Review: Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin

Dunno about you, but when I think of Germany, my thoughts immediately run to gin. Gin! Siegfried isn’t the only German gin — in fact, Germany’s Monkey 47 is one of the best you can find — but they are still relatively rare, at least in the U.S.

Here’s a little information about Siegfried, straight from the distiller. I’m leaving all the poor grammar from a bad translation intact because I find it endearing:

Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin is a regional product from the German area of “Rheinromantik” and a classic Dry Gin: a defined taste, subtle enough to delight with a weighted composition of 18 fine Botanicals, his charm and straight character.

The linden tree has a leading role in the ancient German Nibelung Saga, where a leaf landed on Siegfried’s back, while enjoying his bath in a defeated dragon’s blood. Like in the saga, linden also change the game in Siegfried’s recipe. Linden blooms are the lead botanical, create a unique taste experience and at the same time underline the symbiotic connection between brand and product.

So, of the 18 botanicals in Siegfried, we know just one: linden blooms. I don’t know a lot about linden trees, but Wikipedia has some pretty pictures. The blossoms are said to be quite fragrant (and beloved by bees), but the aroma isn’t described.

As for the gin, it is quite a bit different than a traditional gin, which relies on the distinct flavor and aroma of juniper berries to give it its signature character. Here the overall character is instantly unusual, but appealing on the nose with a more floral character that is reminiscent of lavender and lilac, with just a hint of woodsy evergreen. The palate is equally unorthodox, building on the floral base with heavily aromatic notes of camphor and jasmine, before turning to a lightly earthy, woody, mushroom-like character. This isn’t entirely in balance, as the floral elements overwhelm everything else, and the finish takes the gin into a slightly rubbery territory — particularly evident as it lingers on the tongue.

It’s a unique experience — and often an engaging one — but cocktail mavens will need to experiment heavily to find the right pairing. (I’m thinking elderflower, lime juice, and other sweet-tart mixers.)

82 proof. Batch #049.

B+ / $31 / siegfriedgin.com

Drinkhacker’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Our ninth year is under our belt, and that means our ninth annual installment of the Drinkhacker holiday gift guide — our “best stuff of the year awards” — is here. As always, the list gives you the lowdown on some of the best-rated products we reviewed over the last 12 months, with at least some eye toward availability and affordability. (Though, as you’ll see, some selections can cost a pretty penny…)

As always, the offerings below comprise a small selection of our favorite wines and spirits from the last year, and there are many other worthwhile products on the market worth considering. Feel free to sound off in the comments with suggestions for alternatives or questions about other categories or types of beverages that might be perfect for gifting.

Again, happy holidays to all of you who have helped to make Drinkhacker one of the most popular wine and spirits websites on the Internet! We look forward to providing our guidance on the world of wine, beer, and spirits as we begin our 10th year on the web and approach our 5,000th post! Stay tuned for the appropriate festivities come the big anniversary in September 2017.

And don’t forget, for more top gift ideas check out the archives and read our 2015201420132012201120102009, and 2008 holiday guides.

of-1920-rendering-jpegBourbon – Old Forester Whiskey Row Series – 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon ($60)  As inventory pressures continue to pound bourbon country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find solid “giftable” bourbon bottlings on the market. Rarities like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection sell out before they ever hit shelves. This year I’m naming to my top pick something that you ought to have more luck finding, but which is just as good as anything else out there: Old Forester’s most recent Whiskey Row expression, meant to mimic bourbon made during its “medicinal” Prohibition days. Other top tipples: Col. E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood ($70 on release, $500+ now), Blood Oath Pact No. 2 ($100), Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Brandy Cask Finish ($100, often available for less), and, for the budget-minded, 1792 High Rye Bourbon ($36).

Scotch – Compass Box The Circus ($300) – You want to wow your loved one this year? Give them The Circus, a blend that comes complete with its own infographic outlining all the whiskies inside. It’s a complex but truly outstanding whisky worth every penny. Other top picks for 2016 aren’t going to come cheap, including Chivas Regal Ultis ($200), The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition Pullman Water Level Route ($350), Chieftain’s Linkwood 1997 17 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Finish ($90), and your best bet for an easier-to-find bottling, Glenmorangie Milsean ($130 on release but easy to find for $100 or less).

Other Whiskey – Booker’s Rye “Big Time Batch” ($300 on release) – You know who nailed it this year? Jim Murray! The crazed whiskey critic is known for his outlandishly goofy “best of the year’ picks, but he hit it perfectly with his pick of the first ever release of Booker’s Rye. The bad news: It was already a cult hit, and whatever’s left on the market is going to cost you at least $600 a bottle. More sensible options include Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Straight Rye 8 Years Old ($90), High West’s latest release of Bourye ($80), and Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey Special Reserve 110 Proof ($70), which is lightly flavored with apples in the “Alabama style.”

oregonbarrelagedginbottleworkGin – Big Bottom Oregon Gin Finished in Oak Whiskey Barrels ($38) – We’ve been drowning in gin this year, which means there’s plenty of solid and unique bottlings to choose from on the market. My top pick is this one from our pals at Big Bottom, which is aged solera-style and is perfect for wintertime sipping thanks to a fun holiday spice character. For unaged expressions, check out Graton Distilling D. George Benham’s Sonoma Dry Gin ($40) or Spain’s Gin Mare ($38).

Vodka  Stolichnaya Elit Vodka ($47)  It’s more than just a fancy bottle; Stoli Elit is very good vodka, too. Beyond that, check out Vikre Lake Superior Vodka ($35) or Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka ($35), one of the best citrus vodkas around.

