Gin Review: Gordon’s

Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” Thusly did James Bond, in 1953, invent the Vesper. Well, sort of. More correctly Ian Fleming did when he added these lines to “Casino Royale”.

When I read this a couple of questions jumped immediately to mind. Why specify Gordon’s and Kina Lillet but not the Vodka? For that matter, why Gordon’s?

Not being a Vodka fan I pondered about Gordon’s. Presumably if James Bond called for it by name it must be a pretty damn good Gin, right? After all this is the literary James Bond. He’s partial to Bentley’s and Rolex. Sea Island cotton shirts and Savile Row suits. After Martini his favorite beverage was, arguably, Champagne. Taittinger Blanc de Blancs Brut 1943 being specifically mentioned, also in Casino Royale.

So I procured a bottle of Gordon’s recently and looked forward to enjoying the only Gin known to be endorsed by James Bond!!

The result?? Meh.

Gordon’s is definitely a London Dry Gin with dominant juniper flavor. There’s a touch of additional spices, maybe a citrus in the background, and it’s just a bit sweet. All in all a very typical, though simple, London gin. Overall not a gin I would choose for a Martini. Gin & Tonic? Maybe, though the subtle gin flavors will be overpowered leaving you with the Tonic’s quinine and Gordon’s juniper. Sort of a piney bitterness!

But Gordon’s was the 2018 World’s best selling Gin, so somebody must like it. (10th July, 2019 “The Spirit Business”) Perhaps what I called simple, others call traditional? Or even ‘classic’? Of course there is also the price point, which is, shall we say, affordable. (1.75 L of Gordon’s listed at $20 vs $36-39 for Sapphire or $34-36 for Tanqueray.)

So what went wrong? Why did Fleming, in the guise of 007, choose this Gin?

Were there not many Gin choices in 1953, particularly British choices. Well there were fewer choices to be sure. Bombay Sapphire? No, it was brought to market for the first time in 1986. Hendricks? Nope, launched in 1999. Nolet’s? Not even in the same Century – 2009
But all the following were available choices in 1953. Of these my favorite is Plymouth.
Beefeater,? Yes, a newcomer since 1862
Tanqueray? Has been around since 1830
Plymouth? Yes, as of 1793
Gordons? Yes, since 1769
Boodles? 1762 was when it was first founded.
Bombay Original Dry? First formulated in 1761

So why did Ian Fleming choose Gordon’s? It could be because in 1925 Gordon’s was awarded its first Royal Warrant by King George V. That bestows a certain level of prestige.

However, considering that James Bond’s father was Scottish, there’s a legend I like to think is more fun, if not actually the reason. According to this legend, a member of Clan Gordon saved the King of Scotland from an attacking boar while hunting. That’s why every label and bottle top of Gordon’s gin bears an illustration of a wild boar.

 

Buy in the final analysis it doesn’t really matter why.  Gordon’s is an affordable basic London style gin that is just fine as your everyday, share with your friends, gin for a sunny summer day on the verandah.  But I’ll pass when it comes to my Martini.

Gin Review: Balfour Street London Dry Gin

Some time ago I was perusing my local liquor box store in order to replenish my Gin stock.  As always I look for anything new and interesting.  I was rewarded with a display announcing a new Gin and proclaiming it a 2018 World Gin Award winner.  Now that caught my eye!  And the price was right, so I’m now the proud owner of a mostly full bottle of Balfour Street London Dry Gin.

I was a bit skeptical of the Award advertising so I checked it out when I got home and indeed this Gin is a 2018 World Gin Award winner.  For Taste (as opposed to Style), in the London Dry Gin style (there are nine style taste winners).  I also note that this Gin is part of the Melchers Group, Netherlands, is you’re interested in the parent company.

So much for the basics…. what does it taste like?   The raw Gin is citrus with a woody hint (juniper), touch of spice, slight  pepper

In a well chilled Martini there is still citrus on the nose, but on the tongue the pepper comes forward with juniper undertones that linger past the pepper.  There’s still a bit of spice but mostly subdued through out.  It’s also has a soft mouth feel which, considering I shake my Martinis, is quite welcome.  All in all a very good Gin for a Martini.

