Give me Gin
It is a job hazard that after tasting a myriad of wines all day, by the end I am no longer in the mood for the magical fruit of the vine. It's at these times that my fancy turns towards more substantial elixirs such as: bourbon, gin, and rum. I don’t mean I sit at my kitchen island slamming down shots. I prefer to spend what some would consider lavish amounts on top end selections of these spirits. The impetus for this is that I long ago discovered that by enjoying spirits with tons of character I can savor each sip for long periods thereby reducing the amount I imbibe. In the long run I probably spend less overall because of this.
One of my favorites has always been gin. Admittedly, in the beginning this was due to gin and tonics in dubious bars as I toured in a band. Over the last decade or so, I have become more enamored with some of the finer top end spirits. I would assume that I am not alone in this as there has been an explosion of new producers in the craft spirits world.
While gin had its start with the Dutch spirit “Genever”, it has come a long way and has undergone many changes since its inception over 500 years ago. The Tax and Trade Bureau, A.K.A. the TTB is the governmental agency responsible for federal liquor enforcement. According to them the definition of gin is, “Spirits with a main characteristic flavor derived from juniper berries produced by distillation or mixing of spirits with juniper berries and other aromatics or extracts derived from these materials and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof) “
What we would be concerned with, according to this definition, is what is classified as “Distilled Gin” which doesn’t allow the use of extracts. Within this are the three most popular styles of gin: London Dry, Plymouth and Old Tom.
London Dry gin is what is most recognizable brands are. This is the category under which classics such as Bombay, Beefeaters and Tanqueray fall. This refers to a style of gin that is much less sweet than the original Dutch drink was. It is only the style and the distillation process that prohibits the usage of extracts in its production. It is not dependent upon production location as it can be made anywhere. In fact, the only London Dry gin still made in London is Beefeaters.
One of my new favorites in this category is the Bombay Sapphire East $23.99. An interesting extension in the Bombay Sapphire brand, it features all of the botanicals from Bombay Sapphire (juniper, grains of paradise, lemon peel, cubeh berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, almond, orris, and licorice) and then adds lemongrass and black pepper. These two new botanicals clearly stand out in the nose of the Bombay Sapphire East Gin, giving it a spicier and fuller nose. The lemongrass seems to also boost the lemon in the nose and the black pepper boosts the juniper.
Next up is Plymouth Style gin. While it too forbids the use of any extracts it differs from London dry as it is a touch sweeter and more dependent on earthy botanicals such as coriander and cardamom than on floral. Unlike London dry, Plymouth gin can only be made in Plymouth England. Since there is only one distillery left in Plymouth, there is only one Plymouth gin, the brand Plymouth Gin. Plymouth Original Strength $29.99is a unique, protected style of gin originating from the city of Plymouth, South West England. Since 1793 it has been distilled from a unique blend of 7 botanicals, soft Dartmoor water and pure grain alcohol at the historic Black Friars Distillery - the oldest working distillery in England.
Last, but not least is a style of gin that has been making a very recent comeback, Old Tom style gin. This style of gin is noticeably sweeter than either of the last two styles and generally much more subtle on the botanicals. This is the type of gin to give to someone who says, “I don’t like gin.” Its current resurgence is due to the explosion in interest in pre-prohibition style cocktails that called for Old Tom gin. My most recent go to is Hayman’s Old Tom gin $25.99. While there are many different theories as to where the name originated my favorite is as follows.
Hayman’s reports that back in 1736, one Captain Dudley Bradstreet lucked into both a piece of London property and a stock of gin. Bradstreet hung a sign depicting a painted cat in the window and let it be known that doses of sweet mother’s ruin could be had at the address. “Under the cat’s paw sign was a slot and a lead pipe, which was attached to a funnel inside the house,” reads a history put together by Hayman’s. “Customers placed their money in the slot and duly received their gin. Bradstreet’s idea was soon copied all over London. People would stand outside houses, call ‘puss’ and when the voice within said ‘mew,’ they would know that they could buy bootleg gin inside. Very soon Old Tom became an affectionate nickname for gin.”
While I have enjoyed all of these you may not have the same appreciation (read drink as much) as I. Feel free to pick the one that sounds the neatest for you and try it in some of your favorite cocktails or just some ice.
~ Randy Freeland ~
Prices good through 9/17/14.