, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, Grapefruit Peel, with aromatic lemon oil dominating the nose. Juniper is still present and adds a crispy dry undertone, with hints of camomile and honey. The palate is layers of lemon flavour over a classic dry gin base, as sherbet like lemon plays alongside more aromatic heavy lemon oils. At its core there is still juniper and a soft earthy note, so this is a perfect bright summer gin. The finish is much shorter than the previous gins, however, it is full of light fresh lemon notes, and leaves a nice refreshed feeling to the palate.  


Launched alongside the Six Bells, the Murcian Orange (41.3%) acts as a nice contrast in flavour profile. Where the Six Bells is bright, fresh and summery this is more spiced, with a rich rounded profile highlighting delicious bittersweet orange with some more robust aromatics. Perfect in Negronis - or anything else where you want a gin with a little extra spice and punch. Its botanicals are Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Liquorice Root, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, and Cardamom, so it is has a big orange and juniper nose, with menthol top notes and a cassia led spice. The palate is bold and warming, with bitter orange and juniper leading, although the menthol persists but is more subtle than on the nose. It has a full, rounded and silky smooth finish, and the orange leaves a subtle impression of sweetness while the pine and spice notes give a pleasant kick. 


The latest release in the City Of London range, released in February 2019, and only by chance available for my tasting was the fabulous Rhubarb & Rose (41.3%). It is unlike any other rhubarb gins on the market, and I have probably tasted them all! It uses plenty of fresh rhubarb and dried rose petals in both the pot and basket during distillation, so that the rhubarb lends a subtle vegetal bitterness that is balanced by the light floral top notes of the rose.  Botanicals include Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Liquorice Root, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, Rhubarb, and of course the Rose petal. Its nose is dry vegetal rhubarb notes, with subtle sweet berry and pine, and the palate is a pleasant pithy lemon peel, mild but pleasant bitterness, subtle floral notes and big juniper character. Bittersweet, and softly vegetal and juniper led, the finish leaves you craving another sip.  Just wonderful. 


If you are in the City, tours of the distillery are available, and the bar COLD - on Bride Street is open to the public, HOWEVER, places are limited so booking is essential. 




Address: 22-24 Bride Ln, London EC4Y 8DT, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7936 3636


Editor’s note – Stanna has a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts, cuisines, or an expert judge in matters of taste which makes her a connoisseur. She has written articles on food and beverage while she released a book titled  “Stop Whining and Star Wining” - A Wine drinker's Guide to Cypriot Wine. She travels for any excuse of a new experience in this field.

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