I haven’t tried it in a G&T yet but I’m not sure how the pepper would play with the quinine of the tonic.  Definitely worth a test drive though, when I find another bottle.  I finished this one on martinis.  Which, perhaps, is the best endorsement of all?

Currently about $28 for 750ml at your friendly neighborhood big box liquor store.

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Homemade Gin; Round 4.5, a check on the Juniper

 

Looking back at my past Gin making efforts I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot.  But I can also say that I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be competing against Bombay, Tanqueray, and Hendrick’s.  Of course the big boys are (mostly) making their gin using a distillation process and I’m using the compound method.  So there’s no reason to expect one process to be the equal of the other.

 

But one can try.  And since it’s illegal for me to distill anything in my state I’ll stick to the, allegedly, inferior compounding.

 

When I first started out (I Made Gin!!) I simply used a recipe I found on line.  It was fun and educational but produced a rather harsh Gin.  I wanted to understand why.  My second round of Gin (Homemade Gin, Round #2) was slightly better, though hardly good.  By the third round I’d make progress by doing less (Homemade Gin, Round #3).  And round four (Homemade Gin; Round 4) was even better, to the point that it made an acceptable Martini.  Though probably better in a G&T.

 

In celebration I took a break to ponder my next move.  I’m still pondering, but also decided to do a little experiment.  Probably one of the biggest problems I’ve had is that there are just so many variables to manage!  So many botanicals to choose from.  Citrus or Herbal?  Floral?  Cardamon, Cloves, Cilantro, Celery?  How much of each?  Ground up or whole or chopped?  When to add to the Vodka?  At the start?  after 24 hours?  How long to let it all steep?  48 hours?

 

One of the many variables to manage is the starting Vodka.  I’ve been using New Amsterdam 100 proof Vodka or Absolut’s 100 proof.  There are a few others but those two seem to be the most available at the local liquor box store.  Which of course means I’m starting with different flavors, even if they are very subtly different.  Ideally of course I’d start with 190 proof food grade ethanol.  But I’m not there …. yet.  (5 gallons costs about $250, so it’s not out of the question by any means.)

 

Comparing the taste of these two it’s pretty clear that Absolut is the winner.  It’s cleaner with a very neutral taste and very smooth.  New Amsterdam is just not quite as clean with a mostly neutral taste but a very slight cocoa flavor!!??  So the choice has been made, I’m going with New Amsterdam from now on.  Why?  Because its roughly $25 for 1.75l and Absolut is approx $30 for 1l.  And it’s more readily available.

 

My next experiment is another case of back tracking and doing less with even less.  This time the goal is to establish a fundamental taste profile: Juniper.   So back to the kitchen laboratory for a small batch of Gin.

 

Here’s the ingredients and weights and times for this batch:
Day 0:
Juniper, 10gm (about 5 teaspoons) in 350 ml of New Amsterdam 100pf Vodka.

And nothing else.  Yup, simple pure Juniper with nothing to hide or hinder or enhance it’s taste.

 

Then 24 hours of infusing, straining, and finally tasting.   The results?  Well the first thing, thankfully, is that there is plenty of juniper flavor in the Gin.  On the nose, forward, and the finish.  The second thing, also thankfully, is that the juniper isn’t overpowering.  Yes, it’s a little like chewing on pine needles, but not at all like chewing on the whole branch.  Third, there wasn’t any other new flavors.

 

Most importantly from my point of view was comparing the Juniper only Gin with the source Vodka.  Yes I could still taste the underlying New Amsterdam subtle faint cocoa, but just barely and only because I knew it was there and could ‘look’ for  it.  I will have to account for that in the future.  At least I know where it’s coming from.

 

Now on to Homemade Gin, Round 5!   I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

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Gin Review: Tanqueray Rangpur

My Second Gin Review!

 

Yes, it’s been a long time since I wrote my first Gin review, back in June of 2017 (Monkey 47), a year as it turns out.  I have vowed to step up my Gin reviews, partly because it’s fun to try new Gins, but mostly because there are just soooooooo many new, and often confusing, Gins out there today.

