Category Archives: Gin

Review: Schramm Organic Gin

schramm gin 166x300 Review: Schramm Organic GinYes Virginia, they make gin in Canada. This unique gin comes from Pemberton Distillery in British Columbia, where a smattering of products are produced. None seems more highly lauded than Schramm Organic Gin, an organic dry gin made from distilled potato base and infused with a mere eight (organic) botanicals: juniper, coriander, orange peel, rosemary, angelica root, Ceylon cinnamon, rosehips, and hops.

A more unique infusion bill you’re unlikely to find, but when poured, the immediate nose is none of these but rather — inexplicably — cucumber. A deeper exploration into the aroma reveals that it is the last two elements on that list — rosehips and hops — that strangely meld into this unique cucumber character. Behind it there’s a sort of smoky/earthy character that is likely driven by the angelica root.

On the body, this is a gin that’s overflowing with flavor. That cucumber character dominates here, too, but it takes on a deeper and more smoldering character than you get on the nose. Very much like a tree bark (cinnamon-driven, maybe) character and hints of the forest floor. Not so much juniper berries, but definitely limbs of juniper trees scattered about under the canopy shadows. The finish offers a respite from this depth, with notes of lemongrass and some mint. All of which is curious because none of those ingredients are actually in this gin.

Reviewed: Batch #09 (now sold out), bottle #165. Distilled Dec 2012. 88 proof.

A- / $55 / pembertondistillery.ca

Review: Plymouth Gin and Navy Strength Gin

plymouth gin 2013 200x300 Review: Plymouth Gin and Navy Strength GinI’m no stranger to Plymouth Gin — it’s the very product that started me off in spirits reviewing, over a decade ago. Plymouth is a unique gin because the term describes both a style and a brand. “Plymouth Gin,” like “Scotch whisky,” is gin that is made in Plymouth, England. There’s only one company making gin in Plymouth, though, and that is the Black Friars Distillery, where it produces Plymouth Gin (the brand).

Plymouth Gin also has a specific style associated with it. While it is similar in structure and distillation process to London Dry, it is less juniper-focused, more citrus-forward, and imbued with more of the earthier components typical of gin, including orris and angelica roots. The total bill of botanicals includes nothing unusual: juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seeds, angelica root, orris root, and cardamom. Just seven ingredients… nothing in a world where modern gins will commonly have 20 ingredients or more.

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Review: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

Monkey 47 gin 224x300 Review: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry GinMonkey 47 is one of those spirits with a really long and involved backstory, but the nut of it is that you’re drinking crazy gin from Germany. Created by a WWII Royal Air Force pilot who settled in the Black Forest after the war, our hero made his own gin out of local ingredients and exotic botanicals inspired by his upbringing in India. The gin wasn’t commercialized, but its recipe was meticulously documented.

That recipe — plus intact samples — were recently discovered, nearly 50 years after Monkey 47′s creator vanished. And now, this oddball German gin is being commercially produced and can be yours… if you can track it down.

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Review: Master of Malt Origin Single Estate Gins

origin single estate juniper series 300x232 Review: Master of Malt Origin Single Estate GinsIt’s well known that Pinot Noir from California tastes different than Pinot Noir from France — even if the wines are made identically. But does the concept of terroir extend to spirits like gin, too? Can juniper berries sourced from the far ends of the world really express their differences after going through the long process of distillation and bottling as gin?

Master of Malt sets out to find the answer with this, the Origin Series of Single Estate gins. Seven versions are on offer, each made with juniper sourced from a single location, each in a different country (all are in Europe). Each batch arrives in a bottle that is distilled just from juniper, with no other botanicals added. However, a small add-on vial of distilled botanicals (the usual gin stuff) comes with each bottle. To turn your juniper-flavored spirit into real gin, just add the vial to the bottle and you’ve got single-estate gin, with all the fixings. (Note: You can buy them as minis if you don’t want to shell out for full bottles of seven experimental gins.)

