Liberator Barrel Rested Old Tom Gin

Maker: Valentine, Ferndale, Michigan, USA2016-03-10-16.36.44.jpg.jpeg

Batch 2

ABV: 45.2%

Michigan State Minimum: $49

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Lime zest, orange peel, juniper, earthy red wine.

Palate: Full bodied and semi-dry. Hot. Like eating lemonheads under a pine tree.

Finish: Raw ginger, fresh cut pine.

Mixed: Surprisingly good in Tom Collins and with tonic. Adds a pleasant gingery bite. Does as well as expected in a Negroni, Princeton, Aviation, Bronx and a perfect martini. Much better than expected in a dry martini. This gin was great every way I tried mixing it.

Parting words: I’ve had this gin in my liquor cabinet for quite some time now. I didn’t drink it much because I view barrel rested gins as good for Negronis, perfect martinis and not much else. I was wrong in this case. Liberator barrel rested gin is good for anything you want to do with it.

Like its unrested sibling, Valentine’s rested Old Tom gin is aggressive but still elegantly blanced. It’s like a tall, attractive exchange student who grinds on you at your senior prom. Yes, it may cost you a lot of money, but it’s well worth the experience. Liberator Barrel Rested Old Tom Gin is highly recommended.

Eighteen Forty-Three Gin

Maker: Starlight Distillery, Starlight, Indiana, USA (Huber Winery)wpid-2015-07-16-11.35.41.jpg.jpeg

Style: American dry gin.

ABV: 46.2%

Price: $30 (distillery)

Note: My wife and I received a complimentary tour, tasting and a discount at the time I purchased this product from the distillery

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Alcohol, coriander, brie cheese rind, citron peel, juniper.

Palate: Sweet and full bodied. Alcohol, juniper, cane sugar, candy orange slices.

Finish: Sweet and fruity. Citrus, coriander seed, cinnamon.

Mixed: Does well in a Dry Martini. Very good in drinks involving red vermouth like Negronis and perfect martinis. Not great with tonic or in a Tom Collins. The earthy elements clash with the mixers in those last two.

Parting words: The first Huber to farm at the site of Huber Farms in Southern Indiana was Simon. Born in Baden Baden, Germany, he started farming in 1843 and the family has continued farming on the same site, only forty miles from the hot springs in French Lick, Indiana. Then as now, wine making and fruit production were the mainstays. Now the (much expanded) farm is a destination for pumpkins and other U-Pick favorites and is home to one of Indiana’s biggest and best wineries. They started distilling in 2001. Brandies are their best known spirits, but they also have vodka and gin (obviously) and a variety of fruit liqueurs and infusions, including an excellent blueberry liqueur. They have two stills currently, operated by owner Ted Huber and master distiller Lisa Wicker (formerly of Limestone Creek).

This gin is similar other craft gins (Few and Corsair spring to mind) but it has a pronounced aroma that I can’t quite put my finger on. Cubeb, maybe? At any rate, like those gins, 1843 is best in quality cocktails but pretty good neat too. Keep a bottle of Seagram’s next to it in the cabinet if you plan on guzzling a lot of Tom Collinses or G & Ts.

For a craft gin of this quality and ABV, $30 is a very good price. Eighteen Forty-Three Gin is recommended.

Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin

Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA (Brand owned by Pernod-Ricard)wpid-2015-04-30-16.40.34.jpg.jpeg

Style: Dry American gin.

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $10

Note: 1.75 ml bottle pictured ($22)

Appearance: Clear with a very faint tinge of color.

Nose: Neutral spirit, juniper, citrus peel.

Palate: Milder than the nose would lead on to believe. Neutral spirits and a faint earthiness.

Finish: Burn and crushed juniper berries.

Mixed: Perfectly acceptable in the standard applications, especially in a Tom Collins or with tonic. Even makes a decent martini or negroni. Gets lost in orange juice.

Parting Words: Seagram’s the gin is the best selling American-made gin in the world. Seagram’s the company no longer exists. It was sold off for parts in the late 1990s in order to raise money for Edgar Bronfman’s adventures in the entertainment industry. That began a long, strange trip for the distillery (actually distilleries) in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. It’s now owned by agribusiness company Midwest Grain Products and is best known as the supplier of rye and bourbon whiskey for an endless parade of “micro-distillers” who are just selling it until their own product is ready, they swear. MGPI contains an entirely separate distillery for the manufacture of gin and vodka, though, and that’s where Seagram’s Gin (now owned by French giant Pernod-Ricard) continues to be made.

In days of yore, Seagram’s Gin was “rested” in oak barrels to take the edge off the spirit and give it a saffron tinge. The process was changed sometime before September 2013, , according to a source-friend of mine. The yellowish tinge (now barely there) is created by running the spirit through a juniper slurry under pressure. Barrel resting is a thing of the past. Just going by memory, it doesn’t seem to have altered the taste much. If anything, it’s a little less harsh than I remember.

