Tanqueray London Dry Gin – Review

If you’re wondering how a stalwart, classic London Dry Gin got a French-sounding name like Tanqueray, wonder no longer. The distant relatives of Charles Tanqueray, who founded the original Tanqueray distillery, relocated from France to England in the late 1600’s. There…I guess that’s pretty much it. Apparently, these early, ex-French Tanquerays were a devout bunch, and spent the next century in the service of the church. As it so often does, all that clergy-ing eventually took a toll on the younger generations, and apparently drove Charles and his three brothers to drink, or at least drove them to making drink. In 1830, in the town of Bloomsbury, the Tanqueray brothers established their gin distillery. Charles seems to have been the driving force behind the venture, and there’s evidence that suggests that his early product was one of the first, non-sweetened, clean-spirited, juniper-forward London dry gins ever produced. By the mid-1800’s the family “brand” was experiencing  success both at home and as far abroad as Jamaica.

Tanqueray Gin became even more successful at the hands of Charles’ son, Charles Waugh Tanqueray who began work at the distillery in 1867. Charles Jr. quickly expanded the family gin’s export range, and most importantly, oversaw a merger between Tanqueray and fellow London dry gin powerhouse Gordon’s at the very end of the 1800’s. As a result of this deal, the Tanqueray brand was dedicated to the US market, which is still its biggest market today. In 1922, the Gordon-Tanqueray Company was swallowed up by Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL), a little outfit made up of off-brand Scotch like Johnnie Walker.  DCL of course went on to be purchased by Guinness in the ’80’s, which eventually morphed into the huge juggernaut we all know and love named Diageo.

The first major hiccup in Tanqueray’s ascendency came during World War II. In 1941, the distillery was bombed in an air raid and was nearly wiped off the map. One of the only production elements to somehow survive the carnage was an old still, which was repaired and thrust back into service once the distillery was re-opened. In 1948, the brand introduced the now-iconic green bottle, and nearly 10 years later relocated its production, old still and all, to what was called the Goswell Road Distillery. In 1989, production was moved once again, this time to two separate locations. The parent company’s Cameronbridge Distillery had been re-tooled to produce neutral grain spirit* along with grain whisky, so it was now responsible for producing all of Tanqueray’s base spirit. The botanical distillation was moved to a different location in Basildon. Not long after, Guinness wised up and decided to just put the entire production process of Tanqueray, including that battered old still, under one big Cameronbridge roof. And that is where the brand continues to be produced today.

Tanqueray is somewhat unique amongst its peers in that it’s generally known that the recipe consists of only four botanicals – angelica root, coriander, licorice, and of course juniper. The standard Tanqueray London Dry Gin is found pretty much anywhere potable alcohol is sold in glass bottles. The brands line-up also consists of Tanqueray No. 10, Tanqueray Rangpur, and a couple of “limited edition” bottles, Tanqueray Bloomsbury, and Tanqueray Old Tom.

The Nose:  All juniper, all the time. There’s juniper berries, juniper needles, hell, there’s sappy, sawn juniper branches. The suggestion of lemon oil, faintly furniture polish-esque, hangs in the background. Outside of that, there’s candied fennel, and a faintly dusty, woody, herbal note that’s probably Angelica Root. Well in the background, are subtle, barely there hints of coriander and cardamom. There’s also a lot of juniper, did I mention that?

The Palate:  Hottish, and again full of juniper, but less overbearing than the nose. The juniper is sharp and woody on the palate. There’s still a hint of citrus but it’s more subtle.The coriander and fennel, both a little stronger now, are joined by the suggestion of baking spices, cinnamon, ginger, and faint fine ground pepper.

The Finish:  Yep, you guessed it, juniper. There’s also a bit of citrus pith, a little ginger, and a faint lingering hint of that peppery baking spice.

Thoughts:  Well, there’s no doubt Tanqueray and its big, straightforward, juniper-centric flavor profile should be considered a classic London Dry Gin and a veritable pillar of the gin industry. However, for me, the near singular emphasis on the juniper is a bit of a drawback. I love juniper-y gins, but I love them when they have more a bit more depth and varied complexity. To my taste, Tanqueray falls a little short on both counts. That’s not to say this isn’t a well-made, classic spirit, it is, but in this style and in this price range, I think I prefer Beefeater and Bombay Original.

