From a distillery that’s been in operation since the 1980’s, formally known for their Eau De Vie, the team of Jörg Rupf, Lance Winters and Dave Smith have helped propel the same distillery the frontline of the gin world, making a line of gins that is as well-respected as it is imaginative: the Dry Rye which wears the Rye base on its sleeve, the legendary Faultline Gin, and their “it tastes like Redwood trees, but in a good way” Terroir Gin.
All Gins containing: Caraway
We’ve previously covered Durham Distillery’s Conniption American Dry Gin, and much is similar. Distilled via a two step process in a German built pot-still, Conniption Navy Strength Gin still splits the botanicals into two batches for distillation (vacuum, and traditional) to maximize the aromatics expressed in the final product.
Like other Navy Strength gins, this one is bottled at 57%, giving it a bracing on its own character that is well suited to cocktail mixing. But more on that in a bit.
On the nose, coriander, resinous juniper, a touch of English cucumber and a delicate hint of caraway towards the back end.
One of the process trends from the world of gin has been more and more distillers experimenting with low temperature distillation methods. Many common gin botanicals have aromatics present at room temperature which are destroyed by heat, and therefore are destroyed during conventional distillation.These aromatics are rarely part of gin and are therefore rarely part of consumer expectation.
But therein lies the rub of vacuum distillation.
This is the first of what will be a new type of Gin Review here on the Gin is In. Impressions are abbreviated gin reviews for when we don’t always have a full size bottle to put it through our rigorous battery of cocktail tests. We’ll take these reviews as far as the samples allow us, but often they might only contain some tasting notes and some general thoughts. We’ll still score the gins, but the number can be raised or lowered based on the score we give it after trying a full bottle.
Sound good? Let’s get into the gin.
In < 100 Words
Dr. Franciscus Sylvius was, in an oft-repeated, and just as oft-debunked, narrative the person who invented gin. He did his work in the 17th century, at least a couple centuries after the first juniper berries were distilled with a grain spirit. Doesn’t matter, we won’t hold it against this gin which bears his name.
Distilled at the Onder de Boompjes Distillery in the Netherlands, the gin draws its inspiration from Justus Walup’s considerable expertise in Genever and malt-wine. The base spirit is wheat, but the overall flavor profile is botanical driven rather than base-driven.
I can see how some people who profess a love of gin might turn their nose up and this fine gin [and more on how fine a gin very soon] and other gins like this [Smooth Ambler’s Greenbrier comes to mind]. Although not officially a requirement of gin, most gins work from a truly neutral spirit base. Not simply in the sense that the base alcohol is “unflavored,” but in the sense that the base flavor brings little to no discernible flavor of its own. I would say that apple, potato and the various types of wheat fall into this category.
But then we have the outliers, the gins that use a neutral-in-definition-only base alcohol spirit: Grape from G’vine and Seneca Drums; and the Whiskey/Rye style base of gins like Smooth Ambler’s and St George’s Dry Rye Gin.
Why might these great gins not win over every gin-drinker? Well because I think in taste and mouthfeel they resemble a nice Genever more than your average gin, and possibly even a White Whiskey. Are they gin? Most definitely. But sometimes I wonder if there needs to be another category of gin unto itself.
Knickerbocker hails from Holland, Michigan (just on the shores of Lake Michigan) and the bottle proudly looks backwards to those who looked forward. “Knickerbocker” was the name attributed to Dutch settlers of the American continent. As the Dutch founded New York née New Amsterdam (hence the New York Knicks), so did the Dutch found Holland, Michigan and hence the name of New Holland Brewing Company’s Knickerbocker Gin. History aside, I think this is a rather apt name for the gin. But first, the tasting.
The nose is rather clean. Warm notes of lemon rind, sharp juniper and a little bit of alcohol are present. You can tell that this gin is going to have a little bit of harshness to it. But you can also tell that this gin is going to put on a traditional dry profile. There’s a faint sweetness present, but overall you would think this in the Classic style and you would be correct.
The taste opens with warm juniper on the front of your tongue, giving way to a little bit of alcoholic heat (again, at 85 proof I found that a bit surprising. It tastes a bit stronger than it is).
This has to be one of the easiest reviews I could do. Hendrick’s has been one of my favorite gins since I was first introduced to the beverage. Its lighter on the Juniper, but it’s not completely absent. The high notes are cucumber and rose, and you’ll notice that savvy bartenders will garnish a Hendrick’s and tonic with a cucumber instead of a lime. The cucumber is a subtle taste, that blends in. It can be easily overpowered by either a strong tonic or lime juice. The rose stands out to me more. The floral notes are strong; however, not as strong as the saffron in the Saffron gin.
Because of the unusual blend of flavors and their mildness, this gin I think is best served as straight gin with tonic. I’d leave out the lime juice to fully appreciate the flavors in this bottle. But surprisingly, despite the unusual notes, Hendrick’s is surprisingly versatile. Not bad, though its best parts are obscured in a Tom Collins; the floral tones work beautiful with creme de violette in an aviation. As a martini Hendrick’s shines as well and it falls into the category of “gateway” gins, as the kind of gins that might appeal to a less enthusiastic gin connoisseur; however, unlike some of the sweeter more eccentric boutique gins, I think Hendrick’s offers enough of the things that gin drinkers like to be a worthwhile bottle to add to their collection
Price:~$25 for 750ml Best consumed: w/Tonic (sans lime) or Aviation Website: http://www.hendricksgin.com/ Availability: Fairly common, usually on the shelf of your corner liquor store, ubiquitous in any big liquor store.