Disclosure: bottle of Chinnery Gin gifted by the brand. Review opinion entirely that of the author.

With its stunning bottle, Chinnery Gin really stands out from the crowd. Drawing inspiration from Georgian Dublin and Imperial China, read our review of this Irish gin.
IN A HURRY? Click the links below to take you to the relevant section in the review: process, botanicals,  how to serve, tasting notes, packagingverdict

Story.

The Old China Trade

Whilst living in Guangzhou in the 1990s, David Havelin spent much of his time exploring the city’s history. Whilst reading about the Old China Trade of the 19th century, the co-founder of Chinnery Gin kept seeing paintings by an artist called George Chinnery.

Many years later, in a London bookstore Havelin discovered a biography of the artist and to his surprise, found that Chinnery’s career had started in his home city of Dublin. Fast forward to 2018 and Chinnery Gin was launched!

THE ARTIST

George Chinnery was born in London in 1774. He moved to Ireland in his early 20s and began his career as an artist, painting portraits of the wealthy residents of Dublin.

His travels would take him to China (via some time in India), where he painted the daily lives of Chinese, European and American traders.

His works are historically important in depicting this period in China’s history and his paintings can be found on display in the likes of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Looking to celebrate the global nature of the gin category, where ingredients are often sourced from across the globe, Chinnery Spirits wanted a gin which captured “the romance” of the Old China Trade.

Founding Chinnery Spirits

A chance meeting between Havelin and Marie Byrne, set the two on a path to create Chinnery Spirits in 2016. Both had expertise to bring to the table. Havelin was the writer behind a blog championing the country’s food and drink, including whiskey.

Byrne was the founder of the Dublin Whiskey Company before becoming an independent consultant. She was also a founding member of the Irish Whiskey Association.

Despite their expertise in whiskey, it was gin they turned to. Looking to celebrate the global nature of the category, where ingredients are often sourced from across the globe, they wanted a gin which captured “the romance” of the Old China Trade. With Chinnery travelling in the opposite direction to those trade ships, and indeed the overlap between his and Havelin’s own travels, the pair set about using Chinnery as the basis for their brand story.

The Process.

Botanicals used

Chinnery Gin uses 10 botanicals in its recipe. These are osmanthus flower, oolong, cassia bark, juniper, coriander seed, liquorice root, sweet orange peel, grains of paradise, angelica root and orris root.

It’s a reasonably traditional lineup, barring the two signature botanicals of osmanthus and oolong, which are named on the front of the bottle. Havelin and Byrne source the oolong themselves by travelling on that same route as Chinnery, searching the wholesale tea markets of Guangzhou for a particular variety.

Chinnery Gin is made in both Dublin and Cork. The base spirit is contract distilled at West Cork Distillers, while Chinnery Spirits create a second distillate themselves, using vaccum distillation.

How Chinnery Gin is made

“Distilled in Dublin and Cork,” is written on the bottle’s label. Having chatted to Marie Byrne I learned that Chinnery Gin is created in quite an unusual way. Separate distillates are blended together to create the finished gin. This in itself is increasingly common and pioneers such as Hendrick’s and Martin Miller’s do this, for example. What is interesting is the fact that the distillations are created part contract, part in-house.

The base distillate utilises eighth of the ten botanicals, leaving out the signature ingredients of osmanthus and oolong. These eight botanicals are distilled using the steep/boil method at West Cork Distillers, to the recipe specified by Chinnery Spirits.

The osmanthus and oolong are then distilled in-house in Dublin, by David Havelin himself. Vacuum distillation is used for these delicate botanicals which allows the temperature at which they distill to be much lower. The two distillates are then blended together to create the finished liquid.

BOTANICALS

Osmanthus flower, oolong, cassia bark, juniper, coriander seed, liquorice root, sweet orange peel, grains of paradise, angelica root, orris root

RECOMMENDED SERVE

How to serve Chinnery Gin

  1. Add plenty of ice to a highball glass
  2. Pour in 35ml of gin
  3. Add 100ml of tonic (Chinnery recommend Poacher’s Wild Tonic)
  4. Garnish with a twist of pink grapefruit peel

First tick in the box; it smells like gin! Quite floral, with grassy juniper at the fore and subtle undertones of citrus peels.

