Gilbey’s Gin

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Gilbey’s Gin recipe dates to the 1870s, when the Gilbey brothers, two veterans of the Crimean war, whose successful wine/spirits merchant business had thrived throughout the second half of the 19th century, expanded their business to include the eponymous gin (called Gilbey’s since 1895). Distilled from grain neutral spirits, it purportedly contains 12 botanicals. It was so popular that the rights to distill it were sold to the US in the 1930s and it has been distilled domestically since then. Currently the rights are owned by Beam Suntory, and the gin has a reputation for being somewhat… inexpensive. 1.75 L can be found for often less than $20, and the smaller sizes can be had for just a few bucks, often appearing in plastic bottles.

But let us not judge a book by its cover. How is Gilbey’s Gin?

Tasting Notes

The nose is classic with plenty of juniper, with orange zest and angelica present as well. The lower notes have the bright, sappy, angelica still accompanied by the orange. The nose is simple, but familiar and inviting. I don’t think I would guess the price by the nose. It’s fresh and generally quite positive.

The palate is assertive and sharp, with lots of classic gin botanicals making an appearance: pine-forward juniper, bitter orange rind, coriander mid-palate— surprisingly obvious for a second and then quickly vanishing from consciousness— the finish is sharply citrus with a mineral-tinged, calciferous/slightly chalky astringency. Quite dry, with a roar of heat that is more expected at this price point.

The finish is moderately long, with that orange/citrus note enduring.

Cocktails

Gilbey’s Gin mixes quite well, and in cocktails, its harsher side is quelled and restrained. More juniper comes forward in cocktails like the gin and tonic, though its harshness, especially towards the finish is why I might be reluctant to recommend it in a martini. As far as mixed drinks go, for a gin that suits the gin and juice, gin and lemonade or gin and grapefruit soda mindset, this works pretty well. For cocktails, I might look elsewhere.

Overall

However, Gilbey’s Gin not without its merit. At the price point, Gilbey’s is acceptable and gets the job done. I recommend it for your next house party, I’d suggest looking elsewhere for your next cocktail party.

10 thoughts on “Gilbey’s Gin”

  1. I’ve only recently begun drinking gin again. An incident as a young man, and a 3 day hangover, steered me away from it, till now. After trying several of the lower shelf offerings, I would rank this as just ok. It does alright, if you mix it a bit stronger than normal. 2 1/2 shots instead of just 2 for instance. If you’re on a budget, you could do a lot worse than this, and pretty good in a Gin & Tonic too…

  2. Aaron,
    Impressive review, I certainly have difficulty pulling out all the notes and nuances you found in this Gin. Overall this is a good party Gin for long drinks at a very good price point but as you say, not for a cocktail party.
    Regards, David.

  3. Hi there Aaron

    I have spent years trying to perfect my take on a great dry martini.
    In spite of trying the far more expensive London drys I believe Gilbeys / Martini extra dry is the perfect combo at a three to one ratio.
    I add four or five Manzilla olives (very salty) a teaspoon of brine, and loads of crushed ice……IN THE GLASS!
    Naturally you have to down it relatively quickly before the ice dilutes the magic.

    Why Gilbeys then? It’s super dry and clean and citrusy……..a proper Loondon dry as it should be.
    I am not into all these new world additions in terms of botanicals, they just muddy the flavor.

    Give it a try!

    Regards Roger

  4. We’re here in the Philippines on holiday and I was looking for a small bottle of acceptable gin, so I tried this one. Hands down a real bargain, making sure to use an ample amount of tonic in the drink. Checking the label, this gin is made in…South Korea! Clearly a local bargain, I have no qualms about using this as a party gin as the price point was spot on and the quality clearly acceptable.

  5. My mother was a gilbey,we always had the classic gin in our drinks cupboard and she always said that we were linked to this famous chain .best drank ice cold with a tonic-lemon.cheers to the gilbeys that have all gone before us!

  6. Did a “brown bag” blind taste test of 6 popular Gin spirits with a group of friends and, surprise!, Gilbey’s won hands-down. Refreshing and not too botanical like so many others (they “try too hard to impress”). Some would say, “so just drink vodka if you want ‘plain’ ,” but Gilbey’s had just enough hints of botanicals to make it interesting. Thank you for the breakdown of what’s in it– very interesting! Glad I found your website

  7. this has been my GIN of choice for many years….not because of it’s price point, but because i enjoy the taste…I REALLY wish it was available in my area….

  8. 1.75 L is 13.99 at CVS & Rite Aid here in Calif.. I’m not very good with tasting notes yet I get a bit of clove from Gilbey’s when I drink it. My dear and recently departed 95-year-old father-in-law got me started on Gilbey’s many years ago when he saw me drinking Gordon’s. He gave much credit to his long life to gardening and martinis and I can’t argue with that one bit.
    He also taught me as was taught to him years ago and probably by a brother Mason that the proper martini is made with lemon zest and not olive. All the lemon flavor is in the peel and fresh lemon right off the tree if you can get it or at a farmer’s market is best. 3 to 1 and a channel knife with one or two rotations around the lemon and held over the glass releases that wonderful lemon oil into the dirnk. The oil floats on top of the martini performing a perfect marriage for the gin and vermouth. If done correctly the individual gin and vermouth are only a faint memory to the palate yet their spirit lives in the lemony goodness. For a good show slice a generous piece of zest and hold it over the drink next to a lighted match. Squeeze the zest so the oil sprays into the flame and explodes in a wonderful show as the oil drops into the drink.
    A little toast from Bernard DeVoto about the dry martini served at the golden hour after a long hard day in the world. “The rat stops gnawing in the wood, the dungeon walls withdraw, the weight is lifted, your pulse steadies and the sun has found your heart, the day was not bad, the season has not been bad, there is sense and even promise in going on.” Cheers.

  9. Nice balance of botanicals and spirit. Clean and smooth and makes a great Collins or martini. High priced gins are fine but really no better for cocktails. This gin is good straight up on ice or chilled in the freezer.

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