My friend Helen is here today to talk about gin. Which is only strange when you realize that Helen is not typically a gin drinker. She’s one of Sippity Sup’s wine connoisseurs. That is she was – until she reconnected with an old chum from her childhood days in England for an evening of gin tasting. GREG
There was a time in Grammar School (High School) when Debbie and I were joined at the hip. Our birthdays are within two days of each other and we were academically inclined at a school that prized athletic prowess over intellectual aptitude (perhaps that’s true of all High Schools?). We handled the burden together.
When we were 16 years old, we went our separate ways. Debbie went on to University and corporate success, with a recent leap into freelance consulting. I went to Drama School and meandered around the entertainment industry for a decade before settling into the cut-throat world of Massage Therapy. Forty years passed, during which we had one chance meeting in London, and one rather boozy reunion with another friend in Yorkshire, arranged via the wonders of Facebook.
Yes, we had seen each other only twice in the last 40 years and now Debbie was flying to Los Angeles to spend a week on my couch. What could go wrong? Well, nothing, as it happens, we had a fabulous time together getting reacquainted. We still see the world in very similar ways, and showing her around my city and seeing it fresh through her eyes made me appreciate it more. Over the years, Debbie has developed into a morning person and a gin appreciator, whereas I am a night owl who sticks mostly to wine. I avoided gin as I associated it with the heavily perfumed (Gordon’s) G&Ts that my mother used to drink once in a while. It was only a couple of months ago that a cocktail at the London Hotel (called The Bond Girl), opened my eyes to the possibility that gin could be delicious. So, I decided to arrange a gin taste-off in Debbie’s honor and for my education.
The Gin Tasting
The gins were chosen purely arbitrarily, based on the ones I could find in miniature*. I also included the bottle of Plymouth gin I had bought because it is the major ingredient in the Bond Girl. Being a Virgo (We are known for our organized perfectionism… I have some mitigating factors in my chart!), I researched the ingredients of each gin I had purchased. I placed the gins in the order of tasting according to the number of ingredients each contained. When the number of ingredients was the same, I placed gins with similar ingredients next to each other.
We started the gin tasting with Tanqueray, which has only four ingredients: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root and Liquorice, and we ended our flight of ten gins with The Botanist – a herbal heavy hitter containing 31 botanicals, 22 of which are native to the Southern Hebrides where it is made. During the course of my due diligence, I discovered that Tanqueray No. Ten has fresh citrus fruit in it, rather than the more common citrus rind, so I threw caution to the wind and bought a bottle to add another dimension to the gin tasting. I was glad that I did.
In the spirit of scientific exploration, I decided that we would taste the gins in order, four different ways: Neat; as a G&T, with Fever Tree Light Tonic Water; as a Gimlet, with fresh lime and Trader Joe’s freshly squeezed Limeade; and finally, as a Greyhound, with fresh grapefruit juice. I also intended us to try them in a Gin Sling but I bought the wrong kind of cherry brandy (82% proof) and by the time we got to the slings, we were a bit palate fatigued and precise measuring had taken on a more artistic feel.
Tanqueray No. Ten and The Botanist were our overall winners even though they did not ace every single combination. No. Ten made a beautifully fruity G&T and was spectacular in a Gimlet and as a Greyhound, but we found it a little bitter served neat. The Botanist tasted pleasantly medicinal and impressed us neat, it was deliciously herbal in a G&T, and surprisingly yummy in a Gimlet, but the jury was split as a Greyhound. I thought the flavors clashed horribly, whilst Debbie thought it was still drinkable. Bombay Sapphire, although not a winner in any category, was definitely the smoothest gin we tasted and the overall safest choice in everything but a Greyhound.
We were also very taken with Martin Miller’s gin, which showed a smooth complexity and cucumber notes that outperformed Hendrick’s, both neat and in a super refreshing G&T. Neither of these two gins worked well as a Gimlet or Greyhound. Despite its popularity, Hendrick’s definitely underperformed against most of the other gins in all categories.
The gin that stood out as not belonging in the line up was New Amsterdam. I couldn’t find the ingredients online and I think that is probably due to it not bearing evidence of any juniper, therefore making it more of a citrus vodka than a gin – at least that is what it tasted like to us. Beefeater majestically held the back of the pack, working only (marginally) as a Greyhound. We appreciated it as our token “Mother’s Ruin” gin which we choked down in the interest of science even as it seared and stripped our palates with its firewater roughness.
Being a Virgo, Debbie took meticulous notes on every single one of our 40 combinations. She is also the one responsible for this comprehensive quick reference chart. The most delightful revelation of the evening was that we were in complete agreement 38 times! The other two times basically consisted of me saying, “Well, that doesn’t work at all,” and Debbie saying, “It’s not the best but I’d still drink it.” Great minds think (mostly) alike and great friendships survive years of neglect, especially when two Virgos get together over 10 gins. Helen
*We received no compensation for this gin tasting. All opinions are our own. If you would like to replicate our taste-off, you can find all the miniatures we used at BevMo.
CLICK chart to enlarge