This is a late addendum to last weekend’s Open It! jollifications.
As you can see, I didn’t have any beer at the back of the cupboard that I wanted to broach for the occasion. (I have got four Marble 750ml bottles awaiting their special occasion – the first four, that is: Decadence, Special, Decadence Frambozen and Decadence Kriek – but by the time I started thinking about Opening It! it was Sunday evening, and I really didn’t want to start putting myself outside that much alcohol. Their time will come.) Instead, I dug out what you can see in the picture.
Lindisfarne sloe gin. This was a bit of a cheek, as this bottle was actually a present to my wife a couple of years ago. Still, she’d forgotten about it, so I thought it qualified (and she had a glass too). In the event, this gave us both a surprise. It was a deep purply red, it was thick and syrupy, it was sweet with an underlying bitterness… and it was sharp: not the slight fruity sourness of a ruby port but a real acidity. Much sharper than we’d expected, and not entirely successful.
I moved on to the
Gordon’s lemon gin. I guess this is also strictly speaking my wife’s property, as it was one of the things cleared out of her mother’s house when she went into a home. She (wife, not mother-in-law) remembers it sitting unopened in the drinks cupboard from her early childhood. Gordon’s stopped making lemon gin in 1980, so it’s at least 30 years old; from the look of the bottle I’d say it’s closer to 50. The strength is given as 60 degrees proof, which I reckon to be 34.5 % a.b.v.
So what’s it like? According to this ad what you get is “the purest gin blended with the juice of the finest lemons”, which sounds like a pretty full-on combination. On tasting, it became apparent that there was sugar in there too, although doubtless they insisted on the purest (or finest) sugar. At first it reminded me of limoncello – it could hardly fail to, given that it’s sweet, strong and tastes of lemons – but as I got further down the glass the gin flavours and aromas came through more insistently, a bit like hop aromas sneaking up on you when you’re drinking a malty beer. Really very nice indeed. I subsequently tried a lemon gin and tonic; this wasn’t as successful – a bit too sweet – but I could easily acquire the taste. If only it were still available!
From the sublime, lastly, to the Offley Port. My wife (I can’t keep her out of this post – honestly, you let the focus on beer slip for a moment and the womenfolk are all over the show) gave me this miniature in 1991, together with miniatures of Fernet-Branca and Cynar, after we’d returned from our honeymoon in Italy. The F-B and Cynar (an artichoke-based aperitif) were just things we kept seeing in bars over there, but the Offley port was a bit of a standing joke: every bar seemed to offer port, and the port they offered was almost invariably Offley, a brand which looks very classy and English but is in fact unknown over here. (Gin was even better: you could either pay over the odds for imported Gordon’s or get the local alternative, Focking Gin. Sadly, when my wife was shopping for miniatures she was unable to find any Focking Gin.)
So that’s the set-up: what about the punchline? I should say that I wasn’t expecting very much from the Offley: apart from anything else, the label clearly states that this is a miniature of Ruby Port, which isn’t normally known for losing its colour in two decades flat. First impressions were actually quite good: it looked a lot like white port and tasted pretty similar, with perhaps a bit of the ruby port blackcurrant flavour coming through. My mistake was to swallow: the aftertaste, and the aroma it seemed to release as it went down, were truly vile. I’d never fully appreciated the concept of a drink smelling “musty” before. This port didn’t just have musty overtones, it genuinely tasted like old books smell. Regretfully, I poured the rest of it down the sink.
But at least I can say that I Opened It – and, in at least one case out of three, I’m very glad I did. And next year, if they’re still there, one of the Marbles gets it.