Category Archives: Gin

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!

Review: Edinburgh Gin

What a fool I am. Here’s yet another Scottish gin, with the name of a Scottish town right there in the branding. Don’t I feel smart?

Edinburgh Gin is distilled with classic gin botanicals, plus the addition of Scottish juniper, pine, heather, and milk thistle. The pine is a bit eyebrow-raising, and sure enough this is a very evergreen-forward gin. It’s interesting the different direction it takes from a more classic juniper spirit, though: Here the gin comes across as distinctly “of the forest,” more earthy, and almost like taking a long walk in the mountain woods. It’s what I expect most people wish their juniper-forward gins tasted like: Warming and just a touch rustic, full of character.

This does put a damper on secondary notes, to some extent. I get lemon and orange peel, and hints of coriander. The finish offers mild sweetness, not harsh at all. I expect the deco labeling will telegraph to drinkers that this is an ultra-modern, “progressive” gin, but the reality is that it’s old school in the best possible ways.

86 proof.

A- / $32 / spencerfieldspirit.com

Edinburgh Gin Review: Edinburgh Gin

Review: Hendrick’s Gin

Recently I declared — quite foolishly — that Caorunn was Scotland’s only gin. Pretty dumb: Hendrick’s has been on the market for years, with great success, despite its slogan, “It’s not for everyone.”

Self-described as a “gin made oddly,” Hendrick’s is famous for the addition of cucumber to the standard botanical mix, along with rose flowers. In practice, however, it is still the juniper that is strongest on the nose, with the floral elements a moderate second.

Cucumbers are actually the tricky element: There is more citrus in the body than anything vegetal, and I presume that is intentional. Cucumber is a tricky element to work with in spirit-making, often resulting in harsh and bitter end products. Hendrick’s is wise to tone it down… but why play it up in the marketing? Probably because drinking roses sounds even less appealing when you get down to it.

This is still a quality gin, but, for better or worse, it’s much less unusual and “odd” than it makes itself out to be.

Update: After a berating from a reader (see below) and another try, I found my notes to be largely consistent. The gin is citrus-forward (distinctly lemon on the finish), and moderate with juniper character. Rose petal notes are enigmatic and fleeting, and I still don’t get any real sense of cucumber in the mix at all. I stand by the rating — this is a fine gin for mixing a cocktail with, and the downplaying of the floral element is a wise choice — but it’s not really distinguished in any way, at least in comparison to what the marketing has to say.

88 proof.

B / $32 / hendricksgin.com

hendricks gin Review: Hendricks Gin

Review: New Holland Knickerbocker Gin

This gin from Michigan’s New Holland Brewing boasts a dozen herbs and spices, but it’s the juniper and some orange peel that will hit you at the start and don’t let go til you reach for a glass of water to smooth it out. At 85 proof, it’s not particularly hot, but it comes across as pretty fiery: Perhaps it’s the “generous” amounts of juniper berries which New Holland refers to in its marketing that make it such a barnstormer. Long and lasting, things do open up with a little time in the glass, revealing some sweetness, black pepper, and a curious note of something akin to celery. Fine and good, but I expect most drinkers of Knickerbocker will use it with tonic or other tall drink mixers. Decent price and quality on the whole.

Update: Re-reviewed in January 2013. Liking this considerably more today, with a distinct licorice note on the front of the palate, plus that black pepper on the finish. Not too much juniper on this batch, instead it’s more of a burly, vaguely earthy gin. I wouldn’t call it celery this time around, but I did find its smoldering character more enjoyable this time around. 2013 rating: B+

B / $25 / newhollandbrew.com

knickerbocker gin Review: New Holland Knickerbocker Gin

Review: Caorunn Gin

Gin season continues here, with a true oddity: The only gin distilled in Scotland. [UPDATE: Errrr, so is Hendrick’s. Sorry about that, folks.]

Scotland, the legendary home of malt whisky, is hardly a land known for gin, which must be seen as a bit of a girly drink for the pansies who live on the southern part of the island. So leave it to the Scots to do something a bit different: Triple distilled from grain and infused with rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, Coul blush apple, and dandelion leaf (in addition to six traditional botanicals, juniper, coriander, orange and lemon peel, angelica, and cassia), it’s an odd duck from the start — and something fitting of this often harsh, wind-swept land.

