Moletto Gin

Maker: Moletto Società Agricola, Motta di Livenza, Triviso, Veneto, Italy20170808_174534

Style: Dry gin with tomato.

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $40

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Alcohol, ripe cut tomatoes, lime zest, juniper.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Lemon, tomato.

Finish: Limeade, tomato juice, juniper.

Parting words: Moletto is a producer of wine and grappa (among other things) in Veneto, in Northeast Italy. I’m not sure when or why they decided to produce this gin, but it is one of the weirdest ones I’ve ever tasted.

I bought it on a whim, looking for something different from the American micro-gins I had been drinking. It’s different all right. Once I realized it was made with tomato I was eager to try it in just about every cocktail I could think of. How would it possibly work in traditional gin cocktails? The tomato would surely clash. Arguably the weirdest thing about this gin is how little it clashed at all. It didn’t do well with tonic or orange juice but it did well with everything else I could think of. Tomato is a natural fit with lemon and the sort of things that go into vermouth, so those cocktails were a good fit. The tomato added a counterpoint of sweetness and acidity to bitter cocktails too. I didn’t try it in a bloody mary. Too obvious.

While it’s never going to be a go-to, I really enjoyed this gin with one caveat: my wife didn’t like it. She’s mostly a G & T drinker, though, so that may have been the reason. The price is high, but it’s unique as far as I know, so that makes it worth a little more to me. Moletto Gin is recommended.

 

Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin

Maker: Smooth Ambler, Maxwelton, West Virginia, USA20170301_170705.jpg

Style: Barrel aged (3 months in ex-Old Scout bourbon barrels) dry gin.

Batch 4, bottled 12/13/2012

ABV: 49.5%

Price: $41 (The Party Source, Newport, Kentucky)

Appearance: Very pale gold, like a young white wine.

Nose: Juniper, cedar, bitter lemon, sweet cinnamon, wet earth.

Palate: Full bodied and medium dry. Candy orange slices, five spice powder, mace.

Finish: Sweet and citrusy.

Mixed: Did well in literally everything I put it into. Great in the cocktails in which barrel aged gin usually excels like perfect martinis, negronis and Princetons. Surprisingly, it’s every bit as good with tonic, juice and in a dry martini. Did very well in a McClary Bros. Ginger & Lemon shrub.

Parting words: Smooth Ambler is best known for their wonderful and popular Old Scout line of MGP-sourced bourbon and rye. They’re not just independent bottlers, though. They also distill spirits themselves. One of those spirits is their well-made Greenbriar Gin. It’s a juniper-heavy, but still full bodied gin good for just about anything. Unlike many gin producers, they use a mixed grain recipe that is similar but not identical to the mashbill used for their Yearling wheated bourbon. That gives it complexity and heft that many craft gins lack.

That heft serves it well when they put it into barrels. The result is a gin with the bitterness and spice one expects from a barrel aged, but with an added edge that allows it to work just as well with tonic and dry vermouth as it does with sweet vermouth and amaro. This is a one-stop gin. No need to keep a bottle of Seagram’s in the fridge  for G & T’s when you have this gin on your bar. That versatility goes a long way towards making it worth a purchase even at $41. It’s like that friend you have who is just as much fun to be around at a rock concert as she is at a house party or an art museum. Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin can go anywhere with flavor. Highly recommended.

 

Sipsmith London Dry Gin

Maker: Sipsmith, Hounslow (Chiswick), Greater London, England, UK. (Beam Suntory)20161220_085558.jpg

ABV: 41.6%

Michigan state minimum: $40

Appearance: Crystal clear.

Nose: Juniper, lime peel, navel orange, alcohol, horehound.

Palate: Full bodied, Orange peel, alcohol, juniper.

Finish: Licorice, alcohol, pepper jam.

Mixed: Out of balance in dry martinis and with tonic. Better with juice and in richer cocktails like Negronis or Princetons.

Parting words: Sipsmith is one of the few micro-distillers that has chosen to focus on gin specifically. Many make it (and make it well) but others are focused on whiskey and see gin and vodka as a way to bring in cash while their whiskey ages. I applaud how gin-focused Sipsmith is and how seriously they seem to take their craft. That care and focus has paid off in a big way for Sipsmith’s founder when they sold out to Beam Suntory for an undisclosed sum earlier this month (December 2016).

All that said, this gin is so unbalanced that I can’t recommend it. I enjoy dry, spicy gins, but Sipsmith London dry takes it too far. It’s all sharp juniper and citrus peel balanced with nothing but alcohol. It’s like a soprano singing a capella at the top of her range for ninety minutes. High notes are good, but absent a chorus with beefy altos and basses, they become noise.

At $40, this gin is on the top shelf, even for micros. That makes its lack of balance even less tolerable. There are dozens of other “craft” gins that manage to be dry without turning into the Mojave desert. Sipsmith London Dry Gin is not 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.

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.