As gin is usually a cocktail spirit, here’s how I thought this one held up in a trio of classic drinks…

In a Gin & Tonic:  Bold , bright, fresh, and crisp. Probably where I like Tanqueray best. Then again, you’d better like juniper-y G&T’s.

In a Martini:  For me, this one is too straightforward, harsh, and overpowering in a martini. Sharp, snappy and strong, a Tanqueray martini is certainly a bold drink, but it lacks a bit of finesse and class in my book.

In a Negroni:  Tanqueray makes a good Negroni, though again, that juniper emphasis can take a bit of complexity away from the other ingredients. The strong ABV and flavor profile create quite a duet with the Campari, but the vermouth can feel a little left behind.

Tanqueray London Dry Gin, +/-2017

47.3% ABV

*What the hell is the difference between “neutral grain spirit” vs. “grain whisky” you ask? Neutral grain spirit or grain neutral spirit is basically a distillate made from grain that’s been distilled to such a high proof (at least 95% alcohol by volume) that there’s very little flavor left in it. It’s then used in things like vodkas, gins, and liqueurs. Grain whisky on the other hand, is distilled to a much lower proof, retaining a significant amount of grain character, and being matured in oak casks until needed. Grain whiskies are typically used in blended Scotch as a less expensive, less concentrated in flavor, filler whisky for the old school blenders.


Sources:

  • Broom, Dave. Gin: the manual. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2015. Print.
  • “Cameronbridge Gin Distillery (Tanqueray Gordon).” Difford’s Guide,
  • Coates, Geraldine. Gin: a toast to the most aromatic of spirits. London: Prion/Carlton Limited, 2015. Print.
  • Hayes, Annie. “Tanqueray: a brand history.” The Spirits Business, 27 Mar. 2017,
  • Stephenson, Tristan. The Curious Bartenders Gin Palace. London: Ryland Peters & Small, 2016. Print.

 

Advertisements

Tattersall Amaro – Review

On May 24, 2011, after it had passed both the Senate and the House, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill entitled Chapter 55, HF 1326/SF 918 into law. “Chapter 55, HF 1326/SF 918” might have been a perfectly acceptable name for a bill to politicians and lawmakers, but, obviously, it lacked a bit of punch and clarity for rest of us, which is why it became more popularly known as “the Surly Bill.” Surly Brewing, a forerunner of Minnesota’s craft brewing scene, led a popular, well-supported campaign to change some of the state’s fusty liquor laws so that craft beer producers could sell their products on site. The bill’s passing lead to an explosion of craft breweries and tap rooms, creating one of the more vibrant beer scenes in the country. But that’s not all this piece of legislation created. There was also a small provision that lowered the yearly distillery license fee from $30,000 to $1,000. Suddenly, along with a rampaging beer scene, Minnesota also saw the birth of its own craft distilling movement.

Thanks to co-founder Dan Oskey, Minneapolis’ Tattersall Distillery was one of the more hotly anticipated distilleries and cocktail rooms to open as a result of all that politicking and lawmaking. Oskey is a renowned bartender in the Twin Cities, having created hugely successful bar programs at the Strip Club and the always fun Hola Arepa. Along with that, he’s also created a clever retail kit for making homemade bitters and a successful, delicious line of sodas. Tattersall’s line up is prolific, diverse and is obviously the product of a veteran bartender who really wants to make his own versions of everything he uses. While most new, small distilleries followed the perfectly acceptable path of producing and selling maybe two to five products, often gins, vodkas, young whiskeys, and maybe even something a little less traditional, Tattersall currently has over 20 different spirits and liqueurs on their roster. These are available not only in the distillery’s Northeast neighborhood taproom and throughout the great state of Minnesota, but are now distributed in 15 other states as well.

In the coming months, I hope to profile this distillery in more detail, and continue to take a look at their diverse line. For now, to start with, here’s the Tattersall Amaro, the distillery’s take on the classic Italian herbal liqueur.

The Nose:  Herbal and sweet. Quite a bit of licorice-esque notes, wormwood, star anise and candied fennel. The sweetness is full of dark, floral honey, a little elderflower, and perhaps even a touch of light molasses. There’s a nice integrated gentian bitterness throughout. In the background, there are subtle notes of lemon verbena and cardamom,

The Palate:  Sweet, but less syrupy and cloying than other amari. Star Anise, fennel, clove, dark floral honey are strongest, with a little citrus zest as well. Just as complex as the nose, perhaps even a little weightier and earthier. The gentian from the nose does carry over nicely. There’s a tannic quality about this, a “dryness” that’s very appealing.

