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What's In My Gin?

June 28, 2011 By: Jack Robertiello


In the new world of gin, there’s one thing for sure: You can’t tell the players without tasting them. In addition to the significant citrus tang in many of the new American gins, an important new wave of gins coming from Europe is adding interesting ingredients, including grape flowers, cilantro, rose, honeysuckle, coriander, lavender, anise, clove, sassafras and myriad other flavoring agents. All of them tend to push juniper a bit — or all the way — into the background.

To try to figure out the current state of gin, I recently sampled 35 or so with New York bartender, consultant and author Toby Cecchini. We tasted, not so much to determine the quality of the various brands, but rather to determine what was going on in the new wave of gins. What, we wanted to know, was the impact of New Western gin? What could a drinker expect from gins in terms of  juniper, citrus, dryness and the impact of other floral/herbal/spice qualities? Some we tried could be mistaken for orange vodka; others were distinctly and aggressively gin. Below, find how we ranked the gins on a scale of one to 10: One representes little presence of the quality, and 10 represents a maximum amount. In other words, the higher the number, the dryer, more junipery, etc., we found the gin. We were in general agreement with our scores; when not, the final numbers reflect an average of our two scores. (I’ve also noted the forward botanicals we found in each gin.) What’s the point? Well, it’s gin season, and it’s no longer enough to call something gin and expect customers to understand. In fact, I don’t think it will be too long before other brands follow Square One’s lead and start calling their wares botanical spirits.

• Square One Botanical (pear, lavender): juniper, 1; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 8; dryness, 3
• Aviation (coriander, anise): juniper, 3; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 6; dryness, 5
• 209 (lemon, orange, juniper): juniper, 5; citrus, 8; floral/herbal/spice, 6; dryness, 4
• Death’s Door (ginger, malt): juniper, 2; citrus, 3; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 6
• Blade (grape, tangerine): juniper, 3; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 7
• Right (citrus basket): juniper, 0; citrus, 10; floral/herbal/spice, 1; dryness, 4
• Bluecoat (citrus, white pepper, orris): juniper, 6; citrus, 8; floral/herbal/spice, 6; dryness, 7
• Brooklyn (citrus): juniper, 3; citrus, 9; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 3
• Hendrick’s (coriander, chamomile): juniper, 4; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 6; dryness, 6
• G’vine Floraison (floral): juniper, 2; citrus, 2; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 5
• G’Vine Nouaison (juniper, white flowers): juniper, 6; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 5
• Damrak (lemon, orange, anise): juniper, 3; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 3; dryness, 5
• Nolet's Silver Dry Gin (raspberry, rose): juniper, 2; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 8
• New Amsterdam (orange, tangerine): juniper, 1; citrus, 9; floral/herbal/spice, 3; dryness, 3
• Citadelle (juniper, almond, angelica, cinnamon): juniper, 7; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 5; dryness, 8
• No. 3 (grapefruit, juniper): juniper, 7; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 5; dryness, 6
• Old Raj 46% (floral, angelica root): juniper, 4; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 8; dryness, 8
• Old Raj 55% (saffron, orris root): juniper, 7; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 7; dryness, 9
• Martin Miller’s (citrus, melon): juniper, 2; citrus, 7; floral/herbal/spice, 4; dryness, 6
• Bombay Sapphire (licorice, cassia): juniper, 4; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 3; dryness, 5
• Plymouth (juniper, cardamom): juniper, 4; citrus, 5; floral/herbal/spice, 5; dryness, 8
• Tanqueray (almond, cinnamon): juniper, 6; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 2; dryness, 6
• Tanqueray Rangpur (lime peel): juniper, 2; citrus, 8; floral/herbal/spice, 2; dryness, 6
• Tanqueray 10 (lime, juniper): juniper, 4; citrus, 7; floral/herbal/spice, 4; dryness, 8
• Beefeater 24 (juniper, green tea, grapefruit): juniper, 4; citrus, 6; floral/herbal/spice, 4; dryness, 10
• Beefeater (juniper, coriander, lime): juniper, 8; citrus, 4; floral/herbal/spice, 5; dryness, 8

Conclusions? Many of the newer gins, wherever they are made, moderate or even smother the juniper component. But among them, there is a breadth of dominant botanicals that changes from brand to brand and, sometimes, bottle to bottle. The former can be argued as a good thing, but bottle variation can be death for a brand. That’s conclusion three: Distillers new to gin may be underestimating the variance in the quality and potency of botanicals they are working with. If I were buying gin today, I’d insist on sampling every shipment, just to be sure. Not a bad job.


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