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Review: Master of Malt Worship Street Whistling Shop Cream Gin

master of malt cream gin 135x300 Review: Master of Malt Worship Street Whistling Shop Cream GinMaster of Malt has no shortage of bizarre concoctions, but this one is a new one for me: Gin distilled using cream as a botanical. The result is called, simply, cream gin.

Cream gin, we are told by MoM, “was popular in the Gin Palaces of the Victorian Era, however back then the gin would probably have been mixed with a cream and sugar then left to infuse. To update this classic idea, this Cream Gin has been cold-distilled using fresh cream as a botanical (the equivalent of 100ml cream per bottle!), to capture the fresh flavour of the cream in a perfectly clear spirit. Because the cream is never heated during the distillation process, no ‘burnt’ or ‘off’ flavours end up in the finished product. Cream Gin has the same shelf-life as any other distilled spirit.”

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Review: Aviation Gin (2013 Bottling)

aviation gin 2013 label 142x300 Review: Aviation Gin (2013 Bottling)“New Western Dry Gin” from House Spirits in Portland, Oregon, Aviation has been a popular spirit across the U.S. since its launch in 2006. We’re finally getting around to reviewing it seven years later, just in time for a brand new bottle design (pictured at right), which is being rolled out later this year. (The recipe hasn’t changed, mind you.)

The botanicals in this gin (distilled from rye) are by and large traditional, though they offer enough uniqueness to be evocative of the Pacific Northwest, where Aviation is made. The roster includes: Juniper, cardamom, lavender, Indian sarsaparilla, coriander, anise seed, and dried orange peel.

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Review: Russell Henry Gin Lineup

Who the heck is Russell Henry? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing Craft Distillers is referring to this guy, a chemist and expert in digestion from the late 1800s. Not sure he had anything to do with gin, but in a funny coincidence, there is a Henry Russell who wrote about the cotton gin in this book.

Think about all of that while you sip on these gins, namesakes of, er, somebody (but not distiller Crispin Cain). One is a London Dry. Two are flavored gins — unusual, but since gin is really just flavored vodka, not a crazy idea. Both of the flavors are, per Craft Distillers, “works in progress” that they will continue to tinker with.

Thoughts follow on the state of these gins as of January 2013.

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Review: London 40 Dry Gin

London 40 dry gin 110x300 Review: London 40 Dry GinHow classic is London 40 Dry Gin? There’s a picture of a dude wearing a top hat on the label, that’s how.

Produced by Old St. Andrews (we’ve written about its oddball whisky in the past), this gin is four-times distilled and imbued with 12 botanicals that include, in part, juniper, angelica root, almonds, nutmeg, coriander, licorice root, and orange peel.

The nose is typical, traditional juniper. It’s got a light touch though, so don’t go in expecting a Beefeater bruising.

On the body, juniper makes the first appearance, followed by some more muted notes — red flake and black pepper, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, and a touch of sugar. There’s an interesting bunch of flavors here, but they’re not entirely in balance. The finish is drying and a little bitter, reminiscent of dried herbs. The body’s a bit thin; this gin could stand to be 86 proof or so (though that would muck with the name, I guess).

Ultimately, London 40 is happy to let its juniper do most of the talking, even if its closers get an more than their share of the action here, talking over the crowd.

80 proof.

B / $28 / ourniche.com

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Review: Ransom Old Tom Gin

Ransom Spirits Old Tom Gin 189x300 Review: Ransom Old Tom GinA reader recently turned me on to Ransom’s Old Tom Gin, asking (nay, begging) for a review. I’m obliging.

Ransom Old Tom Gin is different than most gins. For starters, it’s yellow, not clear. That’s a characteristic of the rarely-seen Old Tom style, which was popular in the mid-1800s and faded into obscurity when the more juniper-focused London Dry Gin. It is traditionally sweetened, and it stands between genever and traditional gin on the spectrum of flavor and funkiness.

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Review: Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin

We recently raved about Smooth Ambler’s Yearling whiskey. Now we’ve got another, far different, spirit from the same company up for consideration.

In a world increasingly dominated by flowery, lighter-styled gins, the small batch Greenbrier Gin is a whole different animal. It’s a juniper bomb without being overpowering, far more herbal than floral, which gives it a pleasant but distinct bitter edge.

