Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gin makes you sin (or so I'm told)

Three* awesome things about beer: 1.) It's usually cheap enough that you can take a chance on a beer you've never heard of; 2.) even if you don't want to commit to a 6-pack, you can always go to a bar and order a pint; and 3.) even if you can't find a pint at your local watering hole, there are countless websites where you can read reviews of beers.

I'm not that big of a hard liquor guy (though I have been getting into whisky lately) but I like to have a decently-stocked liquor cabinet. I've always enjoyed gin and tonics, and my brother-in-law is a big gin guy, so I like to keep a good gin on hand. But what's a good gin? I tried to find a good website with gin reviews but failed. So I had to go with plan b, which was assume that a more expensive gin is a good gin.

The first good gin I ended up buying was Citadelle, which is a French gin. Do the French make good gin? How the hell should I know? It was $30, which seemed to be a good price point for something above Tanqueray. After I got home, I found I liked it, so that was a good thing. I'm running low on that gin, so the other day I was at my local liquor store and picked up a bottle of North Shore Distiller's Gin #6. North Shore is Illinois' first craft distillery so I figured I'd give them a shot.

Anyway, I have a little Citadelle left, and I also have some Seagram's gin left, so I figured it's a good time for a tasting. To make things a little more interesting, I decided to do the tasting blind. Here are the results:

GIN #1:

Okay, one whiff and I realized this is going to be tough. It smells like . . . gin. I know, I'm gonna have to do better than that. This one has the requisite juniper berry aroma, but it also has a good dose of lemon zest.

Taking a sip, the citrus comes to the fore. There's a little sweetness and a slight alcohol burn in the finish. Definitely a gin I could sip.

GIN #2:

This one smells a little more aggressive; a little more solvent-like. There's still some juniper, but no citrus.

The flavor on this one is kind of hard to peg. It's sweet and spicy, but I'm having trouble pegging the spice. While the aroma is juniper, the taste is a little more complex. A nice clean finish. I wouldn't say I like this one more or less than Gin #1, but I would consider it to be more traditional, at least in terms of what I think of when I think of gin.

GIN #3:

Again, I'm not picking up any lemon. Like Gin #2, there's some a pine-like aroma, but it's much more subdued.

Taking a sip, the first thing I notice is it's much more aggressive and sharp than the other two. It finishes with a fairly harsh burn. Frankly, I'd be surprised if this wasn't the Seagram's.

And now, time for the reveal. Gin #1 is . . . SEAGRAM'S! Gin #2 is Citadelle, and Gin #3 is North Shore. This really surprises me, as I was sure #1 was North Shore. When I first got the North Shore I did a side-by-side with it and Citadelle and thought North Shore had a much more pronounced citrus flavor. As such, as soon as I picked up the lemon this time around, I was positive it was North Shore.

So what can I conclude from this? Well, I'm not going to knock North Shore. It's a little higher proof as compared to Seagram's (90 proof vs. 80 proof) which might contribute to the burn, and the more complex spices might make the gin a better mixer with tonic. Plus, I'm an idiot when it comes to hard liquor.

What it does make me question, however, is if premium gins are worth the price. If you compare Jim Beam bourbon to, say, Buffalo Trace, there's no comparison. The fact that Seagram's didn't smack me across the face and say, "Yo! I suck!" tells me that, at one third the price of Citadelle or North Shore, it's a hell of a deal.

Anyway, that concludes my fun with gin. And now, back to beer!

* Obviously there are countless cool things about beer. I'm just mentioning three relevant to this post.


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