I was six when the Buffalo Zoo announced that through an arrangement with the Cincinnati Zoo, Buffalo would soon be home to a cross-eyed white tiger who was mother to almost one fifth of the world’s known population of white tigers. Sumita arrived in Buffalo in June 1989 and was something of a celebrity. Or at least so it seemed to a six-year-old me who lived within walking distance of the zoo. I remember the excitement of my mother [who at this point, I had only seen her as enthusiastic at this when the zoo brought in a Koala the summer prior] as we went to the bustling zoo, to sneak between the crowds and catch a glimpse of the mutant Bengal Tiger [technical term, continuing…]
Sumita passed away in Buffalo in the summer of 1990 and was quickly replaced by a male named Mota later that year. I can recall my younger sister and I each having a stuffed tiger. Hers was the white one and was named Sumita; mine was a traditional orange and black tiger, but owing to the attractive power of the spectacle that was the white tiger in the zoo that summer, I named mine Mota.
Dark Corner Distillery is the first modern distillery in South Carolina making gin, and their gin is called White Tiger Gin. The name likely comes from the botanical note of their gin, as they mention on their site: “featuring an exotic blend of Far East botanicals including Szechuan pepper, lemongrass, Thai basil and jasmine.” Although there are no White Tigers roaming the wilderness of South Carolina, Dark Corner Distillery looks towards Asia for both its inspiration in terms of name and botanical mix. Although unusual at first glance, clearly there’s some association between name and what you’re drinking. Let’s get down to the tasting.
Smells instantly gin like, but still rather subtle. A faint note of black pepper. Understated, but primarily juniper-like. Hints of heat too.
The taste is distinctly contemporary in character. A little bit oily on the lips, juniper and peppercorn start out,but the heat and power of the botanicals rise rather quickly. There’s a crescendo where a lot of things are happening all at once. A note of black pepper and juniper flares suddenly against the backdrop of moonshine, you get a bit of a traditional gin taste, some coriander and earthy notes, combined with bright lemongrass and a muted floral character. The heat is rather intense here. It fades then, lingering hot in the back of the mouth, a little bit sour with perhaps a hint of citrus and some more of that peppercorn note and just a hint of a malty, woodsy aftertaste.
Overall, it is bold and strongly flavored, with a bright long lasting finish. At 90 proof it is not terribly strong in terms of proof but the heat is pronounced, especially in a drier martini. It might be too much for some. But then again, an approach that is not entirely subtle can be an asset in cocktail craft. I enjoy the way it shines brightly in a Gin and Tonic and I really thought perhaps it was at its best in a Rolls Royce cocktail. I thought that the drinks it worked best in were served straight up and featured herbal and other strongly flavored ingredients. Although it works with citrus, I found myself reaching back for the White Tiger more often with that other category of drinks.
Price: $36/ 750 mL
Origin: South Carolina, United States
Best consumed: Straight up, herbal/strongly flavored cocktails
Availability: Nevada, South Carolina and Washington DC as of December 2012. [see website]
Rating: Overall, White Tiger Gin is bold and strongly flavored and unlike some gins which choose on Asian botanical as a point of difference, Dark Corner Distillery crafts a gin which is built from multiple exotic ingredients and has a really nice flavor which is unlike anything else out there right now. That being said, your mileage with White Tiger is likely going to rest with how much you like those exotic botanicals. Really good, but best suited for those in search of a gin which is going to expand your gin horizons just a bit.