Despite all the crazy-sounding aromatics, Caorunn (pronounced ka-roon) is a very pleasant and largely traditional gin. Juniper is quite evident, with citrus notes close behind. All that bog myrtle and dandelion seems to do something, altogether lending a fun vanilla note to the finish, but otherwise Caorunn keeps its clogs firmly planted in the London dry style of ginmaking, just a bit eased off on the juniper pedal and throttled a touch more toward the sweet side.

It’s a gin that’s hard not to like but doesn’t offer quite enough nuance or uniqueness to love.

83.6 proof.

B+ / $35 / caorunngin.com

Caorunn Gin Review: Caorunn Gin

The Ultimate Gin Guide

The world of gin is one of the most complex ones in the spirits universe: Botanicals can range from a few classic herbs to a huge array of modern flowers, tinctures, fruits, and even vegetables. How can you find a gin that you’ll really like? One idea: Check out FindTheBest’s gin guide, which drops well over 100 gins into a handy spreadsheet, complete with data about proof level, style, aromatics, and the ingredients in the infusion. Want to find a gin infused with ginger root? FindTheBest has 8 options for you. Have fun. Stay sane.

Update: We’ve got this miracle gin finder on our own site now!

Review: Brandon’s Vodka and Gin

Who is Brandon? Brandon is Phil Brandon, the founder of Rock Town Distillery, the first legal distillery in the state of Arkansas since Prohibition. Both are distilled from Arkansas red winter wheat and are bottled in hand-numbered bottles. Here’s how both — available regionally in limited markets — shake out.

Brandon’s Vodka – Incredible nut and butterscotch character on the nose. Almost dessert-like on the tongue, it’s hard to believe this isn’t a flavored spirit. The overwhelming notes of creme brulee, almonds, and dark chocolate are impossible to ignore, making this a love-it-or-hate-it spirit. What else to say? It has no medicinal character and no real bite to speak of, and I scarcely know whether to even categorize it as a vodka at all. 80 proof. (Batch 7, Bottle 32) B+ / $30

Brandon’s Gin -As odd as Brandon’s Vodka is, Brandon’s Gin plays it by the book: A straightforward infusion “vapor infused” with seven (unnamed but natural) botanicals. Juniper and citrus peel, plus a little pepper, start you off, and eventually those herbal characteristics fade and leave you with hints of Brandon’s sweet vodka, the obvious base for its gin. An exercise in contrasts, but one that works for the most part. 92 proof. (Batch 6, Bottle 221) B+ / $30

arkansaslightning.com

Review: Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin

Nolet’s (not Nolet, mind you) hails from Holland, part of a new wave of ultra-premium gins flavored with unexpected ingredients. Nolet’s (distilled from the same wheat as Ketel One) lets you in on three of them — the rest are kept secret — but one of the big three immediately jumps out.

That ingredient: Turkish rose petals. Tasted neat, Nolet’s is a floral bomb, almost overpowering in its perfumy nature. Other revealed ingredients — white peach and raspberry — aren’t as forward, but if you try Nolet’s with a twist of lemon it will help to keep the flower petals at bay and allow the fruit to shine a little more clearly, along with a little bit of a citrus kick.

Nolet’s is obviously well crafted, but it’s hard not to think that the distillery overdid it a little bit with the flower petals. In cocktails and in other gins, floral elements tend to go an awfully long way, especially in an overproof (95.2 proof) spirit like this. The pale yellow color is enchanting, and over time the roses do start to fade (as with perfume) and you find a little more fruit and a touch of juniper in the mix. The finish, after an hour in the air, even starts to take on a dark chocolate character… but that’s a long time to wait to drink a glass of gin.

As a side note, Nolet’s is also the creator of one of the most expensive spirits — and easily the priciest gin — I’ve ever tried, Nolet’s Reserve Dry Gin. This limited edition bottling saw just 400 bottles produced this year, and if you can find one, expect to pay about $700 for it. (No typo there!)

