Review: Bully Boy Estate Gin

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We’ve written about a number of products from Boston-based Bully Boy Distillers. Today we turn our attention to the company’s gin, a unique offering in the world of this juniper-infused spirit.

First, some details from the company:

We start with a base of neutral grain and apple brandy, which we make from distilled hard cider fermented at Stormalong Cidery. We then add standard botanicals such as Albanian Juniper, Coriander, and lemon, and more unique botanicals like local Juniperus Virginiana, Hibiscus, Pink Peppercorn, and a few others we like to keep secret. The end result is a bouquet of aromas and flavors that are both exotic and firmly rooted in New England.

The nose is immediately exotic, offering notes of modest juniper, crisp apple, and a smattering of mixed herbs and floral elements. On the palate, ample juniper again leads the way to some unexpected flavors, including lemongrass, pepper, tobacco leaf, and dried flowers. There’s just a hint of sweetness here, taking the form of light honey notes, which are particularly present on the lasting and lightly herbal finish.

All told, this is a well balanced gin, and it’s one with extra versatility thanks to its hefty 47% abv, letting it find an easy home in a martini or a more complex cocktail.

94 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1

A- / $30 / bullyboydistillers.com

Review: Boodles London Dry Gin

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Founded in 1845, Boodles is a venerable, classic gin — and though it’s been off and on the market from time to time, it’s never been one you much hear about. Perhaps the name, which seems better suited for a cat than a gin, just doesn’t roll off the tongue the way, say, Beefeater does? Show me a red-blooded man that can confidently order a “Boodles Martini” at a bar and I’ll show you, well, a guy that’s probably drinking whiskey.

Named for a famous London gentlemen’s club and reportedly the favorite gin of Winston Churchill (a member there), the Boodles recipe is unique for containing no citrus. Botanicals include juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, angelica seed, cassia bark, caraway seed, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage. It is bottled in two strengths; the higher proof version, designed for the U.S. market, is reviewed here.

Crisp juniper on the nose is balanced by a healthy amount of rosemary, plus some classic earthy notes driven by angelica and various spices. On the palate, things more or less fall into place about as expected for a London Dry. Despite the lack of citrus in the botanical bill, it does show a hint of lemon-like character, which is effective at balancing out the more moderate juniper notes. A touch of cinnamon is present here as well, along with a twist of white pepper. As the finish builds, Boodles takes on a clearer herbal character — think lemongrass vs. lemon peel — and perfumed overtones of white flowers and more gentle pepper notes. The fade-out is clean, but the impact is lasting.

All told, Boodles is an outstanding London Dry that offers uniqueness, but doesn’t stray too far from the course, tweaking the recipe just enough to distinguish itself from Tanqueray, Beefeater, and other staples of the style. Give it a try on its own or in a cocktail, as its gentler juniper character gives it lots of versatility.

90.2 proof.

A- / $23 / boodlesgin.com

Review: Gin Mare

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Gin Mare is billed as a “Mediterranean Gin,” distilled in Barcelona. “Made in small batches in a copper pot still with 250 liters of capacity per batch, Gin Mare’s key botanicals include Arbequina olive, thyme, rosemary and basil, each sourced from four different Mediterranean countries.” (Citrus fruit and green cardamom are also components.) “Distinguishing itself from traditional London dry gins, the spirit highlights its botanicals through the use of premium barley base, delicate maceration, individual distillation and authentic blending.”

The key takeaway in all of that is a single word: olive. By using olives as a flavoring agent, Gin Mare takes a martiniesque shortcut that I haven’t really encountered before. The nose has a distinct olive note, plus a lacing of black pepper, mixed dried herbs, and a bit of green onion. Quite savory on the nose, the body finds room for some sweeter stuff, with light notes of simple syrup that fade into clearer notes of rosemary, earthy cardamom, and lemon peel. The finish remains restrained and savory and reminiscent of an olive tapenade with a lemon twist upon it. Note however that there’s scarcely a hint of juniper throughout the experience.

What a unique, quirky, and curious gin! It’s several big steps off the beaten path, but it’s so intriguing — and enjoyable — that it hardly matters. Whether you think of this as gin or olive-flavored vodka is completely beside the point. Try it in your next martini.

85.4 proof.

A / $38 / ginmare.com

Review: Boardroom Vodka and Gin

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Now that Trump Vodka is defunct, what is a discerning CEO to use to make his martini? Might I suggest Boardroom Vodka or Gin? Seems like the perfect thing to sip on before you utter, “You’re fired.”

Boardroom Spirits is a new company that hails from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, where it distills its white spirits from a mash of 100% non-GMO corn in a column still. (Additional spirits, not reviewed here, are both in production and planned.)

We tasted the two big guns from Boardroom to get things started.

Both are 80 proof.