As before I am reviewing this, and future, Gins in a very dry and very cold Martini, so fair warning, my Gin reviews will be in the context of Martini usage.  After all, this blog is about the perfect Martini more than the perfect Gin.

A little more history for you new readers, my preferred Gin for Martinis is Bombay Sapphire.  It is ubiquitous in bars, lounges, and restaurants so I know it is always (almost) available.  It’s a great way to start an evening with a known and dependable Gin.  Thereafter I may experiment a bit and that is where these Gin reviews come in.

Now Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray are two of the World’s top selling Gins.   For those interested the top 5 are: Seagrams, Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, and Gordon’s, in that order, according to “The Spirits Business” June 2017.

Of further amusement is that Tanqueray and Sapphire are owned by Diageo and Barcardi, respectively, two of the world’s largest spirit distributors (1st and 5th respectively) and are therefore, and clearly, heated rivals.  This is clearly borne out when talking to Gin aficionados as they are (almost) always either in the Sapphire camp, like me, or on the “dark side” favoring Tanqueray.  Of course there are a many stragglers out there who are Nolet’s or Hendrick’s, or other Gin, fans, both of which are fine Gins in their own rights …. but I digress.

I am not a fan of Tanqueray in general, it’s a bit too much citrus for me; I prefer the herbals of Sapphire.  Tanqueray 10, having a bit more herbal components that Tanqueray, is more palatable to me for that reason.  So when I was given a bottle of Tanqueray Rangpur, knowing it was the Rangpur Limes that gave this Gin its name, I was a bit dubious.

(Yes, they’re orange.  It’s a hybrid between the mandarin orange and the citron.)

 

But I have a bottle to use and I’m certainly not one to waste Gin.  I started with some Rangpur neat.  The initial impression on the nose is predominately lime with hints of juniper way in the back.  Tasting this gin confirmed the lime forwardness.  But now the juniper decided to show up and shared the limelight with the lime (sorry, I had to do it).  The other herbals come into play on the back end but are mostly muddled together and subdued.   I also would note that when taken neat, it’s almost a bit syrupy.  You almost feel like it coats your tongue.

 

As a martini it is still very lime forward.  The aroma hits you immediately: very sweet citrus.  Even with my martini extremely cold the nose affect is immediate.  The first taste is a beautiful mix of citrus and juniper!  Nothing floral here and almost imperceptible herbal elements.  The juniper fades on the back end, but the citrus carries through to the last moments.  Again the herbals come in at the end but are subdued and remain secondary to the citrus.  I also noted that the syrupy feeling from the neat tasting was completely gone.  I suspect due to the dilution of the Gin while shaking the Martini.

 

In the end I like this Gin!  But I’m not sure how to drink it.  In my opinion it’s a bit sweet and citrusy for a Martini, I prefer a bit more herbal notes.  I think using it in a G&T might be the better choice.  Or even neat, though with some ice to lighten the tongue coating syrupy-ness.  Thinking about it, on ice on a sunny afternoon seems just about perfect.

 

As an aside, I really like lime in my cola and was tempted to add some of this to my Coke.  I did and that was really pretty good!  The acid of the Coke cut the syrupy feeling, though it was still pretty sweet; sort of a more citrus-y Cuba Libre.  One of the reasons I don’t drink sweet cocktails is that they go down so easily and so quickly and this one absolutely would quickly overpower me.

 

Would I recommend Rangpur?  Yes!  Having a bottle in your Gin collection is recommended and I do.  For that sunny afternoon.

 

 

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World Gin Day 2018

Happy World Gin Day 2018!

 

 

“I’ve tried Buddhism, Scientology, Numerology, Transcendental Meditation, Qabbala, t’ai chi, feng shui and Deepak Chopra but I find straight gin works best.”
Phyllis Diller

 

I hope you all celebrate with a Martini. But if not, then a Gin & Tonic will do. Whichever you choose, enjoy safely.

