Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gin review.... Yes, you read correctly - GIN

Aye, the mother's ruin...   Gin
Cruikshank's - The Gin Shop

My first encounter with it was when I was 16 while my best friend Louise was babysitting. She wanted to show me the very impressive bar in the house. The kids were asleep so we tiptoed down to the basement and Louise turned the lights on. My eyes almost popped out of my head. It was a wall to wall liquor shelving unit filled to the brim. This couple obviously travelled a lot and had amassed thousands of bottles of...  everything! Louise, trying to impress me I'm sure, walked over and started picking up bottles and talking about them like she knew what they were. We were 16!!!?? I finally called her out on it when she picked up a weird shaped green bottle. I said: "You don't have a clue what you are talking about". Incensed, she yelled: Yes I do, my mom drinks this. And the conversation continued until finally I threw her a "double dog dare ya!" to make a cocktail with it.  We went back up the stairs where she proceeded to get ice, some glasses, a lime and some pineapple juice. She poured two cocktails and after the first sip I thought I was going to be sick. "I forgot to add sugar" she announced as she put a full teaspoon in my glass. That, only made it worse!!! We drank the glass and I essentially was sick for the rest of the night. Gin, pineapple juice and sugar DO NOT MIX with spaghetti!!! I swore I would never drink gin again.

Fast forward to a few years after Graham and I had been dating and we inherited a bottle of Tanqueray. Graham made a gin martini. I think I recall telling him the pineapple juice incident but he handed me the cocktail none the less. To which, I sipped and immediately spit out and dumped said gin drink. Strike 2!!! I spent the next 8 years avoiding all gins. Turning down, politely I might add, any gin offerings until I was in Scotland last year. While at Springbank Distillery, the master distiller mentioned they made a superb gin called Old Raj. I smiled and stated I wasn't a gin fan. He promptly ordered a G&T from the bar for me. Fuuuuuuudge! So, with my usual polite Canadian way, I took a sip and prepared to repeat my speech when the reality was, it was actually a very delicious cocktail. Gavin told me it was available in Canada. Excellent!  Found out once I was home, not on east coast...  Grrrrrr......

A few months ago, I started writing a regular column for a magazine. My articles cover Craft distillation. So, I thought it might be great to start doing a bit of research and try some gins. But wait, I thought, I really don't know anything about gin!?? So, in true Lassie fashion I put out a call to friends who were gin drinkers to come to my house and take part of a blind taste panel, and come they did -> 14 of them! 

Here is what took place as well as the results of that evening.  AND... what I learned from the night.

I prepared a questionnaire for each person to answer. Questions like: Is gin your primary drink of choice, if not what is. What is a fair price range for a bottle of gin, what do you base your buying on, how often do you drink gin, etc... Then everyone received a scoring sheet: Nose, palate, finish.  Add 1/2 ounce of water and repeat the process.  Two flights of four gins served blind. Pick the best top 4, they move on to the cocktails competition where we will rank them in order of least favorite to favorite and then reveal what all the gins were.

I had craft gins as well as "big brand name" gins on hand. I had hardcore "I only drink this brand of gin ever" in my field of 14. AND... I had one coloured gin, so to make it fair, I coloured a second to ensure people wouldn't guess that one.

Flight 1:  Hendrick's - Scotland, Victoria's Gin - Canada, JR's dry organic Canadian gin - Canada and The Lakes Gin - England. 

Flight 2: Ungava - Canada, Dodd's - England, Thuya - Canada, Noteworthy - Canada.

Nose/Palate comments were quite interesting to read, as some took the panel VERY seriously while others were honest but cheeky. 

Top 4:  Hendrick's - all 14 picked that one, JR's dry organic Canadian gin - 10 votes, Dodd's Gin - 9 votes and rounding up the top was Ungava with 7.  Food & water break followed by the cocktails round!

Gin & Tonic was chosen and the recipe was simple: 1 part gin, 3 parts tonic, lime slice, ice. 

Order of top 4 for a Gin & tonic made with Fever Tree Tonic water: 

1. Hendrick's
2. Dodd's
3. Ungava
4. JR's Organic Canadian

Now a few notes are in order. Many participants thought the tonic was a bit too strong and all were in agreement that JR's Organic was a beautiful gin on its own (many said they would probably drink it straight!). So I've contacted the distillery and requested a recipe they could recommend to try with their gin as many people really loved it, just not with the Fever Tree Tonic.  

It was no surprise to the group that Hendrick's came out on top overall in both rounds and many want and would buy the Dodd's saying it was a beautiful clean gin. It was lovely to introduce Ungava as many had seen the bottle at the liquor stores but had never tried it. I think a few people will be buying that one as a result of our experiment. 

So...  what did this Whisky Lassie learn:

1. Gin drinkers are as unique and serious about their elixir as whisky drinkers are.

2. Although the clear winner was Hendrick's, which I guess I consider a 'commercial" gin, many of the participants really enjoyed the craft gins and stated they had found some new favorites to enjoy. 

3. Gins might be absolutely fantastic in one cocktail but completely wrong for another due to the botanicals, etc (Gin & pineapple juice is never good).

4. Of the 8 gins I tried with the panel, I really only loved one enough to say I would continue drinking it. Problem is, it's not available here in Canada. Boo!  So will be sourcing some on my next trip to UK. 

5.  The most important one for this Lassie:  Don't turn your nose up at any new opportunities to try gin. Some of them are quite delicious!! ;)

Inviting friends over to imbibe is always so much fun. I want to thank: Eric, Steffan, John, Alex, Graham, Frank, Ross, Brendan, Krista, Linda, Melanie, Donna, Keltie and Heather for taking part in another of my crazy hair brain schemes. I appreciate your palates, your time and all the lovely comments.  Huzzah!

So, that's that on gin, for now... and now back to our regularly scheduled whisky programming...  ;) 

Thanks for tuning in!


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