The Finish:  Gentian, light mint, more star anise and licorice candies, along with a little clove, and a slight tannic grippy-ness at the last.

Thoughts:  Quite good. This is a relatively lighter amaro, not so much in its complexity and flavor profile, but in its concentration and in its sweetness. The relative toned-down sweetness is definitely welcome. On the other hand, the lighter concentration has occasionally left me wishing this had a bit more punch and strength, especially sipping neat or on ice. That said, I’ve really enjoyed playing with the Tattersall Amaro in cocktails, I think that’s where it’s at its best. The reduced sweetness and lighter feel makes it a great supporting character along side gins and whiskeys. Good stuff that has me looking forward to trying other Tattersall bottles.

Tattersall Amaro, +/- 2016

30% ABV

*Bonus serendipitous cocktail! Perhaps my favorite use of this so far came in a what-the-hell-why-not riff on a Boulevardier using Tattersall Amaro, Campari, and the Penna Dutch Malt Whiskey from New Liberty Distilling. Herbal and complex, with surprising coffee and unsweetened cocoa notes, the amaro worked great with the fiery, young roasty malt, and reigned in the sugary side of things. I’ve made more than a few of these in last couple of months.


Sources:

 

 

 

Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – Review

Back in 2012, Wild Turkey and parent company Campari announced that stocks of the beloved, high-quality, low-cost Wild Turkey 101 Rye were running low and the expression was to be heavily allocated. Predictably, it didn’t take long for pretty much all of the 101 Rye to disappear. I have first hand knowledge of this because I spent the first 2/3 of 2012 preoccupied with a cross-country move, and the last 1/3 of 2012 discovering that there was no more Wild Turkey 101 Rye anywhere in the vicinity of Minneapolis, MN.

While the 101 rye took a few deep breaths and pulled itself together, Wild Turkey and Campari released the Wild Turkey 81 Proof Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey to help fill the void. This one reportedly uses the same minimum rye mashbill as the 101 does, but what that mashbill is exactly, isn’t exactly public knowledge. Some online sources claim the recipe is 51% rye, 37% corn, and 12% barley, whereas Gaz and Mardee Regan’s 1995 tome, The Book of Bourbon, lists a 65% rye, 23% corn, 12% barley mashbill. A few years ago, Chuck Cowdery received confirmation from Eddie Russell and Wild Turkey that their rye mashbill contained more than 51% rye, but nothing more specific than that. So who knows, and possibly more importantly, who really cares? It is also, as far as I know, matured in barrels made with a very Wild Turkey-esque #4 char, the highest standard char in the industry. Before it flew off the shelves in 2012, the 101 Rye was on shelves at the obscenely good price of around $20-$25. It has since returned to the shelves, but is now clocking in around $40, proving to everyone that Campari and Wild Turkey have mastered the technique of disappearing an expression, slotting in a new, lesser expression at the same price to take its place, and then reintroducing a revamped version of the original expression with a price double what it once was.

The Nose:  Quite sweet and more than a little sharp. There’s generic honey , vanilla syrup, and Kosher orange slice candies initially, but there’s also a good amount of inadvertently fermented apple cider. The rye is subtle to such an extent that I wonder if I’m actually drinking a rye whiskey – just a faint, toasty spiciness and hint of pickled ginger. Behind that, sturdy oak notes with cinnamon and ground pepper. Unfortunately, there’s also a hot whiff of solvent that floats over it all.

The Palate:  Hot-ish and sharp, but much better than the nose. Still fairly sweet with honey, vanilla syrup, and juicy orange. The rye is more pronounced, peppery and sharp with hints of well-toasted bread. Quite a bit of oak for what I’m assuming is a younger whiskey. There’s edgy, grippy tannins, crushed peppercorns, raw ginger, cinnamon, and a bit of barrel char towards the end.

The Finish:  Hot, spicy, and astringent. Citrus and honey fade quickly leaving cinnamon, tannic oak, vanilla extract, and barely there hints of rye.