 

“There is something about a martini, Ere the dining and dancing begin, And to tell you the truth, It is not the vermouth- I think that perhaps it’s the gin.”
Ogden Nash

 

 

 

Homemade Gin; Round 4

Homemade Gin, round 4!

 

This batch builds very slightly on the recipe of round 3, adding a touch more juniper, a bit more peppercorn, and a bit more citrus;  this time California Lemon.

 

I’d like to thank my son and his girlfriend for the very neat small bottles for gin making.  They were a Christmas gift and work very well.  The only minor issue is they don’t hold quite 375 ml of liquid.  Therefore this batch is actually about 340 ml.

 

Here’s the ingredients and weights and times for this batch:
Day 0:
Juniper, 10gm (about 5 teaspoons)
Coriander, 2gm (about 1 teaspoon)
Cardamon, 2 Pods broken
Green peppercorn, 4 corns
All of these items I put into 340 ml of 100 proof Vodka.
None of these were ground up, and only the cardamon was broken up.

             

Prior to adding Vodka and just after.  Notice that most of the botanicals float.

 

+30 hours:  I added the following.
California Lemon Peel,  6 gms (not quite 1 tablespoon)

I also tried the gin, just to see how it was going and it was quite good, spicy, junipery, but with just a hint of bitterness.

 

You can see that some of the botanicals float and some sink.  The white material at the bottom is the Lemon Peel.

 

+42 hours:   I strained all remains and remnants from the liquid.

At this point the gin definitely tasted like gin should.   Lots of juniper, slight pepper, and a bit of earthiness.  The previous slight bitterness seemed absent, or at least unnoticeable.

 

The final product; well after a few samples of course.  After sitting for another couple of days the flavors seemed to smooth out just a bit and was very drinkable.  Again, I haven’t bothered with activated carbon filtering, so the gin is a natural amber color.

 

Next time I think I’ll go up to 500ml, adjusting the botanical by the same scale and see if increasing the total volume and botanicals is a linear relationship.  When I do, I’ll certainly let you know how it goes.

 

Previous posts on this theme can be found here:   “I made Gin!!”, “Homemade Gin, Round 2”, and “Homemade Gin, Round 3”.

 

 

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Homemade Gin, Round 3

Round 3 Homemade Gin!   And, yes, I am learning, albeit slowly.   This batch is significantly better than my two previous efforts!  (You can find my posts on those here:   “I made Gin!!”   and here:  “Homemade Gin, Round 2” .)

This time I backed up significantly, starting much simpler.  First of all I used just a very few botanicals.  Obviously Juniper is required so that goes in.  Coriander is very mild with a slight musty hay (think alfalfa) scent.  It doesn’t so much as add flavor as it seems to add some complexity to the flavor.  Then a very tiny bit of Cardamom, pepper, and lemon.

The second major change from previous batches was that I only steeped the botanicals for about 40 hours.  (I was going for 48 hours but sadly my real job got in the way and didn’t allow that.)

Here’s the process for this batch:
Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals:
Juniper, 1 tablespoon
Coriander, 1 teaspoon
Cardamon, 1 Pod broken
Green peppercorn, 2 corns
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.  Unlike previous batched I did not grind up any of these ingredients.

+24 hours:  I added the following.
Dried Lemon Peel,  Approx 1/2 tsp

I also tried the gin, just to see how it was going.  I was pleasantly surprised!  No bitterness at all and mild flavors.

+42 hours:   I strained all remains and remnants from the liquid.

At this point the Gin really tasted like ‘gin’!  A bit light on the juniper but overall mildly spicy with just a hint of lemon.  (Next time I’ll add a bit more citrus.)  As expected it is not clear having a nice mild amber tinge to the gin.  That’s easily fixable with an activated carbon filter (Brita, for example) but for the  moment I’m pleased with the gin ‘as is’.

Finally I let it sit for a couple of days in the pantry, just to let the flavors meld (?).   Then made a very cold, very welcome, Martini!  It was totally acceptable.  Certainly not worthy of even a single stem rating* of course, but a big step in the  right direction!

