kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

703.203.9463

The Baobab Tree, Cape Gooseberries and Juniper, Oh My!

In my continuing quest to sample all the amazing new gins out there, my search recently led me to Whitley Neill. The slogan says it all: "Inspired by Africa. Made in England." Botanicals beyond the typical juniper include cape gooseberries and the the citrus fruit from the African baobab tree. (If you can't quite picture the flavor of the former, think of the taste of a really aggressive, racy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc--it usually has some gooseberry notes.) As for the citrus fruit from the baobab tree--I've never had that before, though just the mention of that tree reminds me of one of my favorite childhood books: Le Petit Prince.

To give a brief history: founder Johnny Neill's family's distilling and brewing links go all the way back to 1762 when his ancestor Thomas Greenall formed a company called Greenall Whitley. Neill was born less than half a mile from the Greenall's family distillery in Warrington, England. His father was Director of the distillery and ran the brewery and his Great grandfather was Managing Director. The Greenall family currently distills Bombay Gin and Bombay Sapphire Gin under licence for Bacardi.

Two years ago, independently, and after much research and experimentation with botanicals at a separate distillery, Neill launched Whitley Neill London Dry Gin into the on-trade in London.
The company donates 5% of their net profits to Tree Aid, a charity which helps some of the poorest people in Africa secure an income from Trees. They also donate $1.00 from every bottle sold at Hyatt hotels to the charity.

It's a great backstory, and a great cause, but the proof is in the pudding (i.e. does it make a good G&T?) Neill claims it makes the best one in the market, and I have to agree that it's damn good. The gin has wonderfully refreshing citrus flavors, which mix so well with (my preferred tonic) Fever Tree (whose quinine, incidentally, is sourced from the bark of a rare tree in Africa...)

Whitley Neill has racked up a bunch of awards since its launch, including a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Check the website for more info and cool recipes to try. I'm not sure how readily accessible it is in the DC area, but I'll check and repost...