Rum – Angostura Caribbean Rum 1824 12 Years Old ($60)  Great rum needn’t break the bank. Angostura 1824 is a top-notch 12 year old with all kinds of versatility. Plantation Rum Extra Old 20th Anniversary ($43) and Ron Zacapa 23 ($48) both make for awesome alternatives.

martell-blue-swift-largeBrandy – Martell Blue Swift ($50) – Martell wasn’t the first to put brandy into whiskey barrels to develop a more sophisticated, deeper flavor, but it is doing the best at it at the moment. This expression is gorgeous and cheap when it comes to Cognac. Another great, budget option is Gilles Brisson’s VSOP, a steal at $35. For the other direction, consider Hardy Noces d’Albatre “Rosebud” ($2250), one of the most exquisite sips I had this year.

Tequila – Tequila Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo ($340) – Tons of great tequila hit this year, but I have to give the nod to Herradura and its extra anejo bottling of Seleccion Suprema, a luscious experience that every tequila lover needs to try. A smattering of top agave alternatives across the price board includes Pasote Reposado ($59), Mezcalero Release #16 Don Valente Angel Mezcal ($96), Milagro Tequila Select Barrel Reserve Anejo ($100), and Asombroso Ultrafino The Collaboration Barrel 1 ($2500).

cynar 70Liqueur – Cynar 70 ($37/1 liter) – Cynar gets a proof upgrade and a flavor boost in this new edition, which I think is an even better rendition of this classic amaro. I also can’t stop raving about Grand Poppy ($30), another amaro. Iichiko Bar Fruits Yuzu Liqueur ($11/375ml) is also highly worth picking up, as is Few Spirits Anguish & Regret Liqueur ($30), a unique spiced liqueur.

Wine  A smattering of giftable picks for the wine-lover in your life, with California showing incredibly strongly in 2016.

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

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

Review: Cotswolds Dry Gin

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England has no shortage of gin distilleries, but southern England-based Cotswolds wants to be at the top of your list. Cotswolds is one of the “smallest but prettiest” distilleries in Britain, and if the pictures do it any justice, they’re not wrong on the beauty claim.

Some details:

The expression of the traditional London Dry style comes from the maceration into our pure wheat spirit of juniper, coriander and angelica root, which have been left for 12 hours to allow their flavour characteristics to fully infuse. We then add our unique botanical mix of Cotswolds lavender and bay leaf, grapefruit, lime, black pepper, and cardamom seed into our bespoke Holstein pot still for distillation before finishing with naturally refined Cotswolds water.

As the production notes indicate, this is predominantly a London Dry style gin, heady with juniper up front, but with clear bay leaf notes also showing on the nose. The lavender is quite present on the supple and silky body, which folds in lime zest and a bit of pepper, plus an earthiness (driven by coriander and angelica) that lingers for quite a while on the finish. Other than the lime, there’s not a lot of citrus to find here, which may come as a disappointment to those who prefer more fruit in their gin, but the focus on less common herbs and aromatics in the mix — particularly the fragrant lavender, which manages to avoid coming across like something you put in your bathwater — makes for a unique and engaging experience. The gentle body — despite the relatively high alcohol level — only adds to the appeal.

92 proof. Batch #02/2015. 4800 bottles made.

A- / $35 / cotswoldsdistillery.com

Review: Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin (2016)

It’s been five years since we looked at Nolet’s entry-level bottling (the Reserve bottling runs $650), so we figured now was a good time to take a fresh look at one of The Netherlands’ most notable gins.

The twist here comes in the form of three odd botanicals: Turkish rose, peach, and raspberry. Other botanicals aren’t revealed, but likely run along traditional London dry lines.

Despite those unusual botanicals, the gin initially has a somewhat typical London dry nose, heavy with juniper, with a solid amount of fruit underneath. Give it a little time in glass, though, which makes the rose notes much easier to pick up on.

On the palate, herbal and floral notes arrive in roughly equal proportions, though here the rose petal notes become clear almost immediately. The body is heavily perfumed, with juniper and rosemary notes having considerable impact immediately after. Time in glass improves Nolet’s, but I think that may be asking too much.

All told this remains a somewhat strange style of gin that tells a rather different story than your traditional London dry, its florals dominating the palate considerably. It’s best used in more exotic cocktails rather than in traditional martini or tonic applications.

95.2 proof.

B / $35 / noletsgin.com [BUY IT NOW FROM DRINKUPNY]

Review: Nautical American Gin

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Vertical Spirits is a new company (founded in 2015), and Nautical Gin is its first product. It’s actually made by Massachusetts-based Berkshire Mountain Distillers on behalf of Vertical, which is based in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Though billed as an “American” gin, stylistically it is harder to peg. The botanicals do hold some curious surprises, the list running thusly: juniper, coriander, Pacific kombu (a coastal vegetable), spearmint, rosehips, lemongrass, angelica root, orange peel, cinnamon, orris root, lemon peel, cubeb, allspice, elderberry, and black pepper.

Some wild stuff in there, but the nose is heaviest on juniper, with notes of mint following close behind. Hints of pepper and clove-heavy allspice mingle among them. The palate is more exotic, with a heavy herbal/juniper character, stronger anise, and lemongrass overtones. The finish is lengthy and heavy with herbs, eucalyptus, earth, and aromatics, making this a nice pick for those who like their gins squarely on the side of earthy, heavily savory botanicals.

Neat bottle.

84 proof.

B / $30 / nauticalgin.com

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

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