Yeah, the Plymouth is a great mixing gin, it’s what I use in Aviations and such, but for a martini or straight, I’d try the Death’s Door. My wiife (the main gin drinker in the house) likes Tanguray (regular or Ten) for Gin and Tonics, and Bombay (regular or sapphire) for martinis. She also likes Raj for martinis.
There will be a new gin on the market in the near future. Castle and Key, the new Old Taylor distillery is in the process of making gin from botanicals they grow on the grounds at the distillery. Marianne Barnes is their new Master Distiller. I had the opportunity to tour their grounds. We hope to see some bourbon coming out of there in the future but for now gin will help pay the bills
Gin comes in several styles, and there are variations in each style. You have London Dry (think Beefeater, Gordon’s, regular Tanqueray, regular Bombay), Plymouth style (Plymouth gin), New Western (new, artisanal style, heavy on the botanicals, and sometimes lighter on the juniper, Old Tom (a sweetened gin), and the original gin, Genever.
Gin is a very personal spirit, and while we may agree on six gins, a seventh could have us ready to duel.
Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks are New Western styles, but not too big or bold.
Bulldog is a gin for vodka drinkers. Very light botanicals. Boring.
Plymouth is great, and it is the only gin that is a brand, and a style.
Bloom, never tried it. It’s produced by Greenall’s, and is supposed to be very floral. If you like Bombay Sapphire you may like Bloom.
Death’s Door has had a major consistency problem over the years as they went through several distillers. I think it was ok, not great, not bad. I haven’t tried it since the latest distiller took over making it.
Aviation is a big, bold New Western style. Love it or hate it. I think it is excellent, but I have to be in the mood.
Anchor Junipero is a cross between a New Western and a London Dry. It’s got a huge hit of juniper to it. Very good, but you have to love juniper. It’s Gin’s gin. I feel it is unbalanced, but…
There are several gins that are fantastic. All are artisanal/craft distillery gins. They are a fight for which is best among the first three, and I bring all three into new bars I consult to.
Half Moon Orchard gin from Tuthilltown distillery in Gardiner, NY. (New Western style, but holding to a classic London Dry style, but with a bit more pronounced flavors.)
Barr Hill gin from Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, Vermont. (part way between a New Western and Old Tom style.)
Greenhook Ginsmith gin from Brooklyn, NY. (part way between a New Western and Old Tom style.)
Knickerbocker gin from New Holland distillery in Holland Michigan. (New Western style.) I tasted a few of the prototypes and each was great, and the final product is too.
Brooklyn gin, contract made at Warwick/Black Dirt distillery. I tasted a few of the prototypes and each was great, and the final product is too. But the bottle is so fancy that it adds $10 to the price making it very expensive. (Not breuckelen gin which I think is mediocre at best. And that’s being polite.)
Gordon’s is what I use as a template for a classic London Dry.
Seagram’s gin (“the smooth gin in the bumpy bottle” is slightly aged, very smooth, and a great American gin made by a large producer.
Have you tried Blue Coat? It’s a small batch gin made in Philly. I’m not much of a gin drinker (just the occasional g&t in the summer), but I find it very pleasant–very junipery with hints of citrus. When it first appeared it won several awards even though at the time it was unavailable outside the immediate Philly area. (OT: Their Penn 1681 rye vodka is very good as well).
Blue Coat was the first new Western Style gin I ever tried. One of the owners, Andrew, brought up a few cases for a fundraiser gaz regan put on in 2006 I think. The event had over 30 variations on the Aviation cocktail. (as in over 30 types of gin.) I later became friendly with the Master Distiller, Robert, who now has his own place.
Here’s a review I wrote about it around 9 years ago.
Bluecoat American Dry Gin is
47%abv/94 proof and is distilled five times in a custom designed, hand
hammered, copper pot still; and then softened to proof with triple filtered
water. When creating this gin Philadelphia Distilling wanted to create a small
batch, premium product that is American in nature, with a regional character
and personality all its own. The botanicals used are all organic, and hand
picked. Juniper berries that are softer, spicier, earthier and more complex
than regular piney juniper berries; they are sourced from the Eastern
Mediterranean instead of from the traditional Central
Mediterranean region. Bluecoat also has a blend of premium
American citrus peels, including a sweeter peel, as opposed to the traditional
bitter orange peel, lemon peel, and a secret citrus peel that Bluecoat won’t
disclose. In addition they use angelica root, coriander; and possibly some
other mystery ingredients.
