A BourbonGuy Look at Random Gins

Two of the gins featured in this article were sent along by the producers as part of a previously disclosed review sample. They are Filibuster Dual Cask Gin and Tommyrotter Cask Strength Bourbon Barrel Gin. I would like to thank both companies for providing these samples with no strings attached.

So. Gin?

Gin?

Yeah. Gin.

Do I know anything about gin? Not really. I know that last summer I read an old article by David Wondrich on the origin of the Gin Rickey. I know that gin is neutral spirit (essentially vodka, don’t @ me) flavored with juniper and other botanicals. I know that gin cannot legally be “aged” or have an age statement, though it can be “rested” or “finished” in a barrel for an undisclosed amount of time. I know that a lot of my non-whiskey drinking friends tend to favor gin. And I know that last statement is why I had a few different bottles in my house last year when I read that previously mentioned David Wondrich article and decided that a Gin Rickey sounded like a fantastically refreshing summer drink.

So I made one using the gins I keep on hand for friends. I loved it. Of course, I’d already made the occasional gin and tonic so I wasn’t a stranger to the combination of citrus and gin. But something about the dry quality of of the Rickey struck me as exactly what I would want on a warm summer afternoon. It is actually now my go to drink when I’m sitting on the deck in the warm summer weather.

Ok so here I am with a gin drink that I really like. As you do, I decided to expand my uses for gin. First I moved over to a Tom Collins. Super easy, but I liked the Rickey better. Then I tried a Negroni, I’d made one before and found it kinda meh, but fell in love with a riff where I swap the vermouth with Averna. (I’m thinking that maybe I just don’t like vermouth.)

Of course, being the obsessive geek that I am, I needed to find out which gins I liked best. I mean how could I live with myself if I was enjoying a decent gin in my rickey when an amazing one was out there for the drinking? And just for the hell of it, I decided to bring you along for the ride.

A BourbonGuy Look at Random Gins

The ones I ended up with were a mixture of gins I had on hand because of friends, those I ran across at craft distillers and a couple that had been sent to me by craft distillers who had provided them to me along with whiskies that they wanted me to review. The lineup is as follows.

Beefeater

Details: Owned by Pernod Ricard. Flavored with: juniper, lemon peel, coriander seed, almond, seville orange peel, orris root, licorice root, angelica root, and angelica seed according to the Beefeater website. 47% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Juniper, Lemon zest, mint, faint baking spice.
Mouth: Lemon Zest, mint and spice, juniper.
Finish: almost sweet, after a bit a hint of lemon.
Thoughts: Not nearly as juniper forward as I would expect from the nose.

Beefeater 24

Details: Owned by Pernod Ricard. Flavored with: Japanese sencha, Chinese green tea, grapefruit peels, juniper, lemon peel, almond, seville orange peel, coriander seed, orris root, licorice root, angelica root, and angelica seed according to the Beefeater website. 45% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Juniper, mint, lemon zest. (softer than Beefeater)
Mouth: Mixed citrus, mint, there is an herbal note.
Finish: Minty with a little juniper.
Thoughts: Considering how similar the nose on the 2 Beefeaters are, I'm actually surprised how different they are. I like how spicy this one is.

Hendrick’s

Details: Owned by William Grand & Sons. Flavored with: orris root, yarrow, angelica root, orange peel, juniper, caraway seeds, cubeb berries, lemon peel, chamomile, elderflower, coriander seeds, rose petal, cucumber according to the Hendrick’s website. 44% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Juniper, mint
Mouth: Spicy with a lot of juniper
Finish: long juniper finish
Thoughts: This is my least favorite so far. It is very juniper forward and I don't care for the spices I'm getting. I don’t get any cucumber.

