All Gins from California

Gin Reviews

St. George Botanivore


From a distillery that’s been in operation since the 1980’s, formally known for their Eau De Vie, the team of Jörg Rupf, Lance Winters and Dave Smith have helped propel the same distillery the frontline of the gin world, making a line of gins that is as well-respected as it is imaginative: the Dry Rye which wears the Rye base on its sleeve, the legendary Faultline Gin, and their “it tastes like Redwood trees, but in a good way” Terroir Gin.

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Gin Reviews

Bummer and Lazarus Gin

(yes, I was watching the Belmont Stakes while doing this review)

(yes, I was watching the Belmont Stakes while doing this review)

“Two Tails that wagged as one,” the label says, “dogs with but a single bark.: It might be a bit of a stretch to apply the story of this gin’s name to the gin itself, but it’s a good story so we’re going to anyway.

In a world where dogs outnumbered men, two dogs won their way into the heart of San Franciscans the city around.

The scene: a dog fight in an alley. Lazarus is getting badly beaten. Bummer enters from stage left. 

Bummer: Bark!

Bummer tends to Lazarus’ wounds. He makes an astonishing recovery, hence the name.

This summer, experience the heartwarming story of love, compassion,and the journey of two dogs who rose from the streets where they were raised to become two of San Francisco’s finest, going where no dogs have before.

Narrated by Mark Twain. Coming soon.

[okay, check out the story here if you want it a little more straight]

The gin itself is a grape based [California Grape Brandy] and boasts a rather traditional bill of botanical bill with a bold flavor profile, distilled on hand built stills.

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Gin Reviews

Darjeeling Gin


There may come a point in the near future where the first distillery in _________ since Prohibition will become a quaint reminder of the past, a past where we cast of the shackles which held back creativity in spirits. Until then, Darjeeling Gin hails from California Distilled Spirits in Placer County [yep, a first since]. Their first product doesn’t disclose much in the way of botanicals [the name is a hint I think], but it does fit well within the world of craft. “Small” [yes], “curated”, [yep], “labor of love,” [it says it right on the website] are all there. How about the gin?

Tasting Notes

The nose is mildly exotic, with hints of earl grey tea, pecan sandies, cardamom, and cinnamon sugar. Slight hints of citrus on the edges lending a lemon flavored, sweetened tea sort of note. Really interesting, but quite inviting.

The palate is quite complex, with a lot of affects swirling about: slightly smoky, black tea leaves with a floral lavender-led and citrus undertone—grapefruit oil and lemon peel primarily. Juniper with a slight pine bent comes on early-mid to mid palate. The overall profile is incredibly aromatic as it crosses the palate.

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Gin Reviews

Wheel House American Dry Gin


wheel·house / ˈ(h)wēlˌhous, noun: wheelhouse; plural noun: wheelhouses

    1. a part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel. 2. the part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run. “Oakland’s closer Street left a fastball in Bonds’ wheelhouse with two outs” 3. a place or situation in which one is advantageously at ease.

Officially it’s definition 1, but I suggest there’s a little a bit of definition 3 here in as well.

In our own <100 Words

Straight from Sacramento City, California, Wheel House Gin is Gold River Distillery’s tribute to the culture of the city and region during prohibition. Enterprising sons and daughters of Gold miners from the Gold Rush weren’t having any of this prohibition business. Taking advantage of the city’s geography, bootleggers used river boats to bring the contraband to the speakeasies of the city. Those brave souls steered their ships from the Wheelhouse, or definition 1. It’s a “grain-to-glass” gin, base from distilled red winter wheat and white wheat on a column still before being distilled with the botanicals.

Tasting Notes

There’s a warm grainy quality noticeable immediately on the nose.

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Gin Reviews

No. 209 Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon


White wine, meet red.

Earlier we reviewed No. 209’s Savignon Blanc Barrel Reserve Gin, and we were quite a fan of its novel take on Aged Gin. This is the red wine version of that same gin, this time rested in Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels.