The bottle is a gorgeous and intense blue color with gold writing and subdued
engraving. It is packed in a wooden box branded on the outside with the name and
logo. Inside the bottle is cushioned in straw with several small juniper
branches with berries surrounding it. A great gift presentation with a holiday
feel to it. Sadly, Bluecoat Gin is only available in Pennsylvania and New Jersey at this time, but expect that to
change as they start distributing more widely in the near future.
The aroma is very smooth and earthy, with lots of the various citrus up front.
You can clearly tell that there is sweet orange zest present, as well as other
citrus backing it up. A most unusual and interesting aroma that is solid and
deep. Then you get this tantalizing tease of spices that leads you down a path,
you know not where. Somewhere along that Road Less Traveled that I seem to find
myself following blindly, again and again. I keep thrusting my nose back into
the snifter to inhale, letting my imagination go wild as I try to get a feeling
for this gin. The earthy tone is almost musky, similar to the smell of
fermenting orange rinds I would catch as I drove past orange juice processing
plants when I lived in South Florida some time
It brings back thoughts of a long
lost love, a time of sensual and intense romance, and the bittersweet taste of
love lost but fondly remembered. I find that I have been spending many long minutes
borne along an olfactory journey, before I have even taken my first sip. This
is the most interestingly different and pleasurable gin I have yet come across,
and I haven’t even tasted it yet.
The taste is sharp and smooth at the same time. Sharp from the spices that hit
the tip of your tongue, smooth from the earthy taste of the juniper and
angelica root. Then the musky citrus rides in to carry away the day, ending
with a long, slow, almost everlasting, melding of the flavors as they slowly,
ever so slowly, slip away. Wow… I think this gin may be a love it or hate it
gin for many people. It is extraordinarily complex, having deeper and different
flavors than most gins. If you like oranges, musk, and the smell of exotic
spices, then I think you will really enjoy this unique new presence in the
world of gin. Now if I could just stop dreaming of that long lost love, but I
think as long as I sip on my Bluecoat gin I will be stuck yearning for what I
once had, and is now so long gone.
Plymouth Gin made in Plymouth, England is bottled
at 82 proof/41.2% abv and is distilled in the Black Friars Distillery, the
oldest working distillery in England.
The name and style are protected and Plymouth
is the only brand that can call itself a Plymouth
style gin. I think that Plymouth
is one of the best gins out there. I am usually into aromatic gins full of big
botanicals and juniper, Plymouth
doesn’t have that great, big slam of some other gins but is light,
exceptionally smooth, creamy, and subtle with little bite. Probably in part due
to the extremely soft Dartmouth
water used in the distillation process. It has a hint of sweetness and the
seven botanicals give it a fruity note with a big aroma, but it’s also crisp
and dry. It’s hard to describe, but very nice. It’s what I consider to have the
classic gin taste. Interestingly enough Plymouth
is the gin specified in the original dry martini. Plymouth also makes a higher strength version
at 114 proof/57% abv called “Navy Strength” as well as some other
products but I haven’t tried them yet.
As a side note: I originally heard about this gin
in John H. McDonald’s
mystery books on Travis
McGee where Travis the hero is known to have ice cold mugs of Plymouth on
the rocks as the way to end a perfect day. After the fabulous description I had
to search Plymouth
out to try it and I recommend McDonald’s excellent books as much as I do Plymouth gin.
Bulldog Gin is
40%abv / 80proof and is new from England. It was just released a few
months ago and only available so far in New
York and Georgia in the US, with a
release in a few other states sometime in early 2007. It comes in a solid black
bottle with what looks like a spiked collar around its neck, trying to make a
bulldog impression I would guess. Their website won’t be up until 11/15/06 so I am having a
tough time getting much information on it. There was some hype on the bottle
associating it with its namesake and saying that some of the botanicals are
juniper, poppy, dragon eye (longan fruit, similar to lychee fruit), and citrus.
