Perhaps Temple Distilling’s signature gin’s name is tongue and cheek— an acknowledgment of sorts— that in the crowded gin shelf— both in bars and in liquor stores— it is the story that sells.
When consulting with distillers, I often remind them that often it’s the bottle which sells the first sip. Every next one is sold by the quality and taste of the spirit itself. The bottle is chapter one. And if that hooks you, perhaps the spirit inside is chapter two— and three etc.
The eponymous distillery was founded by AJ Temple in 2014 with an ambitious goal (quote their website), “to create the best London Dry gin available this side of the pond.” As a reminder, London Dry is a quality designation, not a flavor designation (though admittedly, many people still think of London Dry Gins as juniper forward, but look no further than the decidedly contemporary styled Opihr London Dry Gin, but I digress). A London Dry must have less than 10 mg. of sugars per liter. [source] To be called a London style gin, the base spirit must be distilled to a high standard of purity before diluting/adding botanicals; the juniper must also be added through distillation. Nothing else can be added after distillation.
The London Dry style is used by many of the biggest and oldest names in gin. Therefore, Temple Distilling has already put their Chapter One Gin in rarefied space— their story is going up against tales as old as time— or at least as old as gin.
At first pour, you’re immediately greeted by a pleasant burst of pine-forward juniper. Chapter One Gin leads with a classic nose; however, to leave it at that would be to miss some of the delicate orange zest and angelica notes that round it out.
The palate is rich and full bodied. The juniper is still front and center, but buoyed by a punchy hit of angelica root. Delicate citrus mid-palate usher in a late palate that showcases some of the earthier and spicier notes. Cubeb and grains of paradise coalesce into a single peppery note, while coriander and green juniper and pine blossoms rise on the finish.
Chapter One Gin’s finish is moderate in length with a beautiful clean, dry and classic approach.
Distilled from grain, the spirit itself has a delightful viscosity and impressive staying power. With a slight oily character, it coats the tongue and sides of the palate, helping to keep the botanicals— particularly the juniper— right where classic gin fans want it.
Chapter One Gin is quintessentially classic and it will please bartenders to know that Temple Distilling has created a workhorse of a gin that can be used as interchangeably in a well Gin and Tonic and a top shelf Martini. Both of which might I say were among my favorites with this gin. I especially loved how Chapter One Gin seemed as at home with olive brine in a Dirty Martini as it was up with a twist (3:1 with Dolin Vermouth, highly recommended).
The promo materials for Chapter One Gin suggested “bubbles of any kind.” I thought it makes a delicious French 75, with a pleasant juniper forward effervescence, and an equally good Gin Gin Mule— a tough cocktail to execute because of the bold combination of ginger, mint and lime. But yet the juniper persists. And it’s beautiful.
Other recommendations include pairing it with floral liqueurs and mixing up an Aviation. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was a Navy Strength offering of the same spirit, I’d suggest the Negroni as well— and the juniper does come through. But the Navy variation is a better Negroni, at least at the 1:1:1 ratio.
AJ Temple set out with a goal that sounds boisterous— even fraught with braggadocio. But after tasting Chapter One Gin, I think Temple Distilling is on to something here. If they’re not “the best,” they’re at least in the top three depending on your tastes.
Chapter One Gin is a delightfully executed classic style spirit that delivers no matter how you like your gin. Bartenders stateside looking for an American distilled gin that does everything well and will please even the staunchest of classic gin drinkers, this may be it. You can pour everything from a Gin and Tonic to a so-dry-its-really-just-gin Martini, and be confident that it’s going to work.
Fans of contemporary style gins who may have written off classic style gins also may want to give this gin a try as a re-introduction to the style. It’s a gin for gin lovers, and a gin for everyone.