Keep your eyes out for the results of Batch 4 coming soon to a blog near you.

 

* If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

Gin Review: Monkey 47

My first Gin Review!

And I think I’ve picked a excellent candidate for that honor:  Monkey 47.  I had been told to keep my eye out for this Gin and when I saw it I jumped at the opportunity to try it.  Now that I’ve tried it I think it just might be my new favorite Gin!

But before I jump into this Gin Review, I should let you all know that I experience this Gin in a very dry and very cold Martini.  So, fair warning, my Gin reviews will be in the context of Martini usage.  After all this blog is about the perfect Martini more than the perfect Gin.

However, if I can persuade the barkeep to let me sample a bit before I order the Martini, I’ll let you know how it tastes at room temperature.  Certainly so if I add a bottle to my own collection.

And now back to the Monkey 47!!

The bottom line is that Monkey 47 makes an excellent Martini.  There are a lot of flavors running around and it’s very hard to pin down exactly what is going on.

The first impression, the aroma that hits you before even taking a sip, is herbal.   Juniper is foremost, then bits of citrus and smooth subtle herbals.  Upon tasting you get some floral notes combined with citrus, some light spices, and more subtle juniper.

The finish is sweet and more fruity.  The juniper almost disappears at this point.

Furthermore, I’ve had a Monkey 47 Martini now several times and the flavor profile seems to change just a bit each time.

There are a couple of interesting items about this Gin.  First it’s German, from the Black Forest region, which of course is”Schwarzwald” in German.   Hence the tag line on the bottle “Schwarzwald Dry Gin”.   Second, it’s 94 Proof or 47% ABV.   Yet that is not the reason it’s called Monkey 47.  Or is it?  Finally this Gin is made from 47 different botanicals!  (See below for the list.)  Including some odd ones like cranberries and some local ones like lingonberries.

Finally, as I’ve purchased a bottle, I can also tell you that I’ve tried it neat.  That was also excellent.   The same flavors that you taste in the Martini are here, though more powerful as they aren’t diluted during the making of the Martini.  While I will continue to drink this Gin as a Martini, I would have no hesitation in ordering it neat if the desire or mood so moved me.

Typical Price:  $45 – $50 for 375 ml.

 

For those interested in this sort of information, I’ve copied down the major ingredients for your fun and amusement … 47 items in all.    Another interesting coincidence??
Acacia flowers, Acorus Calamus, almond, angelica root, bitter orange, blackberry, bramble leaves, cardamom, cassia, chamomile, cinnamon, lemon verbena, cloves, coriander, cranberries, cubeb, dog rose, elderflower, ginger, Grains of Paradise, hawthorn berries, hibiscus abelmoshus, hibiscus syriacus, honeysuckle, jasmine, Kaffir lime, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, lemongrass, licorice, lingonberries, Mondara Didyma, nutmeg, orris, pepper (six types!), pimento, pomelo, rosehip, sage, sloe, spruce shoots, and of course Juniper berries!!!

You can compare this to a few other selected Gins in the “Botanical Elements of Gin” page of this blog if you’re so inclined.

Homemade Gin, Round #2

My hopes of being the next gin magnate have crashed.  My first batch of gin was not very good, as I’ve documented in “I made Gin!!”  I had hopes that this second batch would be much better.  Not so.  But fear not, I will persevere and am already planning my next batch.

To give you the run down, here is my ingredient list for Batch 2:

Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals.
15 gms Juniper, 1/2 of which I ground
4 gms Coriander, ground
1 Cardomon Pod, ground
1/5 Star Anise (one petal), ground
2 gms, Allspice, ground
6 green peppercorn, ground
4 pink peppercorn, ground
1 1/2 inch Cinnamon Stick
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.

+48 hours:  I added the following.
Orange zest.  Approx 1 tsp
Lemon zest, dried.  Approx 1 tsp

Day 5: Tasting.
WOW!!  Way to intense and horribly bitter.  The details:
The aroma that hits you isn’t really too bad, though it is pretty intense.  Lots of herbal notes sliding to the spicy side and hints of Juniper.
The first taste is very intense, nothing subtle here.  Again very heavy on the spice and herbs, with emphasis on the Allspice, and a bitter unde-rnote.
The finish is very bitter!!  So much that it totally ruins any early favorable tastes.

