Gin

Review: Bols Genever by Jason Hambrey

Bols 1.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
rye, corn, and wheat distillates
Distiller Bols (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Genever is where Gin originated - it was British soldiers fighting the Spanish in Holland who first developed a taste for this spirit, with a grain base (much like a whisky new make) which is steeped with botanicals such as juniper. It tastes much more like a whisky new make than it does a clean, citrusy gin. It is still the national spirit of Belgium and Holland.

Bols is the most influential genever brand in the world, with a recipe being produced which dates back to 1820. The distillery got its license in 1664, and Lucas Bols, the head of the company, had close ties to the Dutch East India Company which allowed easy access to spices for his genever. It's a very interesting spirit - I highly encourage those who haven't tasted it to give it a go! A lot of the flavour in the spirit comes from the triple distilled corn, rye, and barley - it is grain driven, unlike sister gins.


Review (2018)

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

It really reminds me of new make, but it has an appeal to it. Early on in my whisky enjoyment, I probably wouldn’t have liked this. I like it now. Rough and farmy, with a real farminess to it, but, behind, an edge of woody juniper and mixed spices – largely coriander. The palate is grainy and slightly hot, with a finish flourishing in farmy grain notes (sorry for the repetition – I mean by this something like a fermenting mash of grain – like a malt driven beer or a distillery). The palate is oily and rich, and the finish is spicy and woody and sweet – it’s a nice contrast.

It’s not something I’d put down a lot of money for, but it has a really nice raw essence to it and it’s the kind of thing I am tempted to reach for after a social engagement to wind down. 42% is a nice strength for it, too.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Roku Japanese Craft Gin by Jason Hambrey

Roku Gin 1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Suntory (Liquor Atelier, Osaka, Japan)

This gin is made from 8 traditional botanicals (juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, angelica seed, cardamom, cinnamon, lemon peel, bitter orange peel) to which 6 botanicals are added to highlight all the season in Japan - sakura cherry leaf and sakura cherry blossom for the sping, sencha and gyokuro tea for the summer, sansho pepper for the fall, and yuzu peel for the winter. As Suntory is apt to do, the bottle is 6 sided to denote these 6 core seasonal components.

Suntory first started making gin in 1936 with an old tom gin called "Hermes gin". This, however, is a very modern gin launched in 2017. The exported edition sits at 43%, while the Japanese domestic version sits at 47%.


Review (2018)

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

Juniper and lemon peel lie at the centre of a richly spicy nose. But it’s more than just baking spices – it is actually peppery with spicy notes. Coriander ties the citrus and the spice together, and it has some very nice high floral notes on the nose too. The palate starts off woody and spicy (nice coriander spice) before slowly heating up to peppercorn and chilli, with juniper and a drying tannic finish a bit like tea. The tea notes really develop on the finish – quite nice.

It is very well balanced – great floral top notes, great citrus, a nice array of spices and teas underneath, and light woodiness. Perhaps to convey more clearly: I’ve never had a gin (or spirit) which so delicately and appropriately linked floral, citrus, spicy, woody, and deep vegetal (i.e. tea) flavours together. The nose alone is worth significant effort – how often is that true for a gin? It’s the best gin I’ve tasted to date (to drink neat). Even better at higher ABV.

Assessment: Exceptional.


Review: Hendrick's Gin by Jason Hambrey

Hendrick's.jpg
ABV
44%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer William Grant & Sons (Girvan distillery, Scotland)

A gin marketed as an "unusual" gin (though these days, it doesn't sit as far out on the fringes as it used to). It is made with two stills, a copper pot still and another still with a copper basket for vapour infusion of botanicals. The first copper pot still uses a 24 hour infusion before it is distilled into quite a heavy spirit. The second still produces a much lighter spirit through the infusion of flavours into the spirit vapour rising up the still. The two spirits are then blended together to produce the resulting gin. Alongside 11 other botanicals, cucumber and rose are used as primary flavorings, natural partners with gin. These essences are added after distillation as the delicate nature of these botanicals couldn't be effectively captured in the course of usual steeping/vapour infusion.


Review (2018)

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

Different – spicy and floral, with rose petals, clove, licorice root, white pepper, coriander, and fresh cucumber. The palate is slightly astringent, in a good way, with more cucumber coming out and fading into a nice set of spices with a medium finish. I do like the juxtaposition of rose and cucumber, and it has a nice fresh herbal quality to the finish.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Broker's London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Broker's London Dry.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Broker's (Birmingham, England)

Broker's a gin which is made from wheat, distilled 5 times in a pot still, in contrast to most large gin brands which are column distilled. It is made with 10 botanicals sourced worldwide: Macedonian juniper berries, Bulgarian coriander seed, Italian orris root,  Indian nutmeg, Indonesian cassia bark, cinnamon from Seychelles, Italian licorice root, Spanish orange and lemon peel, and Polish angelica root. Though the distillery itself is quite old, the brand itself began in the 1990s.


Review (2018)

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

Spicy, but still juniper-centric. Cinnamon, dried orange peel, toffee (but not sweet) – quite a vivid and floral nose compared to many commercial gins. The palate continues with many of the spicy notes: cinnamon and nutmeg playing off coriander, juniper and citrus peel. The finish is citrusy and spicy, not that long but not too short either.

I love this gin. It has an incredible rich spicy characteristic to it, full of incense notes, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I’ve done blind tastings and adored it – it sits at the top of my „highly recommended” category for gins. If it were higher proof I think it would do even better (there is a 47% version available, though I haven't tried it). A staple in my cabinet – I love it neat and in cocktails.

Assessment: Highy Recommended.


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.

Assessment: 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!

Assessment: 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.

Assessment: 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...