Ginology 11: Beefeater 24

By Michael W. Harris

 Basic Info
Type: London Dry
ABV: 45%
Botanicals: 12 botanicals, including grapefruit peel and Japanese and Chinese teas
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: Botanicals infused for twenty-four hours, head distiller than selects their “perfect cut” of the result.

Beefeater 24 is, in many ways (though not in taste), similar to Tanqueray 10 or Bombay Sapphire. It is the more “upscale” version of their basic gin; the original with a twist. In this case, the twist is the mixture of botanicals, including some Japanese and Chinese teas, which are then infused for twenty-four hours, the result of which the master distiller than selects what they believe is the best “cut.”

It is an interesting gin, to say the least, but is it worth the price premium? That is the real question. The original Beefeater is such a stellar mid-range gin it begs the question of if it is worth paying almost double for Beefeater 24. I hope to give you some guidance on that by the end of this review.

Straight

This bottle is amazing.

As part of my research for the upcoming Annihilation review, I watched Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (10/27)—the reasons for this will become clear when you read my review. It was during the USO show scene with the Playboy Bunnies that I poured myself a measure of straight Beefeater 24 and was intrigued. It was different. Not too boozy, not too fruity or earthy. The tea flavors are definitely present, but not overwhelming. Rounded would be a good word to describe the gin.

On the palate it has a bit more bite, but the rounded flavor profile remains. The citrus and teas are in balance and nothing really leaps out as being dominant. However, on the finish is where the alcohol can jump up and kick you, especially if you take a bigger sip. But to a more measured drinker, it is quite pleasant and a worthy update to a classic gin.

Unfortunately, things to do stay that way.

Gin and Tonic

[No comment]
As I continue to watch Robotech (10/29), I find myself getting more invested in the story. It is strange that what I went into believing was a simple children’s cartoon has turned into a serious, though still quite campy at times, show that I am finding myself actually invested in! As for the Beefeater 24, that rounded and balanced flavor profile seems to have a detrimental effect on it as a cocktail mixer. At first, I thought that the lack of any real punch in my gin and tonic was because the tonic bottle I had was almost empty or that the limes were getting a bit dry in the fridge.

However, I repeated in the gin and tonic tasting twice more, controlling for those two variables and had the same experience. The Beefeater 24 and tonic just tastes flat. It has almost no bite or real taste to it. It is uninteresting, bland. Lacking in character.

Truly, everything that makes drinking the gin straight such a pleasant experience works against it when mixed with tonic. Given that, I had no idea what to expect from the pink gin.

Pink Gin

Always trying to find new places for my drinks to pose.

A while back I picked up Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love during a Criterion sale and I finally decided to cue it up as I tried out the Beefeater 24 pink (11/1). My first note is, “Woah, this is not too bad.” The taste has vague hints of something medicinal (in a good way, like cough syrup) and the smell is akin to candy or licorice.

The finish has burn to spare, the bitters amping up the taste as is usual, but it is still not too bad to sip in measured quantities. Yet, as nice as it is, it is still does not make me love the pink gin any more than my already lukewarm opinion.

Bottom Line
I went into Beefeater 24 with high hopes, and both the straight and pink gin were pretty good. However, at the end of the day, for me a gin is lives or dies by how it performs in a gin and tonic. By this measure Beefeater 24 falls down. Flat.

Which is basically my answer to if it is worth the price premium. While not terribly expensive when compared to some gins, its price still puts it on par with Tanqueray 10 or Bombay Sapphire, or even Hendrick’s (depending on where you live/shop), and against that competition it does not warrant the purchase. It is solidly Middle Shelf in my opinion, and if you want Beefeater, then save the money and go with the classic.

Ginology 10: Tom’s Town McElroy’s Corruption Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: “New Western” Style
ABV: 45%
Botanicals: “uncommon bltanicals”
Base: Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: None

During my Christmas 2017 travels, I picked up three bottles of gin: Starlight 1794 by Huber’s in Indiana, North Shore No. 11 from Chicago, and the Tom’s Town under consideration today. Unfortunately, I’ve already finished the other two bottles, but as it turns out I saved the best for last. Tom’s Town is a Kansas City distillery (hometown represent!), whose spirits are inspired by the figures of the old Pendergast political machine. The same Tom Pendergast who, during Prohibition essentially said, “yeah…no. We’re not going to do that,” helping to fuel the KC jaz night life. The same Tom Pendergast who propelled the career of a young businessman and law school dropout that would eventually led him to being called President Harry S. Truman.