Thoughts:  Pretty disappointing, really. This is a rye that’s dominated not by rye, but by harsh youth, sweetness, and oak.  The nose is just too full of solvent-y notes to make me think more highly of the whiskey. The palate is ok, perhaps a little over-oaked and a little underwhelming, but ok…sadly, you have to get past the nose first. For that reason, I would not recommend this as a sipper. It works alright in cocktails, but it’s both edgy and a little dull – there are definitely better, more expressive bourbons and ryes in this price range ($20-$25). Hell, Old Overcoat…er, Overholt Rye comes across as more smooth, and balanced than this one for around $8 less a bottle. Fairly (or barely) average stuff.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, +/-2017

40.5% ABV

Score: 72


Sources:

  • Cowdery, Chuck. “Wild Turkey 101 Rye Is Back, Sort Of.” The Chuck Cowdery Blog, 26 Nov. 2013, chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2013/11/wild-turkey-101-rye-is-back-sort-of.html. Accessed Sept. 2017.
  • Cowdery, Chuck. “Secret Mash Bills Are Stupid.” The Chuck Cowdery Blog, 14 May 2014, chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2014/05/secret-mash-bills-are-stupid.html. Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.
  • Regan, Gary, and Mardee Haidin Regan. The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys. Shelburne, VT: Chapters Pub., 1995. Print.

 

Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond Straight Corn Whiskey – Review

“If you can see Mellow Corn on the shelf and not be intrigued by the label and name, I’m not sure about your priorities,” – Kat Kinsman

Mellow Corn is one of the more wonderful oddballs in the U.S. whiskey world. How could it not be, with a name like that? When Heaven Hill debuted the brand in 1945, there were plenty of American whiskeys with slightly more whimsical names than we usually see today. Brands like Airport Straight Bourbon, Big Cat Bourbon, King Albert Bourbon, Rainbow Straight Rye and Old Sport Bourbon filled the shelves, often with colorful labels and terrific 30’s and 40’s fonts. Mellow Corn was born into that time, and for the most part, it hasn’t ever left.

“Unique” is a word that’s probably tossed around more than it should be. I’m certainly guilty of overusing it, but in Mellow Corn’s case, it’s actually downright apt. There are very few corn whiskeys out there at the moment. This particular style of American whiskey is defined by a mashbill of at least 80% corn, and a max distilling proof of 160. By law, you don’t need to age corn whiskey, but if you do, you have to do it in un-charred or previously used oak casks. As a friendly reminder, bourbon must be at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred oak casks. As with bourbon, (and if it meets all the requirements) if you age a corn whiskey for two years, you can call it a straight corn whiskey. If you age it for four years in a bonded warehouse and bottle it at 100 proof, you can call it a bottled-in-bond corn whiskey. There are a few mass-produced, un-aged corn whiskeys out there, but most seem to be more novelty-ish than anything else. There are even fewer craft-distilled corn whiskeys, some of those are lightly aged, most if not all claiming some terroir of some kind to give their spirit more credibility. As far as I know, there are no other bottled-in-bond corn whiskeys out there other than Mellow Corn…so, yeah, unique.

I mean, how could anyone not love this label?

In the early 2010’s, Heaven Hill and Mellow Corn started to broaden their distribution. The brand has, over the years, become a bartender’s darling, a throwback with some obscure caché, and Heaven Hill has moved to capitalize on this renewed interest. Not to worry, tho’, despite this recent surge in popularity, Heaven Hill has said there no plans to change the whiskey nor the label. The mashbill for Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond Straight Corn Whiskey is reportedly 90% corn and 10% malted barley and rye. While the bottled-in-bond designation means that this one is at least 4 years old, bear in mind that it’s been aged in used casks, not new, charred oak. The wood influence will be significantly less because of that, making for a lighter whiskey that likes to show off its mashbill.

The Nose:  Straightforward, simple, and to the point. There’s a lot of sweet corn ice cream and vanilla syrup front and center. A little orange blossom honey behind that with hints of navel oranges and lemon furniture polish. Just a subtle bit of oak with cinnamon stick and toasted almonds. Faint hints of corn oil and popcorn in the background with a bit of solvent giving away this one’s youth.

The Palate:  Straightforward, simple, and to the point. The palate is a little hotter than the nose lets on. There’s caramel corn, vanilla bean, and a little juicy orange early with unsweetened cocoa powder and slightly salty toasted nuts midway through. There’s youthful, grippy oak with hot cinnamon, clove, ginger and peppercorns, and a bit of slightly burnt popcorn towards the end.