There’s a curious dark chocolate character beneath the greenery, and the finish heads back into the land of citrus — mandarin orange, with a touch of lemon peel and even grapefruit. There’s no ingredient list made public for this West Virginia-born gin, but on the palate it speaks more of tradition than the avant garde. Very pleasant and set for a variety of workhorse cocktail applications.

Distilled from a mix of grains. 80 proof.

B+ / $30 / smoothambler.com

Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin Review: Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin

Review: Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin

From the same folks who brought you Masterson’s awesome 10 Year Old Rye — in Sonoma, California, of all places — comes this new gin, inspired by a recipe (it’s said) drawn from an equally odd location: Lucca, Italy.

Some backstory, courtesy of the company (an affiliate of the Sebastiani wine empire):

Company president August Sebastiani named the handcrafted, small-batch gin after a favorite uncle, Valerio Cecchetti, who is a retired physician near Lucca, Italy. “In addition to being a highly regarded doctor, Uncle Val is a great cook and avid gardener. The botanicals we selected for this unique gin — juniper, cucumber, lemon, sage and lavender — are the same as those Uncle Val likes to use in his cooking and grows in his home garden,” Sebastiani said.

Gin’s history also played a role in the selection of Dr. Cecchetti’s name as the brand. “Gin was invented in the Netherlands by a doctor — Franciscus Sylvius — who was a professor of medicine in Leyden, Holland, back in the 1650s,” Sebastiani explained. “He was trying to find a cure-all for kidney and stomach disorders, so he infused juniper berries into distilled spirits. The elixir became so popular that distillers began commercial production and by the end of the 1680, the Dutch were exporting more than 10 million gallons of gin each year. Gin is the only spirit that started out as a medicine, so it’s fitting that we named ours after Uncle Val.”

Distilled five times from grain, the gin offers a nose that is immediately evoking of limes, even though they’re not part of the botanical bill. It’s like a lime-emblazoned gin and tonic right out of the bottle. On the tongue, plenty more of that lime character, and that lavender becomes apparent. Cucumber gives this gin a bit of a cooling effect, so much so that the juniper is almost a tertiary character.

It’s a fine gin, and quite unique. And if you like your gin mild, Uncle Val’s for you. It does however seem to be missing that heady aromatic punch that great gins have: The overwhelming citrus character pushes it almost into the realm of fruity vodkas as the other ingredients don’t quite find a purchase. Dangerously easy to drink though. Watch out with this one.

90 proof.

B+ / $35 / 35maplestreet.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

uncle vals gin Review: Uncle Vals Botanical Gin

Review: Cardinal American Dry Gin

Cardinal Gin. Get it?

Sure ya do.

This American gin hails from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The 11 (organic and wild) botanicals used in this gin don’t get enumerated, so we have to guess at them instead. Modestly juniper-infused and intensely floral, this is a gin with a different and unique style to it.

Let’s pick out the flavors we can peg, shall we? The most prominent ones I get: Licorice, cinnamon, and chamomile flowers. Orange and juniper come along later, particularly in the finish until the cinnamon notes grab hold again at the very end. This is a gin with a moderate body, but quite a bit of sweetness in comparison to other gins. Almost a nougat-like, creamy sweetness. Really quite pleasant, lasting, and inviting.

Overall, a really great product worth experiencing if you’re a gin lover.

84 proof.

A- / $29 / southernartisanspirits.com

cardinal gin Review: Cardinal American Dry Gin

Beefeater Gin Punches for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth II has been the monarch of England for a whopping 60 years as of June 3 this year, and Britain will be celebrating in Jolly Old Style all summer long, and not just with demure waving to each other.

Our friends at Beefeater sent these delicious-sounding punch recipes all designed to celebrate the occasion. (Substitutions may well be required for many listed ingredients, but you’ll manage.) All hail the Queen!