The namesake McElroy was a city manager who did not enforce Prohibition, making Kansas City an “open city” during the era. It was an interesting time in KC history, one that is intricately wrapped up in the city’s legacy of jazz, Negro Leagues baseball, BBQ, and so much more. And the bottle’s Art Deco inspired labels reflect the era’s aesthetic.

N.B.: In between starting this review and posting it, it appears that Tom’s Town has revamped their line and Corruption is no longer available. I’m guessing, however, that the “Botanical Gin” listed is similar, if not the same, as the Corruption Gin.

So, enough with the history lesson. How does it taste? Very good, indeed. Continue reading “Ginology 10: Tom’s Town McElroy’s Corruption Gin”

Ginology 9: Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 43%
Botanicals: Oriental botanicals and gunpowder tea are listed on bottle. Website lists: meadowsweet, cardamom, juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, caraway seed, star anise, gunpowder tea, Chinese lemon, oriental grapefruit, kaffir lime
Base: Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: The tea, lemon, grapefruit, and lime are all vapor infused into the gin, while the others are “slow distilled by hand in medieval copper pot stills.”

I had never had Gunpowder Gin before moving to Virginia last year, but it was one of the first new spirits that I spied when I made my inaugural trip to the local ABC store after moving to Williamsburg a year ago in October 2017. From what I could tell, it was a relatively new addition to the state approved line-up of spirits, and I was a little worried that I might not be able to get a hold of it once I moved to Tennessee because, spoilers, I love this gin. Indeed, the (beautiful) bottle I am reviewing was purchased back in Virginia just in case I would not be able to acquire it locally. Luckily I can source it in Memphis and I can foresee another bottle in my future once this one is empty.

What I am saying is that I really like this gin. The interesting mixture of traditional botanicals and the vapor infused “Oriental” ones (god that word is cringe-worthy and taints the gin just a tad in my book, though not enough to keep me from buying it) and gunpowder tea make for a tasty experience that changes remarkably depending on how you decide to consume this gin.

Let’s go to the tape. Continue reading “Ginology 9: Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin”

Ginology 8: Ventura Spirits Wilder Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Note: This post has been edited to reflect feedback from Ventura Spirits as to the botanicals mixture.

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 43%
Botanicals: “local harvested” sagebrush, purple sage, bay yerba santa, pixie mandarin peel, chuchupate
Base: Organic Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: Botanicals are harvested from the wild California native plants.

Ventura Spirits Wilder Gin is an…interesting…spirit. If you look at the list of botanicals above, which is copied directly from the bottle and website, you will notice something missing: juniper. While I find this decision to exclude the key botanical for the list as interesting, I have been assured by Ventura via comment (see below) that the gin does include juniper berries. However, I will say that upon trying the gin, I did not really taste it. I cannot pinpoint what is the dominant flavor of Wilder, but it does not strike me very juniper forward.

My bottle of Wilder was sent to me by an old friend from Missouri who now lives in the Bay Area, where Ventura Spirits is based (thank you!!). However, it was partially sent to me because she and her partner tried it and didn’t care much for it and were curious to get my take. And, after spending a week with the gin, I have to say…I kind of agree. While it is not the worst gin I have ever had, it is not something I’d go out of my way to get again. And seeing how they do not distribute outside of California except for some on-line retailers, there seems to be little chance for getting it unless you are in the state.

So, what did I like and dislike about the gin? Let’s get down to brass tacks. Continue reading “Ginology 8: Ventura Spirits Wilder Gin”

On the Meaning of Pens and Gins: Eros and Thanatos

By Michael W. Harris

The deeper I have delved into my hobbies of pens and gins, the more I was struck by their opposed temporal aspects. Part of this came out of my previous post about how pens do have a timeless quality to them. They are created, tools to be used, and maybe passed down to a new generation as treasured family heirlooms. They are markers of our existence. Proof of our lives and a piece that might live on to carry small part of us forward with it.

