Seedlip Spice 94
Hola cocktailistas! A few weeks back we considered a brace of alcohol free “gins” (you probably want to read that first or much of the following will make little sense) but it was clear to me that no such reviewage could carry much gravitas without perusal of the market leader in this small but growing category. Therefore, as (vaguely) promised, let’s get things up to date with one of Seedlip’s three offerings. Three? Yep, as we all know everything in cocktailville comes in threes and the peeps at Seedlip, paying much attention to such convention, have thusly concocted their alcohol free spirits (let’s stop messing around and call them gins even if they legally aren’t) in triplicate. I’ve chosen Spice 94 Aromatic for this review but there’s also a Grove 42 Citus and a Garden 108 Herbal in the range. I’ve not yet been able to ascertain what the numbers indicate but, frankly, who cares?
Seedlip Spice comes in a fairly plain yet attractive clear cylindrical bottle and is well sealed with a substantial, well fitting metal cap. The label, besides the “plantimal” – which I find vaguely creepy but I suspect is no big deal to anyone else – provides much information. I like much information. While Fluère and Siegfried Wonderleaf had miniscule calorie counts, Seedlip has absolutely zero calories. And zero everything else too, most significantly alcohol. Seedlip are open about their use of preservatives (potassium sorbate and citric acid: neither of which are very scary) but at least that gives us a decent shelf-life of 6 months after opening. Fluère and Wonderleaf are preservative-free but don’t keep nearly as long. You pays your money, you makes your choice but, personally, I’m happy enough with the extended shelf-life. One thing that puzzles me though is that Seedlip claim to be the first ever alcohol-free distilled spirit but also say that it’s based on a recipe in a book from 1651. Errr, I don’t think you can have that both ways guys. But enough faffing around – let’s have a sniff and taste.
The predictably clear and tearless Seedlip has a pleasant aroma of clove and/or allspice with a hint of citrus and those flavours certainly come through quite firmly when sipped – although in common with other alcohol-free spirits it comes over a little “thin”. But tasting these gins neat is a bit unfair as they are just not designed to be consumed au natural. Mixed with a good tonic it is quite easy to forget you’re drinking alcohol free and I particularly enjoyed it with some elderflower tonic which seemed to mesh with it better than it does with some other gins.
But, hey, this is a cocktail hangout so we’d better shake it into a Bee’s Knees just like we did with the other ones, right? With the Spice 94 the Bee’s Knees was a breeze. The spice flavours were strong enough to cut through the lemon and honey but it was more restrained than with the Wonderleaf – right in the Goldilocks zone. I expect it would do well in many other gin cocktails as well but you’d probably want to stick to those without other alcoholic content such as the Gimlet, Southside and the Business (the twin sister to the Bee’s Knees).
The comparison of Spice 94 with (my memory of) Fluère and Siegfried Wonderleaf is most interesting. The Seedlip sits between the two with a good balance of spice and citrus. The clove/allspice flavours place it closer to Wonderleaf but it’s more complex and less forceful than the latter which I felt was something of a blunt instrument. So far, so good, but we inevitably come to Seedlip’s slight downside – it’s not cheap. I paid €24.50 for my 700ml bottle (with 500ml of Fever Tree tonic bundled) in the Netherlands* but back in its native Britain, £26 is more than you’d pay for plenty of good gins and they have to fork out in the region of £8-10 per bottle in alcohol duty. Still, the other two aren’t that much cheaper and you do get that extra longevity. All of which makes Seedlip Spice 94 my alcohol-free gin of choice so far.
While I’m still lacking quite enough data to grade these products I’m going to give tentative marks as follows.
Seedlip Spice 94 Aromatic:
*We’re not allowed to call ourselves Holland any more – but at least we still get cheaper booze than many countries.