Ginology 5: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: “Schwarzwald” Dry Gin
ABV: 47%
Botanicals: “47 handpicked ingredients,” which include local cranberries, juniper, citrus, etc. See a complete list on their website in the “Encyclopedia Botanica” section.
Base: Molasses
Distilling Notes: Gin matures in earthenware containers.

Monkey 47’s Schwarzwald Dry Gin is not available in my local Virginia ABC stores, however, after a friend recommended the spirit to me, I happened upon it at a DC liquor store while hunting for a bottle of Cadenhead Old Raj (more on that in a later post). I only picked up a 375ml bottle, though, as it is a rather expensive gin (around $40 for just that small bottle). Unfortunately, for this post at least, I had already drank around half of the bottle prior to beginning this review series.

This is to say that this review will be slightly truncated for now as I ran out of gin before finishing the full three tasting cycle. However, I feel like I got enough of a taste of Monkey 47 (so-called for its 47 botanical mixture), to make a general recommendation.

Before we get to that, though, I want to mention that Monkey 47 has an interesting “history” on its webpage that is worth reading. As with most of these, who knows how much is myth and how much is real, but it is always fun to check out.

Enough preamble, on to the review! Continue reading “Ginology 5: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin”

Leaving The Matrix Behind – AKA Taking the Red Pill

By Michael W. Harris

In 1999 the Wachowskis burst into the cultural zeitgeist with the anime inspired The Matrix—a “heady, post-modern, what is real, how do we know we are alive or just simulations, bullet time fight, genre defying, how the hell did two relative unknowns do THAT” kind of film.

It was kind of popular.

They followed that up with two sequels that doubled down on the philosophy, fight choreography, and green tint aesthetic, yet also failed to connect with audiences in the same way, though still made truckloads of money for Warner Bros. The Wachowskis have yet to have a true hit film since then, but have directed, written, and produced a string of films (and TV) that while all finding a small, niche audience, have failed to match that earlier success for some reason. In this post want to look at a mighty handful of these and hopefully make the case for at least some of them finding a broader audience.

Note: I am leaving Cloud Atlas out for right now as I will be taking a deeper dive into it as part of my hauntology series, however know that I believe Cloud Atlas to be worth your time.

So with all of that out of the way, let us plug back into the world of the Wachowskis, with all of their philosophy, wire-fu fights, and stylization within an inch of their life production design. Continue reading “Leaving The Matrix Behind – AKA Taking the Red Pill”

Ginology 4: Hendrick’s Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: “Scottish” Gin (Dry Gin)
ABV: 44%
Botanicals: Juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, orris root, orange peel, lemon peel, cabeb berries, caraway seeds, elderflower, yarrow, chamomile
Distilling Notes: Blended from the distillation of two separate stills, one in which botanicals are steeped in the spirit for 24 hours before still is turned on. In the other still, botanicals are added at the top as spirit evaporates. Once these are blended together, essence of rose petal and cucumber are added.

As I write this I am on a train from Williamsburg to New York for Music and the Moving Image 2018 and it is perhaps fitting that I passed through Washington, DC, on my way there as the person who first introduced me to Hendrick’s now lives in the nation’s capital. Hendrick’s was, in many ways, the final stage of my beginning gin experience, which is why it is the last selection in my opening triumvirate of gin reviews. We have gone from a platonic gin, Beefeater, through a classic, Tanqueray No. 10 (which was not my go to Tanqueray back in the day, but it is now when I want a bottle of it), until finally landing on Hendrick’s. While Hendrick’s is known for being an odd duck gin due to its double distilling process and the addition of rose and cucumber, it is still a gin first and foremost…and a damn fine one at that, in my humble opinion.

I have a feeling this might be a short post since Hendrick’s is one of those divisive gins. People either like it or they don’t. But if you have never tried it, maybe my review can convince you to at least give it a taste.

Straight

Straight Hendrick’s is quite interesting…

Over the weekend, I sat down with two goals in mind: do my Hendrick’s tastings, and plow through a bunch of Post-Matrix Wachowski movies as part of an upcoming post. So, with my Blu-ray of Speed Racer in hand, I sat down on Saturday (5/19) to begin that work.

Right away on the nose, Hendrick’s is simply different. The scent is immediately distinct as the cucumber and rose essence hits you, and it is shocking how little alcohol is present. It is only as you let the scent linger in your nostril that the more traditional juniper and citrus notes come out. You really have to search for them.

On the tongue, Hendrick’s is noticeably earthier as the essences continues their flavor dominance. The citrus is subdued compared to Tanqueray No. 10 and even Beefeater, and as such might not be as enjoyable to sip, but it is not bad. However, where Hendrick’s is easier and smoother to drink is on the finish. The lower ABV gives it a very slight burn as it goes down, and whereas the higher ABVs of the past two meant the flavors were in competition, here they continue to lead.