Its color is a rich deep shade of golden brown, close to an almond shell. It is much darker than the Sauvignon Blanc for comparison.

Tasting Notes

A very interesting and quite unique nose for a gin, lots happening here.

First cardamom, and then Madeira and Sherry. There’s a bit of that similar lemon and citrus rind note from the Blanc version, but the gin notes seem a little more in the background here. Less juniper initially, and unlike other aged gins, a mild nose that doesn’t assault you with oak and overt signs of aging.

The palate is complex as well: oily citrus and cassia initially. A robust full bodied middle, with juniper, pepper, baking spices and a bit of heat. The finish is somewhat oaky, but largely Sherry, with oxidized fruit, grapes, apple. Very smooth the whole way through. Complex and thoroughly enjoyable neat.

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Gin Reviews

No. 209 Barrel Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Gin


Aged gin is hot right now. Very hot. But this particular release from No. 209 stands out. It was finished for three months in a barrel which once held Rudd Sauvignon Blanc wine. Available in limited release, in particular the Sauvignon Blanc gin, is quite unique and retains an oxidized, somewhat fruity character that I haven’t tasted in other barrel aged gins.

Also special among aged gins is its lovely pale straw hue, almost exactly the color one might expect to see in a Chardonnay style wine. A far cry from the burnt almond shell and deep golden browns of most aged gins.

Tasting Notes

On the nose, disarmingly quiet. It retains notes of stone fruit, a god deal of juniper, lemon and citrus with a touch of alcohol. It immediately stands out as a gin, but with a faint nose of oxidized fruit. Very interesting and quite good.

The palate begins somewhat understated. Sweet lemon and candied orange peel, bright peach and nectarine, stone fruit. The mid notes stand out as being the most gin like: cardamom and juniper. The finish is buttery and rich, with citrus, cardamom and some oak.

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Gin Reviews

Blade Gin

Blade Gin Bottle Image Front

I’ve had this sample floating around my kitchen for awhile now. Reviewing a mini is a challenge for me, but I try to do it as best as I can, especially when David hooks me up with some samples from the UK. I prefer to mix a couple of full cocktails, try it in a few smaller drinks and really kind of get a sense of what the gin is trying to do. Well in this case I have about  50mL of a spirit. It’s hard to do as a complete a review as I’d like, but I’m going to take a shot at telling you what it tastes like and how it works w/ Tonic. But that’s about all I can do. If I ever am able to get a full bottle, I reserve the right to update this review with a more complete list of cocktails and tasting notes.

Okay, phew. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to the first ‘micro-tasting.’

Blade: introductory notes. Very intrigued by the fact that the base mixed a standard neutral grain base with grape spirits as well.

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Gin Reviews

St George’s Dry Rye Gin


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.

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Gin Reviews

St George’s Terroir Gin


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.

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Gin Reviews

Tru2 Organic Gin

tru2 gin

Loftily billed as the first “100 % Organic Gin,” Tru2 doesn’t look like your average gin. It has a brownish color that looks more like watered down whiskey. The scent is only vaguely gin like. Drinking it straight it reminds me of Chartreuse: Overwhelmed by a blend of herbs, some of them very pungent. As I poured myself a drink I wondered “is there any juniper in here?”

In Gin and Tonic, the herbal combination overwhelms the tonic water. The Quinine doesn’t quite compliment Tru2 gin properly, though it is somewhat more palatable when mixed with ample fresh lime. But, because the herbs are center stage in Tru2, this gin does not lend itself well to mixed drinks. Unless you’ve felt your Tom Collins or Gin Fizz was missing the strong aroma of constituent spices, I’d recommend drinking it straight as a Martini.

But this gin is not for everyone. It may not even be for your usual gin drinkers. I highly recommend it for those who like a strong herbal component to their gin. To use an analogy: this is not the subtle rose in Hendrick’s, this is the Grapes in g’vine.

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