The Finish:  Caramel corn, vanilla bean, baker’s chocolate, cinnamon stick, black pepper, a bit of tannic oak, and that touch of popcorn to the end.

Thoughts:  Straightforward, simple, and to the point. Yes, this comes across a little young and hot, but it’s also balanced, expressive, and surprisingly smooth and easy drinking. This is a quirky little whiskey that’s somewhat ok neat, simple and refreshing on ice, and a surprising challenge in cocktails. It’s simplicity and relative subtlety can be overwhelmed when subbed into a traditional bourbon cocktail, but that simplicity coupled with its high ABV means it’s a lot of fun to play and experiment with. Given its low price, there is no reason not to put this unique whiskey in your cabinet at least once. Mellow Corn basically sits down in front of you, looks you square in the eye, and says, “I’m bottled in bond, I’ve got a 90% corn mashbill, an awesome looking, vintage-y label, and I cost around $12 a liter…what more do you fucking want from me?” The answer of course is nothing.

Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond Straight Corn Whiskey, +/- 2017

50% ABV

Score:  80


Sources:

Averna Amaro Siciliano – Review

Averna Amaro Siciliano has been one of the more visible amari on US shelves for quite some time. If your local liquor store has only one amaro, it’s probably not going to be Meletti or Tosolini…more than likely it will be Averna. The recipe for the brand reportedly was developed by some Benedictine monks in Sicily back when Benedictine monks in Sicily had time to develop their own liqueur recipes. These monks were no doubt drinking the stuff purely for health reasons. In 1868, the monks presented the recipe as a gift to a generous benefactor and local textile merchant named Salvatore Averna. Now, to you and me, being handed a piece of paper with an old monk recipe on it might not seem like the greatest present, but Signore Averna was neither you nor me. At first, he produced the amaro just for family and friends, but by the end of the 1800’s, the booze had a reputation and Salvatore’s son Francesco was taking the family spirit on the road, building the new brand.

When Francesco Averna died, his wife Anna Marie ran the business until she passed the reigns to her children who managed to keep Averna in production through the first world war. At some point, presumably after Prohibition, Averna began importing to the U.S., and then managed to maintain production through a second world war. In 1958, The four grandsons of Salvatore Averna took the company public, calling itself Fratelli Averna S.p.A. By 1978, thanks to the amaro’s popularity in Italy and abroad, and the expansion of the company’s product line, Fratelli Averna S.p.A. had become a major player in the Italian wine and spirits industry. In 2014, the Averna family finally relinquished its hold on the company and sold it all to the Campari Group.

Today, while bottling and distribution is handled at the Campari facility near Milan, the main production of Averna still takes place in Caltanissetta, Sicily, where Salvatore Averna first made his version of the monks’ amaro. Like every amaro in existence, Averna’s recipe is a closely guarded secret, but their website does mention at least three ingredients: pomegranates, and the essential oils of orange and lemon. The production process is a fairly common one in the world of herbal liqueurs. First, the botanicals are batched and macerated in a high-proof grape spirit for a period of time. Then, it’s proofed down with water, sweetened with sugar, and filtered before a second round of maceration happens. After that, the whole run is vatted for a time to allow everything to “marry” properly. Amari typically range from the high teens to low 30’s in terms of alcohol by volume, with the majority, Averna included, being in the mid-20’s to low 30’s.

The Nose:  Soft, more baking spice than herbal, lightly bitter. Lots of vanilla bean and a subtle bit of clove. Meyer lemon, orange peel, and crushed pomegranate seeds. A soda pop sweetness, too, Dr. Pepper maybe…or even, dare I say it, Mr. Pibb. The herbal components are fairly subdued, candied anise, quinine, and faint hint of sweetened pipe tobacco.

The Palate:  Very sweet and syrupy. Vanilla cream soda. Mike & Ike candies, coffee flavored hard candy, The bitterness comes through mostly as gentian root, but it’s subtle. Just a bit of cinchona root as well. The fruit from the nose, grows towards the end with pomegranate syrup and candied orange slices.