JubileePunch 210x300 Beefeater Gin Punches for the Queens Diamond JubileeNick Strangeway’s Jubilee Punch

2 parts Beefeater London Dry Gin
1 part Dubonnet
1 part Hawkers Sloe Gin
½ par Grants Morella Cherry Liqueur
½ part Jo Hilditch British Cassis
½ part Jo Hilditch British Framboise
A splash of Kings Ginger Liqueur
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
1 part Lemon Juice
4 parts Earl Grey Tea (chilled)
4 parts Mumm champagne

Glass: Punch glasses or highball glasses. Punch to be served from a punch bowl or large jug

Garnish: Fresh seasonal berries and currants, lemon wheels and borage flowers

Method: Build the ingredients in a punch bowl or jug and top with ice

RoyalJamboreePunch 204x300 Beefeater Gin Punches for the Queens Diamond JubileeDre Masso’s Royal Jamboree Punch

300ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
5 tablespoons Strawberry Jam
5 tablespoons Lemon Juice
100ml Dubonnet
300ml Red Grape Juice
Lemonade

Glass: Highball glasses, punch to be served in a punch bowl or large jug

Garnish: Lemon wheels, fresh strawberries sliced in half and sliced red grapes

Method: Pour all ingredients except lemonade into a punch bowl or jug and stir well, making sure the jam is mixed thoroughly. Add ice and garnish. Top with lemonade.

BeefeaterGardenPartyPunch 204x300 Beefeater Gin Punches for the Queens Diamond JubileeBeefeater Garden Party Punch

3 parts Beefeater London Dry Gin
3 parts Sparkling English Wine
2 parts Good Quality Pressed Pear or Apple Juice
1 part Fresh Lemon Juice
1 part Elderflower Cordial
½ part Sugar Syrup

Glass: Highball glasses, punch to be served in a punch bowl or large jug

Garnish: Pear and apple slices

Method: Stir all ingredients with a large ice block and serve

Review: Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin

Brooklyn’s Greenhook Ginsmiths is drawing acclaim for this new product, an “American Dry Gin” distilled in a specially-engineered alembic still that’s outfit with a vacuum to enable distillation at lower temperatures, designed to keep the spirit “magically” purer by keeping the botanicals from being destroyed by boiling. (Vacuum distillation isn’t unique to Greenhook, but it’s rare, and it’s still fun.)

Those botanicals are enumerated: Comprising juniper, coriander, chamomile, elderflowers, elderberries, orange zest, lemon peel, cinnamon, blue ginger, and orris root — almost all of it organic. Of these, the elderflower/elderberry is arguably the strongest, with juniper close (and perhaps obviously) right behind. Chamomile and cinnamon are more nuanced and come on stronger in the finish, along with some lemon character.

Greenhook is strong — 94 proof — but even without water its flavors are distinct and sharp. It’s also surprisingly well balanced, its component flavors complementing one another and creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of its botanical parts.

Updated to add/correct ingredient list.

A- / $45 / greenhookgin.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS!]

greenhook gin Review: Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin

Review: Magellan Iris Flavored Gin

It is natural to wonder what irises taste like. The famous blue flower is reportedly used as a digestive aid in some parts of the world. Here, it gives Magellan a distinctly blue tint (the bottle is clear)… along with, ahem, a dose of “certified color.”

Magellan, distilled in France, contains 11 botanicals. Aside from iris root and flowers, it features cloves, juniper, cinnamon, cassia, orange peel, coriander, licorice, grains of paradise, cardamom, and nutmeg. A couple of odd numbers in there, but nothing too crazy. The gin, inspired by the famous explorer and the spices he discovered on his trek around the world, is four-times distilled from undisclosed grains.

What comes through the most clearly here is the orange peel, tempered by a fair amount of juniper on the nose. The mid-palate runs into earth tones, driven by the cloves, coriander, and cassia, while the finish offers a touch of sweet licorice. Though it’s 88 proof, it’s not especially hot, and the finish is clean and refreshing, if a bit spicy. For something so artificially blue, I was surprised by Magellan’s balance and nuance. Don’t dismiss it because the color is so nutty.

As for iris, I never did find out what they taste like. But one thing’s for sure, Magellan doesn’t taste anything like flowers.

