I have had my eye on No.3 Gin for some time. It certainly talks the talk and has the price-tag of a top-tier premium gin, so it should be something special. The fact that it costs just north of thirty quid and that it’s hard for find outside London has relegated this to my “must try at some point” list rather than the “rush out and buy it next” list. Imagine my delight when I was asked if I would like a sample bottle.
Now, as with my Sipsmith review, the fact the someone has sent me this free of charge, will only guarantee one this; that I drink it. My opinion will not be swayed by generosity; objectivity will still reign in my house.
No.3 is almost as defined by the number three as Caoruun is by the number five. Three is the number of the building on St James’s Street that Berry Bros. & Rudd occupy, the number three is emblazoned three times on the front of the bottle, three is the number of spice botanicals in the gin and three is the number of fruit botanicals. You get the gist.
Speaking of which, the botanicals are…
- Juniper berries
- Orange peel
- Grapefruit peel
- Angelica root
- Coriander seed
- Cardamom pods
Berry Bros. & Rudd asked one Dr David Clutton, as well as a panel of gin specialists and mixologists, to help in creating a gin that is that last word for a dry martini. Dr Clutton has over 40 years in the spirits trade and holds the world’s first PhD on Gin Flavour – this man is a doctor of gin!
Anyway, exciting fields of science aside, the result of a year’s labour was No.3 gin.
Now, I am a sucker for packaging. There is something of a ritual about opening a new gin and flimsy metal caps and boring labels just don’t cut it for me. The more attention to detail that goes into the bottle and its dressings, the more pleasure I derive from opening and pouring the contents. No.3 certainly didn’t disappoint on this front.
Firstly, it comes with a book. Not a little four-page postage-stamp-sized pamphlet affixed to the neck of the bottle with elastic, but an A6 book printed on thick, high-GSM paper. It runs to 26 pages and it provides information on the gin, Berry Bros. & Rudd, the symbology used on the label and a few cocktail recipes. This is a nice little keep-sake unto itself and I haven’t even got to the bottle yet.
The bottle is held in a very understated white card box that is green inside. There is a little keyhole cut into the front face, through which I can see white paper with green lettering on (a motif that is mirrored on the front of that little book). Opening the box reveals a bottle which has been hand-wrapped in a large leaf of white paper, on which is printed a replica of an old street map depicting the area around St James’s Street. Only once this is removed do I get to the bottle.
The bottle is more olive-green than bottle-green and is square, tapering from a broad shoulder to a narrow base. The front and back of the bottle are flat and the sides are slightly concave; easy to hold and pour as well as aesthetically pleasing. The cork stopper is sealed in place by a perforated alloy foil which peels nicely. I was curious as to what this was, but a flame test didn’t show any significant lead content, but it melted very easily, smelling, when it did, a lot like solder.
Uncorking No.3 was a joy – the 22mm stopper came out with a delightful squeak and a high “plop” that I know will deepen as the liquid level goes down.
Smelling the bottle-top, and then some neat gin in a large wine glass, revealed an amazing clarity of juniper. It is fresh and crisp with little to complicate it, but there are subtitles there – it is far from a single-minded juniper approach.
Trying the neat gin was a joy. The clarity of the juniper absolutely follows through into the mouth and only deepens as the coriander develops, followed by the cardamom. The citrus is very well balanced and takes a bit of a back seat to the juniper and spice. There is a slight peppery note in the nose and early stages of the after-taste and the cardamom lingers long after swallowing. It is also incredibly smooth, especially for a gin weighing in at 46% ABV.
I can’t seem to put into words how bright and clear and fresh the juniper is. If you sidled up to an unsuspecting juniper tree and mashed a few needles between forefinger and thumb, the taste of this gin is the first fraction of a second of the smell generated by the damaged needles – that initial burst of scent that quickly diminishes into something a bit more familiar and long-lasting. It is astounding, and it only gets better with the addition of a little water. However, at no point does the juniper overly dominate; it is held high by the supporting botanicals – the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” springs to mind.
I think No.3 is what Oliver Cromwell 1599 is trying to be but fails at dismally. They are both very juniper led, but where Oliver Cromwell is a raw and brutal log of juniper, fashioned, if at all, into a battering ram, No.3 is a similar log carved into a complex, yet pleasing, sculpture of exquisite workmanship. Drinking it neat is almost epiphanic.
No.3 in a G&T is quite spectacular, but not as good as I imagined. While this may be the best G&T I have had (I foresee another gin-off coming) it doesn’t stand head and shoulders above other G&Ts like it does neat; maybe standing a clear forehead above its peers. The tonic water almost muffled No.3′s clarity of flavour and while the juniper and cardamom still shine through beautifully, it is not as bright and blinding as the raw spirit is. I am left wishing that I had tried these in the opposite order so my amazement of the neat gin didn’t inflate my expectations of the G&T. After finishing it, I had another glass of No.3 on the rocks.
The stated aim of No.3 was to produce the last word in gin for a martini, so I absolutely need to do a martini tasting. I don’t have any vermouth in at the moment though, but by Friday night, I should have a bottle of Lillet Blanc in my grubby mitts; I really enjoyed this in the 24 Martini I had last week and it was a toss-up between this and Noilly Pratt (I won’t drink it fast enough to justify buying both). I can imagine No. 3 making a truly spectacular martini – watch this space.
At over £30 a bottle this isn’t cheap gin, but anyone who appreciates gin in its less diluted forms should absolutely love No.3. Splash out and try it; drink it slower if price is an issue, get it in for Christmas or other special occasion, drop hints in the run-up to your birthday, sell some junk on ebay to raise the cash, just get some. Is it worth that 30-odd quid? Absolutely.