At any rate, this is a perfectly serviceable well-gin. It’s barely palatable neat, but it does just fine for casual cocktails. Seagram’s is a fine gin for your Wednesday night G & T or your third martini on Saturday night. Recommended.

That said, I hate the bottle redesign. The cross-hatching thing is dopey. #BringBackTheBumpyBottle

Green Hat “Ginavit” (Fall/Winter edition) Gin

Maker: New Columbia, Washington D.C., USAwpid-2015-03-17-20.40.25.jpg.jpeg

ABV: 45%

Price: Unknown, $35 for standard edition gin at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.

Thanks for Lee & Abby for the bottle.

Appearance: Mostly clear but with an amber tinge.

Nose: Grain alcohol, lime peel, caraway, pine sap.

Palate: Full and soft with some harshness on the back end. Citrus, angelica, licorice, caraway.

Finish: Big cough drop finish. Sap and alcohol linger for a very long time.

Mixed: Did very well in cocktails with vermouth (martinis, Negroni, etc), but overpowered in tonic and a Tom Collins.

Parting words: New Columbia was founded by two hobbyist couples (related I’m guessing) back in 2011. In spite of the corny prohibition-related marketing (The man with the green hat was apparently a DC bootlegger), this is an idiosyncratic but solid cocktail gin. It lacks the finesse of Miller’s, another caraway-forward gin, but if they’re going for something like Aquavit, as the name suggests, maybe the rougher character is in keeping with that tradition.

At any rate, Green Hat Fall/Winter edition is recommended.

Standard Issue Gin

Maker: Few Spirits, Evanston, Illinois, USA

wpid-2015-01-13-21.11.14.jpg.jpeg

Batch: 4/14

ABV: 57%

Price: $40 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Clear with thick legs.

Nose: Powerful. Cut pine, fennel, alcohol, wet earth, dried wildflowers.

Palate: Full- bodied and velvety. Sweetness then burn.

Finish: Sappy and sweet but quickly drying into citrus blossom and orange peel with a hit of anise at the end.

Mixed: Good in a dry martini with an aggressive, grassy vermouth. Does even better in a perfect martini. Sublime in a Negroni. OK with tonic and with bitter lemon, but overwhelms the mixer. Ditto with orange juice. I would recommend using 1/3 to 1/4 less than your usual proportions when mixing due to the high ABV and powerful flavors of this gin.

Parting words: Last time I was at Binny’s, I was hoping to find some of Few’s much ballyhooed rye. They were all out of that (a promising sign!) so I went home with a bottle of this, which is their navy strength gin.

Once I opened it, I was not disappointed. This is powerful stuff, even when taken down to proof. Big sappy juniper and fennel/anise dominate with everything else taking a backseat. If you enjoy those flavors (I do) you will love this gin. If you prefer your gin a little dryer or milder, then you may not love it. It does fine with tonic and similar mixers but this is a cocktail gin at heart.

$40 is a good price for a gin of this quality and strength. Few Standard Issue Gin is recommended.

Royal Dock

Maker: Hayman, London/Witham, Essex, England, UKwpid-20141014_184704-1.jpg

Style: Dry, navy strength.

ABV: 57%

Price: $28 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Clear with abundant, thin legs.

Nose: Alcohol, juniper, cedar, angelica, citrus peel.

Palate: Thick mouthfeel. Clementine, juniper, lavender, cough drops. Opens up with water.

Finish: Sweet and a little hot. Lingers for quite some time.

Mixed: Works well in a G & T, but go easy on it. Does very well in a dry martini but again, remember it’s navy strength.

Parting words: I’ve never had a bad Hayman’s gin and this is one is no exception. It’s juniper-forward like a typical London dry gin, but very well balanced on the back end with sweetness and earthiness. It does very well in cocktails even if it’s not particularly ambitious. If that sounds like a back-handed compliment, it’s not intended to be. The folks at Hayman know what they’re doing (they’ve been doing it long enough) and they have made an elegant, perfectly balanced gin that does very well in all applications, including neat (or at least with some water).

That elegance along with its high proof and low price make Royal Dock highly recommended.

Ugly Dog Gin

Maker: Ugly Dog, Chelsea, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-08-29-19.05.35.jpg.jpeg

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $20

Appearance: Clear with

Nose: Harsh. Alcohol, lime peel, juniper, hint of licorice.

Palate: Surprisingly Sweet. GNS, sugar, pine sap, orange juice from concentrate.

Finish: Cedar, alcohol, sugar.

Mixed: Unremarkable but adequate in a G & T, Princeton and Tom Collins. Flat in a dry martini and AWOL in a Negroni.

Parting words: With this gin, Ugly Dog (known primarily for their bacon flavored vodka) is doing the opposite of what most micro-distillers are trying to do. Instead of producing something different than what the big distillers are doing, their strategy seems to be to make an unpretentious, indistinct, workhorse gin. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that the big boys can do it much cheaper. Beefeater & Bombay are $18, New Amsterdam & Pearl are $12, Seagram’s Dry is $11 and Gilbey’s & Gordon’s are $10.