B+ / $30 / magellangin.com

Magellan iris flavored gin Review: Magellan Iris Flavored Gin

Review: Bombay Sapphire East Gin

Take your Bombay Sapphire and give it an “Eastern” spin and, boom, you’ve got Bombay Sapphire East. From the ingredients list, you might think BSE is a far different beast than its progenitor. Take a look: lemongrass, black peppercorns, lemon peel, liquorice root, almonds, angelica root, coriander, cassia bark, cubeb berries, grains of paradise, juniper berries, and orris root. Sounds exhausting — but only two of those ingredients are unique to Bombay Sapphire East. Lemongrass and black peppercorns are the new additions. The rest are all part of “off the rack” Sapphire.

In tasting Bombay Sapphire East, I’m hard pressed to find anything specific that sets this gin apart from standard Sapphire. East merely ups two flavors that Bombay Sapphire already has in lemon peel and cubeb (a pepper relative). Of those, only the lemon is particularly notable: BSE is still fruitier than most gins, with a much lesser juniper tone, and an herbal, warming finish. What it doesn’t particularly exude is anything from “the east” — it’s not especially spicy or peppery, there’s no saffron, turmeric or cumin, and even the coriander (a staple of eastern cooking) is restrained.

What it is, however, is a pretty good gin. If you like Sapphire, you’ll like this one too.

84 proof.

A- / $37 (one liter bottle) / bombaysapphire.com

bombay sapphire east gin Review: Bombay Sapphire East Gin

 

Review: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

By now my foolish claim that Scotland made only one gin has been widely disproven (by myself, even), but The Botanist makes a more specific, and so far irrefutable, assertion: It’s the only gin made on the island of Islay, that part of Scotland that gives us its peatiest Scotch whiskys, the ones with (arguably) the most character.

The Botanist is made at Bruichladdich, distilled from wheat and infused with a massive collection of botanicals: All of the traditional ones (nine here), plus a whopping 22 additional, native botanicals which are picked wild on the island of Islay (see complete list below). The gin is infused in two stages: First the standard gin stuff goes in, then the second batch of goodies are infused using a basket infusion process. Bruichladdich claims it’s a slow operation, taking three times as long as most gins to make (which, to be honest, is not that long anyway).

15,000 bottles were made in the first batch.

Results: The Botanist offers a surprisingly clean aroma, very light on juniper with some citrus and cinnamon notes in the forefront. With all this stuff going on (and in) I was expecting a monster gin, but The Botanist is surprisingly easygoing and, dare I say, not Islay-like at all. Smoke? Absolutely not. This is a gin that’s surprisingly sweet and really fresh tasting. Evergreen is there, but it’s all the basil-like tones that make it so much fun — not to mention lots of citrus, cinnamon, and mint tones really rounding things out. There’s a reason they call it The Botanist, and not because it’s meant to evoke a scary old man that still lives with his mom. The body is a bit oily, but quite smooth and easy in spite of its higher proof level.

This is really an exceptional gin that deserves seeking out, or calling by name in any proper mixed drink.

92 proof.

Complete botanical list: Angelica root *, Apple Mint, Birch leaves, Bog Myrtle leaves, Cassia bark *, Chamomile (sweet), Cinnamon bark *, Coriander seed *, Creeping Thistle flowers, Elder flowers, Gorse flowers, Heather flowers, Hawthorn flowers, Juniper (prostrate) berries, Juniper berries *, Lady’s Bedstraw flowers, Lemon Balm, Lemon peel *, Liquorice root *, Meadow Sweet, Orange peel *, Orris root *, Peppermint leaves, Mugwort leaves, Red Clover flowers, Sweet Cicely leaves, Tansy, Thyme leaves, Water Mint leaves, White Clover, Wood Sage leaves. (* = Non Islay Botanical)

A / $33 / bruichladdich.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

botanist gin Review: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

Drinkhacker and FindTheBest Launch “Best Gin” Guide

drinkhacker gin finder 300x190 Drinkhacker and FindTheBest Launch Best Gin GuideOne of the most-requested features we get is a simpler way to find “the best” whatever — the best vodka, the best whiskey, the best tequila — that we’ve reviewed to date. Unfortunately, the limitations of a blog format make that difficult, and while we’ve done work at adding categories based on our grade ratings, it’s still not in-depth enough to make finding, say, our best-ever reviewed gin with just one click.