I tried it. The character? Quite similar, but with a little more sweetness, some vanilla, and a bit less of the rose character on the tongue. Is it worth close to four figures for a bottle? I think the price is crazy — despite the saffron used to make it — but gin fanatics may feel otherwise.

B+ / $50 / noletsgin.com

nolets gin 525x700 Review: Nolets Silver Dry Gin

Review: Bloom Gin

Bloom is a real enigma: Born from the distiller of one of the world’s first London Dry gins — parent company Greenall’s celebrates its 250th anniversary this year and is the producer of Bombay and Bombay Sapphire for Bacardi — Bloom is a brand new gin with a modern twist. It is designed for women, by a woman.

Joanne Moore is the world’s only female master gin distiller, and after 15 years working her way up the ranks at Greenall’s, she’s finally been given her own empty bottle to fill.

It should have happened a lot sooner, because Bloom — female-focused or not — is one of the best gins on the market today.

Bloom is part tradition, part newfangled innovation, and Moore took me through a private tasting of the spirit, the seven ingredients that make up its infusion, each paired with a single-ingredient distillate, which show how different (or similar) an infusion can taste vs. the aromatic that goes into it.

Bloom is distilled from English wheat, and the infusions start with Tuscan juniper, Moroccan coriander, and angelica — all traditional gin flavoring agents. She then goes wild, adding Indonesian cubebs (a member of the pepper family), chamomile flowers, honeysuckle, and Chinese pomelo (part of the grapefruit family). The final spirit is bottled at 80 proof.

Results: Amazing. Bloom had been previously described to me as “floral,” but unlike, say, Nolet’s, which is full of perfumy rose petals, Bloom is floral only in the sense of standing in a rain-soaked meadow full of wildflowers. Honeysuckle and chamomile are not heavy aromas, and they do not overpower the rest of the aromatics here. In fact, it’s citrus that comes on the strongest — driven by that pomelo and possibly the fruitier characters in the two floral ingredients. But best of all is how perfectly these seven ingredients all come together: Bloom is balanced, smooth, and easy to sip straight, even at room temperature. Call me a girl if you want: I love this gin.

Bloom officially launches today in San Francisco only, then spreads across California and beyond.

A / $35 / bloomgin.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

bloom gin Review: Bloom Gin

Review: Spring44 Vodka and Gin

Spring44 (aka Spring 44) is a new line of vodka and gin out of Colorado. All are distilled five times from a multi-grain blend of wheat, rye, and corn (much like whiskey), filtered through a coconut husk filtration system, and blended with water from a 9,000-foot-high source.

We checked out all three of the distillery’s initial offerings. All are 80 proof.

Spring44 Vodka – I like this spirit a lot. A bracing nose offers light medicinal notes, and the body has astringency to spare. It is however balanced by just a touch of sweetness, giving it an interesting character while still living squarely in the realm of traditional vodka style. Spring44 isn’t a complicated vodka — it wears its medicinal character on its sleeve — but it is authentic and expressive. It’s a wonderful balance of old world and new. A-

Spring44 Honey Vodka – Kind of an odd choice for your first and only flavored vodka, but Spring44 obviously has a jones for honey flavor that it couldn’t ignore. Compared the the relatively restrained flavors of the straight vodka, the Honey version is huge and overwhelming. A light yellow hue indicates that plenty of honey goes into this blend, and while it isn’t immediately evident on the nose, it’s awfully big on the tongue. This honey notes here are earthy and, as is often the case with honey vodkas, on the funky side — not quite honey but not quite vodka, either. Where it lives is an odd middle ground between tradition and fun, and unlike the straight vodka, it doesn’t work as well. B [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Spring44 Gin – Spring44 uses 12 botanicals (including many Colorado natives) in this formula and does not reveal them. The character is also not entirely balanced, heavy on fruit flavors (I presume berries of various ilk are in the mix), with juniper coming up behind. Again, this just doesn’t work together the right way, both sweet and bitter but not in the way you might expect. The finish is off: A lingering flavor of berries left to macerate too long — a bit like an Eastern bloc fruit brandy — and not so much a gin. B-

about $22 each / spring44.com

spring44 vodka and gin Review: Spring44 Vodka and Gin