By Michael W. Harris
Type: “Scottish” Gin (Dry Gin)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.