The London Distillery Company, founded in 2011, that’s 2011, have recently released their first full product, created at their rather nifty Battersea distillery. Their plan, ultimately, is to produce whisky in London for the first time in over a century, but in the meantime we have an exciting new gin brand: Dodd’s Gin.
TLDC’s Darren Rook has often pointed to London’s whisky distilling heritage, with as many as six distilleries operating back in the 1800s. Other cities, such as Liverpool, can make similar claims, and whilst English whisky may still be an unusual concept for some, the revival is already well underway. Indeed, we could soon have 5 English whisky distilleries. London’s gin heritage meanwhile, is “too well known to require a dissertation”, to steal a Dodd phrase.
The only problem then, is that all this rich distilling heritage owes about as much to Ralph Dodd, as it does to Ken Dodd (pictured above). In fact, almost everything ol’ Ralph touched seems to have sunk like one of the ships in his brother’s maritime paintings... (Fortunately for Dodd’s Gin, it has a lot more going for it than its backstory, as I will explain.)
Ralph trained as a painter himself, perhaps something he should have stuck to...
Ralph Dodd was an engineer (hence the rather handsome label the gin is adorned with), but one better remembered for his numerous failures than his successes. Sometimes overlooked, often replaced part way through, he nevertheless secured some interesting contracts. Most famously he failed to build a tunnel under the Thames (which, to be fair, is bloody difficult, as the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father would find out a few years later) and whilst he did build a bridge across the Fleet at Holborn, it had to be reinforced within a year due to its constructional defects! His waterworks in Vauxhall were successful but, typically, he was replaced as the engineer of numerous related projects.
The London Distillery Company? That sounds familiar...
With characteristic enthusiasm, but all too familiar results, Dodd turned at least part of his attention to creating a company to distill spirits in 1807.
As Darren explains, he “came across Ralph Dodd and his story whilst investigating former distilleries in London, almost a year to the day after founding The London Distillery Company” – Dodd’s company had the very same name! Quite incredible really. (Although I suppose it’s a fairly sensible name for a company planning to have a distillery in London.)
Dedicating a brand of gin to somebody with such a strikingly similar ambition is perhaps a no brainer, although it has led to quite a bit of confusion on some retail sites and (unsurprisingly) with that guardian of gospel knowledge, Wikipedia.
‘The South Sea Bubble, a Scene in 'Change Alley in 1720’, painted in 1847, shortly after the ‘Railway Mania' of 1844-5
Taken at face value, Ralph Dodd’s prospectus for his London Distillery Company outlined an impressive and rather noble distilling enterprise, but one that still needs placing in its historical context of speculation and early economic bubbles.
In 1808, Dodd was taken to court under the Bubble Act, which banned joint-stock companies that didn’t have royal charters. This was viewed as a highly unusual case at the time and may have simply been a case of rotten luck on Dodd’s part. It was the first case of its kind in 88 years of the Act’s existence, with the Act itself having been brought into action before the South Sea Bubble burst, and was probably created to protect their interests rather than protect the public against the many bubbles of the early 18th century. No criminal charges were made against the “common nuisance” Dodd created, but the company was dead in the water.
As mentioned however, Dodd’s Gin has a lot more going for it than its backstory alone. Personally, I have been much more impressed by their ever-improving green credentials.
Green Whisky? (The green room at the recent Sensorium experiment)
All of their botanicals, as well as the base spirit, are 100% organic and approved by the Soil Association. The honey comes from carefully nurtured, local urban bees at a time when the plight of bees is hitting the news. The paper those wonderful labels are printed on is carbon neutral, created using wind power only. For every cask used, TLDC have pledged to plant two trees. Used grain goes to local bakeries (there are fewer animals to feed in central London). Heat energy from distillation is recovered and reused, perhaps inspired by the system at Bowmore. Soon, they also hope to power the distillery solely from solar power or other renewable energy sources, something they are particularly committed to. They have even discovered an underground spring on site in central London, which should, in time, provide much of their water requirements.
Dodd's Gin – 49.9% – £36.95
Dodd’s Gin is made by distilling the majority of the botanicals in a traditional copper still named “Christina”, with the more delicate ones being cold-distilled under vacuum in “Little Albion”.
These are subsequently married together over a period of a few weeks. The botanicals used are juniper, angelica, fresh lime peel, cardamom, red raspberry leaf, bay laurel, and honey from The London Honey Company.
Nose: Juniper and bay leaf give way to kaffir lime and then green Opal Fruits (/Starburst). More subtle notes of bracken and raspberry bushes, as well as a hint of jasmine and some cardamom depth.
Palate: Thick textured with a hit of fresh lime zest, there’s juniper too and possibly hints of that honey although that might just be me.
Finish: Sherbet and lime, even popping candy at first. Increasingly chewy before a drying finish.
Overall: This is a very big and vibrant gin and I have to say I am a fan. The lime, whilst not a ‘delicate’ botanical is surely cold-distilled – it’s so fresh! It’s also fairly prominent throughout but overall this is a tasty (and quite moreish) spirit.
So, should you buy Dodd's Gin? Absolutely – because it's produced by a modern, 21st century distillery in an impossibly cool London location, utilising organic ingredients to produce a big, vibrant, small batch gin with environmental issues in mind, all for an affordable price.
Just forget any connections with the year 1807 and don't worry about Ralph Dodd; in the rich distilling heritage that The London Distillery Company can hope to be a part of in the future, he was just a Diddyman...
Dodd's Dotty Diddymen