As if a pioneer organism, the East London Liquor Company has brought distilling back to London’s East End for the first time in over a hundred years. The re-purposed glue factory that they call home is where they distill their rum, vodka and line of gins, which number three at the moment. They have their entry level gin and two premium gins. One features tea and the other (the subject of this review) takes a more herbal forward approach featuring bay, sage, fennel and the unusual winter savory. Closely related to the summer savory, it played yin to summer’s yang.
All Gins containing: Sage
In intention, Green Hat’s year round Navy Strength gin packs a punch with not just Green Hat’s signature blend of botanicals, but some added juniper. Bottles at 114 proof, it’s designed to be your go-to cocktail gin. Like the other products from Michael Lowe and John Uselton’s New Columbia Distillers, the gin begins as Red Winter Wheat, mashed, fermented, and distilled on their traditional copper pot still, vapor infused with botanicals ranging from the traditional like lemon and juniper, to the less traditional like celery seed and grapefruit.
Nordés Atlantic Galician Gin seeks to differentiate itself pretty radically from the get go.
The base spirit is distilled from locally grown Albariño (or Cainho Branco) grapes. The wine from the grapes is bright, almost botanical just on its own, and wine-aficionados compare it favorable to Gerwurtztraminer. Food and Wine magazine one suggested it might be “the next great summer wine” (Rieslings be on guard!). While the wines are a particular specialty of Galicia, Albariños are still more uncommon, making this gin a unique specimen before you get to the botanicals.
The story of Monkey 47 is attributed to an Indian born British Commander who was stationed in Germany after the second world war. Inspired by the Black Forest through the lens of his family’s heritage he combined British influence, Indian botanicals, and the natural flora of the German forest to create a complex gin he called Schwarzwald Dry Gin, along with the note Max the Monkey.
You see, this Commander also helped rebuild the world-famous Berlin zoo, and during the course of this he came to support Max, an egret monkey, who lived in the zoo. So it might seem natural that years after the fact in retirement, he retained an affection for the monkey he sponsored, and when he made his gin, he named it after him.
On botanicals alone, boasting an ostentatious 47, it might be the most complicated gin on the market, but to throw you one more curveball, it’s also built on a base spirit of molasses.
The nose is mentholated juniper, pineapple sage, lemon verbena, lavender, rose, hibiscus and lime. (!) This encyclopedic list merely reflects how incredibly complex and brightly aromatic this gin is.
In < 100 Words
When you think of Utah, you probably think more about the picture below than gin. It can be understood, after all when one thinks about alcohol and drinking, Utah is closer associated with the opposite. Beehive Distilling is doing their best to dispel entirely the notion that Utah and good spirits are opposites. Jack Rabbit Gin is “small batch” and “small scale” featuring local touches (Sage for example) that give it a distinctly regional flavor profile, and floral touches such as rose, which give it a unique and bright flavor with mass appeal potential.
Bright rose hits you right away. Unmissable. But there’s much more happening beneath the surface that keep it from becoming a one-note bomb. Coriander, camphorous juniper and mint background notes, with even lower a touch of orange and citrus in the lows. The rose note immediately draws a comparison to Hendrick’s (), but it really might have out-Hendrick’sed even Hendrick’s with the rose.
The palate surprised me initially, taking an almost left turn. The camphorous mint-like low notes are bright and clear as day on the palate as sage.
Wheeler’s Western Dry Gin from Santa Fe Spirits captures the essence of place through the use of many botanicals native to New Mexico, and of importance to New Mexico heritage. For example, the Osha root [known to Native peoples’ as Bear Root, so-called as legend says it was discovered by observing a bear consuming it] is a local medicine, historically used for aches. Then take the Cholla cactus, whose blossoms are reputed to have a faintly “cucumber” like flavor. Throw in sage [the aroma of the desert] and juniper, each individually distilled, then combined, and you have a distinctly New Mexican gin.
Vividly and powerfully aromatic, at even first blush, bright sage, with a wet sagebrush after a spring rain aroma, leading you into some deeper juniper notes, with earthy depth in the lower notes. Very bright and inviting, though it could easily be mixed up from aroma along with Art in the Age’s Sage Spirit, but more on that later.
The palate offer a significantly more complex bouquet or notes to unravel. At first, a touch of a floral lift, with a stab of sage oil, the mid-notes are richly complex with at first vegetal, crisp, green notes, then some sweeter, spicier hints.
I find this whole notion of “men’s” and “women’s” gin to be bollocks. Nothing short of ridiculous. The notion that taste has something to do with gender is preposterous. Men who like cocktails think nothing of a pink colored drink, just as woman who likes whisky thinks nothing of Islay Peat Monster*.
As stereotypes would have it you might expect the opposite to be their drinks of choice.
So where are stereotypes useful? Well when you don’t have time to tell a full story or create a character from scratch. So think network sitcoms. Create an overweight, loud, white guy married to a younger, slim and conventionally attractive wife. What comes to mind? He probably forgets her birthday. She probably forgives him too easily. They probably have a couple of great kids, and he may hate his mother in law. It would take too long in 22 minutes to establish a complex character, so we rely on these stereotypes to get us halfway there. Another place where storytellers don’t have sufficient time to weave a complex character is the world of advertising. In a brief 30 second commercial, a single billboard, a brand wants to tell you their entire story and help you see yourself drinking their spirit.
With the Olympics ramping up, I thought it would be a good time to take a brief break from the stateside focus and give some press to the still active distillation scene of London. Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin is a London Dry style gin that is actually pot distilled within the London City limits.
The Nose is rather classic in character. Notes of juniper and citrus. Lemon predominates and it clearly states its position as a dry gin right up front. The taste is sharp and piquant with an emphasized drying sensation. It does indeed taste a bit more of its strength on the palette, there is a pronounced alcohol burn, although tightly bound between the initial juniper burst and the dry earthy tail. The gin has a silky, oily character and each of the clearly dilineated botanicals takes a moment in the spotlight. Begins with juniper, before shifting to citrus. That’s where the burn comes in and a faint hint of borage, then it leaves you with a coriander spice and an earthy character indicative or Angelica.
Overall, it has a nicely balanced character which would likely suggest it for any number of cocktails.
St George’s Spirits has gotten a lot of attention in the last year or so with its line of three gins. This is the first of our reviews of their gin line. We start with their Terroir Gin.
Terroir Gin might be among the strongest, most aromatic gins that I’ve encountered. Simply uncorking the bottle, one can smell the vibrant aromas of the terroir gin [note, while writing this review my wife could smell it from halfway across the room, a testament to the strong scent]. If St George’s Terroir Gin sought to emulate in gin form what I think of when I think of California, I think they’ve done a commendable job.
On Terroir A lot of times when I talk about gin in the United States, I immediately begin to search my mind for memories of that place. A lot of times these memories are scenic roads, hiking in the woods, world’s largest[s], and of course good food. Some places, and in particular California, conjure up stronger, more visceral memories of what I think a place is. California for me isn’t [necessarily] the beaches and glamour of the south nor the sunny windswept dunes and rocky out crops of Mendocino.