Tasting notes.

What does Chinnery Gin taste like?

Neat

First tick in the box; it smells like gin! Quite floral, with grassy juniper at the fore and subtle undertones of citrus peels.

To sip neat, it’s rich and smooth. Floral grassy notes are on the palate. It’s sweet and fruity too with warming grains of paradise and subtle citrus notes on the finish.

It’s probably not quite what I expected, given the back-story. I was maybe expecting more of the cassia spices, for example, but the flavours were highly enjoyable none the less.

With tonic

With tonic, the floral notes open up a little and the warmth give way, leaving a refreshing G&T. It’s got a nice gentle sweetness to it too from the osmanthus and oolong, and this is more pronounced with tonic.

Drop in some peel from the ever-versatile grapefruit and this brings out much more of the citrus, as you’d expect. A Chinnery Gin and tonic is a highly enjoyable cocktail with the flavours more delicate and balanced than when tasted neat.

The distillery recommends an Irish tonic – Poacher’s Wild – as their recommended pairing, but failing that they suggest Fever-Tree Light as a more accessible alternative. However, I found Fever-Tree Mediterranean Refreshingly Light to be my sweet spot, which wasn’t a huge surprise as it’s my favourite go-to mixer.

Chinnery also suggest a ratio of just under 3:1 tonic to gin. I’d go closer to 2:1 as my personal preference having tried a few variations, as it allowed me to taste more of the constituent parts than when further diluted.

Add tonic slowly and build it up to get the ideal taste for your palate.

Packaging.

Through the Georgian window

Now, onto the pièce de résistance – the quite stunning packaging. I don’t want to repeat myself (again) and go on about the importance of appearance when it comes to marketing spirits, but it’s safe to say there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be reviewing this gin if it wasn’t for its container. 

I first noticed it a year or so ago on Instagram and I’ve been desperate to try it since. It’s not available in the UK so when Chinnery got in touch, I was a little excited!

Pictures just don’t do it justice. It again draws on the brand story, combining a Georgian townhouse likely to be found in Dublin during Chinnery’s time there, and a Chinese lantern. If you peer through the windows you’ll see imaginings of the Far East, and Chinnery himself standing at an easel. It’s such a clever design and you really need to hold it to see the extent of it for yourself.

The bottle was created by specialist packaging designers who are extremely well thought of in the category. Stranger and Stranger are the brand responsible for the likes of the famous Isle of Harris Gin bottle, and they’ve also worked with big hitters such as Haymans and Edinburgh Gin, as well as a lesser-known brand, Jarrold’s Gin, whose bottle I adore.

David Havelin was, again, very particular on the design here. Having been unable to get the designs he wanted via architectural diagrams, he went to the lengths of writing his own computer programme to do it for him. This allowed him to alter every detail of the label, from the number of bricks per row, to the size of the windows, and even the colour tone of each brick.

Hearing dedication like this and you really get the sense of how involved in each detail Chinnery Spirits were in the creation of their product.

REVIEW VERDICT.

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OVERALL RATING

  • BRANDING 96%
  • ORIGINALITY 79%
  • TASTE 83%

Summary

Chinnery is a brilliantly executed gin. Its brand story is fascinating and Marie Byrne and David Havelin have brought it together expertly, from the selection of botanicals, to the breathtaking packaging.

It’s not the most unique gin in terms of taste, but given the sheer number on the market now, that’s not a surprise, nor is it a critisicm. What makes it stand out is the brand story and packaging and Chinnery Spirits have created something really special with the latter. 

The liquid itself is more than enough to keep customers returning for more, while the bottle is so exquisite that it will make for a perfect home accessory, well after the contents are empty.

Price: around 50
Where to buy: Chinnery Gin is only currently available to buy in Ireland. View stockists on their website.