Bombay Sapphire

Details: Owned by Bacardi. Flavored with: juniper, lemon peel, coriander, angelica root, orris, grains of paradise, cubeb berries, cassia bark, almond and licorice according to the Bombay Sapphire website. 47% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Savory, Coriander, old dry wood, hints of juniper.
Mouth: lemon, cinnamon, Coriander
Finish: mint, hints of juniper. after a while-distinct lemon
Thoughts: This is a tasty gin. Not the "pine trees" stereotype of non-gin drinkers at all. I could almost drink this one straight... almost.

Vikre Boreal Juniper Gin

Details: Craft distillery in Duluth Minnesota. Flavored with a combination of foraged wild botanicals and traditional gin botanicals according to their website. 45% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Black pepper.
Mouth: Flat and muted in the mouth.
Finish: Mint, juniper, lemon.
Thoughts: This is pretty flavorless until the finish. It isn't unpleasant, there is just little to draw me in when tasted neat.

Filibuster Dual Cask

Details: Craft distillery in Maurertown, Virginia. Finished in both American and French oak casks. 45% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Savory, Rosemary and a touch of juniper
Mouth: Thin mouthfeel. Savory Basil.
Finish: Long-lasting lemon, oak, hints of juniper.
Thoughts: This isn't bad at all. The basil notes are interesting (in a good way).

New Riff Kentucky Wild Bourbon Barreled Gin

Details: Craft distillery in Newport, Kentucky. Flavored with: angelica, orris and licorice root, and three kinds of citrus, wild juniper berry, American Spicebush, goldenrod, Rye Whiskey New Make. Finished in used bourbon barrels for 5-7 months. 47% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Juniper, orange peel , just a hint of smoke
Mouth: Sweet, juniper, orange
Finish: lemon pledge
Thoughts: I want to like this a lot more than I do. That lemon pledge finish kills it.

Tommyrotter Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin

Details: Craft distillery in Buffalo, New York. Finished in new, charred American White Oak barrels. 61% ABV

BourbonGuy Notes:

Nose: Mint, caramel, ginger.
Mouth: Cinnamon, lemon, ginger,
Finish: ginger, molasses, touch of juniper
Thoughts: This is really good. As a bourbonguy, this is the only one I would drink neat.

Cocktails

So, now that we have the tasting notes out of the way, let’s get down to the reason why I actually had them in the house to begin with: cocktails. My wife and I tried each of these in three cocktails. A standard Negroni, a Tom Collins, and of course my beloved Gin Rickey. It really shouldn’t be, but I found it a bit interesting to see the differences in each of these. Especially when comparing tasting notes (neat) to the flavors I got in each cocktail. But instead of going over all the tasting notes again, I’m just going to give you our “rankings” for how much we liked each spirit in each cocktail.

Negroni (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari)

Eric’s: Tommyrotter, New Riff, Beefeater, Vikre, Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater 24, Fillibuster, Hendrick’s

My wife’s: Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater 24/Beefeater (tied), Vikre, Tommyrotter, New Riff, Filibuster, Hendrick’s

Thoughts: Not at all surprising that I preferred the aged spirits in this cocktail, the barrel aging makes it taste like a cross between a typical Negroni and a Boulevardier. A bit surprising that my wife preferred the London Dry style since she was very resistant to participating in this tasting at all based entirely on previous experience with that style when she was younger.

Tom Collins (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water)

Eric’s: Beefeater, Beefeater 24, Bombay Sapphire, Vikre, Hendrick’s, New Riff, Filibuster

My wife’s: Beefeater, Beefeater 24, Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick’s, Vikre, New Riff, Filibuster.

Thoughts: we basically agreed here. The London Dry style was our favorite.

Gin Rickey (gin, lime juice and soda water)

Eric’s: Beefeater 24, Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick’s, Vikre, New Riff, Filibuster

My wife’s: Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater 24, Beefeater, Vikre, Hendrick’s, New Riff, Filibuster.

Thoughts: The two Beefeaters were my winners. Which is awesome since Beefeater is the cheapest one in the lineup. My wife has more expensive tastes and preferred the Bombay Sapphire. Neither of us were high on the barrel aged versions.