The Finish:  A nice dose of quinine rises up, along with earthier baking spices, helping to clear away some of that sweetness

Thoughts:  If you like sweet liqueurs but are not sure about amaro, then golly, do I have an amaro for you! Averna is arguably the most visible amaro in the US at the moment, and perhaps for good reason. It’s quite good, but it’s also quite sweet, not too challenging, and relatively not too bitter. I guess that makes it a great introduction to amaro, though, comparatively speaking, it’s also a little on the high-end price-wise at $30-$34. Averna is very nice on ice, but for me, it’s a little too sweet and cloying to spend much time with neat. It’s spice forward flavor profile means it’s good one to experiment with in brown spirit cocktails. Definitely a classic, but definitely sweeter and softer, and perhaps a little less complex than other amari out there.

Averna Amaro Siciliano, +/- 2016

29% ABV


Sources:

 

Beefeater London Dry Gin – Review

Why, yes, I do buy this in bulk. Thank you for asking!

I suppose I should start by pointing out that Beefeater Gin contains no beef, nor do you need to be a fan of eating beef to drink the stuff. While I’m sure this seems ridiculously obvious to the vast majority of people, this is coming from the United States, which as we all know, isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the tulip garden when it comes to brain smarts. The term “beefeater” is a slang title for the mostly ceremonial guards of the Tower of London. The most widely accepted origin of the word comes from these guards’ noted privilege of getting to eat a fair amount of beef and occasionally whipping up darn good beef stock when the general populace probably didn’t often get the chance to do either. But why name a gin after them, you may well ask? And I may well answer, I don’t really know, I’m not the biggest fan of beef. I may also mention that Beefeater Gin has always been made in London, and when the brand was established in the late 1800’s, naming itself after those iconic wardens, seemed a surefire way to enamor the gin to a city that was already fairly enamored with gin.

In 1863, a pharmacist named James Burrough decided to set aside the glamorous, high-flying life of a pharmacist and bought a distillery. The Cale Street Distillery had been in operation since 1820, one of over 40 spirit producers in the London area at the time. Burrough is thought to have introduced the Beefeater brand around 1895. It quickly became the distillery’s best-selling label. In 1908, the Cale Street Distillery moved from Cale Street to the Lambeth borough (a new borough for the Burroughs) and expanded its production capacity. In 1958, the distillery relocated once again to Kennington, taking over a space that was previously the alarmingly and intriguingly named Haywards Military Pickle Factory. By the 1960’s Beefeater was incredibly popular, making up a staggering 75% of all gin imported to the US. By 1987, the brand’s success proved attractive enough for the large brewing/hospitality company Whitbread to purchase Beefeater and its distillery from the Burrough family. In 2005, Beefeater was sold again, this time to Pernod-Ricard. Today, the brand sells over a million cases a year and is arguably the classic standard-bearer of the London Dry style.

Beefeater London Dry Gin is produced by macerating its mélange of botanicals in neutral spirit for 24 hours before re-distilling it all once more in the march towards the final product. Beefeater is considered a “multi-shot” gin, meaning that once through its final distillation, it will be cut back to its proper flavor profile with more neutral spirit, and then proofed down with water. In comparison, there are a few gins out there that are “single-shot” gins meaning they come ready off the still with the desired flavor profile, and just need proofing down before bottling. Apparently, there’s no small amount of contention between those who see multi-shot gin creation as some kind of Faustian aberration, and those who choose not to worry about such trivial things. Beefeater uses a recipe of nine different botanicals in its London Dry Gin, juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, licorice, almonds, orris root, Seville oranges, and lemon peel. In what seems like one of the world’s great injustices, the UK is saddled with a low-proof (40% ABV) version while the most of the rest of the world, including the not-so-smart USA, gets a much better, more expressive version that clocks in at 47% ABV..

The Nose:  A very fresh, sharp, and upfront nose. Definitely juniper forward, with a pine needle-y quality as well. While the juniper is obviously dominant, the bright, juicy, slightly bitter and pithy citrus comes in close behind. The other ingredients are subtler and well-integrated, earthy and floral, with a bit of almond extract, and hints of star anise.

The Palate:  Bold and a little hot. Just like the nose, lots of juniper and lots of juicy, slightly astringent citrus. The coriander and licorice (still very star-anise-y) are very present as is more almond and some hints of clove. Like the nose, the Angelica and Orris provide a very subtle, earthy, floral counterpoint.

The Finish:  The juniper and citrus fade with lingering almond, clove, and licorice.

