I like gin a lot. But the funny thing about gin is that I’m also extremely picky. There are a lot of big names that just don’t do it for me. Unlike Bourbon, where I find just about everything drinkable.
Here are my gins and why I like them. I’ll also tell you why I don’t like some of the majors. I’ll also differentiate between gins I don’t like simply because it doesn’t match my sense of taste and those I don’t care for because I think they’re inferior.
1. Beefeater. This is a gin with few botanicals (juniper, coriander, bitter orange, and angelica root and seed, according to Classic Gin) But it the truest, best, lovliest gin I’ve ever tasted. The juniper is deep and has a camphory edge to it. Coriander is high in the mix, and the orange gives it a lovely citrus quality. It comes in a high 47% ABV version and makes, I think, the best martini.
2. Citadelle. An unusual gin from France–truly unique. It has 19 botanicals in it with a flavor that is overall very nutmeggy and spicy. It’s strength is good at 44% ABV. Makes a great martini, too. Nearly opposite in style to Beefeater, but that’s why I like to alternate between them. Oddly, it bucks the usual trend and is much cheaper in the US than in Japan.
3. Seagram’s. Seagram’s has an interesting approach to gin: it ages it in oak, which gives it a yellow tint. It’s America’s gift to the world of dry gin, and it’s a good one. Very citrusy, clean, and meretriciously drinkable. A bottle soon disappears (no, of course I’m not the only one drinking it).
4. Plymouth. This gin is said to be a separate style style of its own, distinct from London dry. Their website says that not using bitter ingredients is what separates it. To me, the angelica in this gin is quite prominent, giving it a different flavor. A good martini gin and a truly great tonic gin.
I’ve tried a bunch of gins and basically settled on these four. They are four very different styles, and to me each is the best in its class. In the honorable mention category would be Greenall’s Quintessential (smooth, but not as good as Beefeater while more expensive), Victorian Vat (aged and heavy with camphory juniper, but more expensive and a little too idiosyncratic), Pimlico (good, but similar to Beefeater), and Hendrick’s (made with quaint botanicals like cucumber and rose petals, but hard to find, expensive, and not quite worth it).
Can do without
The difference between these gins and the honorable mentions above is that each of these has something about it that I don’t quite like, whereas the honorable mentions are good but just not quite good enough to keep buying.
Gordon’s. I just got a bottle of this in the special export strength of 47.3% ABV, which I noticed as the strength on a bottle in a 1930s ad reprinted in the book referenced above. At any rate, Gordon’s has a pretty damn brutal flavor. It just seems bitter, and, although I like bitter flavors, it just doesn’t come together for me. Perhaps a decent gin for tonic or pinks, but a loser for martinis. This is the last time I’ll buy it. That said, Gordon’s Sloe Gin is the best of its type.
Tanqueray. Of course, Tanqueray and Gordon’s are made by the same company. Tanqueray is OK. Not a bad gin, and if that’s what they had at a party I wouldn’t mind much. But the finish has always seemed a little bitter and off to me, so I don’t really like it.
Bombay and Bombay Sapphire. Neither does it for me. Not rotten, but not good. I have tested (in my own experiments) Bombay Sapphire blind with a bunch of other gins, expensive and cheap, it it usually came in last or close to it. Basically, Bombay Sapphire really doesn’t have enough juniper in it. The same could be said of Citadelle amoung my faves, but I just happen to like one and not the other. BTW, both Bombay and Bombay Sapphire are manufactured on a contract basis by Greenalls (ibid). Bombay Sapphire in particular is a fake-o brand that more than a little gets on my nerves.
These gins belong in the “true suckage” category.
Leyden’s. I don’t see how this rotgut finds shelf space anywhere in America. It’s supposed to be pot-still-produced and all fancy like that, but its taste is all bitter and bleh.
Tanqueray 10. This gin costs a lot. It’s supposed to be good, something special. I got it once in 2001 and thought, Wow, it tastes like essential oils that somehow remain in solution in the water and alcohol. Really heavy, like you’re drinking Pine-Sol. Then again in 2003 I thought, I had to be wrong about that gin; let’s try it again. Like Pine-Sol.
I’m sure there will be much disagreement on the above, but I am eager to hear your opinions and gin stories. Thanks!