Brixx Gin

Maker: New Holland Distillery, Holland, Michigan, USA20171205_161207.jpg

Style: Dry gin finished in red wine barrels.

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $30

Appearance: Pinkish orange, like a light rosé.

Nose: Pomegranate seeds, chocolate orange, alcohol, leather.

Palate: Full bodied. Chili spiced wine.

Finish: Lemonheads, pine cleaner.

Mixed: Added a fruity note to most of the classic cocktails I tried, but does ok with tonic too. Not great in a dry martini, though.

Parting words: I had several questions about the gin and I sent the fine folks at New Holland a message with those questions a few months ago and they never responded, as usual. As a result, I have no idea what variety of wine the barrels held or if they were sourced from a Michigan winery or somewhere else. It would be cool if they were from Michigan, though.

This will probably be the last New Holland spirit I review because I’m sick of reviewing their stuff and not having my existance acknowledged even in the most basic ways. That said, Brixx is pretty good and the price isn’t awful for a barrel finished craft gin. Brixx is recommended.

 

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Bilberry Black Hearts

Maker: Journeyman, Three Oaks, Michigan, USA20170613_212324

Style: Dry gin made with bilberries (a European cousin to blueberries).

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $35

Notes: MOSA certified organic. Made via maceration.

Appearance: Crystal clear.

Nose: Alcohol, juniper, vanilla bean, cocoa bean hulls, candied orange, fresh blueberries.

Palate: Sweet, full bodied, fruity.

Finish: Plum, orange hard candy, cherry juice.

Mixed: Fine with tonic and in a Tom Collins. Fruitiness took some getting used to but once I did I liked it. In snootier cocktails like martinis, perfect martinis, negronis and Princetons it did well and never got lost thanks to the titular bilberries.

Parting words: I went through a period of time when I had given up on “craft” gins because they all tasted the same. I’m glad I am over that, because this is a uniquely tasty gin. The reason is the bilberries, scientific name Vaccinium myrtillus (high bush blueberries are Vaccinium corymbosum). The taste is very similar to blueberries but maybe with a little cherry thrown in. Their influence makes this gin worth the relatively steep $35 price tag. Journeyman is doing some stuff. Bilberry Black Hearts is recommended.

 

Gin Head to Head: Kentucky Wild vs 269

KW= Kentucky Wildwp-1473976333900.jpg

269= 269

Makers

KW: New Riff, Newport, Kentucky, USA (The Party Source)

269: Round Barn, Baroda, Michigan, USA

Style

KW: Dry gin from rye spirit.

269: Dry gin from grape spirit.

ABV

KW: 47%

269: 40%

Price

KW: $16/375 ml ($30/750 ml)

269: $20/375 ml

Appearance: Clear (both).

Nose

KW: Varnish, roasted grain, then burn.

269: Plum eau de vie, varnish, alcohol.

Palate

KW: Identical to the nose.

269: Fruity gum, light burn, orange peel.

Finish

KW: Nail polish fumes, then burn.

269: Orange soda, then fades quickly.

Mixed

KW: Pretty good in all applications I tried: with tonic, dry Martini, Negroni, Princeton.

269: Pretty bad in all applications I tried except for the Negroni and Princeton in which it virtually disappeared. Fruity aroma clashed with the bitterness of the tonic and dry vermouth.

Parting words: New Riff is the distillery founded by The Party Source wine, beer, spirits, part supplies, etc superstore in the Cincinnati area. The distillery is a modern building located adjacent to the  TPS parking lot. They make Kentucky Wild, a barrel aged version of it, a rye and a bourbon, as well as bottling an MGPI sourced bourbon called OKI (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana).

I wrote about Round Barn’s distilling program here. 269 uses the same base as their successful DiVine grape vodka. This gin tasted fine at the distillery, but when I had the chance to spend more time with it at home, I liked it less and less. It is little more than a lightly infused version of their vodka. The distillate is firmly in the drivers seat with the only other passenger being an orange peel.

I didn’t care much for either of these, frankly. KW was virtually undrinkable neat but was adequate in cocktails. 269 was better neat, but was a cocktail killer at a wimpy proof and high price. Kentucky Wild is mildly recommended for cocktails and 269 is not recommended for anything.

 

 

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.

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.

Old Cockney Gin

Maker: Two James, Detroit, Michigan, USAOld Cockney

Style: London dry gin.

ABV: 41%

Michigan State Minimum: $34

Appearance: Clear with abundant necklacing.

Nose: Lemon zest, green cardamom, coriander seed, aniseed, wormwood.

On the palate: Full bodied and dry. Cinnamon, anise, horehound, tumeric.

Finish: Dry. Like sucking on a licorice throat lozenge. Fades slowly.

Mixed: Adequate with tonic, but a little too sharp. Excellent in a dry martini with a relatively sweet vermouth. Very good in an old cocktail I found called a Princeton (1 part Port [Fronseca Bin 27 in this case], 2 parts gin, orange bitters and a twist of lemon peel). Old Cockney’s sharp dryness perfectly cuts through the sweetness of the Port. It does the same in a perfect martini.

Parting words: Old Cockney is a pretty aggressive gin compared to most that are in the London Dry style, or at least aiming in that direction. The mainstream gin it most reminds me of is Tanqueray with its trademark sharp edge, but Old Cockney goes beyond that. It teeters on the edge of being too sharp for me. That puts it in the realm of cocktail gins (as opposed to neat sipping or G & T gins) but it’s price pretty much puts it there anyway. Not that it’s unreasonably priced, it’s quite fair. At any rate, sweet cocktails are the way to go with this one. Try the Princeton or something similar, you won’t be disappointed. Old Cockney is recommended.

Liberator Barrel Aged Old Tom Gin

Maker: Valentine, Ferndale, Michigan, USALiberator aged

ABV: 45.2%

Note: Only available at the tasting room/bar

Nose: lemon peel, Clementine, angelica, cinnamon, ginger, tobacco.

On the palate: Full bodied and spicy. Black pepper, cardamom, cassia, alcohol. A splash of water brings out more sweetness and a lot more cinnamon.

Finish: Cinnamon disk and alcohol burn. Fades very slowly.

Mixed: Does surprisingly well in cocktails that are traditionally better suited to unaged gin. Makes a spicy dry martini and a respectable gin and tonic. It is really fantastic in a perfect martini (half dry and half sweet vermouth) and adds a great spicy aspect to a negroni.

Parting words: Like its unaged sibling, this gin is a wild ride. When I tasted it neat (how Rifino Valentine says he drinks it) it changed in the glass substantially from first sip to last. At first it was all citrus. Then it shifted to more traditional Old Tom Gin flavors, then it became a cinnamon bomb.

As noted above it is available only at the distillery in Ferndale, for a bit more than the standard version. It’s over the top, but it’s delicious. Barrel-aged Liberator is highly recommended.