Gin, on the other hand, is the opposite of all that. It is a product that is, first and foremost, a consumable. Enjoyment of it only comes through using it up, leaving only the bottle, and a possible hangover, behind. Gin, unlike win or whisky, is also “cheap” in the pantheon of wine and spirits. There is little point in “saving” a bottle in the hopes that it becomes rare, like scotch or whisky, or improves with age, like some wines. And there is certainly no reason to acquire some gins to only save and pass on. Gin will always expire with the emptying of the bottle.

But the longer I thought about it, the more complex the reality of this notion became. Within each is part of the other. Life and death. Eros and Thanatos, as Freud might argue. In creating objects for our posterity, there is an inherent meditation on our death. And in the enjoyment of good spirits, there is a celebration of life.

Granted, drinking too much can kill you. And while the pen is mightier than the sword, I doubt it will actually kill you—unless you are James Bond, a ninja, or Marcus Brody fighting Nazis in a tank with Henry Jones, Sr.

Barring that highly unlikely scenario, or accidently drinking poisoned ink (DON’T DRINK THE INK!), pens will not kill you.

And yet… Continue reading “On the Meaning of Pens and Gins: Eros and Thanatos”

Ginology 7: Cadenhead Old Raj Red Label

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 46%
Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Seville orange peel, liquorice, Angelica root, orris, cinnamon, cassia quills, nutmeg, saffron
Base: Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: The saffron is added post-distillation and is what gives Old Raj its distinctive yellow color in the bottle.

Prior to moving to Virginia, Cadenhead’s Old Raj Blue Label was the most expensive bottle of gin I had ever purchased at a hair under $50. In “The Commonwealth,” though, many of the bottles I have purchased have been in the $40-50 range, and if I were able to get Blue Label here, it would likely set me back around $70.

Alas, I am not able to get it, and the gin at hand, Old Raj Red Label (the different is that Blue is bottled at 55% ABV vs. Red’s 46%), had to be purchased in the District of Columbia and transported back to Williamsburg. The Red Label still costs me around $45 plus the tank of gas getting up to DC and back…not to mention the shortened life span I now have having to have driven through DC traffic.

The price premium, though, is well worth it. Old Raj is a wonderful gin to drink in any form. Straight. Rocks. And probably any cocktail you think to mix it in. The taste is not as out there as Dog Fish Head or Monkey 47, and it isn’t as heavy on the citrus as Tanqueray No. 10. However, it is more “interesting” than Beefeater without calling attention to itself.

The distinguishing feature of Old Raj is, of course, its yellow color which comes from the addition of saffron post-distillation, which is also part of what also gives the gin its higher price. In addition to this, it gives the gin its slightly different flavor profile and helps set it apart from the more staid gins without veering into the more out there craft gins that are spurring forward our current gin-revolution. Continue reading “Ginology 7: Cadenhead Old Raj Red Label”

Ginology 6: Dogfish Head Compelling Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 44%
Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Black Peppercorn, Lemon Peel, Green Cardamom, Hibiscus, Orris Root, Orange Peel, Lime Peel, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Cinnamon
Base: Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: The base is Dogfish Head’s Analog Vodka, which is made from “2-row barley.”

I should start this review off with an apology: most people will not be able to try out this gin and for that, I am sorry because it is truly an experience worth having. As of this writing, Dogfish Head’s Compelling Gin is only available for purchase in Delaware, Maryland, DC, and Virginia. I hope that they will eventually expand nationwide, much like their beer, but for right now, those are the breaks.

There are many interesting things going on to make this a “compelling” gin. First is that Dogfish Head uses their own vodka as the base spirit, which is then infused with their botanical mixture. This simple fact makes me wonder how much of the gin’s unique taste is from the botanicals and how much is in the vodka to begin with. Second is the use of citrus peels, Kaffir Lime leaves (which I had not encountered before), and black pepper. None of these are particularly out there, but this precise mixture seems quite different. In the end, though, while I am not sure that “compelling” is the right appellation for this gin, it certainly is interesting. Let’s dive in. Continue reading “Ginology 6: Dogfish Head Compelling Gin”

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”

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. Continue reading “Ginology 4: Hendrick’s Gin”

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”