I started off with a small amount in a small brandy snifter. It had an
alcoholic nose with a slight, but very complex perfume of juniper and floral
notes and the longan is evident in back with a sweet and musky note blended
with the barest hint of citrus. I sniffed and sniffed the aroma for several
minutes trying to pin it down and had to stop as I got a head rush from the
vapors. This gin has a very light aroma and I realized that I was enjoying
myself before I even took a sip. So I did, and my first thought it was perfumed
water. This is a gin for vodka lovers. It is very light with a first impression
of spring water freshness. Then you get an alcohol burn on your tongue with a
flashing hint of juniper. Surprisingly the other botanicals I struggled to find
in the aroma really don’t show through in the taste at all. When I tried it
with water and on the rocks a bit more flavor came out but nothing to brag about.
While this gin is pleasant it didn’t do much for me because it was so light in
flavor, more like a vodka wishing it was a gin, and not the real deal. When I
drink gin I want to damn well know that’s what I am doing, with no messing
around. This bulldog reminds me more of a puppy that will never grow up to play
with the big dogs.
Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin has a light
citrus tang with a hint of spices, over a solid but refined base of juniper,
followed by a nice alcohol presence. I find it to be one of the better citrus
forward gins, because the citrus is very light and melds nicely with the other
aromatic botanicals and the juniper. It’s quite different from some of the
other citrus gins I have tasted like Tanqueray No. Ten and Zuidam, which are
very citrus heavy. Also, since Seagram’s is double distilled and finished in
charred white oak whiskey barrels, a pretty rare thing in the gin world, it is
exceptionally smooth. Smoother than many super premium gins.
I think it is an excellent gin and for the price an amazing bargain. Quality
wise it is right up there with gins that cost three times as much. The aroma is
so pleasant with the citrus/juniper/spice scent that I can easily say I have
smelled men’s fragrances that were nowhere near as pleasant. It is 80 proof/40%
alcohol and is sold in their unique, traditional bumpy bottle. It is the number
one selling gin in the US
and unlike most gins it isn’t colorless, but instead has just a hint of a
golden tinge to it. This is a great buy in gin, especially for such a
reasonable price of around $14-$15 a liter. On the bottle they say that
“Gin connoisseurs affectionately describe Seagram’s Gin as the Smooth Gin
in the bumpy bottle.” I agree very much and enjoyed it plain on the rocks
and in a gin and tonic. I am taking a big leap here and placing it in my top
ten favorite gins. I can’t wait to try their Seagram’s Distillers Reserve Gin
Aviation Gin is 42% abv. / 84 proof and
made by House Spirits Distilling in Portland,
Oregon. The botanicals are
Juniper, Cardamom, Coriander, Lavender, Anise Seed, Sasparilla, and dried
orange peel. Interestingly it is made from 100% rye grain neutral spirits.
This is a medium bodied gin that you can feel the weight of on your tongue with
its almost syrupy presence. It is smooth, lush, and pervasive in your mouth.
The aroma is solidly fragrant, even perfumey, with a mix of floral, not spicy
juniper; with spicier notes coming from cardamom, anise, and lavender.
The taste is bold but smooth, and on the sweet side. A mix of juniper, anise,
cardamom, with a little lavender. Some citrus notes edge in here and there and
the finish is very long and gradually drying and spicy, with some of that
sarsparilla wafting along at the tail end. Aviation is a real tongue tingler.
Aviation Gin describes themselves as a “classic Dutch-style gin.” I
am not sure I would use those terms because the flavor of malted grains doesn’t
come through as in many Dutch Gins and Genevers. Personally I feel that this is
one of the new style of big and bold, lush and smooth, premium, well crafted
aromatic gins that have hit the market lately. Others in the same style that
come to mind are G’Vine
I do have to say that I am impressed with this big gin, a really big gin with
almost overwhelming botanicals. If you like Genevers and Dutch style gins, you
will probably like this. If subtle is the name of the game for you, then step
away from the Aviation. I happily enjoy both styles and so can sip this gin
straight in a snifter, or on the rocks. I think it will work very well in
cocktails from what I have tasted in just a simple martini. Either this needs
to be the main spirit in a cocktail, or used as a spice and herb component to
complement floral or citrus tastes. I look forward to trying an Aviation
Cocktail made with Aviation Gin some time soon.