Thoughts:  A more robust, simple, and forward gin than, say, the Bombay London Dry. The higher ABV certainly contributes to that as does the stronger juniper and citrus flavor profile. While there are similarities betwixt the two, tasted side by side, it’s impressive to see how the combination of ingredients and production process produce two very different gins. Beefeater is much more upfront, and therefore shines through in cocktails a bit better, but it also lacks a bit of elegance compared to Bombay. At around $20 a liter (hell, I just picked up a 1.75 for $24,) this one is basically required reading when it comes to gin.

As gin is usually a cocktail spirit, here’s how I thought this one held up in a trio of classic drinks…

In a Gin & Tonic:  Straightforward and downright classic. The strong ABV, crisp juniper and citrus temper the tonic’s sweetness, and help it keep its complexity despite the dilution while the rest of the botanicals balance the quinine.

In a Martini:  That high ABV, and strong juniper and citrus presence makes for a very bold, lively Martini, though a good vermouth is a must, otherwise it just gets lost.

In a Negroni:  Beefeater makes a truly great Negroni. Again the higher ABV helps to balance it against the sweet vermouth and Campari, and give it an herbal depth that integrates everything very nicely.

Beefeater London Dry Gin, +/-2017

47% ABV


Sources:

  • Broom, Dave. Gin: the manual. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2015. Print.
  • Coates, Geraldine. Gin: a toast to the most aromatic of spirits. London: Prion/Carlton Limited, 2015. Print.
  • “Our History.” Beefeater Gin. N.p., n.d. Web. Aug. 2017.
  • Stephenson, Tristan. The Curious Bartenders Gin Palace. London: Ryland Peters & Small, 2016. Print.
  • “Yeomen Warders.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 July 2017. Web. Aug. 2017.

Bombay Dry Gin “The Original” – Review

In college, a friend and I had what was probably a relatively short-lived agreement wherein if one of us was in our beloved local bar and the other walked in without realizing the other was there, then the one already at the bar had the satisfaction of buying the newcomer a shot of horrible rail gin. In those days, a shot of rail gin might have cost a dollar and was probably Arrow brand or Phillips or something like that. I’m sure Tanqueray would have been an option, but we had no money for that kind of thing, and besides, the whole point was to inflict pain by forcing each other to quaff sub par booze. The thing is, it never seemed all that torturous to me. Despite outward appearances, I really liked gin, even the bad stuff. And I still really like gin. There’s been something of a gin renaissance in my house over the last year or two, and I have felt a slight twinge of resentment towards whisky for having led me away from this clear, herbal, sharp, coniferous wonderment for many, many years.

So in the spirit of making up for lost time, and of getting a shot of gin when you least expect one, here’s a look at a classic London dry gin, the Bombay Original. Bombay was launched somewhere between 1959 and 1960 depending on the source, but the roots of the brand stretch all the way back to 1760. In that year, a young man named Thomas Dakin built a gin distillery in the UK town of Warrington, which lies between Liverpool and Manchester. Being located near a busy river and trade route helped Dakin’s business get off the ground, but it was the production improvements made by his daughter-in-law that set the distillery on the path to major success. Dakin’s son Edward took over the reigns from his father in 1790, though it was apparently Edward’s wife Mary who was really in charge of the place. Mary brought in a new steam-heated still in 1831 which produced a much purer, less “burnt” spirit and then in 1836, she added a second still. These two stills were outfitted with Corty and Carter heads, which, and I’m simplifying a lot here, were basically pot stills with small column stills on top. These newish efficient still types created a very clean spirit, but also presented the Dakin’s with an interesting problem. Their solution to this challenge resulted in a technique that’s managed to set the gins produced at this distillery apart to this very day.

The problem with the Carter and Corty head stills was that when the gin was initially distilled and the botanicals simply tossed into the pot still, many of the flavorful oils would be cut out, necessitating a costly re-distilling. Instead, Mary and the distillery came up with the idea of putting the botanicals in perforated trays or baskets. This way, the distilled spirit, would rise upwards through the botanicals, picking up those essential oils along the way. While this technique seems to have been used on occasion for filtration, it’s likely that this was one of the first times this type of infusion was used commercially as a flavoring technique. Thanks to Mary’s efforts, the Dakin’s gin was very popular, but by the 1860’s, the family had begun to pull away from the family business. At that time, production was being handled by the Greenall family who were well-respected brewers. By 1870, the Greenall’s had bought the distillery outright.

