Portobello Star, Leelex Ltd., Notting Hill (made by Thames Distillers, Clapham), London, UK.
Gerald “Ged” Feltham is the entrepreneur
owner and Managing Director behind Leelex Ltd. an Entertainment based company
from Leeds, which he started in 2000. With 4 bars based in Leeds, a music label
(called “Dead Young Records”) and a 5th bar in London they continue
to go from strength to strength. Ged has been joined by a small team of people,
including Paul Andrew Lane (Operations Director) in 2002, and Jake F Burger
(Drinks Director) in 2004.
Their bar in London, the Portobello Star in Notting Hill, opened in 2008 and is well established with the site having operated as a drinking establishment since 1740. In 2011 they expanded the bar’s operations to include a Gin museum (the second smallest in London) and distillery occupying two floors above the bar, they’ve collectively dubbed the “Ginstitute”. The Gin Parlour styled museum, whilst small, covers the history of Gin and has a number of rare and interesting exhibits.
The Still Room is accessible by advance booking only and is for people to taste and make their own Gin. Equipped with a small 30-liter copper pot still from Portugal called “Coppernicus”, believed to be the smallest working licensed one in London, there are also around 40 single distillates made from various botanicals. The sessions are tutor led with lots of tasting and blending to make your own uniquely personalized Gin to take home (along with a bottle of their Portobello Road Gin). Details of each Gin are kept so further bottles of your own Gin can be purchased at anytime in the future.
When Ged and Jake were setting up the Still Room, they undertook lots of experimentation themselves, and unbeknownst to them were setting the groundwork for their own Gin. Having made a classic Gin recipe with commercial potential Ged did the math and took it to Thames Distillers. Thames Distillers is run by Charles Maxwell who is the 8th generation of the family (founders of the Finsbury Distillery) who have been producing Gin since 1700 – making them the oldest unbroken lineage in Gin distillation. Ged realized even if the venture proved unsuccessful they could fortunately still use the Gin in their bars.
Portobello Road No.171 Gin was successfully launched in late 2011. Not only did it sell well but continues to do so, with around 10,000 cases sold annually in the UK and expansion into numerous countries across most continents to occur soon. Unfortunately for us this does not include the USA yet…we’ll just have to wait a little longer.
The recipe is the creation of Jake Burger (with
Ged Feltham and Paul Lane) and is designed along the lines of classic Gins from
the late 1800’s and early 1900’s (in keeping with the dates of many of their
museum exhibits). The small batch distilled Gin is produced by Thames
Distillers who make individual botanical distillates before combining them. This
combined distillate is added to neutral spirit and water, and distilled in a
small stainless steel pot called Tom Thumb. This particular still was built in
1984 and was the last one made by John Dore & Co. Ltd. before they moved their
operations out of London. Following this final distillation more neutral spirit
and water is added and blended before bottling.
The Gin is presented in a style not too dissimilar from the Victorian designed labels as seen on many of their museum exhibits e.g. Booth’s Lion Gin. The traditional cognac style bottle is tall and clear with long tapering shoulders. The rectangular off white colored label is arched at the top with much feathering scrollwork and geometric patterns in a general blue coloring. “Portobello Road No. 171 Gin”, also written in blue, is clearly visible with a red colored lion in the center and a small British Union Jack flag at the bottom plus a smaller label below this. Each bottle is individually numbered and signed by the creators, although from what we have seen, how many of the three people sign each bottle varies.
London Dry Gin.
42% (84 Proof).
$$$$. Not available in the USA. Try Master
of Malt in the UK but be prepared to pay an additional 50% for shipping.
This Gin uses 9 botanicals including:
angelica root, cassia bark, coriander seeds, juniper berries, lemon peel,
liquorice, nutmeg, orange peel (bitter) and orris root.
Named after the address of the Ginstitute
(Portobelio Star bar), where the Gin’s recipe was created.
On the nose is floral juniper (almost like
lavender), violets (orris root) and pepper with light citrus in the background.
On the palate this smooth slightly sweet (liquorice) spirit has clearly forward
(but not overpowering) juniper with light citrus (refreshing lemon & bitter
orange), faint red berry fruit, fresh grass (angelica) and a gently warm spicy combination
of cinnamon nutmeg. On the long dry finish are liquorice, refreshing acidic citrus,
pepper (coriander) and spice (nutmeg). This is a very well balanced traditional
tasting Gin with a warm spice twist – many reviewers call this Gin “elegant”
and it’s an apt moniker.
This is a good classic style London Dry Gin and is nice to sip neat (with a little ice), giving a warm peppery and tingling glow. In a Gin & Tonic there is a big juniper “bite” with the refreshing citrus coming more into the fore and the spice taking more of a back step. Although not tried by us, they recommend a grapefruit garnish and suspect this would hit just the right note, but is still at home to a slice of lemon or lime. This makes a mighty fine classic Martini with the spicy notes of nutmeg and cassis bark (cinnamon) mixing well with the herbal qualities of the Vermouth. It sits well with a Gimlet where the lime compliments the Gin expertly.
This is a lovingly versatile Gin, with overflowing charm and character, making it very hard to find any fault (just like a favorite relative or friend). It seems as if Leelex has the Midas touch with anything they do, but is undoubtedly due to the sheer hard work, energy and creativity these gentlemen put into all their endeavors. We wish them every continued success and thank them for presenting a wonderful Gin for everyone to enjoy.
Master Medal, Gin Masters, 2015.
Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2013.