Boardroom Vodka – Clean nose, very medicinal — almost nostril-scorching with its strong hospital character. On the palate the vodka is less overwhelming, giving up some sweetness and a touch of popcorn character, slightly nougat-like on the back end. Otherwise, it’s quite straightforward and neutral, with very little in the way of secondary character. With a foot in both the old world and the new, it’s an unusual vodka, though not one without some measure of both charm and versatility. B+ / $20

Boardroom Gin – Billed as “the non-gin drinker’s gin,” botanicals are not disclosed. Aromas run heavily to lemon and grapefruit, with floral honeysuckle notes following along. On the palate, it offers some of the same sweet notes as the vodka, which tempers the fruit and flowers, but the finish is quite clean, fading out with just a hint of citrus. I’m sure this is billed as a “non-gin drinker’s gin” because of its distinct lack of juniper, which is present to some degree but really dialed back to the point where it largely comes across as an element in the finish. The pungency of the botanicals feel very gin-like, however, and I expect both gin drinkers and non- will find it appealing. B+ / $27

boardroomspirits.com

Review: Langley’s No. 8 London Dry Gin

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Langley’s is a brand of gin newly available in the U.S., thanks to Terlato, which is importing it. No “New Western” business here. This is a classic London Dry style of gin that will strip the enamel off your teeth with the pungency of juniper.

But first, some background.

Made in small batches from 100% English grain, Langley’s No. 8 takes its name from the century-old Langley’s Distillery, a contract distiller that never before had allowed its name to appear on a spirit brand. Distilled in “Connie,” a small copper pot still nicknamed after the master distiller’s mother, the classic flavor of Langley’s No. 8 comes from a mixture of eight botanicals, including juniper berries from Macedonia, coriander seeds from Bulgaria, sweet orange peel and sweet lemon peel from Spain, cassia bark from Indonesia, and ground nutmeg from Sri Lanka. The last two ingredients are a secret! The result is aromatic notes of spicy juniper, zesty citrus and a smooth, rounded finish.

And the number 8? The makers tested every alcohol percentage between 40% and 45% to determine which would give the right balance of alcohol without being overpowering, ensuring that the true flavors came through. After testing 12 different samples with a team of experts and a consumer panel prepared in 10 different cocktails, they decided the 8th batch was the finest, and so, Langley’s No. 8.

It’s no joke on the juniper, which kicks off with a huge slug of the evergreen character. The nose takes things head-on into that deeply herbal, juniper-driven territory but it does manage to find room for hints of grapefruit and lemon, plus a touch of black pepper. The palate surprises with a hint of sweetness up front before quickly returning to that bold and racy juniper blast, which dominates things until a smattering of secondary characteristics finally bubble up. Think cinnamon, some earthy notes driven by the coriander, and again a hint of pepper.

Fans of traditional and juniper-heavy gins will get a kick out of this; for my tastes, though, it is a bit monochromatic with the juniper just about destroying everything in its path.

83.4 proof.

B / $42 / langleysgin.com

Review: No. 3 London Dry Gin (2016)

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Five years ago we sampled Berry Bros. & Rudd’s classic gin, No. 3. Little seems to have changed; this is still a pot-distilled gin with a mere six ingredients: juniper, orange peel, grapefruit peel, angelica root, coriander, and cardamom. Recently I had the good fortune to attend a lunch hosted by No. 3 at San Francisco’s Wingtip club, where the meal was paired with three different (very small) martinis, designed to showcase different presentations of No. 3 in a classic cocktail. My favorite, surprisingly, was the Dukes Martini, which is ice-cold No. 3, an atomized spritz of dry vermouth, and a lemon twist — the lemon peel just really popped with the citrus notes in the gin, really elevating the spirit

I was less of a fan of the “Classic” Martini with more dry vermouth and orange bitters, but the Martinez — with sweet vermouth, maraschino, and angostura, also shined, particularly as a pairing with creme brulee. (See photos below.)

As for the gin itself, my notes have changed little since the initial release. It’s a juniper-forward spirit with a bitter river running through it — likely driven heavily by the grapefruit peel — with a finish that offers both oily citrus notes and light floral elements. Some earthiness creeps in toward the back, along with a slightly sweet, fruity kick. This is gin without a lot of fluff, stripped down to its basics, which makes for a clean and refreshing spirit.

92 proof.

A- / $35 / no3gin.com

Review: Headframe Spirits Anselmo Gin and Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur

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Butte, Montana is the home of Headframe Spirits, a craft distiller that at present makes a total of five products. Today we look at two: a gin and, intriguingly, a craft bourbon cream liqueur.

Headframe Spirits Anselmo Gin – Flavored with 12 botanicals, mostly unnamed with the exception of “citrus and huckleberry.” The results are unique, with a distinct fruitiness on the nose — not citrus, but more of a fresh strawberry (though perhaps that’s huckleberry) character. Juniper is a distant echo beneath the up-front rush of fruit. The palate is equally unique for gin — sweet and fruity with more notes of strawberry jam, plus lemongrass, grapefruit peel, and an earthy element that lingers on the back of the throat. There’s juniper in that element, but even there it’s dialed way, way back. That said, the sweet and earthy components of this gin are a bit at odds with one another. The finish has a slight tinge of solvent to it, but it doesn’t linger. That fade-out is reserved for a reprise of that berry business. 80 proof. B+ / $30

Headframe Spirits Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur – This straightforward bourbon cream (presumably made with Headframe’s own bourbon), starts off with a sweet and milky nose, with overtones of vanilla and maple. The palate offers ample brown sugar, more vanilla, and the essence of chocolate milk. On the finish we find some of the bourbon’s heat creeping into the back of the palate, adding a spicy kick that mixes well with a somewhat cocoa-heavy conclusion. A solid, but simple, effort. 35 proof. B+ / $22

headframespirits.com

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