Schlichte Gin

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Some gins are the perfect examples of their style. Plymouth is the classic example of Plymouth style gin and Schlichte is the classic example of the Steinhäger style. If you’re curious about the style’s baseline, we covered that a short while ago. This review is just about Schlichte.

The first thing I noticed was the beautiful earthenware bottle. It stands out among the other glass bottles in any gin section where it appears. It seems distinctly “old world” and “throwback” just as itself.

I opened, and the first thing I noticed was nearly nothing. No powerful aromas, just a subtle hint of gin. Its just as cool and throwback as the bottle itself. So far Schlichte has given away precious little of itself. I know that its triple distilled based on neutral wheat spirit and juniper berries, with a recipe dating back to the 15th century. But what else? On to tasting: will you reveal your secrets?

Sipping it neat reveals a distinctly different and unique among gin quality. Its remarkably smooth and simple. You taste the juniper and that’s about it. Technically that’s exactly what it should taste like too. But the juniper quality is rather peculiar. Its less like a strong juniper forward gin such as Junipero, and the only modern gin which I can say that Schlichte reminded me of was Death’s Door. It has a peculiar “flat” sort of taste. It has a smooth taste and is extremely capable of being sipped. That is capable alone, I’m not sure that there’s enough complexity to really warrant regular sipping on the rocks.

You may be wondering how it compares to London Dry, which also is extremely juniper forward. I’ll sum it up succinctly. While a lot of juniper forward London Dry gin has a certain kind of ferocious burn, an acute prickle which is characteristic of the style; Schlichte offers none of this. Its a smooth, slightly bitter with a palate cleaning character, simple one note gin. It doesn’t quite prickle or burn, its has a creamy character to it.

Though It has a rather relaxed character in general, the distinct bitter flavor comes through and alters (in some cases in quite a good way) the flavor of some classic cocktails.

For example, take Schlichte in the Negroni. The Negroni (as I say regularly) has some strong flavorful ingredients. Schlichte alters the profile for the more bitter. It’s a very smooth drink with Schlitche in place of a London Dry. It also causes the profile to be Deceptively strong.

In a Gimlet, the bitter character takes the edge off of a super sweet cordial like Rose’s lime juice. The smoothness comes in at the right place at the end of the tasting, and takes a bit of the edge off the sour as well.

With tonic (because really, if you’re drinking at home this is likely your primary mode of gin consumption) its interesting. Mix it with a sweet tonic like Canada Dry or Fever Tree, and you almost get a hint of that bitter finish that Q Tonic is renowned for delivering.

Overall, it mixes surprisingly well. Surprisingly well if you like the taste. If you’re more into the heat of London Dry or the exotic botanical combinations of a lot of modern gin distilling, you may think Schlichte ruins a lot of cocktail. I don’t find a lot of middle ground with this gin. It either works for you, or it doesn’t.

Gin has come a long way from the fifteenth century, and while I embrace that wholeheartedly, I find it extremely interesting to taste the roots of all of modern gin craft alive and well on the top shelf of my local liquor store.
Best consumed: The Gimlet I think is one of the cocktails that this gin did best. 
Availability: Primarily online, you may see it in your local high end liquor store or corner store in a German/Eastern European ethnic neighborhood.
Rating: Although simple, it has a lot of appeal for gin aficionados but likely not much further.

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10 thoughts on “Schlichte Gin”

  1. Interesting review. I came across this page because they drink Schlichte gin from bottles in Samuel Fuller’s 1980 WWII film The Big Red One. I noticed it because I’d recently had Van Wees jenever from a similar looking bottle and wondered if they were actually drinking jenever in the film. Nope, they’re drinking Schlichte gin with the labels auf Englisch 🙂

  2. your comments on Schlichte Gin are very informative .
    I have a problem . Many years ago I was given a bottle of Schlichte Echter Steinhager Gin by a friend from Germany. I have recently discovered it still unopened in a cupboard. Can you advise me if after all these years this bottle is still drinkable ?. To be honest I did not realise until now that this bottle contained gin. It would be interesting to try it, after reading your comments.
    best regards ,
    Noel Hughes

  3. I’m always reluctant to be absolutely authoritative on this. I always suggest, use your best judgement. There is no reason that it should be outright bad to drink. For the most part, evaporation of the water part of a spirit is the most likely negative consequence of it being stored for a long time. Use your best judgement, and let me know how it is if you do crack it open.

  4. I have an unopened bottle that I believe is from the 50’s. Would it be worth anything other than normal cost? I don’t want to ruin something valuable opening it and trying it.

  5. Unopened liquor has an indefinite shelf life. Open it has roughly 10 years. The less you have in the bottle the less time it takes for it to lose flavor.

  6. I have a bottle of Schlichte bought 45 years ago and tastes a lot better now than how I remember it tasting all those years ago.

  7. I found a bottle of this for $20 at a store that has little competition and consequently has high prices on most things. There were two of them on the top shelf coated in dust. I asked the proprietor why they were only $20 and he said ‘They’ve been here longer than I have, pretty sure the boss just wants to get rid of them.’ So I took a chance on it and was well rewarded. It feels more like a vodka than anything, the juniper flavor is very subtle.

  8. Wish I still had some of the old bottles of Steinhager as described in the posts. That stuff was all so good back in the days that I was stationed in Deutschland that I drank all of mine. But my (perhaps blighted!) memory is of an ABV higher than 38%!