The Whisky Exchange
Product of: United Kingdom
Made by the originator of Hendrick's Gin, Master Distiller Lesley Gracie, Hendrick's Orbium launched on 2 May 2017. Labelled a "quininated gin", Orbium is based on Hendrick's Gin with additional extracts of quinine, wormwood and blue lotus blossom - the added quinine inspiring the term "quininated".
It should be stressed that the base gin is Hendrick's – made with the same botanicals, in the usual proportions, the same distillates and essences of cucumber and rose. This Hendrick's gin base is then infused with essences of quinine, wormwood and blue lotus blossom.
Quinine was chosen due to its long association with gin in the form of the G&T, while wormwood is fundamental to vermouth, used in the other main gin libation, the Dry Martini. Lesley used blue lotus blossom as the third added botanical to bring balance and complexity to the new gin.
The name Orbium comes from 'orb', chosen to represent the spherical, round taste that Lesley refers to when describing the Hendrick's house style.
Made in batches of just 500 litres, the "first release" comprises less than 5,000 bottles. If you are lucky enough to find yourself with a bottle or two with "first release" on the label, then, given their rarity, perhaps consider sticking one aside for future prosperity.
Despite the "quininated gin" labelling, Orbium could be confused as being some pre-mix with so much added quinine that it only requires the addition of sparkling water to make a G&T – this is far from the case. When mixed with tonic the result is a balanced G&T, not an overly 'quininated' G&T. Similarly, the wormwood extract added to this gin does not mean less vermouth should be used when making a martini - the woody bitterness from the wormwood is balanced by sweet floral notes from the blue lotus blossom.
Blue lotus, actually a water lily, was used medicinally and spiritually by the priesthoods of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. So important was this flower, the Egyptians dedicated a god, called Nefertem to protect and care for it. Lesley has developed an almost obsessive passion for the blue lotus due to its complexity of aroma and propagates the flowers in her laboratory.
Lesley first worked on the formulation of Hendrick's Gin back in 1999 and over the years since has continued to innovate and search for new flavour combinations resulting in products such as Hendrick's Kanaracuni, Quinetum and Battersea, and even the iconic cucumber serve.
As Orbium and Hendrick's Gin were both created by Lesley Gracie in her laboratory in Girvan, Scotland, William Grant thought it fitting that this new Hendricks expression be first released in its homeland – the UK – initially in just 30 bars chosen as they "have loyally worked with Hendrick's Gin and shown a passion for its liquid over the years." However, "the intention is for Orbium to be a permanent product" and "there is the potential for further roll-out in the future to other markets."
Sadly (initially anyway), Orbium will not be available in either bricks-and-mortar or online stores, but obviously, consumers will be able to try Orbium in selected bars.
Review and Tasting
Sampled on 03/05/2017
(sample bottle first release) Floral lotus blossom notes – grassy, melon and vegetal floral scents – amplify the cucumber familiar to Hendricks, and, as you'd expect, rose water is also very evident. Juniper, coriander, zesty lemon and other more familiar gin aromas are joined by faint wormwood. Leave for a while and sniff again and the lotus blossom releases intriguing candyfloss scents.
Sweet floral notes lead and stay throughout the lightly spiced palate with melon and vegetal notes to the fore. These sit over and entwine with underlying juniper, citrus and coriander. The addition of wormwood highlights complex bitter rooty bark notes. Mixing with tonic, and particularly soda water, amplifies wormwood woody, nutty, dried grassy notes.
Vegetal, grassy cucumber, subtle white pepper spice, piney juniper and faint bitter rootiness.
Ally Martin, the Hendrick's brand ambassador who introduced us to Orbium, recommends enjoying this "quininated gin" in a Satan's Whiskers, while Lesley Gracie, the Master Distiller behind its creation drinks Orbium with soda water. This isn't, as I first thought it might be, a gin with enough quinine whereby you only need to add sparkling water to make a G&T – dilution brings out this gin's wormwood perhaps more than it does the quinine. That said, Orbium does make a superbly complex and wonderfully rounded G&T with a long dry wormwood finish.
The Whisky Exchange
Bottle Size: 700 ml
Closure: Agglomerated cork stopper