I don't think I discovered Tanqueray gin until I found myself working for Oddbins (17 years ago today, it was a blessed escape from working with a crazy woman in a bookshop, she tried - honest to god - to curse me, it seemed to be a constant disappointment to her that I never got hit by a bus or similar. It was not a happy working environment) but it's the gin that made me passionate about gin.
Straight Tanqueray remains a favourite, and should probably be the one I wrote about tonight, but I've chosen their limited edition 'Bloomsbury' because I had such a good time buying it.
The Tanqueray available almost everywhere is now bottled at 43.7% abv, it used to be a generous 47.3% and if you ever see a bottle of that, get it, and if what I read is true they're still using the same basic recipe they came up with in around 1830. It's a very juniper forward, dry, gin and I love it.
'Bloomsbury' is a recreation of a recipe from the 1880's, so technically it's a bit late for Dickens, but the original distillery was in Bloomsbury (it got bombed out in the Second World War) and it seems likely that Dickens could have bought the local product. His characters are certainly no stranger to gin, or its evils.
It's perfectly easy to find 'Bloomsbury' online, but I got my bottles first from the famous Gerry's on Old Compton Street in Soho, and secondly from Beervana in Lerwick (Shetland, where I was surprised and delighted to find it). Spending quite a lot of money (around £50 for a litre bottle) for something to turn up in the post lacks a certain romance compared to the thrill of a hunt around Soho, or the serendipitous find in a tiny Scottish town. The day I bought that first bottle in London I also managed to bump into the distiller (Tom Nichol, now sort of retired, responsible for some great gins) in a bar/shop. It was a memorable day out, armchair click to collecting is dull by comparison.
It's a traditional juniper led gin, very smooth - so perfect for a martini, and it would also be a great background for a hot gin punch - something like These (I see no reason to use Hendrick's). It also makes a brilliant G&T.
I admit a hot punch isn't the most summery of drinks, but then depending on where you are in the UK August isn't always as summery as one might hope for, and it's always something to look forward to for winter. Meanwhile Dickens is the sort of author who seems ideally suited to being accompanied by some sort of beverage. Something to drown the sorrows of the sad bits, to raise appreciatively when he's more convivial, and truly - the whiff of gin does pervade his books.