Gin, the Ruin of Many a Mother
With the completion of another gin lecture, I realize I have reached the threshold of counting gin classes hosted on ten fingers. Though this may be a melancholy realization as I leave behind the best tastings of my life and reach gin middle age, I am also happy to ruminate on what I have achieved. What that achievement might be is perhaps I haven’t bored a collection of 150 people eager to taste the botanical spirit. Who among that number could say they instead received a two-hour seminar on gin history and roughly analogous personal anecdotes on gin. If I did do exactly that, posh, who’s counting. If any one of my many new friends (rightly considered so given the bonding experience of “tasting” glass after glass of gin) or more aptly named gin alumni (for if you take a gin class with me you have ascertained a level of gin knowledge unsurpassable and make sure to challenge your friends and foes on that) feels that my lectures on William of Orange and wooing stories in mother’s basement over glasses of Hendricks was boring they surely number in the few. If one is to find themselves firmly placed in my aide-de-camp, this one is for you.
Gin is a definitive spirit that is constantly soul searching, what a conundrum. How can one make a splash these days with simply “Locally Harvested Botanicals” and “Grain to Glass”? Perhaps reinventing the category isn’t the answer, but instead finding out how to make a really good spirit. And I don’t mean botanical wise. What if, and hold onto the seat of your armchairs fellow critics, the distilleries made a really quality base spirit? Don’t take me for rhetorical, I am merely stirring the pot and asking a question in earnest. The broken record is back on the player and it is ready to repeat verbatim what was said in last post. Be quick and jump the needle before it starts. Ah, you are too late and for some reason the needle is now stuck with impossible gravity. Also, this analogy is bad. So be it.
White spirit as the foundation for what spirit is to be in its end product is so woefully overlooked when it comes to gin. As I have mentioned in the past gin is the most cash of cash crops. Make your money and get on with the stuff that you actually want to make. You know, the good stuff, the brown stuff that makes you sing of its merits while being careful to promptly refer back to the age-old saying, “but whisky will always reign supreme,” or something like that. This doesn’t matter all that much in the end game as distillers ought to do what they like. But gin, the sacrificial lamb, is overlooked in favour of achieving said goal. I feel that more frequently distillers are simply using the most convenient grain bill available looking at gin merely as means to an end. This is not enough; if North American Gin is to be taken seriously it needs specialized grain bills, specifically inclined to expressing the botanicals being infused. And for goodness sake why are so many of the new distillers producing such sweet products? Different from earlier, this question is of the rhetorical sort. It is because it masks imperfections easier, hides blemishes and makes it easier for the consumer to drink more readily. You see, the older producers had names for gins of this sort. Now the “Old Tom” style seems to so widely address the current North American gin production market that the term is almost irrelevant outside of traditionalists.
Now that that is all laid out here is what truly bothers me: the current gin market appears to have little concern for longevity and lacks the foresight to care. The current consumer restlessness is symptomatic of this; many gin consumers come in to ask what is new, and if nothing is new grab their old favourite which is invariably a classical example of gin (i.e., all the traditional or long-established names from the U.K.). In not entirely committing to some level of white spirit quality in favour of the ends that most distilleries seem keen on achieving the market ends up in a state of flux, the consumers engaging in a version of “the cult of the new” where flirtation never ends in commitment, at least not with the current interest.
So you might be wondering what this all means. It means that I poured all my old favourites for the tasting plus a couple new age examples of getting it right, at least in this writer’s most humble of opinions. Here is what we tasted during Gin, the Ruin of Many a Mother.
Glendalough Wild Botanical
In other releases from this distillery, the offerings were full of Thrills soap gum. Not today! Huge on the fleshy fruits and nut tones. A bit like ephemeral and exotic trail mix. Tasty and easy to work with, same goes for the price tag. All around success. $50
Berry’s No. 3 London Dry
Traditional London Dry executed to the nth degree of excellence. Crafted by rustic Holland distillers, Berry’s has the hookups to source this top quality spirit. Unlike the cocktailing easy mode that Hendricks offers Berry’s No. 3 is hard to perfect but extremely rewarding. If you nail a cocktail with this spirit you will be enjoying one of the best gin cocktails you have ever had and ever will have. That said you don’t have to be adventurous with this bottle. Be lazy like me, bust out the tonic and lime and you are set. $61
Hven Organic Distilled Gin
Have you ever fantasised about being in a woodshop all by yourself? Of course you have you very normal human. The forest tamed by mechanical beasts, the smell sultry with spruce tips and pine needles. Oh no, the trees are back for revenge. You thought you were going to be forming their tree-y bodies into lovely works of artistic wooden expression but instead you are now trapped amidst a sea of angry yet immovable beings. Are they sentient or merely alive? You be the judge. $70
Hayman’s Old Tom
The old stand-by for me. If you didn’t guess by the comments made earlier I am the ultimate armchair crusader, both lazy and verbose. But how can one easily quench the thirst of a being that expends so much energy whilst not wasting that energy unnecessarily? By not mixing one’s own highballs and cocktails no doubt. If the aforementioned speaks to you, I am both sorry and have a recommendation for you. Hayman’s Old Tom is perfect for those unwilling to compromise precious time “mixing” and fiddling by being ready to drink. This stuff is actually great, I love it. Keep it cool and drink it out of a mostly-full tumbler so that you can make long-winded and non-contiguous blog posts such as this. Highest accolades. $34
Remember how I mentioned Hendricks easy mode earlier? Well here is the new age interpretation of making your decision easy. I am almost reticent to include this in a tasting given that it always seems to steal the show. What’s the deal? I don’t know. I just know I like drinking it. Supple with berry fruits, rounded and slightly oily making for an easy afternoon beverage that will never turn you off. For example, sometimes I don’t know what I want to drink. Should I drink this mezcal or that mezcal? I can always easily choose Pickering’s gin. This post assuredly not sponsored by Pickering’s. $66
Last Best Kensington Wine Market Collaboration
Runner-up for the longest name given to a gin (I couldn’t include the other as it would run out the word count on this post); this collaboration was formulated by the combined efforts of Andrew and Bryce’s twisted minds (of which were also somehow conjoined in the process, but don’t worry, they got better). The intention of the final product was an interpretation of bubble baths and vaguely veiled bromances. It was a resounding success, at least in terms of achieving their warped goal. The gin itself is an Alice in Wonderland potion trip of lavender, juicy fruit, banana slices, and a miscellany of perception distorting aspects. I was only disappointed by the lack of “Drink Me!” neck tag. $55
Brought to you by Cadenhead independent spirits, this bottling is in line with the Berry’s model of product from an archaic Holland distiller whilst opting for the only slightly uncomfortable label that hearkens back to colonial India. Bottled at naval strength (55%) which allows one to adopt a sailor’s tongue faster than many other spirits out there, this gin has got it all. The condition is that you have to serve it in traditional quantities which if I recall correctly is quarts. Or was it pin… YARR MATEY. Ahem. Excuse me, that was unprofessional. Give this classic a go if you haven’t yet. It’s made with saffron! $55