Follow along with us this holiday season as we go through Drinks by the Dram’s 2015 Ginvent Calendar. You can follow along yourself at home by either picking up a calendar and either run ahead on your own by grabbing a copy of my latest book GIN: THE ART AND CRAFT OF THE ARTISAN REVIVAL (nearly all of the gins are featured in the book!) or staying tuned here for notes on the gins as we open them up alongside you.
For Ginvent, our rating system will be out of 5 ‘s and will instead be solely judging the spirit based on how it is on its own. Where we’ve done a more full review on the site, we’ll link to that as well.
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Ferdinand Saar Quince
A cordial style gin that is absolutely exploding with good ideas! Riesling wine [check!]. Quince instead of Sloes [check!]. 30 botanicals! [check!] There’s just so many things happening that you can’t focus on what each of them does well. It’s an orchestra where everyone plays at once.
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Price: £24 / 500 mLABV: 42.4%
Distiller: Professor Cornelius Ampleforth/Master of Malt HouseOrigin: UKAvailability: UKRating: (2.5/5)
That name is a mouth-full. But let’s break it down into some helpful definitions:
Bathtub Gin – owing to the fact that legally gin is simply “juniper flavored spirit,” one can make a gin by infusing/macerating, or alternatively “cold compounding” juniper berries and other botanicals in a spirit.
Old Tom Gin – the simplest, widely accepted definition for what an Old Tom Gin is simply a gin which has sweetening added after distillation*. Usually Old Tom gins feature a malty, character-filled base spirit which hasn’t been distilled to the point of being neutral, and often, but not necessarily by definition, have been rested in a barrel, usually for only as long as it needed to travel from distillery to pub.
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth – Master of Malt house brand based on a legend of a slightly mad Victorian re-creationist who hasn’t met a spirit of yore that he didn’t want to bring back. See Victor Frankenstein**
Cardamom, lemon and juniper on the nose, it comes across as sweet without being sweetened per se.
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Sometimes I get so caught in this craft thing that I miss – well not quite miss- but fall behind on reviewing the gin that is the Zeitgeist. The gin de la moment. Tanqueray Malacca was hot news in late 2012-early 2013. Tanqueray brought back from the dead a gin which sold like ice to Eskimos a decade back. But I suppose now, as a gin drinking public, we’re more open minded to the idea that a gin- even a gin from a big name like Tanqueray- can lead with notes other than juniper.
Citrus on the nose at first. This certainly can’t be from Tanqueray, can it? Definitely doesn’t echo any of the other trademarks of the Tanqueray brand. Not a lot of juniper. Zesty, citrusy and bright. Lime and grapefruit predominantly.
The taste is robust but smooth. Citrus up front again, a tad bit of acidic tang. Lemon, and Grapefruit. The middle we get some baking spices, Cinnamon in the middle. The finish is perhaps the shining moment for this gin, you get a tad bit of juniper and a long creamy finish with notes of creme anglaise, specifically warm creamy vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.
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A little late to our Colorado Gin tasting party, but no less interesting, this is the second Old Tom style gin that we’ve reviewed. The first being Spring 44’s rather excellent offering.
The picture above doesn’t do it justice. I tried to capture the bottle against the backdrop of where I do my reviews. That’s not Colorado, that’s Astoria, NY. And that little silhouette on the upper right? A Colorado Proud sticker. Yet another distiller that’s proud to be a part of the incredible distilling culture in that state.
Let’s get to the gin. An interesting note to pay attention to before you even get to the tasting is the base. It’s not grain, it’s cane. Yep, like a Rum. This makes it a sort of rarity among gins before we even actually get to the notes.
Riding Downslope of Flavor and the Nose
The nose is bright, a touch malty actually. You get a hint of dry grassy field in here as well as a touch of malted grain. There’s a bright citrus note as well, fresh and orange with a touch of lemon. Kind of interesting, the creamy warmth is certainly Old Tom like, but that touch of grass/grain isn’t.
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Old Tom Gin.
If you were hunting the streets of London for gin during the heady days of England’s early 18th century prohibition [and for those of you who don’t know your gin history, it was specifically gin which was targeted. The craze, Mother’s ruin, and all of that good stuff came out of this period] you need look no further than the window with a picture of the Old Tom Cat over it. Insert your coin, and the barkeep inside of the building would insert some gin into a chute for the paying customer to enjoy.
Old Tom Gin had a reputation for being cheap, almost vile stuff. The style in question was sweetened, to hide the less pleasant notes of the unfortunate and crudely produced spirit lying underneath.
History Lesson Over
And now to the present. Dry gin merely meant “unsweetened gin,” and now Old Tom generally refers to a sweetened style of gin that differs from a the vast array of dry gins which decorate the shelves and bars or liquor stores around the world. Old Tom is something of an obscure style too, though with the recent craft distilling surge, its making a comeback and now there’s nearly ten distilleries Old Tom Gin being made in the United States, and I’d be expecting more in the near future.
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Drinking in AmericaThe Gin Blog [UK]Madam Geneva's via YumSugarBrunellos Have More Fun
Gin1.5 oz.2 oz [or vodka]2 oz gin
Old Tom Gin50 mL
Dry Vermouth.5 oz.
Lemon Juice.75 oz.30 mL1 oz.1 oz.
Simple Syrup15 mL1 oz
Creme De Mure Liqueur15 mL
Jelly1 tsp RaspberryBlackberry"Spoonful" [Raspberry suggested, but open ended]1 spoonful, seasonal jam.
Garnish-One spoonful of jam on top of ice.
InstructionsMix; stir w/ ice; strainShake jam, gin, lemon and syrup. Shake with ice, strain and serve.
Ever since first visiting Madame Geneva in NYC, I fell in love with the the combination of gin and jam. But at my last visit, the fabulous cocktail had disappeared from the menu. So now, I am left to my own devices and my own bar for my gin/jam fix. So although I don’t think this cocktail has an official name [that I know of] I went to the internet to see what the consensus is. How do I make a jam cocktail, and in particular are there other variations on the Madam Geneva recipe that I fell in love with.
The 3rd column is the closest in my opinion to the version I had at Madam Geneva’s.
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There was a time when the craft of distillation was less a science than an art of approximation. The resulting spirits were uneven, impure, “harsh,” “unpleasant;” they were the spirits which gave the stereotype of bathtub gin its truth. So how did the master distillers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century address this problem?
Old Tom Gin was born. Old Tom is a slightly sweetened classic styled gin. Once rare, they’re becoming more common.
So why this apparent digression? New Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill Gin is technically an Old Tom Style Gin. Barr Hill has a classic and simple basic formula: fresh neutral grain spirit with zesty juniper. The honey is added after distillation. And the result? Quite remarkable. Its a refreshing gin that is easy— even for gin novices— to wrap their heads around. Every element of the gin is present, well done, clearly identifiable and [as an added bonus] well balanced.
The nose is subtle and understated. A slight, sweet, and mild juniper note is evident. But its quiet. It plays it close to the test on the nose: inviting but not domineering.
The taste is simple and elegant.
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