Fast forward almost 90 years and it was this same “infusion basket” technique that attracted the attention of a U.S. lawyer named Allan Subin. Subin had worked for Seagrams and, as we all do, had a dream of producing a unique gin that evoked the both London’s roaring 20’s and the Crown rule of India. He contracted the production with Greenall’s Distillery, and around 1960, Bombay Dry Gin was launched and quickly achieved success. Sometime in the Eighties, Subin sold Bombay to International Distillers & Vintners, which of course became Grand Metropolitan and then Diageo. Unfortunately, before Diageo was allowed to become Diageo, they had to sell off the Bombay brand (among others) to Bacardi in 1997. In 2005, A large fire damaged the G&J Greenall plant and lit a fire under Bacardi’s bottom line to create their own facility. In 2012, construction was started on the new facility called Laverstoke Mill and two years later in 2014, Bombay’s new distillery officially opened. Bacardi was careful to reproduce the unique still types and production processes which had made the Bombay brand so successful over the years. The G&J Greenall distillery rebounded quickly from the fire and the loss of a major client, and today is the largest white spirits distillery in the United Kingdom, producing many house brands as well as contracted, third party brands.

The Bombay Original London Dry Gin is usually overshadowed by its more heavily marketed, more expensive younger sibling, the ubiquitous Bombay Sapphire. That blue-bottled wonder of marketing gets all the attention. Where the Sapphire has its own website and lengthy articles regarding its history devoted to it, the Bombay Dry just quietly labors on, well-respected but also well under-hyped. Along with the recipe, there are two main differences between the two: the bottled proof (43% for Bombay Dry, 47% for Bombay Sapphire.) and the number of botanicals used. Bombay Dry Gin fills its copper infusion baskets with Angelica root, Almonds, Cassia Bark, Licorice, Coriander, Lemon peel, Orris root, and of course Juniper berries. Sapphire adds two more botanicals to the mix – Cubeb berries and grains of paradise. While gin has exploded in popularity and it seems that every craft distillery under the sun has made a gin or two, the London Dry Style is arguably still the defining style of this spirit. Bombay’s London Dry is a mildly unheralded, though fairly excellent representative thereof.

The Nose:  Very round, almost soft feeling nose. While the juniper is dominant, it’s only just, the citrus zing of the lemon peel and the floral notes of the Angelica and Orris root are strong as well. The other ingredients provide a sturdy, integrated backbone. There’s a subtle, nice buttery quality as well, and hints of damp fabric snapping in the breeze.

The Palate:  Like the nose, this is relatively soft on the palate, with a slightly creamy mouthfeel. The juniper and juicy lemon are still strong here a but in comparison to the nose, the coriander, cassia, and licorice stand out more on the palate. Almond extract, cinnamon, and crushed coriander swell towards the end.

The Finish:  Light juniper, lemon, cinnamon, and anise.

Thoughts:  An extremely pleasing, incredibly affordable, slightly softer, “warmer” London dry gin. I would actually enjoy sipping this neat, which isn’t something I think about doing with most gins. There’s a subtle, almost baking spice quality that comes through on the palate that I love. It’s a solid, well-balanced gin that works well in the classic cocktails. At around $20-$22 a liter, this is great value, and certainly a good place to start if you’re looking for a London dry gin. Compared to my other recommendation for this price range and style, Beefeater, Bombay is a bit more subdued with a lighter citrus and juniper punch and lower ABV.

As gin is usually a cocktail spirit, here’s how I thought this one held up in a trio of classic drinks…

In a Gin & Tonic:  Obviously works well, fairly straightforward and classic feeling, bright and clean. The lower ABV and softer feel makes for a sweeter G&T.

In a Martini:  Quite nice, the quieter profile makes for a less aggressive, spirit-y drink. Bombay is a good one to use if you like your martinis dry.

In a Negroni:  Probably my favorite place for Bombay. Also relatively straightforward, the warmer, earthier spices complement good, complex Vermouths and the depth and strength balance well against the sweet and bitter Campari.

Bombay Dry Gin, London Dry Gin, +/-2016

43% ABV


Sources:

  • “Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill.” Difford’s Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. July 2017.
  • Broom, Dave. Gin: the manual. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2015. Print.
  • Duplais, P. Traité des Liqueurs et de la Distillation des Alcools. Versailles: P. Duplais, 1855. Print.
  • Stephenson, Tristan. The Curious Bartenders Gin Palace. London: Ryland Peters & Small, 2016. Print.