Nicholson Gin

Nicholson Gin – A quick history lesson

The history of Nicholson gin can be traced back to 1736 when production started in Clerkenwell. From 1808 they were known as J&W Nicholson & Co and went on to become one of the great spirit producers of Victorian England. In the 1920s and 1930s, Nicholson Gin was heralded as an essential ingredient of many cocktails. It was strongly commended in the original Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930 and similarly lauded in The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails.

Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the J&W Nicholson & Co. remained in family hands and along with the gin production they also build up Nicholson Pubs (which are now part of the Mitchell & Butlers Group).  In 1961, they sold the Clerkenwell site to Ind Coope and it was distilled elsewhere under contract. Then in the 1980s, the whole business – pubs and all – was sold to Allied Breweries. Unfortunately, they had no interest in the producing gin and so production was stopped and Nicholson gin dropped out of existence.

Jump forward to 2017, with the gin craze in full swing, and Tim Walker and Nicholas Browne, cousins and direct descendants of the original founders, decided to resurrect Nicholson gin from the ashes. After obtaining the original recipe, they enlisted the help of Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers and set about recreating this classic gin.  They spent months tasting batches and tweaking the recipe to make sure that it stayed true to its roots but would also stand up to today’s competition.

Once they got approval on the taste they then started to focus on the design of the bottle and label. They searched through the company archives for inspiration and the resulting design reflects both the importance of the Nicholson family in the history of gin as well as their links to London, cricket, and the MCC

Nicholson & Cricket

Now, would probably be a good time to talk about the link between Nicholson Gin and Cricket. It all started in the 1860s. William Nicholson, a first-class cricketer for the MCC, Middlesex, and England, loaned the MCC the funds to purchase the freehold of Lord’s Ground, thereby saving the future of the Club and the home of cricket for future generations. Later, he funded the construction of the Pavilion that stands today, affectionately know at the time as “The Gin Palace”.

It is said that to mark William Nicholson’s generosity, the MCC changed their colours to the famous yellow and red (‘egg & bacon’) instantly recognisable across the sporting world and which were and are the colours of Nicholson Gin.

So… What does it taste like?

Before tasting, I had a quick read of the bottle “…Juniper led, with citrus notes from coriander and a touch of spice” .…sounds delightfull and right up my street!

As soon as I popped the lid my senses were hit with strong, almost creamy juniper and a hint of fresh orange.  On the palate, juniper comes first, followed by citrus but this falls away quite quickly to leave a long spicy finish.  Nothing shouts too loud in this gin, its rolls along quite steadily and will give those that are looking for a more tradition gin a real treat.

When mixed with tonic you get a slightly different flavour profile, the citrus comes out at the end with the spices coming to the fore and the juniper bubbling along underneath the whole time.  There is also a slight hint of liquorice in the aftertaste which is quite pleasing.

In short, its a perfect homage to gins history. It has enough tradition in it (the strong juniper profile) to please old school gin lovers but the slight addition of more citrus flavours does bring it in line with more contemporary gins.  I’m still to try it out as anything other than a G&T but that will have to wait… I so enjoyed as a G&T that my bottle is now empty!

Big thanks to the guys at Nicholson Gin for sending me a bottle of their lovely gin to try! You can find out more about them on their website here, or get social with them on FacebookTwitter or Instagram


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