Well, now you can!

Drinkhacker has partnered with FindTheBest, which we’ve written about before, to launch a custom version of their database, populated with our ratings. We’ve started with gin, just to get things going, and will have more of these databases up soon.

You’ll note the ratings on the guide are numerical, not the letter grades we use here. That’s to make the list more easily sortable, and the numbers match up as you’d expect: 100 represents the highest rating, 95 a solid A, 92 an A-, 88 a B+, and so on.

As for the best gins ever? It’s a tie among Bulldog, Edinburgh, Bloom, Citadelle Reserve, Broker’s, and Plymouth. No A+’s in this category yet. And here’s one thing we’ve learned: There’s a whole lot of stuff out there that we haven’t reviewed yet!

Hope you enjoy the guide. In the future, you’ll find it, and others that we add, reachable via a static link in the footer on every page. Enjoy!

UPDATE: The Gin Finder is no more. Thanks for enjoying it while it lasted!

Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving! While you’re enjoying your turkey, stuffing, and pie, many a thanksgiver’s thoughts turn to booze. Specifically, what one might buy for a favored loved one come holiday time. I’ve collected all my favorite spirits from 2011 here for you, but this is just a small sampling of what’s worthy on the market right now. Scan through the category of your choice for other ideas, and chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

big bottom two years old 212x300 Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Big Bottom Whiskey 2 Years Old Port Cask Finish ($40) – Technically not a Bourbon, but close enough. I gave only two A+ grades (outside of event coverage) all year, and this was one of them. Finding this now will be tough (we’ll have a review of the 3 Years Old version shortly), so if this doesn’t pan out try Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished 10 Years Old ($80) or Col. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon ($70). You can also try Angel’s Envy ($45), technically a 2010 release but also Port-finished and about as good as Big Bottom.

Scotch – The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ($375) – This is my “go-to” whisky right now, though it’s rapidly depleting, and the price may make it a big much for anyone short of a spouse. If you can find  Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix ($95) or Laphroaig Cairdeas ($60), both make outstanding gifts. And MacKinlay’s “Shackleton” ($150) is worth the price alone for the conversation value.

GinBloom Gin ($29) – No question on this one. The floral but not perfumy Bloom is one of my favorite gins today. It may be made for a woman, but it’s powerful enough for a man.

russian standard gold vodka 185x300 Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasVodka – Russian Standard Gold Vodka – At $45, it’s pushing the boundaries of what anyone should pay for a neutral spirit, but it’s good and the package is striking enough to require no wrapping paper, saving you a few bucks. For your more avant-garde friends, check out Sub Rosa’s Flavored Vodkas ($30) or a bottle of Skyy Blood Orange ($18).

Rum – Montanya Platino Rum ($30) – So much good rum came out this year, but Montanya’s simple, pure, and bracing white rum is my winner for what you should give a loved one. Bottled in Colorado, not Latin America, they’ll immediately want to know more. For more traditional gifts, I also loved Berrys’ Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old ($80) and Brugal Extra Viejo ($27).

Brandy – “Original Gangster” XO Brandy ($25) – This gift works on a couple of levels. First, the packaging and name are so ridiculous that your hipster friends will get a solid, 25 dollar laugh out of it. Second, the brandy is actually pretty good, so you can actually drink it when you’re done giggling.

TequilaCasa Dragones ($275) – The other A+ I gave this year, but considering the price of this. Tequila is still on the rise, and lots of good stuff is on the market, including Gran Dovejo Blanco ($47), El Gran Jubileo Extra Anejo ($65), and Excellia Blanco ($50), among many others.

Liqueur – Tatratea (up to $60) - A collection of five tea-flavored liqueurs, each increasing in proof level. Exotic and bizarre, and totally worthwhile for the liquor snob who has everything. Home cocktail enthusiasts would also love a little Pimento Dram ($28) or the all-new Drambuie 15 ($56).

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!