On the positive side, the overwhelming Anise of the first batch has been reduced.  Now there is just a hint of anise.

Unfortunately whatever positive elements there were, although intense, were overwhelmed by bitterness.  In trying to explain this bitterness I believe I have two possible culprits.  First, I wonder if I have too much botanical input!  I may have left the botanicals in too long (5 days).  Next time I think I’ll sieve them on day 3 and see if that eases the botanical impact!  I’m also rethinking my decision to grind all the botanicals or how much I grind them.  Perhaps just a short pulse on the grinder to break up the big pieces?

Second, I may have been overly exuberant with the citrus zest.  I’ve been informed that just a few quick passes of the orange or lemon on the zester is all you need.  I zested pretty much the  entire orange and lemon!

Going forward I think I need to back up a bit and start more slowly and simply.  I started with a recipe that I found on line and I think it was too big a leap.  I’m even considering just starting with juniper and very little, if anything, else.  Maybe just a hint of pepper or Cinnamon.

An interesting note for future reference:  I started with 375ml of Vodka.  After sieving the botanical remnants from the Gin, I was left with approximately 240ml.  So between the residual moisture in the ground botanicals and coffee filter used for the sieve and were then discarded and I lost about a third of the liquid.  I don’t recall that from batch #1, but I didn’t think to measure then.  I’ll remember to note volume lost in the future.

Keep your eyes out for the results of Batch 3 coming soon to a blog near you.

I Made Gin!!

Yes, it is Gin.  No, it really wasn’t that great.  In fact it was pretty poor, barely drinkable.

But it was a lot of fun and I learned a quite a bit.   The most important thing I learned is that some botanicals are really powerful!   For example a little anise goes a long way.  A lot of anise is way too much.

No, I’m not distilling my own spirits.  In fact I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in most states!  I’m creating gin by ‘infusion’.  The basic concept is pretty simple: Take a neutral spirit, typically vodka, and combine with the botanicals of your choice and let steep for 2-5 days.  Pretty simple really.


The only rule is that Gin must have Juniper, that’s what makes a spirit “Gin”.  If you’re wondering what other sorts of botanicals to use, google “Homemade Gin” and you’ll find quite a few recipes for guidance.   That’s how I started.   Also take a look at my “Botanical Elements of Gin” page to see what some commercial Gins use.

Here’s the process I used for this small, initial batch:

Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals.
10 gms Juniper, 1/3 of which I ground
4 gms Coriander, ground
1 Cardomon Pod, ground
1 Star Anise, ground
2 gms, Allspice, ground
2 green peppercorn, ground
2 red peppercorn, ground
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.

+24 hours:  I added the following.
Orange Peel dried, 6 inches thin
Lemon Peel dried, 6 inches thin

+72 hours:  First tasting!
First I sieved out the bits and pieces of the botanicals.  As expected the liquid was a nice caramel color. Then the first quick taste.  WOW, lots of Anise!!  Really a lot.   Reminiscent of Jagermeister, Ouzo, or Raki, but with out their subtlety and refinement.  There were also all the other flavors, but definitely in the background, except for a bit of bitterness that came through.  And overall it was a bit light on Juniper.

Day 5: Final tasting.
Still Lots of Anise!  Definitely too much.   Next time I’ll cut the Star Anise by 75%, at least!!  I might just skip it all together and focus on the more subtle flavors.

I should have added a photo of  this, but sometimes a picture isn’t really worth 1000 words.

For my next batch, and there will be another, I think I’ll use the following changes:
Cut, or eliminate, the Star Anise.
Use dried citrus zest instead of the dried thin citrus peels.
Just a couple more peppercorns to give it more pepper kick.
And more Juniper, probably bump it up by 50%.
Keep watching, I’ll let you know that turns out!

For my first effort I give my self one upside down Martini glass.   

 

If you’re curious about what one vs. two vs. upside down stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****