|The front of the D1 bottle
Low and behold, a few days later I am invited to the launch of D1, a gin that openly targets that market. The launch is held in Kensington nightclub Boujis (where, at the end of the evening with the presentation over, waitresses duly bring out illuminated Belvedere ice buckets, so we are clearly in the homeland of that market). Moreover, the makers, D. J. Limbrey Distilling Co., have teamed up with trendy artist Jacky Tsai, perhaps best known for the floral skull image he created for the late Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2008 collection. Another floral skull appears on the D1 bottle, and at the launch event there were floral skull sculptures on display (apparently so valuable that each one had to have its own bodyguard).
|The back of the bottle, showing the Union Flag on the back of
the label; the skull is printed on both sides
|The partly-melted ice skull
There is more to this than just marketing. The gin has actually been engineered to serve the target audience. Compared to, say, Tanquerary Ten, Maton points out, it is lower in alcohol and less botanically intense, making it easier to drink neat—it is certainly intended as a “sipping gin” (not a term you hear very often). Most of the botanicals are fairly normal—juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, cassia bark, almond and
liquorice—but there is also nettle leaf. There are references to a “daring kick of nettle”, and nettle is a rather British sort of plant, but just as cooked nettle (as in nettle soup) has no sting, neither does distilled nettle. In fact I’m told that its presence adds a smoothness and sweetness balanced by a tea-like bitter edge. (The nettles are actually selected for them by a tea blender.)
|Even the plinths on which the bottles were displayed
apparently cost a fortune
|A band of skulls
|Dominic Limbrey addresses the masses
Diluting the gin half and half with water brings out the woody spice, though the citrus still dominates. The London Rocks serve has the same effect, though I’m struck by the slightly bitter/dry finish here.
Unsurprisingly, D1 makes a very approachable Martini, though there is more to it than that. Using Noilly Prat, even a relatively small amount of vermouth adds striking aromas of vanilla and orange blossom, plus fruit elements like melon or strawberry. Perhaps the understated character of the gin allows vermouth to shine, meaning that perhaps a D1 Martini is a useful testbed for vermouths. As you would imagine, this cocktail goes well with a lemon peel garnish.
|Boujis' staff struggle to keep up with demand
D1 is a quiet and approachable gin, but one with subtleties that can be coaxed out. I don’t know how it will play with the Chinese but it’s worth trying in a Martini. The one thing that doesn’t ring quite true is the name.* It sounds like a wartime secret government department, or a move in a game of battleships (perhaps the next move after SW4?). But apparently the D is just for Dominic, the founder. I heard that the 1 is because it’s the first product, though I don’t think Richard Maton was that specific.
But he did tell me that in Chinese the name read out, “dee-wun”, means “number one”…
D1 is currently only available from Harvey Nichols, priced at £39.99 for a 70cl bottle
* Now, if they want to invade Grey Goose's territory, perhaps they should have simply called it Greyskull…