Van Gogh Gin launched in 1999. It is built on the same base as their flagship vodka. Distilled from wheat, corn and barley, it then undergoes “a proprietary double-infusion method.” This refers to the two types of distillation: first two passes in a column still, then once in a pot still. Though the Van Gogh product line is probably best known for their lines of flavored vodkas, their Van Gogh Gin quietly floats under the radar as one of the early pioneers of the citrus-forward contemporary style.
Van Gogh Gin’s nose is somewhat straightforward— there’s a lot of citrus. Primarily lemon zest dominates, but a subtle background note of licorice root adds a nice roundness. Van Gogh Gin is a little intense with a bit of heady ethanol notes as well.
On the palate, the lemon notes do continue to carry the day. Lemon early, with juniper and a hint of spiciness mid-palate. Licorice builds around the edges ushering Van Gogh Gin towards its finish. Yes, plenty of lemon zest on the finish here, but a really interesting almond note begins to come through.
The finish of Van Gogh Gin is moderate in length, with almond being the final note that dissipates. There’s a pleasant and nicely balanced warmth. Van Gogh’s base spirit brings a little punchiness at the 47% ABV, but it never really takes over.
The lemon-forward perspective of Van Gogh Gin best comes through in drinkers that don’t double down on the lemon. Take for example the way it can marry with fresh lime in a Gin Fizz, or adds a citrus lift to a Gin and Tonic.
On the other hand, without a strong juniper component, Van Gogh Gin is less successful in a Tom Collins, Gin and Bitter Lemon, or Aviation. The fresh lemon takes over and the gin is mostly there to add a touch of spice to the mix.
Van Gogh Gin is a citrus-forward contemporary style gin sure to appeal to fans of the style. Classic gin fans might find the juniper too far back in the background. Ultimately, where I kind of find Van Gogh Gin comes out short is in the balance category. It bets the farm on a single botanical note. While a citrus-forward contemporary style gin like Van Gogh was edgy and pushing new ground in 1999, right now it gets lost in a crowd and doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself.