Review: Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Bombay Sapphire.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Bacardi

After prohibition, complicated cocktails took a backseat to simpler drinks with fewer ingredients. Gin and tonics were popular, but largely with the upper class and tonic water was expensive - though President Kennedy liked a G&T which helped encourage its sophistication. The second world war hit a number of distilleries, and in the 1960s and 1970s vodka rose to immense popularity. In 1987, Bombay Sapphire launched and perhaps launched the era of modern gin - the bottle was presented in bottle that stood out - blue, with all 10 botanicals clearly listed. It was the first gin to use a vapour infusion process, whereby the spirit was flavoured by the botanicals through vapour infusion. This process sets the botanicals in copper baskets in the still through which the alcohol steam passes on its way up the still, as opposed to steeping, where botanicals are soaked in the spirit or beer before distillation is complete. This imparts a more delicate flavour - the focus, itself, was different - The gin's profile was more citrusy than other London Drys before it, and it started to move away from juniper-heavy gins.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Toffee, orange peel, a slight soapiness, and a slightly rough around the edges grainy character. The palate is slightly sweet, with a grainy „feel” to it – but light juniper, slight spice, and citrus. Relatively light, with a light „essences” rather than full-bodied infusions (to clarify, they use whole botanicals, not „essence”). Finish is sweet, with a touch of pepper coming forward and developing to citrus with a slight drying sensation.


Review: Beefeater 24 London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Beefeater 24 2.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Pernod Ricard

A premium Beefeater's gin, with more botanicals and a bit more "modern" in style than the baseline beefeater gin. It comes in at 45%, so is more flavorful than the 40% baseline version. When I initially explored gin a few years ago, this was one of my favourites (before the bottle went red...) - but I still like it and it's one of my favourites to have on hand for good mixing.

The name is a bit deceptive. You might think it is because of 24 botanicals, but it is because of a 24 hour infusion process of 12 botanicals including grapefruit peel, chinese tea, and japanese tea. The use of tea was inspired from a trip to Japan by Beefeater's master distiller, where quinine was banned and the bitter complement of gin, tonic, was not available. To introduce bitterness, green tea was used in cocktails, which inspired its use as a direct component of the gin.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is juniper-centric, as would be expected, but it’s surrounded with an immense amount of complexity – all sorts of citrus (lemon, grapefruit, orange), light spices, and coriander. The palate is balanced, with a nice balance of sweetness against assertive citrus and peppery spice. Finish is light, with medium body, but short. Complexity is very well balanced and integrated – a classic gin.

Highly Recommended.


Review: Beefeater London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Beefeater 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Pernod Ricard

Another massive gin brand owned by Pernod Ricard, this brand emerged with the advent of the continuous still which enabled efficient, consistent production of gin styles which didn't need sugar to cover anything up (as some of the Old Tom styles required). Old Tom slowly faded to the background as this newer, cleaner "strong" or unsweetened style of London Dry emerged. James Burrough founded Beefeater in 1863, following Alexander Gordon and Charles Tanqueray in establishing large scale production gins which were exported around the world. This gin is made with nine botanicals.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: LKMM0604 2018/02/15 09:59
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Classic and definitive: Juniper, citrus, and the zestier rather than the spicier side of coriander. A slight biscuity aroma to it as well. The palate is clean and spicy, coming in waves: first sweet juniper, then spicy coriander and spicy tree bark, and then finishing with mixed pepper and a rising sweetness. Not bad, but nothing special either.


Review: Plymouth Navy Strength Gin by Jason Hambrey

Plymouth Navy Strength 2.jpg
ABV
57%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Black Friar's Distillery (Plymouth, England)

Plymouth Gin is a protected geographical indication, so no gins made outside Plymouth England can be labeled as such. However, there is only one gin producer remaining in Plymouth, at Black Friar's distillery. It started to produce gin in 1793, operating out of a fifteenth century monastery. The "Navy Strength" is more than a gimmick, here. in the 18th century, gin was a drink of the higher classes (and used in drinks like the gimlet to supply lime juice and vitamin C to sailors). Navy ships would often stock up in various ports, which had their own individual styles like London, Plymouth, Bristol, and Liverpool (Bristol and Liverpool styles are lost on us, now). By 1850, Plymouth supplied the Navy more than 1000 barrels per year of gin - but at a specially made 57%. This strength was due to the fact that the gin and firearms were stored together under lock and key to prevent easy access, and if 40% gin spilled on gunpowder, it would fail to ignite. However, at 57%, ignition is not a problem...

Plymouth was a much sought-after brand, and considered by the Navy to be the only way to have a proper pink gin, a mix of gin and bitters originally concocted for medicinal purposes. Counterfeits of the gin led to its eventual protected regional name.

Gin distilleries were also responsible for making "cocktails for Hitler" during the second world way, and were targeted in air raids. Gordon's distillery was attacked and decimated in 1941. Plymouth fared better - Black Friars was attacked in 1942, but the distillery survived. The Navy responded - British officers in Malta who shot down a German ship or plane was offered a bottle of Plymouth.

Plymouth also produces a 41.2% version of the same gin. The brand is owned by drinks giant Pernod Ricard.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is fairly closed at full strength. Watered down, bitter cucumber, juniper, nice earthiness to it.  At full strength, the gin doesn’t feel that hot – it has a nice, subtly sweet grain character to it which richly carries a handful of flavors with it – juniper, lemon peel, and some baking spices. Finish is rich, lightly dry, and spicy – it is a nicely balanced gin, and good at cask strength – but still feels a bit soft in terms of my preferences in gin. 57% carries the flavours very nicely! At 40%, I don’t think I’d favor it this much!

Highly Recommended.

 


Review: Empress 1908 Gin by Jason Hambrey

Empress Gin 2.jpg
ABV
42.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Victoria Distillery (Sidney, British Columbia)

Peter Hunt, president and master distiller of Victoria distillers, has developed a very unique product which has achieved great success in British Columbia (becoming the number 2 premium gin sold in BC only 5 weeks after launch) and has been made available in the US and the UK. It also won best in class at the Canadian artisinal spirits competition.

Now, it’s coming to Ontario. It’s a follow up on Victoria gin, and is named after the Fairmont Empress hotel which opened in 1908 and featured Victoria’s first cocktail bar.

The hotel offered an impressive high tea, which inspired part of the gin – the hotel’s Empress Blend Tea is one of the ingredients in the gin, along with the pea flowers which give the gin light earthy notes.

Yes the colour is natural. The deep purple hue of the gin comes from the infusion of pea flowers, which pack a surprise: the colour changes depending on the acidity of the cocktail it is in! So if you add lemon juice to this gin, it turns pink!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 37
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose offers juniper, coriander, orange peel, himalayan black tea, and a touch of sweetness and white pepper. The tea notes are distinct, and they set apart the gin quite nicely. The palate leads with coriander, then morphs to light juniper, licorice, cacao, rosehip, prune, and finally bean sprouts and light tannins on the finish. Cinnamon comes through very nicely on the finish, giving a nice sweet and spicy interplay with the light tannin. Terrific, and the colour is amazing. Also, really nice mouthfeel.

It’s much rounder and richer than its sibling, Victoria gin. Also, significant props for the colour changing properties – this makes mixing fun, which is part of what it is about.

Highly Recommended.


Review: Victoria Premium Cocktail Gin by Jason Hambrey

Victoria Gin 1.jpg
ABV
42.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Victoria Distillery (Sidney, British Columbia)

This gin has been around for some time - originally in different packaging and just called "Victoria Gin", a recipe originally developed in 2008 by Ken Winchester (distiller at Glen Saanich) and the father of Victoria distillery's current distiller, Peter Hunt. The gin evolved through 2009 and the recipe changed significantly, with a reduced juniper content and some botanical changes.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 173
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is light and citrusy with underlying grain notes. Light juniper, light citrus peel, light coriander – simple and straightforward. A slight barky bitterness here too. The palate is light and spicy. It’s easy and approachable, but not as rich as I like my gins to be – it’s a bit too simple. A nice light touch of toffee in the middle. Decent mouthfeel and a slightly rising finish, but not carrying quite enough flavor in my opinion – this seems between a heavier grain vodka and a gin.

A good gin, but I'd still skip this and go instead to a bottle of empress gin...


Review: Tanqueray Export Strength London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Tanqueray Export Strength.jpg
ABV
47.3%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Diageo

Another gin to emerge during the boom of London Dry gins in the 1830s, Tanqueray was founded by Charles Tanqueray and is made with just four botanicals - juniper, coriander, angelica, and licorice root. This is a higher strength version compared to the standard 40%. Coincidentally, export strength is Air Canada's standard gin offering on flights.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A somewhat intense nose of juniper and orange, and a light graininess seemingly from the alcohol. It’s fairly light, but it’s balanced. It has quite an intense juniper quality to it compared to most big commercial gins. On the taste, it has a nice rich flavor – spicy and piney, with underpinning sweetness – the 47% helps along quite a bit. Finish is juniper, then citrus – but much more enduring than many commercial gins, probably because of the 47%. A great base for a simple, clean gin.

This has great body (47% is great) – an incredible, full flavoured gin and a great cocktail mixer (really – the sharp, full flavoured juniper is terrific). A favourite of mine.

