Gin is my favorite distilled product drink. It’s as pleasurable as drinking an aperitif or good white wine. Oh ridiculous, you say? Not in my opinion. Many people just don’t like gin because they haven’t tasted good gin…really, really good gin.
It’s about the recipe. It’s always about the recipe and a pristine distillation process. Some of the more excellent gins are triple distilled, but there are other premiums that are not tripled distilled but, smooth and silky and nevertheless.
The word “gin” comes from the French name for the juniper berry, ‘genièvre,’ and so it is only reasonable to think of great gin tasting of that ingredient, a dominate flavor until recently.
Today, as consumer interest in gin is soaring, gin makers are getting creative in intriguing ways, or as the Hendrick’s Gin site says, they are proud of their “oddly made” gin. The advent of “artisanal” gins has arrived.
To make premium gin, neutral grain spirits are steeped in some manner of vapor infusion, usually consisting of a wire basket containing aromatic botanicals - spirits and botanicals never coming in contact with each other. Some examples of those botanicals might be combinations of lemon, lime, orange peel or zest, orris root, cassia, liquorice, lavendar, sage, coriander, cardamon, almond and of course, juniper. Here’s where the “artisanal” touch comes in. Just as a winemaker chooses just the right time and method of pruning the vines, picking the grapes and hand-sorting them, method is everything. The Gin chef has the recipe.
Here are a few examples of the differences you might taste in three quality gins. All rely on juniper, but have differing impressions on the palate:
Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin (England) 94 proof: My personal favorite for years, but I’ve had it on my shelf for so long that I wasn’t paying attention to newer products. That’s changing now, and everything I try is weighed against Bombay Sapphire, which prominently and proudly shows it’s juniper swag. I love the beautiful fragrance of Sapphire – almost as nice as the long, satiny finish. Visit the website here.
Hendricks Gin (Scotland) 88 proof: In this season (2012-21013) of Saturday Night Live Daniel Craig (the current James Bond) was hosting. I love Daniel Craig. There was a hilarious segment of Craig with Fred Armisen playing the role of his female girlfriend. The host couple offered up drinks and she (Armisen) wants only Hendricks Gin, which the couple doesn’t have. It caught my attention and I now have a bottle on hand. Hendricks’ “oddly made” gin features “Bulgarian rose petals” and cucumber, meaning that rose petals and cucumber are among their major botanical components. Quickly coming to be known as the “Cucumber Gin,” serving with a slice of cucumber or a cucumber stick stirrer is recommended. Just so you know, “cucumber” does not overwhelm in the glass. This is a lovely, subtle gin. If you appreciate Hendricks Gin, you are considered among the “curious individuals” who share the passion. Visit their Curiositorium here.
Moody June American Dry Gin (Texas) 84 proof: Moody June Gin is a new product made in Smithville, Texas by Bone Spirits Distillery, just outside of Austin. Hand-crafted and made with 100% corn spirits. Most gin makers only say they use 100% grains or 100% agricultural grains, but Moody June (don’t you love the name?) proudly uses all products grown locally, including corn and juniper berries. Moody June is juniper forward, but in a way different from Bombay Sapphire. This is a clean, crisp, citrusy gin with a pretty herbal nose. Visit Bone Spirits here.
I’m sitting here with a bottle of Moody June, Hendricks and Bombay Sapphire on my desk top. I’ve removed the caps of each one – one at a time, taken a deep sniff, as I would a fine wine in a proper wine glass. It is easy to understand how different good gin can be simply from the nose. You’ll never find the same in vodka.
These are just three of many fine gins I plan to talk about in blog posts in the future, from industry standards to newer breeds. How we drink gin is also a subject for another day.