In the end, though, Hendrick’s, for all its unique tastes and qualities, is just not as exciting to sip as Tanqueray No. 10 or others I have had. However, those unique flavors are better expressed in concert with others.

Gin and Tonic

Not as bad a pairing as you may think…I mean with the movie…

Ah, Hendrick’s and Tonic, my old friend, so we meet again. Thanks to my DC friend, this taste was a big part of my PhD years. Revisiting it is like slipping on a comfy shirt, or a warm blanket on a cold night. It is a fresh, though still earthy, taste, but rather tame on the alcohol even at my 1:1 ratio. Additionally, the earthy notes are balanced out in large part by the tonic.

On the whole, this is one very smooth, cocktail. Smooth like a Michael McDonald ‘70s Yacht Rock song. But it is also a very distinct taste which helps it stand out from the crowd. Paired with the opulent insanity of the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending on Sunday (5/20), it was interesting. Much like that movie, it is definitely not a flavor for everyone, it does not have the traditional, or even citrus, notes of a lot of gins, but it is a very nice drink, and the lower ABV helps to keep its flavors forward.

Of course, most will say you should really have a Hendrick’s and Tonic with a cucumber instead of lime garnish, but I have never liked cucumber and only have limes on hand. And limes taste quite nice with it and might even help balance the cocktail even further.

Pink Gin

I think I might grow to enjoy the Pink Gin…if I can find the right gin.

After two straight nights of Wachowskis, I needed a change of pace on Monday (5/21). So, I cued up a new anime series about nerds (otaku) falling in love, but actual adult nerds, and sat down with a Pink Gin. The anime, I am happy to report, is a wonderful portrayal of the awkwardness and social anxiety many nerds face (hard to figure out why it appeals to me, eh?). Similarly, I am happy to report that Hendrick’s and Angostura makes for a well-balanced Pink Gin, probably the best so far.

The bitters pair well with the earthy flavors of Hendrick’s and there might even be just a hint of sweetness. It is smooth on the front with a bit of a bite on the back, and a very pleasant lingering on the tongue afterwards. While Pink Gin is still not a favorite cocktail of mine, a Hendrick’s Pink might just begin to turn my thinking around.

Bottom Line

Hendrick’s is a very good gin, but depending on how you feel about gin flavor profiles, your mileage may vary. I personally really like it, but I would say try before you buy it as it is not on the cheaper end of gins. Its price is comparable to Tanqueray No. 10 and Bombay Sapphire, though not as expensive as some craft or boutique gins. However, if the taste of Hendrick’s is to your liking, then it should comfortably find a place on your Top Shelf.

Ginology 3: DoG Street Pub Selection and Cocktails Reviews

By Michael W. Harris

Note: For those readers who are not residents of Williamsburg, VA (not to be confused with the neighborhood in Brooklyn), DoG Street is the nickname for “Duke of Gloucester Street”—the main street that Colonial Williamsburg is situated on which runs between the edge of the William & Mary campus and the Virginia Colonial Capital Building. Therefore, when someone here says “DoG Street,” this is what they are talking about. It is not to be confused, though, with “Dogtown,” a nickname for Gloucester, MA, about which Harry Chapin sang. But this “note” has really strayed far afield…on with the review!

Exterior of DoG Street on Merhchant’s Square, Williamsburg, VA

I went to DoG Street Pub on a recent Wednesday after work to have drinks with a co-worker and in the process introduce him to the world of gin and tonics. As a sub-mission, I was also trying to find a new decent bar that might start to fill the No Name shaped hole in my heart that leaving Boulder has left. DoG Street is a bit too much restaurant to be a nice bar to hang out at with friends, but I am happy to report that they have a good selection of gin! All the standards, a few locals, plus some that I wasn’t familiar with at all. Unfortunately, for this report, I had to drive home afterwards and was unable to sample “ALL THE GINS!”

But enough preamble, on with the review, which will consist of three parts: an overview of the gin selection followed by two brief cocktail reviews. Continue reading “Ginology 3: DoG Street Pub Selection and Cocktails Reviews”

The Struggle Is Real: Meditations Upon Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”

By Michael W. Harris

Jackson Brown is one of those artists who has the tendency to drift in and out of my playlists without much thought. His songs will simmer in the background for weeks or months before exploding to dominate my listening for a solid month. His easy acoustic melodies and plaintive voice paired with an equally longing piano is the perfect companion to certain moods.

In many ways, it is a perfect fit for feeling of mono no aware that I wrote about almost two years ago. There is a wistful sadness to many of his songs, especially the ones I gravitate towards, that captures the peaceful resignation to the inevitable passing of all things. Not a rage against the dying of the light, but an acceptance, nigh an embrace of it, that is at the heart of mono no aware and much of Japanese thought.

For me, nothing captures this feeling in the work of Browne more so than a pair of couplets in his 1976 song “The Pretender,” off the album of the same name:

“Out into the cool of the evening strolls the Pretender,
He knows all his hopes and dreams begin an end there.”

