Peter Allison is a Scotsman who lives in Spain and sells English alcohol. It’s not as strange as it sounds. Allison is the brand ambassador for The London No. 1 Gin, a brand launched by his employer, Gonzalez Byass, ten years ago. Gin in Spain, it turns out, is a big deal (Google it). The Spanish drink more of it than anyone else, and accordingly have high standards. I met Allison recently when he dropped by the GFR office with a blue bottle of The London No. 1, or so it seemed.
“It’s not the bottle, it’s the product itself,” Allison explained, “the colour comes from gardenia flowers.”
Gardenias from Holland are one of the 12 botanicals that go into The London No. 1, which is produced by master distiller Charles Maxwell at his Thames Distillers facility in London. A full list of them is on their website, thelondonno1.com. Allison, who Tweets as @pwdallison, explained the gardenias are not just in the gin for colour, or even flavour, but also because they impart just a slight sense of oil which smooths out the taste. That taste is rendolent (I happily learnt from experience at our meeting) of Croation juniper (of course!), of Seville orange and Italian lemon and bergamot, and a herbal note, he explains, that comes from Provençal savoury. Allison claims that The London No. 1 is the only gin to use savoury as a flavouring botanical. It’s a complex and interest piquing drink, and sipped neat I wanted to go back for more tastes to try and isolate what was going on.
Allison think gin is quietly becoming a big thing beyond Spain, especially in the Angloshpere. He likens it to the craft beer movement, and says that although total sales aren’t growing, the percentage of craft or boutique gin sales is. Of course, the rise in fancy cocktail culture hasn’t hurt either.
The London No. 1 Gin is available here and now at the LCBO: $45.45 for a 750ml bottle, search the inventory number 358564. And while summer may be waning, there are still more than a few G&T’s to be drunk yet. Once we’d tasted, I decided I might want a touch more in my glass, so I stalled Peter Allison by asking him how he would make the perfect gin and tonic. Here’s what he said:
Peter Allison’s Perfect Spanish Style Gin and Tonic
- Use a balloon wine glass that funnels the aromas into the nose.
- Use good good quality ice in nice big blocks.
- Fill up the glass, almost to the top, with the ice.
- Add 50 ml (or 2 oz) of London No. 1 Gin.
- Use good quality tonic water, like Fever Tree or Fentimans, that’s not too sweet.
- Add 100 ml (or 4 oz) of the tonic water (aiming for a ratio of 2:1 with the gin).
- Add the zest, and only the zest, of a lemon and an orange.
- Add a sprig of rosemary, and use it as a stirrer.