To add insult to injury, the label and bottle are ugly as hell. Gin is all about aromas and the smell of dog is not what most gin drinkers are looking for. Plus, it made me think of this scene from The Simpsons. “Needs more dog”.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, Ugly Dog Gin is not recommended.

Beefeater 24

Maker: Beefeater, Lambeth, Greater London, England, UK (Pernod-Ricard)wpid-20140731_173501-1.jpg

Style: London dry gin.

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $24

Appearance: Clear with a pearl necklace.

Nose: Juniper, citrus peel, grapefruit, hint of black tea.

Palate: Thick mouthfeel, but light flavor. Some bitter orange but mostly alcohol burn and sweetness.

Finish: Sweet and spicy with angelica, horehound and sugar.

Mixed: The best way to describe the way it mixes is “crisp”. Makes a nice crisp G & T and Tom Collins which is good. The 24 dry martini and Negroni were also crisp which is fine if you like that quality in those drinks, but I prefer mine with more spice.

Parting words: Beefeater 24 is a step up from the standard Beefeater at six dollars more and, curiously, 2% lower ABV. I didn’t get a chance to taste them side by side like I wanted but based on memory, it’s an improvement.

Besides the lower proof, the difference seems to be in the botanicals. Bitter orange, grapefruit and tea are singled out on the label and their presence is certainly evident in the glass. My knock on the standard Beefeater has always been that it’s dull. 24 narrowly avoids that fault through the added earthy depth of the tea. There’s also some gibberish on the label about 24 being made from a handmade cut from the “heart of the run”. I’m not sure how one makes a “cut” by hand in this instance. Karate chops, maybe?

At any rate, 24 is a step up from the snooze-fest that is the standard Beefeater. $24 isn’t all that expensive in the grand scheme of things and the bottle is really pretty for what that’s worth. Beefeater 24 is recommended.

Junipero

Maker: Anchor, San Francisco, California, USAJunipero

Style: Dry gin.

ABV: 49.3%

Michigan State Minimum: $30

Appearance: Clear, with a nice thick pearl necklace.

Nose: Monster hit of juniper on the nose followed by a bit of alcohol. Citrus peel in the background along with anise and earthiness.

Palate: Full bodied and dry on entry. A fleeting taste of fruit and then burn. The fruit lingers longer with a splash of water.

Finish: Dry and spicy. Orange peel, potpourri and heat.

Mixed: Does OK with tonic or in a Tom Collins, but the sharpness of the juniper gets a little muddled. Does very well in higher end cocktails. Great in a dry martini and in a cocktail I tried called a Colony Club made with anisette (I used Herbsaint instead) and orange bitters. The Princeton was good also.

Parting words: I like this gin a lot. Never before have I gotten such a huge nose full of juniper, except for one time when I was riding my bike and crashed into a shrub. It’s not one I would be inclined to drink neat but it shines in drinks in which it’s almost neat. As strong as the juniper is, it plays very well with other strongly flavored ingredients.

The price is good for a high end, micro-distilled gin. As a martini gin, Junipero is recommended.

Half Moon Orchard Gin

Maker: Tuthilltown, Gardiner, New York, USAHalf Moon

ABV: 46%

Notes: Made from wheat and apples. No. 1316, Batch 3

Appearance: Clear.

Michigan State Minimum: $40/1 liter

Nose: Juniper, cedar, lime zest, bourbon “white dog”.

On the palate: Full bodied. Unaged whiskey, cedar, maybe a little citrus. Unbalanced and crude.

Finish: A bitter note, then nothing but alcohol.

Mixed: The strong raw spirit flavors overwhelm and ruin tonic, dry martinis and white ladies. It’s adequate to good in drinks using red vermouth like perfect martinis (made using equal parts dry and red vermouth), Negronis and Princetons.

Parting words: This is an unusual gin. It seems to be something of an experiment based upon the question of what a gin would be like if its flavor was driven by what the spirit was made from instead of the botanicals infused into it. St. George’s Dry Rye gin seems to be a similar experiment, one which I think also fails miserably. St. George luckily has two other excellent botantical-driven gins for it to fall back on. Tuthilltown does not have that luxury, unfortunately. They also have a vodka made from apples which I have not tried. Given my “no vodka reviews” rule and my distaste for Half Moon, don’t expect a notes on that any time soon.

One of the many puzzling aspects of Tuthilltown’s operation is why they have a gin and a vodka made from apples but no apple brandy. Maybe they don’t have access to cider made with the proper varieties of apples for brandy or there’s some other good reason. It could be that they have already made some and are waiting for it to age but given Tuthilltown’s love for small barrels and underaged whiskey that seems unlikely.

Half Moon comes only in liter bottles, at least in Michigan, which would be nice if the product were better. If it were $10-$20 cheaper I might be more inclined to be more generous, but at $40 I expect something much better than this half baked gin. Half Moon is not recommended.