Summer often brings to mind gin, a light and crisp spirit that plays well with refreshing juices and punches.
Gin’s roots stretch deep into the Middle Ages, when rudimentary versions of the juniper-forward spirit were popular herbal remedies. Today, gin has come a long way from its former reputation as “mothers’ ruin” and is refined as ever, thanks to the creativity of today’s talented `distillers. Gin’s distinctively piney character is produced by distilling neutral spirit – often from grain – with juniper berries. An assortment of flavorings known as botanicals — herbs, flowers, fruits and roots — are also added to achieve each gin’s proprietary flavor profile.
I recently updated the “Top 10 Gins” list for the online lifestyle guide, Gayot, and among my picks were Uncle Val’s Restorative, Watershed’s Four Peel, Aviation, and Caorunn (inspired by a trip to Caorunn’s Balmenach distillery in Scotland in May, where Simon Buley showed me where he forages for the botanicals).
I tasted nearly 30 gins for this evaluation with input from a couple other tasters. With just a few available slots though, some excellent ones just couldn’t make it in. Others truly didn’t deserve a spot. Their tasting notes for all of these are below. It was actually pretty funny looking back on these notes since some are very short and sweet. But hey, the nose knows!
Citadelle Gin: This French gin distilled in copper pot stills resembles a traditional London Dry but is citrusy with a clean mouthfeel. Light and airy, quite floral with a hint of pepper. Balanced and interesting.
Boodles London Dry Gin: Smells lemon-limey. Nice, dry mouthfeel with juniper on the back end, coating the mouth.
Genevieve Gin: Designed to resemble genever, gin’s Dutch cousin, this product from Anchor Distilling Company in San Francisco emanates roasted, toasted grain and apple cider aromas, evidence of the robust mix of rye, wheat and barley malt used as its base. Go in for a sip and you’ll discover rich prune and dark fruit notes and a long, raspberry finish.
London No. 1 Gin: Strong rosemary nose, almost like sap. A faint light blue color with a full, nice coating of the mouth, maybe even a a bit syrupy.
Bully Boy Distillers Gin: Smells very piney and like fresh green peppers. Tastes punchy and lemony – would be a great go-to in a gin and tonic.
New Holland Barrel Gin: Smells like men’s cologne but tastes like bark.
Blue Haven Blueberry Gin: Very distinctively blueberry and juniper. Not my style, but smells fresh.
Nolet’s Dry Gin: Thyme and sage waft on the nose. Tastes herbal but with a sort of cherry cough syrup taste
that coats the entire mouth. It’s very sweet.
Junipero Gin: Good basic gin for mixing. Very sweet and junipery with a short finish.
Ungava Canadian Gin: Don’t like at all (looking back, I’m not sure why I did not elaborate in my notes, but it’s probably because it had a very astringent smell and taste).
Dry Line Cape Cod Gin: Smells like maple syrup but tastes like Coca-Cola, a little pungent.
Colorado Gin Woody Creek Distillers: Lovely notes of brioche or toast with coriander. Tastes like lemon-balm with a slight soapiness.
Citadelle Reserve Gin: Emanates cinnamon notes but comes off as astringent.
The Bitter Truth Pink Gin: Smells like cloves, cinnamon and orange but has a somewhat harsh taste.
Hendricks Scottish Gin: Very distinctive cucumber and rose aromas. Oily mouthfeel and finishes sweet and tart
while still being juniper-forward.
G’Vine Floraison: There’s a strong pineapple presence, which makes this gin a good substitute for rum in a piña colada.
Gin Mare: Smells a little like olives but with a little too much rosemary and pine. Oily mouthfeel.
Van Gogh Gin: Smells like Pine Sol type of lemon, and tastes like it, too.
Anchor Distilling Old Tom Gin: Lovely notes of licorice and pepper, with a very sweet, anise flavor.