Conclusions

So based on these “oh so scientific” tests, it seems that in the summer I need to keep only a Beefeater or two and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on hand. I’m going to pass on the Hendrick’s from now on. I was not a fan. It also seems that for these summer drinks there is little to be gained from venturing into Craft territory as any differences they are playing with are lost in my favorite cocktail. On the other hand, when the weather starts to cool and I am looking for a more spirit-forward cocktail, I should certainly venture over to the Craft gins and look for a barrel aged version to use in the occasional Negroni.

There you have it: A BourbonGuy Look at Random Gins. Will gin fans agree on my conclusions? Maybe, maybe not. I admit, I am a total gin novice. But honestly, I found it too interesting not to share. Especially with other bourbon lovers who may be looking to expand their range into a refreshing long drink for summer.


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Bernheim Original: Revisited

I’d like to thank Heaven Hill for providing this review sample to me with no strings attached.

IMAGE: the front label of a bottle of Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

It has been one thousand, seven hundred and fifteen days since I last did a tasting of Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey. It was purchased right after they added the seven year age statement to the bottle. That age statement addition was the reason that I purchased my first bottle of Bernheim, but sadly that was also the last bottle I purchased of Heaven Hill’s Wheat Whiskey. Not because I had some strong feeling toward it. But precisely because I turned out that I didn’t have a strong feeling toward it. I just sort of forgot it existed.

Now, I can be excused for that, at least a little bit. I do tend to reserve a majority of my whiskey budget for the site and it can be hard to remember to go back to something once I’ve written about it. In this case though, it just didn’t make that strong of an impression on me to warrant a second look.

And so it stood for almost five years. Until one day a couple weeks ago, a package came from Heaven Hill. They tend to send things unannounced so I was interested what new thing it would be this time. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found this bottle of Bernheim. At first I thought, “well…cool!” and was happy. Then I thought, “oh, I’ve reviewed that” and I had a bit of a sad. Not because I had free whiskey, mind you, just that I wouldn’t be getting content out of it. Of course, once I looked up how long ago I’d reviewed it, I got happy again because it was a prime candidate for revisiting. Especially once I remembered that I hadn’t even had a sip of Bernheim since that bottle five years ago.

At the time, I’d summed up my feelings like this:

This is pleasant though uninteresting. It can take a little water, but not much. I like it but wouldn’t want it for every pour. I’d love to see that age statement creep up even further.

I said that last bit partly as a bridge to the whiskey I was comparing it with that night. See, I’d decided to pair the Bernheim review with the Parker’s Heritage Wheat Whiskey that had also been released right about that time. And honestly, I think the presence of the same juice, but at an older age and higher proof sort of set Bernheim up for failure. Parker’s Heritage cast a long shadow. So now many years removed from its limited edition brother, I think I am prepared to take another look at it and judge it on its own merits.

Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

Purchase Info: This review sample was graciously provided to me by Heaven Hill for review purposes. It retails locally for between $24.99 and $34.99 for a 750 mL bottle.

Details: Wheat whiskey. 45% ABV. 7 years old.

Nose: Bubblegum, black pepper, black tea

Mouth: Sweet and nutty with caramel, black pepper and bubble gum.

Finish: medium length with" just enough" burn. Peanut and cinnamon fade to reveal a lingering bubblegum note.

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Thoughts: I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I will often take a glass of bourbon to bed with me to sip on while I read a book or watch a little tv. Sometimes, my wife is nice and will get it for us. When she does, she likes to not tell me what she brought. Sometimes this is a scary thing (especially around Bottom Shelf Bracket time) but most of the time it is fun to see if I can figure out what she decided on. After we got this bottle of Bernheim, it was her go to pour. And I realized that I really enjoyed it. It made a nice “end of the night” drink.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products and bourbon-related craft supplies I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And hey, if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!