King of Soho
One of the most cutting observations we’ve heard a film critic say about a movie’s credentials is that “they have seen better acting in pornos”. We’re not as harsh about this gin, named after a former porn baron, but we’ve definitely tasted better…
Paul Raymond was a successful serial entrepreneur, who started to amass his fortune by opening up Britain’s very first members only strip-club in 1958, then moved aggressively into real estate, where he earned the title ‘King of Soho’ after taking over the area. Being in the porn industry led him to create an array of famous topshelf magazines such as ‘Men Only’ and ‘Escort’. Paul Raymond, who died in 2008, is remembered as a controversial figure in London’s rich history and as a purveyor of creativity, music, art, modern culture and of course sexual liberations.
After Paul’s death, Howard Raymond grew into his inherited responsibilities over three years. It was then that he was inspired to create a gin to celebrate his father’s legacy. Along with his business partner Alex Robson, he began a parent company called West End Drinks to control both the gin they were creating and future brands. And so, the King of Soho Gin was born.
The London Dry Gin is made using traditional methods and is quadruple distilled. The spirit includes 12 botanicals including juniper, coriander, citrus (predominantly grapefruit peel), angelica root and cassia bark. The spirit is distilled in two small pot stills at Thames Distillers, and bottled at 42% ABV. We’re not a big fan of the gin, as we explain below, but it’s not to say that it’s badly made. Thames are capable of making fantastic gins given the right set of criteria. We hate to lampoon Charles Maxwell and his team given they know more about gin than we could ever hope to, but King of Soho Gin just feels like middle of the pack and unoriginal fodder. There is nothing special nor unique that captivates about the process, the botanical line up and in the end, rather unfortunately, the flavour.
It’s got to be said, King of Soho Gin has a good all round nose, where a clear classical styled gin flavour comes through. The scent is dominated by juniper and coriander finishing with a dusty note. To taste, juniper and coriander emerge once more as the punchiness of the gin can be felt. There is a zingy citrus present in the mix, and it ends with a sharp peppery bite, either due to the cassia bark or alcohol that feels a lot less smooth than the 42% ABV would indicate. Overall the King of Soho Gin gives an impression of a classically styled gin that is somewhat coarse and a little boring.
The design tries to encapsulate the spirit of Soho without directly referencing the iconography within the area. Each element of the fox-like character adonring the bottle is intended to be symbolic. The fox’s tail allegedly symbolises the depicted character’s reputation as a creature of the night and also embodies its smart, naughty and urban nature, reminiscent of the crowds strolling through Soho on a Saturday night. The trumpet represents the jazz history once home to the area and the book honours the publishing houses founded by Paul Raymond. These are nice touches and the references are well considered, if a little forced when all packed onto one bottle. The design process made available to dig into on their blog is something worth looking into for those who enjoy unfolding the creative process and seeing how a brand identity is brought to life.
The King of Soho Gin is in theory a strong concept, a London Dry Gin as an ode to the underbelly of London. Unfortunately, we feel it fails this image with its somewhat obvious, excessively forced identity and poorly balanced flavour profile. The irony is that, just like Soho having lost its slightly seedy edge as the sexual revolution has permeated into more explicit, more available and less hidden facets of daily life, gin too has undergone its revolution from Granny’s drink to best sellers in many bars. Being no more than a respectable if somewhat uninspired gin is far short of the required mark to stand out in today’s market.
In regards to its flavour, the King of Soho Gin bears true of neither the risqué and provocative nature of the world it claims to come from. It doesn’t bring any sense of adventure nor the diversity and richness so attractive to the Soho area – adding nothing new to the scene as a result. It may seem like we’re being unduly harsh, but fundamentally the gin fails to encapsulate its own aim, to challenge the establishment and not settle for the ordinary. It’s like an old fashioned dildo in an age of vibrators – one to be relegated to the drawer whilst the attention is ‘firmly’ elsewhere.
For more information about King of Soho Gin, visit their website: www.kingofsohodrinks.com
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