And:

“Are you there? Say a prayer for the Pretender.
Who started out so young and strong only to surrender.”

The resignation found in these lines, the walking into the night, knowing that it holds all of his ends and beginnings in equal measure, the giving into the forces that would beat him down into submission and compliance…it is a deep, cynical view of the world, jaded even, that is the darker tinge of mono no aware. It is not the peaceful acceptance of the Japanese mold, but a more Western resignation. Not full of rage, but contains a simmering resentment none-the-less. But it also does not detract from the other wistful qualities of the song.

So, if these lines are about a submission to something, it begs the question: a submission to what? Continue reading “The Struggle Is Real: Meditations Upon Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender””

Ginology 2: Tanqueray No. 10

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: London Dry
ABV: 47.3%
Base: 100% grain neutral spirit
Botanicals: juniper, juniper, coriander, angelica, licorice, white grapefruit, lime, orange, chamomile flowers
Unique Processes: Uses the smaller “No. 10” still that was used for experiments, and is thus made in smaller batches. Also, it uses the whole citrus fruits rather than dried peels.

Choosing Tanqueray No. 10 for one of my initial reviews might have been a bit of an odd choice since it is the more “exclusive” or “step-up” of Tanqueray’s gins. Most people consider the basic, traditional Tanqueray to be among the world’s perfect gins, especially with how it seems to keep its botanicals to just the basics, whereas No. 10 throws in entire citrus fruits.

But while standard Tanqueray was my go to gin once I discovered the wonder that is the g’nt, I have since ventured outside its safe and comfortable flavor profile—though I am enjoying just such a throwback Tanqueray and Tonic as I write this. Though if I am honest, my favorite bottle of Tanqueray was probably their limited edition Bloomsbury variant. Sadly, it was exactly that, a limited edition that is no longer produced. But on to the gin at hand… Continue reading “Ginology 2: Tanqueray No. 10”

How I Lost It, And the Ongoing Battles Therein

By Michael W. Harris

I hit two major milestones recently that have finally forced me to change my mentality with my weight loss. 1) I have logged into the phone app I have used to track my food and exercise for 700 consecutive days. Which is just kind of unreal when I step back and think about it. And 2) I finally hit the mid-180s, which, while still not my quote ideal weight unquote, seems like it should be where I stop and seriously work on maintaining instead of losing. And while losing over 200 pounds was a challenge, I firmly believe that maintaining where I am and looking ahead to the next 700 days will be even harder. But let’s back up a bit first and talk about how I got here because that seems to be the question I get. And for that, we will have to go back further than 700 days. Let’s go back to 2013-2014 and when I made the first major change to finally get my health under control.

Warning: this post gets a bit “real” at times. Continue reading “How I Lost It, And the Ongoing Battles Therein”

A Night at the Star Wars

By Michael W. Harris

There were times watching Maestro Damon Gupton conduct the Virginia Symphony Orchestra through John Williams’ iconic music for Star Wars that you could tell that he had been conducting this music in his head for his entire life. Gupton, the dual threat actor/conductor, is unapologetic about the love for film music that he has nurtured since childhood (full disclosure, I have known Damon for over ten years, since I was a lowly box office worker at the Kansas City Symphony and he was its assistant conductor), and openly professes his love of Williams’ equally famous music for Richard Donner’s Superman. Continue reading “A Night at the Star Wars”

Ginology 1: Beefeater

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: London Dry
ABV: 47% (though outside the US the ABV is 40%)
Base: 100% grain neutral spirit
Botanicals: juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, liquorice, almonds, orris root, seville oranges, lemon peel
Unique Processes: The botanicals are steeped for a full 24 hours prior to distillation to allow for the extraction of more natural oils.

I had never bought a bottle of Beefeater Gin prior to beginning my gin reviews, though it is probably among the gins that I have drank the most. The reason for this is that my go-to bar back in Boulder, CO—the No Name Bar—had Beefeater as their well gin. Their WELL gin. While Beefeater is certainly not in the same class as most higher end gins, it is certainly better than your run of the mill well spirits—i.e. Gordon’s or Seagram’s. It is simply one more reason why I miss that bar dearly…

Anyway, so it was that when I began tasting Beefeater’s standard gin (they have three other gins that I do not have ready access to), I almost immediately recognized it. Like an old friend I had not seen in a very long time. Continue reading “Ginology 1: Beefeater”

Ginology: A Beginning

By Michael W. Harris

In my ever-expanding quest to become more “sophisticated”—or maybe to give me an easier blogging topic that lends itself to shorter posts—I decided to start getting systematic about how I taste and appreciate gin. There are many ginand really any kind of alcohol you can think ofreviewers out there, and their palates are way more refined than mine, but you have to start somewhere, right? Continue reading “Ginology: A Beginning”