Review: Hendrick's Gin by Jason Hambrey

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: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

11 Classic + 22 Foraged Botanicals
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This classic gin was developed by Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich and has been an important factor to their success. It is brilliant. It is composed of 22 islay foraged botanicals, alongside 9 classic gin botanicals (for a total of 31). The 22 are a fun bunch:

  • Trifolium repens: white clover
  • Crataegus monogyna: common hawthorne
  • Melissa officinalis: lemon balm (balm mint)
  • Thymus polytrichus: wild thyme
  • Mentha x villosa: mojito mint
  • Betula pubescens: downy (white) birch
  • Filipendula ulmaria: meadowsweet or mead wort
  • Ulex europaeus: gorse (smells like coconut!)
  • Myrrhis odorata: myrrh (also cicely or sweet chervil)
  • Trifolium Pratense: red clove
  • Mentha Aquatica: water mint
  • Tanacetum vulgare: Tansy
  • Juniperus communis:  common juniper
  • Myrica gale: Bog myrtle
  • Artemisa vulgaris: mugwort (common wormwood)
  • Mentha spicata: spearmint
  • Chamaemelum nobile: chamomile
  • Galium verum: lady’s bedstraw
  • Calluna vulgaris: heather
  • Teucrium scorodonia: wood sage (woodland germander)
  • Sambucus nigra: elderberry
  • Cirsium arvense: creeping thistle

Also, a terrific bottle.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L16083 16/308 2016 12 08 11:57
  • Bottling Date: 2016

This is nice can tell at once from the nose. Exceedingly complex, with juniper notes at the fore, which is the way I always like my gin. Mint, menthol, coriander, dried coconut, almond, and grass. Sweet, with some confectioners sugar, and yet so shrubby and vegetal – juniper, pine, cedar, orange peel, lemon peel, and marine notes – which I particularly like. I think they’d get lost in cocktail, but those salty, mineral, light seawater notes are in there. Really, it’s worth a try just for that, and this is what excites me about the uniqueness and terrioir of this gin. The palate is easy, with light sweetness and vanilla countering the mineral water and pine/juniper/cedar/shrub notes. The finish is lightly citrusy and spicy. And a touch of salt. This is terrific – a sharp, balanced, complex gin.

If you like dry sipping gins, you need to try this one. It will mix very well too in all sorts of cocktails, though cocktail selection should be careful if the subtlety is to remain. One of my favorite gins. Brilliant!

Assessment: Highly Recommended.

Review: Asyla Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Compass Box is one of my favourite whisky companies out there - terrific blends, great prices, and lots of information as to what went into the blend. Asyla was crafted as an aperitif, and recommended chilled with water in a wine glass with a bit of parmesan – I can vouch of this as a worthwhile aperitif. A typical vatting:

  • 50% grain whisky from Cameron Bridge (First Fill American oak barrel)

  • 5% Glen Elgin (refill cask)

  • 23% Teaninich (First Fill American oak barrel)

  • 22% Linkwood (First Fill American oak barrel)

This whisky was named after the Asyla composition by Thomas Ades (on Youtube here) which John Glaser, the master blender at Compass Box, loves. Asyla, also, would be his desert island dram. It is a lighter dram from Compass Box - my notes below. Also, Compass Box has terrific information on their whiskies - more on Asyla here.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 28 01 14 3 11:07 88

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Old banana, creamy, vanilla, green apple, and light otherwise. Cereal notes, as well, with the smell of a new hamster cage to it. Inoffensive, and quite cereal driven with some hay notes on the palate rounding out with some gentle spice and tannins on the finish. It's not bad - not even tasting young or unbalanced, but it just doesn't have much spirit to it.

Value: Average. A decent whisky and not too expensive (~50$)

Review: Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

The world’s number one Scotch by bottles sold. A very iconic blend and in so many cases people’s first whisky experience. I like that Johnnie Walker doesn’t use age statements as the key to their branding (though they do affix an age statement on black label and platinum label), but, rather, the whiskies are known by label colour. Many people assume that older is better, which simply isn’t the case – it’s different. And, in some cases, too many years in oak can bring on some very unlovable oak bitterness. All this to say, I like the branding as it promotes the fact that the whiskies are different, age aside. For a blend, especially, it is true that the whiskies could be very different between the cheaper and more expensive versions as there may not even be any repeat component whiskies that make the blend (though this is unlikely).

John Walker, much like many of the early whisky blenders, was a grocer. Likely his expertise came from blending teas and even rums. His son was even apprenticed as a tea blender, and much of the blending techniques and principles for things such as tea and coffee are transferable to whisky. He would blend his whiskies and sell them right from his shop, and gradually as popularity increased so did the distribution of the whisky.This particular bottling dates back to 1867 where it was bottled as Special Old Highland Whisky. in 1909 it was rebranded as Johnnie Walker Red Label in line with the movement of branding, for which Scotch whisky was at the forefront with names such as Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s. Wikipedia features an excellent graph of Johnnie Walker blends and their start dates and original names, which I found quite neat.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: I find it interesting often to see the first aroma that hits my nose as I pour the whisky into my glass, before I have even finished closing the bottle or put my nose closer than 6 inches to the glass. For this one, it was distinct bartlett pears. As I stick my nose in, peat comes off quite clearly, along with some hard caramel candy, burnt brown sugar, caramel, liquorice, orange…slight vegetal note of leeks and a bit of celery.  Reasonably complex and quite well balanced. Honey comes out more and more as the glass sits. Some of the aromas don’t quite hit the button for me (the vegetal ones I mentioned above don’t quite mesh with the other aromas).

Taste: Mild, taking a while to get going…sweet at first with peat coming in and a candied nature (with the citrus and caramel and honey) throughout before the smoke picks up and dominates towards the tale end with just a touch of heat. There are some spices at the end of tingling white pepper and a touch of maltiness. I do really like the build up of peat smoke and the touch of dryness and spice at the end with a little bit of salt, but the beginning isn’t a whole lot to speak of, and the middle is a touch flat.

Finish: As the smoke fades we are left with the mossiness of peat balanced by a nice bit of light fruit and some brown sugar. It fades fairly quickly into a thin touch of peat and some mineral notes as well as a touch of the vegetal note I picked up on the nose. There is a touch of bitterness, as well, and a few sour notes which aren’t the nicest. It could be improved, but is quite decent nonetheless. It picks up a bit as you drink more, but it is still quite frail.

Value: Low. I’m just not much of a fan of this, even if it isn’t expensive for a Scotch.

Review: Great King Street Glasgow Blend Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

I, like most whisky connoisseurs, love Compass Box - a company focused on premium blended Scotch whisky - both blended malt whiskies (i.e. a mix of single malts) and blended whiskies (a mix of single grain and malt whiskies). They always release terrific information as to the makeup of their blends, and the quality is high across the board. Their products, to boot, are all bottled without colouring or chill-filtration (providing better mouthfeel).

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