“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” Thusly did James Bond, in 1953, invent the Vesper. Well, sort of. More correctly Ian Fleming did when he added these lines to “Casino Royale”.
When I read this a couple of questions jumped immediately to mind. Why specify Gordon’s and Kina Lillet but not the Vodka? For that matter, why Gordon’s?
Not being a Vodka fan I pondered about Gordon’s. Presumably if James Bond called for it by name it must be a pretty damn good Gin, right? After all this is the literary James Bond. He’s partial to Bentley’s and Rolex. Sea Island cotton shirts and Savile Row suits. After Martini his favorite beverage was, arguably, Champagne. Taittinger Blanc de Blancs Brut 1943 being specifically mentioned, also in Casino Royale.
So I procured a bottle of Gordon’s recently and looked forward to enjoying the only Gin known to be endorsed by James Bond!!
The result?? Meh.
Gordon’s is definitely a London Dry Gin with dominant juniper flavor. There’s a touch of additional spices, maybe a citrus in the background, and it’s just a bit sweet. All in all a very typical, though simple, London gin. Overall not a gin I would choose for a Martini. Gin & Tonic? Maybe, though the subtle gin flavors will be overpowered leaving you with the Tonic’s quinine and Gordon’s juniper. Sort of a piney bitterness!
But Gordon’s was the 2018 World’s best selling Gin, so somebody must like it. (10th July, 2019 “The Spirit Business”) Perhaps what I called simple, others call traditional? Or even ‘classic’? Of course there is also the price point, which is, shall we say, affordable. (1.75 L of Gordon’s listed at $20 vs $36-39 for Sapphire or $34-36 for Tanqueray.)
So what went wrong? Why did Fleming, in the guise of 007, choose this Gin?
Were there not many Gin choices in 1953, particularly British choices. Well there were fewer choices to be sure. Bombay Sapphire? No, it was brought to market for the first time in 1986. Hendricks? Nope, launched in 1999. Nolet’s? Not even in the same Century – 2009
But all the following were available choices in 1953. Of these my favorite is Plymouth.
Beefeater,? Yes, a newcomer since 1862
Tanqueray? Has been around since 1830
Plymouth? Yes, as of 1793
Gordons? Yes, since 1769
Boodles? 1762 was when it was first founded.
Bombay Original Dry? First formulated in 1761
So why did Ian Fleming choose Gordon’s? It could be because in 1925 Gordon’s was awarded its first Royal Warrant by King George V. That bestows a certain level of prestige.
However, considering that James Bond’s father was Scottish, there’s a legend I like to think is more fun, if not actually the reason. According to this legend, a member of Clan Gordon saved the King of Scotland from an attacking boar while hunting. That’s why every label and bottle top of Gordon’s gin bears an illustration of a wild boar.
Buy in the final analysis it doesn’t really matter why. Gordon’s is an affordable basic London style gin that is just fine as your everyday, share with your friends, gin for a sunny summer day on the verandah. But I’ll pass when it comes to my Martini.