Hendrick’s Gin launched in 1999. It likely needs no introduction.
Hendrick’s Gin was launched by William Grant & Sons at a time when gin wasn’t the diverse, thriving category it is today. A clear callback to gin’s forbears, the apothecary style bottle suggests comparison to Genevers and a time when gin was a medicine. The Edwardian era advertising campaign has helped make the brand a stalwart both in bars and in homes.
A lot of what Hendrick’s does (and does well) set the stage for some of the contemporary gin fashions we see today. Firstly, process-wise the gin is distilled using a Carter-head still. No longer made, they were built with gin in mind. Botanicals are placed in a copper basket, and the vapor passes through them. It’s a very specific kind of “gin basket” designed by the Carter Brothers.
But they also use a traditional pot still method where botanicals are macerated for 24 hours (all but the rose and cucumber) and distilled. Hendrick’s combines the two, marrying the best of the deeper flavors from the pot still, and the lighter flavor from the Carter-head.
After blending the two distillates, they add rose and cucumber essence before dilution. It’s thee two notes that I think make Hendrick’s standout. Those two notes are the reason why people who might have written off gin as “just juniper” came back. And I think the popularity of this gin is the reason why distillers have felt emboldened to try wilder and newer things.
Hendrick’s seems tame by today’s contemporary gin standards. But the history of what it meant when it launched, and just how much impact Hendrick’s has had on the modern gin market should not be forgotten.
The nose certainly has juniper, but I find the musky hint of rose lightens it and gives it a floral forward impression. Sweet orange, lime zest and a hint of elderflower as well. The pine notes give it structure, but the floral notes give it a unique character.
The palate exudes a backbone of a very classic gin. You get the angelica, coriander, juniper and orris root accord. Sitting on top of that Hendrick’s has a surprising amount of citrus, especially mid-palate where orange and lime again resurface, almost with a candy-like note. Late palate a faint hint of yarrow (that slight salty licorice flavor) and black pepper.
Hendrick’s finish is fairly long, with a serious juniper backed astringency. Notes of soaked rose petal, lime, Persian cucumbers, Earl Grey Tea and a surprising bitterness. A dull warmth of the spirit emanates quietly from the back of the palate. Very interesting.
Unusual? Perhaps in 1999.
Good? Yes, still good. Even neat.
I’ve gone through many bottles of Hendrick’s in my life. In fact, a Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic was perhaps the first gin cocktail I ever ordered out, and it changed my life. It takes me back personally; however, I recommend it to nearly anyone. The subtle rose notes blossom while juniper and citrus round out the palate. Highly Recommended.
I also find that for a 44% ABV gin, Hendrick’s works surprisingly well in a Negroni. The bitterness of the Campari amplifies the bitterness that the gin seems to bring on its own, while juniper rises to the fore. It’s creamy, rich, and almost platonic to me. Highly Recommended.
The rose is the perfect note to make your next Clover Club Cocktail something special, while it sits just as nicely on the top of an Aviation or Blue Moon Cocktail. I remember one of my favorites being the Leap Year Cocktail. But Hendrick’s is a versatile gin that bartenders are right for loving, because it works well from Gimlet to Martini, and even in the Gin and Juice.
One particular cocktail to me seems to have emerged as a gin drink of choice in places where you might not normally see people drinking gin nor cocktails. The Hendrick’s dirty Martini is something of an underground specialty. If you go to a dive bar and ask the bartender for a gin drink, it’s happened nearly half a dozen times where she’ll go to the olive tub and a bottle of Hendrick’s. Some gin drinkers and cocktail aficionados may turn their nose up at the mere though of it; however, I find something oddly charming and delightful about it. Dirty Martinis are not my thing. But if you’re going to mix olive brine and gin, it’s surprising how the juniper, citrus, and cucumber notes complement it so well.
Hendrick’s has with it the burden of history. The burden of generally being seen at the top of its game. If you ask the average drinker (notice, I didn’t say gin drinker!) to name a top shelf gin. This is probably the gin they’ll name.
It’s been around for so long that bartenders and long-time gin drinkers may even be tired of it. Average folks are tired of the peculiar marketing, the cucumber shaped blimps and the reverse marriage proposals.
But I’d be remiss if I let any of that get in the way of it. I still think Hendrick’s is a well made gin. Worthy for fans of classic gins to dip their toes into the world of contemporary gins, and a good gin to start someone on if they’re unsure of gin.
It’s no longer the only game in town, but it’s still a game worth checking out.
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