Letherbee Gin has been created to be the “anti craft, craft gin,” says its distillers aiming to provide an affordable, high quality gin that’s main use is to be poured at bars, to become the main pour at restaurants. It’s not about the bottle, the bottle is an afterthought: its minimal appearance and cryptic tagline “Gin for wellness” are probably not enough to stand out on what is now a really crowded shelf. They want to stand out as a gin, as a local affordable well gin [made in Chicago], not as a package on a shelf of gin.
Commendable, as I judge a spirit not by its wrapper [though some are very nice], but by what’s inside.
Strong nose, juniper, fennel, cubeb and a bit of pepper. Gin like, with a bit of an edge. The taste is very loud, even by gin standards. Juniper begins early, some lemon peel, citrus rind, and coriander. The spices begin to shine in the middle before coming out quite loudly in the finish. Fennel and licorice, with a finale that really brings a bit of heat. Long fennel seed note on the finish.
This is one loud gin.
The Gin with a Louche?
One peculiarity of Letherbee Gin is that unlike nearly all gins, this one has a louche. For those of you unfamiliar with absinthe and the cult of the Louche, here’s a quick run down.
A louche is the effect seen when cold water is poured into a distilled spirit, and the essential oils which were dissolved into the spirit during distillation begin to emulsify with cold water. For absinthe drinkers, the louche is a critical indicator of the quality of the spirit. Louche too quickly, or too cloudy, or too thick, and the spirit is considered flawed. Or at least not optimal.
The louche is not simply a vanity factor. When those previously dissolved oils come out of suspension, the character of the spirit can change dramatically. The nose opens up, the bouquet can change, and the flavor of the spirit as well.
As for gin, cloudiness is usually considered a flaw in the spirit. It can be an indicator of a lack of botanical balance, too much of a certain botanical, not enough attention to details [like letting the tails where all the essential oils are make it into the spirit rather than cutting it].
I won’t dismiss a spirit out of hand on the fact that it has a louche to it. It is loud neat, but I thought, since it does louche, and since Absinthe can radically change its flavor profile upon the addition of some cold water, why not see what a louched Letherbee Gin tastes like when those essential oils are unleashed.
When diluted, you still get some of the core aromas you picked up on it neat, but the anise like aroma is much stronger here. Not quite an absinthe, but the juniper seems a bit more background. It may be the affect of the dilution, but the result is a smoother spirit with a richer mouth feel. The juniper does seem to suffer for it though, liquorice much more clear here, hints of almond, cubeb and bright fennel. Heat on the close, but without the long lingering after taste that it had neat. I can say that I think that louching Letherbee Gin results in a more drinkable spirit, but some of its gin like character is a bit more obfuscated.
Letherbee Gin also gets a cloudy haze in a gin and tonic. With tonic water, it’s a bit bright fennel forward again. Dominates the cocktail a bit, lacks a certain balance. But I found it to make a really outstanding Gin and Tonic with a tonic syrup. I used Pinckney Bend’s Classic Tonic Syrup, and there’s a really nice balance and interplay between the herbs in both. Highly recommended. I wasn’t able to find a regular tonic water where the right balance was achieved, but I’ll say some gins are quiet and overpowered by a good tonic syrup. Definitely not this one. In fact, I think its critical for balance.
Another mixed drink where I think this gin excelled was the gimlet. The two flavors combined to create this creamy, notes vanilla, almond, richness with lime and fennel on the finish. I rarely get excited about gimlets, but this gin surprised me here. Really good, also highly recommended.
The martini came across as a bit too edgy, but again, it was a drink where the notes surprised me. Cinnamon starts to come through here, cassia, angelica and other baking spices. Robust, powerful and quite surprising. The flavors also stood out in the Negroni, but it didn’t quite change my perception the same way that it did in the Gimlet and Negroni.
Again, truly a sign that you can’t judge a gin by its cover. Neat, it’s noisy. But in cocktails, it seems to work.
Price: $30/750 mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] Illinois, United States
Best consumed: Gimlets, but if you can handle the heat, the Martini works too.
Rating: Like I said, you can’t always judge a gin by its cover. Neat, I wasn’t really crazy about it. Diluted, it starts to come together. But cocktails are where it does its best work. Although I wasn’t crazy about it in the G&T, I found that it worked when you really got down to mixing. I’d love to get a bit more juniper out of it, but the loud fennel and quite juniper works better than I might have guessed. Perhaps they were on to something when they said they were looking to make a spirit for bartenders.
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