Queens Courage is a gin that reminds me of Astoria, New York City where I lived for ten years. Produced and distilled by the Astoria Distilling Company, Queens Courage begins from a base of grain and seeks to replicate the Old Tom style of gin. Once Old Tom was a bag of tricks used by distillers to cover up musty and low quality distillates— modern distilleries’ work is of much higher quality, but they still use some of those “tricks.” Queens Courage uses locally sourced New York City honey, produced on the roof of a warehouse in Queens. The farm is called Brooklyn Grange*, but it’s as Queens as the name on the bottle. The honey sweetening is similar to a technique used in Barr HIll Gin.
The nose has some malt character to it. Hints of corn moonshine and licorice root, Queens Courage has just the right balance between toasted grain and botanicals on the nose. It slightly evokes the aroma of some very light Jonge Genevers.
Queens Courage begins with a combination of the subtle sweetness of the underlying grain spirit and orange blossom honey, especially early. Christmas baking spices, with hints of anise-like spice, cinnamon and perhaps a touch of juniper. It’s nicely blended and hard to pin point one note specifically. Towards the back of the palate, dried cherry, a hint of rose blossom and a pleasant balance between juniper and Queens Courage’s drier character, and just enough sweetness.
It’s noticeably less sweet than comparable gins who add honey to their gin. It’s more genever like with a touch of sweetness, than the intense honey-forward character of Barr Hill. That being said, Queens Courage plays with many more botanicals than does Barr Hill, and mimics other more botanically sweetened Old Toms with some of the creamy, spice notes, which add a bit of sweetness of their own.
I find that Queens Courage works best when treated like an Old Tom or Holland style gin. That means that the maltiness and grainy character is best served in a Martinez or Negroni. It can make a rich unctuous Martini, best garnished with olives; however nice the texture may be, it is slightly unusual with that grain component. I find it less to be Gin and Tonic gin and more of an On the rocks or Gin Old Fashioned style gin.
Queens Courage marries two discrete styles of Old Tom and pairs it with a rich, nicely textured base spirit. The result may be hard to place for everyday fans of traditional London Dry Gins, but for fans of contemporary styles, or those looking for a bit of an adventure, Queens Courage might be just what you need before battle**.
*Rooftop farming was a topic I studied extensively in graduate school. One of the barriers to most rooftop farms is that roofs are often not built to hold the kind of weight that fully saturated soil will bear (up to 30 lbs/in2) People are willing, but the infrastructure wasn’t there. It’s been hard for organizations to find buildings in New York City that are built to this standard. Scientists are developing soils that are less heavy; however, in warm climates roofs aren’t built to the same load bearing standard as they may be in colder climes where dense, heavy snow is a more regular occurrence.
** Whatever your personal battle for the day may be. Not literal battle. Like going to the grocery store. A family holiday.