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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My Wandering Eye: Flor de Caña 25 Year Old

My Wandering Eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. My hope is to see if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point. And please remember, these will all be from the perspective of someone who basically only drinks bourbon.

As you may have noticed during the past few weeks, I got really excited by non-bourbon things over the holiday season. I’m doling them out at a slow pace so that there is still bourbon/whiskey content on BourbonGuy.com.

Once a month, my wife and I do what is called a Mystery Date. One night each month, one of us, takes the other out to…something. The only rule is that the organizer can’t tell the other what the date is. It needs to be a surprise. We don’t do fancy things (we are not fancy people), but we try to make it something or someplace that is at least a little special.

Last month my wife took me to a burger and cocktail restaurant that we had never been to. On the way back, we stopped into the Total Wine location near the restaurant because they had something that I had been lusting over: Flor de Caña 25 Year Old.

See, I really liked the Flor de Caña 18 year old and I got really excited when I found out that not only was there an older version, but it was available in the South Metro. Unfortunately, it was about $155. Not the price range for something I would normally buy for myself. But as part of the special experience of Mystery Date Night, she convinced me to splurge.

And so she raised the bar much higher than I anticipated for this month when I am in charge of organizing the Mystery Date.

Flor de Caña 25 Year Old

Purchase Info: $154.99 for a 750 ml bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN

Details: 25 years old (according to their website, the bottle says 25 slow aged). 40% ABV

Nose: Brown sugar, oak, ginger, and chocolate

Mouth: Viscous mouthfeel. Ginger, honey, sugar cookies, and oak.

Finish: Gentle and lingering. Ginger and dark chocolate.

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Thoughts: This is delicious. It is a sweet dessert in a glass and I am glad that I purchased it. That said, even if it is available, I probably won’t be buying it again. I just like the 18 year old version better. It is more vibrant and spicy. Plus it sells for over $100 less per bottle.

And I need to save that kind of cash for date night.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

My Wandering Eye: Tequila Clase Azul Reposado

My Wandering Eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. My hope is to see if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point. And please remember, these will all be from the perspective of someone who basically only drinks bourbon.

I wanted to buy my wife something for Christmas that would be just hers. I’ve always felt just a little like Homer buying Marge a bowling ball when I get her bourbon as a gift. I mean it’s for her, but we both know it’s really for both of us. So this summer, based on an uptick in tequila based cocktails that were requested, I asked her if she had ever thought about buying one that she would sip neat. She said she had not and I let the matter sit.

See that’s what 21 years of marriage has taught me. You might go buy it on Christmas Eve, but you start planning early for what you’ll buy.

So, I did what any category novice would do. I went to the Total Wine website, sorted by price (highest first) and worked my way down while cross referencing it with random reviews online since I was unable to find anyone conveniently writing a “TequilaGuy'“ site out there.

Ultimately I ended up going with a Reposado Tequila from Clase Azul. The reviews made it sound good. The company website said it was designed to be consumed neat. And it came in a very pretty ceramic bottle that was hand sculpted and hand painted.

I mean it was a gift after all.

Tequila Clase Azul Reposado

Purchase Info: $71.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN.

Details: 40% ABV. Aged 8 months in oak barrels.

Nose: Creamy and sweet with vanilla bean and delicate caramel. This smells like an amazing ice cream or shortbread cookie.

Mouth: Nice mouthfeel. Follows the nose. Sweet with vanilla and delicate caramel. There is a fruity undertone.

Finish: Delicate and syrupy. Lingering notes of milk chocolate and caramel.

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Thoughts: Folks, I am here to tell you that I done good. My wife was very happy with this gift. She already has plans for what I am going to be doing with the bottle once she empties it. She enjoys drinking it on the occasions that she wants something a bit more smooth and gentle than her typical glass of bourbon. On more than one occasion, I walked into the room only to find her smelling the nose of the bottle. And I don’t blame her for that. This has an amazing nose. She has in her notes: “I could sit and smell this all day.” She really likes this

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Now I am not usually a tequila fan, but then I’ve really only ever had inexpensive tequila in cocktails. I’ve never found one that I could make it past the first sip of much less sit down to enjoy a glass. This, however, is missing all the things that I used to identify as “tequila flavor” and is something I would happily accept a glass of. I’m not exactly a fan. It is something that I can appreciate more than it is something I like. It just doesn’t quite align with my tastes. But it does show me that I need to do a little more exploring in this category before writing it off completely.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

My Wandering Eye: Flor de Caña 18 Year Old

My Wandering Eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. My hope is to see if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point. And please remember, these will all be from the perspective of someone who basically only drinks bourbon.

As with a good number of things dealing with Rum in my life, I first had Flor de Caña 18 year old while on a cruise through the Caribbean. The ship I was on had…well…a lot of bars. But one of the most prominent was a rum bar. It was poolside so they had cocktails and beer but it was also the only place on the ship where they had an extensive rum list.

One night as I was sitting alone on my room’s balcony watching the moonlight reflect off the water and listening to the water rush past, my wife surprised me by bringing me a glass of something brown and neat. One quick nosing and I knew it wasn’t the Buffalo Trace from the craft cocktail bar that I’d normally been retiring to our room with. She told me that she had been walking past the pool and decided to grab me something different and fun. On the recommendation of the bartender she brought me Flor de Caña 18 year old.

It was delicious, but I never knew if it was the setting or the liquid. I mean moonlight over the Caribbean at Christmas is a pretty big factor and could easily influence the situation. So when I was going through my end of the year “shopping spree” of things I wouldn’t normally purchase for myself, I remembered the evening I mention above. I was excited to see that the rum from that night was available and was less than $50. I wanted to know if it was the juice, the setting or some combination of the two that made it taste so good.

Flor de Caña 18 Year Old

Purchase Info: $49.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN (I did notice that this is available at a lower price—$43.99—at a locally-owned place…after I’d made my purchase. Remember to shop around kids.)

Details: 40% ABV. 18 Years Old (on the website, the bottle has the number 18 and the words “slow aged”)

Nose: Brown Sugar, dried fruit, ginger and a hint of oak.

Mouth: A bit nutty with brown sugar, vanilla and chocolate.

Finish: Gentle and lingering with caramel, cola and ginger.

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Thoughts: So the setting might have had something to do with it, but not as much as I had feared. This is a delicious rum. It is sweet, but not cloyingly so. And it has just enough heat to keep you from being bored. Overall I like it better than many, though not all, of the bourbons in the same price range. This is a rum that certainly deserves given a look. And when you do, it deserves to be sipped neat.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!