The name Steinhäger is somewhat special among gin types. Among wines, there are many protected regional names such as Champagne, in which only Champagnes produced in the Champagne region of France can legally be called Champagne. This type of gin is also a European Union Protected Regional Name. Only gins distilled near the city of Steinhagen, Germany can be legally called Steinhäger gins.
This type of gin was relatively popular in the 19th century, but today only two distilleries in this region still make gin. Only one of these distillers makes a gin which is available in the United States.
Flavor Profile of Steinhäger Gins
The ingredients of this style are rather simple: Juniper. Nothing else. The distilled base is made from grains. It has a peculiar almost sweet taste. I’d say it differs strongly from the London Dry typical heavy juniper flavor. While I would say those are a little more “prickly” and “sharp,” the juniper in Steinhäger is somewhat “muted” and “smoother.” Its an interesting parallel. Key to gin drinkers is that there is no citrus. The base is completely neutral. Its very much the essence of what base + juniper should be.
Other Gins that may be “In the Style Of…”
Have you ever been to a karaoke bar and gone to sing your favorite song, but noticed instead of having that artist’s version it says something like “In the style of?” Well that’s because they don’t have the rights to use that song, but there’s a legal loophole where a key change and a lack of lyrics make it technically not that artists’ song. Something similar happens with this style of gin. There are many gins out there which do echo this style but don’t call themselves Steinhäger. It may surprise you, but many of the cheapest gins out there: the bottom shelf gins that only taste a little like “burning pine trees” (my favorite pejorative for gin) are very technically made in the style. No citrus, just neutral base and juniper. So the reason those bottom shelf gins are only called “X Gin” are because either a) they cannot legally use the name for the style of the gin that they’ve created or b) they don’t really care because they didn’t seek to emulate that style anyway. It just so happens that there is a gin type fits the description of “bare-minimum gin.”
But in all seriousness.
There is a big difference though between the flavor profile I think. The protected style is sweeter and a bit more easy going; whereas, the cheaper gin has a little bit more bite and skews towards the London Dry style.
Later this week I’ll review an actual Steinhäger style gin and talk a bit about how it works and how it may differ from the gins you’re used to.