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. I’ve already said that I don’t think “New Western” is a style as its just a contemporary spin on an already classic formula. But are these gins, which err towards a more whiskey like base? And even more so, what if you age this spirit [Smooth Ambler’s aged gin is going to be reviewed soon]? Is it truly just a gin anymore?
Philosophy aside, let’s get down to the actual spirit. As mentioned, I really really enjoy this gin. So let’s see how it tastes.
Notes on Drinking St George’s Dry Rye Gin
The first thing that is noticeable on the nose is a distinct malty character, with peppercorn and caraway notes clear and up front. The taste is a whole different world, a warm malty texture and a vivid burst of juniper. While not aged, it truly tasted woodsy and dense. There’s a faint hint of candied, almost burnt citrus fruit, and then a long rye and juniper finish. Stunning and quite memorable.
Again, the challenge of these malt based gins is that they mix rather unevenly in traditional gin cocktails. As with a genever, I’m hesitant to suggest a Tom Collins for this gin. But if you look on the bolder side of the cocktail canon, I think there’s few better cocktails than a Negroni with this Dry Rye Gin. Though in character if might recall to mind the mouthfeel and bold Rye base of a well-made Manhattan, the juniper notes come through and suggest a good Negroni as well.
I would suggest that you treat St George’s Dry Rye Gin as a specialty gin. Great Martinis and top notch Negronis. The Gin and Tonic might be an acquired taste for some. I’d recommend countering the strong malt with a bold herbal tonic [Tomr’s, Liber and Co. or another tonic syrup come to mind]. I’d suggest avoiding it in citrus forward cocktails like the Tom Collins, the Aviation or others of the ilk. But for what it doesn’t do great among classic gin cocktails, it does a solid number on Whiskey cocktails. So while the average gin drinker might not drink gin Old Fashioneds, the St. George’s Dry Rye Gin makes the Gin Old Fashioned a must.
This does not mean that this gin has failings. In fact far from it, this is exactly what this gin was going for. Great neat, good in any number of cocktails. Smooth and flavorful, a gin that I can recommend wholeheartedly to gin and whiskey drinkers alike, as long as they know what they’re getting into.
Is it a new style unto itself? Time will only tell if these sort of gins catch on and proliferate. But right now, I think that while there’s other excellent gins that do similar things very well, I don’t think I’ve tasted it any that do it quite as well as this one.
Price: $35 / 750 mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] California, United States
Best consumed: Sip it neat, Martinis [you can even go extra dry] or Negronis
Availability: New York and California [full list here]
Rating: A fantastic rye base gin. Among the best gins I’ve had, even if it doesn’t do everything a gin should do, the things it does do are so good, that you can’t help but really fall in love. This is a love letter to all whiskey drinkers, from gin drinkers. Cheers.
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