The cocktail scene is taking off with astounding interest. This rediscovered culture is teeming with enthusiasts eagerly seeking out new prospects of exciting experiences, ranging from bourbons to ryes, gins to vodkas to name only a few of the many spirits involved in this growing society! All this new interest has caused a massive shift in the industry, a revolution one might say, with the focus being put less on alcohol content and more on the craft of distillation. For a distiller, this artistic rendition of spirit must start somewhere, and where better to start than gin. On Thursday evening, our tasting dove headlong into the drink, and I could think of no better way to become acquainted with the beast than through immersion therapy, ahem, all in the pursuit of knowledge of course.
Originally a medicinal to cure ailments such as gout, upset stomachs, a miscellany of aches, pains and arthritis of which we were all surely afflicted and in need of treatment. The people of England were doomed from the start once gin came abroad from Holland on the behest of William of Orange. The thin veil of “medicinal use only” was shed and the people discovered their new drink of choice. As illicit “bathtub” gin operations cropped up all over the country, debauchery and discord bred. Some say this wild time in history birthed the first anti-drinking advertisement in William Hogarth’s “Beer Street and Gin Lane” depicting the dehumanizing nature of gin. Being intelligent folk, we were all able to agree that we could overcome the vices of old, and delve into the samples in front of us objectively.
Our journey started with Hayman’s Old Tom. This oneâ€™s origins are based in gin’s dark days, when taxation was high for any gin distiller. To circumvent high taxes, secret distillers would set about making little â€œhole in the wallsâ€, usually with lead pipe slot for the purchaser to slide in their money and the producer to slide out the shot of gin. These hole in the walls were usually denoted by a black cat or black paw above the said pipe, eventually garnering the nickname of “Old Tom”. This particular denotation of “Old Tom” Gin has now been affiliated with a slightly heavier gin, one with sweeter botanicals and a richer feel. One can imagine slinking around in dark back alleys, tapping on the Old Tom eagerly awaiting this delightful treat. Easy to see why this came in third for the favourites of the night. Â - Â $32.49
Eau Claire’s Parlour Gin was next, coming from Alberta’s first craft distiller. With a denser feel from the barley used in the grain bill, this one seemed to go with the flow of the Old Tom in terms of density. The botanicals seem driven to balance the body of the gin, edging up with big bitterness and a withering floral nature. The Parlour gin is Â made to embody the social nature of gin and on a hot summer day, a chilly glass of Parlour and a few friends paints the picture. Â - Â $52.99
“Something other than cheese out of Wisconsin?” That was the bad joke I told at the tasting (promised myself I wouldn’t say cheesy joke). Death’s Door is straight out of Wisconsin, made on Washington Island and is an organic gin made of wheat and only three different botanicals. Using only juniper, fennel and coriander, alongside the delicate nature of wheat distillate, this gin strives to put the spotlight on these three characters alone, really giving you some one on one time with them. A close runner up for the folks attending, it almost made top three. Â - Â $45.99
Ah, the ol’ Berry Brother’s No. 3 London Dry. This is the classic. The trump card. Aces. It’s also my favourite, so I am a bit biased. Done up in the traditional fashion of London Dry, this bottle can really thump it’s chest. Berry Brother’s and Rudd is an age old independent bottler out of London who specialize in bottling rare whiskies and spirits. And here we have a testament to their quality. Sourcing gin from a Holland based producer as old as they are, this is a clear cut champion gin. Perfect for anything, you name a gin cocktail and Berry’s should be in it. Now, it may not be obvious, but this was the favourite of the night. Everyone adored it, I swear I held back my favouritism. Â - Â $51.99
Scottish in origins, The Botanist is always the crowd pleaser. With such an easy mouthfeel and well rounded character, it always generates a plethora of fans. Produced at the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, a small island off the west coast of Scotland, it provides an oily texture that smooths out the palate making it a great intro to the gin world. Unfortunately if served as an intro I daresay the person who tried it will have an easy time finding something else they like as much! This was the second most favoured gin of the night. Â - Â $51.99
Second to the last gin was the Old Raj, a veritable powerhouse of flavour. Clocking in at 55% for alcohol content, this beast of a gin was really quite the feat to surmount. Big and intense, it lives up to its “Colonial Style” name. I could see myself with one of these and some cool tonic in the beating hot sun of some far away land. This traditional style might leave the weak of heart in the city, but my adventurous group was still keen to see this gin safari to the finish. Â - Â $51.99
Uncle Val’s Peppered Gin was the black sheep of the bunch. With three different kinds of peppers added to botanical bill to stimulate your senses, everybody was quickly taken aback. At first it smells like caramelized red peppers, right out of a wok, rolling into a tequila like earthy disarming character, where to next? This gin is full of surprises, no one knew what to expect. In its natural habitat, it could go well in a Caesar or maybe even on it’s own, or really, who knows? This gin is so peculiar but strangely at the same time entrancing, drawing you in with each consecutive sniff, each with its own strange intrigue. No one voted for this one at the end of night, but after the tasting was over, a few closeted fans of this strange spirit approached me with their opinions on this unlikely favourite. Â - Â $53.99
Participants, post treatment.
- Hunter Sullivan