Meet Hendrick's, the gin conceived over an afternoon of high tea, surrounded by fresh rose blooms and cucumber sandwiches.
You’d probably recognise Hendricks from its unique black apothecary-style bottles and vintage paper labelling. This bottle design is so beloved that it’s not uncommon for bars to repurpose it as water jugs! Yet, its the sauce inside that's captured most of the attention in the spirits community, for Hendrick's has always been known as a "gin made oddly" - a term the brand itself happily endorses.
Uniquely, Hendricks boasts the addition of two hero botanicals: Bulgarian roses and cucumbers! The idea for these unique ingredients came to David Stewart, who was working for William Grant & Sons when he entered a garden for tea and was struck by aromas of blooming rose petals and cucumber sandwiches.
Later on, a chemist called Lesley Gracie was recruited to make this unique gin formulation come to life. It's rumoured that as a child, Lesley would even boil up special brews from the twigs and plants she foraged to serve to her family and friends. These days, Lesley puts her love for botanicals and foraging to good use as Hendrick's Master Distiller, overseeing the production of the popular Hendrick's gin recipe.
How Hendrick's Gin Is Made
Lesley Gracie, Hendrick's Master Distiller (Image source: William Grant & Sons)
Hendrick’s Gin is uniquely made via a dual distillation method. A first batch of distillate is distilled via the Carter-Head still to create a more airy, floral distillate. The Carter-Head still consists of a rectifying column that helps to strip out impurities from the distillate to create a lighter spirit. Meanwhile, second batch of distillate was separately distilled in the Bennett still, a steam jacket heated pot still that produced a more flavorful, juniper forward distillate.
Both the distillates would then be subsequently blended together to achieve a more balanced yet complex gin. The blended distillates are then infused with the essence of cucumber and Bulgarian rose petals, cut with water and finally bottled. Because the cucumber and rose essences were added post-distillation, Hendrick’s marks a slight departure from the traditional London Dry Gin style – which is defined as gin with no added ingredients apart from water after distillation.
The current formulation of Hendricks consists of 11 different botanicals: chamomile, elderflower, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel, caraway, coriander, cubeb berries, angelica root, yarrow root and orris root. The exact proportions and specifications of which are kept top secret. In fact, only four people know this recipe – Gracie being one of them!
Hendrick's Gin, 44% ABV - Tasting Notes
Nose: Very floral and fresh - musky notes of rose petals, perfumery elderflower and cucumber slices. Juniper has a very subtle presence, and a light orange zest scent also builds after several nosings.
Taste: Very light, floral and delicate! It had a somewhat alkaline quality to it, and was really smooth without any astringency. There were these bright, fresh notes of cucumber juice, frangipanis as well as mild tannic quality of white tea leaves. There is some spiciness to this gin, but its very mild - I get hints of coriander, white pepper and earthy angelica root.
Finish: Medium - fades with a cooling mint and cucumber effect. Notes of juniper, musky potpourri notes and angelica root.
Get the recipe for a Bee's Knees cocktail here.
Hendrick's Gin is often praised as being the gin for non-gin drinkers, and I can see why. This gin has a very elegant and dainty profile and doesn't come on too strong with the juniper, while still managing to deliver a quirky and unique combination of perfumery floral and fresh vegetal notes. As a result, it comes across very light and refreshing in a way that is hard to argue with.
I also tried Hendrick's Gin in a Bee's Knees cocktail but I did find that perhaps its flavours were a tad too gentle and dainty for mixed cocktails, given that the honey and lemon sort of drowned out the subtleties of the cucumber notes. While it nonetheless made for a tasty cocktail, next time, I would probably save the Hendricks for a straightforward martini or a gin tonic with some cucumber slice garnishes.