Recommended.


Review: Gordon's London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Gordon's Dry Gin.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Diageo

In 1830, Aeneas Coffey designed and thereafter patented his Coffey still - the first widely used continuous still. The consequences of this still were widespread, and gin saw the effects - the impurities in gin did not need to be covered up with sugar in the prominent Old Tom style of the time. Instead, a new gin was able to emerge, driven by the clean spirit of the Coffey Still - an unsweetened ("dry") and "strong" version of gin started to take hold - London Dry Gin. The wealthy classes of England gravitated to this gin, and the Victorian emphasis on health further promoted it. Old Tom faded, London Dry emerged - and dominated, for hundreds of years. One of the earliest big gin distilleries emerged in the midst of this popular wave of London Dry - a distillery founded by Alexander Gordon in 1769 in London. It is now the world's best selling London Dry Gin, and is even produced exclusively for the North American market in Canada - presumably at the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, based on the bottling code.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L72552P00119:24 51SL143
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Classic gin: clean, with juniper, lemon peel, white pepper – it is focused around juniper, which I like. Coriander plays a light background, but, overall, everything is held in balance. A touch of spicy, earthy bark too. The palate is clean, with lots of fresh, spicy coriander and a light juniper backbone. The spiciness is nice. Quick, light finish.


Review: J.P. Wiser's Old Fashioned Whisky Cocktail by Jason Hambrey

J.P. Wiser's Old Fashioned (2).jpg
ABV
35%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Canadian Whisky, Water, Sugar, Orange Essence, and Natural Flavours
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Old Fashioned are perhaps the simplest well known whisky cocktail - a blend of whisky, sugar, bitters, and typically garnished with citrus peel - often made with bourbon or rye as the base. Following BarChef and Still Waters brilliant bottled old fashioned in Ontario, J.P. Wiser's stepped up to the game by blending whisky with orange essence and natural flavor (which includes spices/bitters, based on the taste). It is simple - just pour over ice, perhaps with a citrus peel garnish. It needs some ice, warm and undiluted it isn't balanced and is too sweet - but hits the spot with a nice chunk of ice.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L18150 - AW2016 54SL24
  • Bottling Date: 2018

Spicy, citrusy, and lightly sweet - full of orange and spices - clove and a big kick of cinnamon. Light oak, vanilla, and light Canadian whisky spices hold the whisky together between the vibrant orange and the tingling spices. The finish is a battle between cinnamon and orange. Really nice on a hot day (of which we are having many in Ottawa these days!). This fits really well alongside in your beer cooler during a BBQ. Also, this goes quite nicely alongside a hefeweizen....

I can't help but compare. The BarChef project produced a cocktail which you could serve in a high end cocktail bar, but this is more your standard bar old fashioned (and it's better than many I've had in bars!). But, to that effect, it comes in at a nifty $30, 60% of the price of the BarChef project.


Review: Basil Hayden's Dark Rye by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of Beam Rye, Alberta Rye, and Port
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky) and Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

The second bottle to be added to the Basil Hayden’s brand, one of Jim Beam’s core „small batch” brands. Beam Suntory started to leverage its Canadian distillery, the magnificent Alberta rye distillery, using it as a secondary component to blend in with Jim Beam’s rye whiskey. On top of this, port is added to the blend to round it out. In some respects, it’s similar to Alberta Dark Rye (Dark Horse in Canada) in that a fortified wine is added to a rye whiskey. The addition of wine to the whiskey is scientifically equivalent to a short (i.e. a few months) of a finish where wood impact doesn’t mature the whiskey but the wine is just dissolved into the spirit. So, it’s not much different than a port finish, depending on the amount of port actually added. The Alberta ryes taste nothing like Beam rye, so let’s test out the combo!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose starts off with sweet oak, rich and shallow caramel (think of that super sweet caramel donut or straight cheap caramel ice cream sauce), green apple candy,  oaky earthiness, mint, bright and rich grain, clove, pepper, butter...hmmm....

The palate is sweet throughout, starting with a sharp kick of rye but with lots of sweet oak and a strong touch of nutty port rancio. Slightly rough around the edges, too. The finish is perhaps the best part of the whisky, with a combination of spicy rye, oak, and port. Lots of rich dried fruit, like prune, on the finish too. It’s rough underneath, and I suppose you could imagine balance, but barely, and there isn’t good integration.

I don’t even like to nose this one, all candy, and not in a good way. Ice marginally improves this, but not enough. One of the worst whiskies from a major producer in some time. For some who like sweet and flavoured whiskies, they may not mind this. But, for most of us, there’s better places to find „uniqueness”.

Score: 67/100

Value: 52/100 (based on $60)