Boodles Review By Jim Trotman
Boodles London Dry Gin
Style: London Dry
Cock Russell and Company Established 1845 Tasted: Mar 30, 2014 & September 7, 2014
Method: Shaken with ice. “Made with Labour and Patience” – their website.
Average price: $25-$29
I first came upon Boodles Gin in a passage in Barnaby Conrad III’s authoritative book, The Martini, An Illustrated History of an American Classic, which I received as a Christmas present from a family member who knows me only too well. Early in the book (page 35) a passage recounts Sir Winston Churchill’s own Martini method.
It said he made them “by pouring gin into a pitcher and glancing briefly at a bottle of vermouth across the room.” That struck a chord with me, as I enjoy gin the way most people do not, simply on its own, chilled and unsullied by additives or as I call them, “subtractives.” Later in the book it is revealed (page 107) that Churchill insisted using only the gin especially made for his London club, Boodles. The name stuck with me and later, visiting family in Dallas, there it was, sitting on a shelf at Sigel’s Liguors. I ponied up the quite reasonable $28.00 or so and we’ve been buddies ever since.
Sometimes our buddyship has been a long distance affair.
Short version is that it is not available here in my area. I have to drive 2 plus hours into Hampton, Virginia for the nearest source. We all have crosses to bear.
As with wines, I like a little sniff before tasting. The pleasant, clean spirit waft is warm and inviting. Then once over the lips, you know for certain that Boodles is a gin that is made for martinis. A near total lack of anything harsh, it is smooth and as enveloping as the London fog, and my tongue feels like it is being fitted with a saddle of love. (I get romantic when I’m happy) To take the fog reference a little further, the closer you get, the more things are revealed. Juniper notes are proper and present yet mellow.
The herb factors are enhanced by spices we usually associate with holidays, with subtle traces of rosemary, sage and slight nutmeg. Unlike most gins, there are no citrus notes. Their website insist this is because the distillers expect that if the consumer wants them, they can add them. That’s practical. I usually only add an olive, if that, and this suits me just fine.
Photo Note: In October 2013 the bottle and label were redesigned. It’s wide shape is distinctive and the new design has the name embossed on the sides so one can still pick it out when turned to the skinny side. Smart. Since we liked both designs and Russ had both, we include them both here.
Boo-yah! Five stars, Five Olives, Etc.
Russ Lay’s Review
Leave it to my partner Jim to frame his first exposure to Boodles in a literary scene complete with a link to Sir Winston Churchill.
My experience was not quite so academic.
It was 1984 and I found myself as a commercial banker in Atlanta. Bosses, coworkers, clients and neighbors were still knocking back my beverage of choice—beer—but I also noticed in certain social situations, wine and spirits were more commonly consumed.
I didn’t find many spirituous liquors I disliked, but gin was a beverage to which I took an instant liking, and it was gin that I adopted as my “adult” drink when PBR didn’t fit into the social setting.
I started with the two usual suspects—Tanqueray, my first “favorite” and then Bombay. Sometime around 1986 I walked into one of the many liquor stores along Buford Highway to buy a bottle of Bombay. Those familiar with that part of Atlanta, in the Doraville/Chamblee area know the type of store I am talking about. Walls of glass on three sides, blaring fluorescent light and neon liquor signs bright enough to be seen from the International Space Station.
This store was new to me and was loaded with kitsch, including a giant barrel of water, that when activated, swirled like a flushed commode, instantly chilling a bottle of bubbly or white wine. Ambling over to the gin section, I noticed a brand that was new to me. Right next to the giant swirling barrel, actually, so it was a short amble. A blue logo resembling a coat of arms of sorts, sporting two lions holding up the Boodles name. It was perfectly British so I had to try it.
And it was love at first site, for me, and my bride, another gin fan.
If I had bothered to read a book on martinis as Jim did and discovered the link to Chruchill and his club, I might have started out as a Boodle’s drinker from the start.
The botanicals are what attracted me to gin in the first place, especially juniper, which is the centerpiece of most good gins. Tanqueray is a good gin but there were times it left me with too much of a hint of pine tree lingering on my lips. Bombay dialed the juniper back a bit compared to Tanqueray, but some of the other botanicals overshadowed the drink, in my opinion, if used in a martini.
Boodles hit the perfect balance.
Open the bottle and take in a deep nose and you will be greeted with a clean alcohol smell, followed by juniper and to my nose, sage and rosemary. Southerners know good moonshine and the most important quality is smoothness.
If Boodles were moonshine, on the palate it would be considered as clean a ‘shine made with pure, Blue Ridge Mountain water from an unspoiled creek.
Pass it over the tongue and there it is—perfect juniper without the heat of cheap gin or the Christmas tree smell and taste of gins over-infused with juniper. And then, as Jim noted, the unique flavors of coriander, rosemary, sage and even nutmeg present themselves. As one who prefers my gin mixed to a martini, Boodles is one of the few that I can drink straight up, shaken, chilled and not stirred. Mix it with just about any tonic water or traditional tonic mix and Boodles still maintains its flavor profile while seeming to absorb the ingredients in the tonic and a slash of lime.
In fact, Boodle’s should have been our first review because it was the catalyst that started this blog. In North Carolina, Boodles is not available in our state controlled liquor stores and it was, through conversation, that Jim and I discovered Boodles was our mutual favorite and something we both brought home whenever we traveled out of state. Indeed, Boodles will be the gin we declare “king of the hill” and our tastings and reviews will in part be dedicated to determining if any other gins measure up or surpass Boodle’s in our humble opinions.