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Review – CapRock Gin

Posted by Reese On December - 23 - 2008

CapRock Gin

Next for our tasting panel to enjoy is CapRock Gin, one of Colorado’s first craft distilled spirits and the first certified organic gin produced in the US.  This gin is produced by Peak Spirits in Hotchkiss, CO.  CapRock is made from a blend of “high-desert fruits, blossoms & spices infused in an organic apple distillate.”  Knowing this after the tasting certainly gives a better understand of the scent and flavor profile that this gin presents.

CapRock’s nose presents a very fruity aroma which we were best able to classify as smelling most like watermelon Jolly Ranchers.  The flavor expands on this.  The fruity flavors are still present which I would think are added to by the use of apple distillate as the base.  In addition a unique but light juniper flavor comes through that can nearly be mistaken for rosemary.  Overall the flavor is very complex but not unpleasant.  Since this gin is so complex I think it would be best suited for use in a super (completely) dry gin martini or straight up/on the rocks.  CapRock is distilled in small batches so its likely your bottle will vary slightly from mine.

Review – Plymouth Gin

Posted by Reese On December - 19 - 2008

Plymouth Gin

Plymouth was the next up for our Gin tasting earlier this year.  The nose is crisp with little alcohol burn.  The scents you first pick up are light juniper followed by a nicely intense citrus aroma.  Interestingly enough the flavor reverses that order.  First you get the citrus then the flavor broadens to include the juniper and other botanicals.  Finally, Plymouth’s finish is a very pleasant juniper flavor.  Since the time of the tasting Plymouth has become one of my favorite gins.  I really like the way the flavors are  bold and pleasant but not over powering in anyway.  This gin plays well with both drinks needing a citrus gin and those where a juniper forward gin is prefered. To sum it up Plymouth is my go-to gin when starting cocktail experiments.  The Plymouth distillery also offers a Navy Strength version of their gin that I’m excited to try but haven’t found a bottle as yet.

Tasting – Tonics

Posted by Reese On September - 26 - 2008

A key part of a Gin and Tonic (or Vodka Tonic if you must) is the tonic water.  A good tonic water will make the drink and can cover a lot of problems with the gin.  A bad tonic, on the other hand, can bring even a drink made with the most perfect gin down to the level of swill.  We decided to take one for the team and taste as many tonics as we could get our hands on (in the Boulder area) and figure out what we liked and disliked.  The tonics we were able to get were (listed in order of our preconceived notion of their tastiness, low to high): Big K, Golden Crown (Kroger Brand), Shasta, Canada Dry, Schweppes, 365 (Whole Foods Brand), Stirrings and my homemade tonic.  For this tasting there were four of us: Sean, Amanda, Aaron and Myself.

[Big K] This tonic had a nose that was not so great, which didn’t start us off well.  Aaron felt it tasted like “air with bubbles.”  Sean gave it slightly higher praise saying it was “sugar water with bubbles.”  Overall it was not at all sour, had very little quinine bitterness, basically Sprite with a touch of quinine.

[Golden Crown] This tonic too had little to no quinine bitterness which is especially interesting since it was less sweet than the Big K.  Usually when you add sweetness you will mute some of the bitterness.  We also felt this tonic was too lightly carbonated.

[Shasta] Amanda felt this one was a touch too sweet commenting “Holy sweetness batman!”  Shasta did have the most quinine of the three we’d tried to this point though which was a good thing.  Sean and I felt this tonic was on par for sweetness with the other two but added some additional bitterness and citrus sourness.  If you were throwing a party and expecting to go through a lot of tonic water this would be our recommendation.  It’s cheaper than Canada Dry and Schweppes and still has a nice flavor.

[Canada Dry] This tonic was Aaron’s favorite coming in to the tasting and remained as such.  Aaron liked that it was definitely carbonated, more so than the others we’d tried.  Sean also commented on the carbonation, liking the larger bubbles.  Amanda was the one voice of dissent for this tonic stating that it was “kind of muted and watered down” and as such she “wouldn’t drink that one.”  The overall consensus is that this one had more of a quinine bite, which is what I like in tonic, but slightly less sweet and sour than the Shasta.  Overall this is the favorite super market tonic of Sean, Aaron and Myself.

[Schweppes] As opposed to Aaron Schweppes was my favorite super market tonic coming in to the tasting.  As you can see from the above comment I change my allegiance.  Amanda thought this was much more like a proper tonic than Canada Dry and as such this is her favorite super market tonic.  Sean really liked the nose but felt the flavor was more muted than the Canada Dry.  Overall it seemed that this tonic had less quinine than Canada Dry but was a bit more sour, they were both on par for sweetness.

[365] In a comment I had given on Chowhound I had put 365 over Schweppes and Canada Dry in taste, I don’t any more however.  Sean liked the 365 more than Schweppes but it didn’t quite over take Canada Dry.  There is less bitterness in this one than either Schweppes or Canada Dry where the sweet and sour remain about the same.  Our feeling is that the cane sugar over powers the quinine.  If you’re morally against high fructose corn syrup I think this is going to be your best bet for super market tonic.

[Stirrings] This is the only store bought premium tonic water I got my hands on for this tasting and I can’t say we were impressed.  There is more quinine than some of the others but the sourness is less prevalent.  Sean liked the nose on this tonic the best of those we had tried.  This tonic, unlike some of the others, contains no salt and its also made with cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.  We all liked this tonic but felt it wasn’t strong enough to stand up to a powerful gin in a G&T.  Were you looking for a good Vodka Tonic mixer I think this would be a good choice because of the nice flavors.  Overall I don’t think this tonic is worth the extra money, stick with Canada Dry or better yet, make your own.

[Homemade] Sean’s first comment I think sums it up very nicely “Yummy!”  We used 3/4 oz tonic syrup to 2 oz soda water to mix this up and felt it needed a bit more soda water.  Although at this ratio we did feel that this tonic would even stand up to the Old Raj, which is really saying something.  Overall we all liked this tonic the best and the best part, at least for me is the customizability.  Sean likes his tonic a bit less sweet where I like mine a little sweeter.  Not a problem with this tonic.  Mix it up a little less sweet and add simple syrup to up the sweetness if you so desire.

A great time was had by all and it was nice to experience all of these tonics at one time.  It really gave us a chance to decide what we liked best.  In summary, if you’re throwing a party and serving a ton of G&Ts pick up the Shasta, it won’t do you wrong.  For the everyday home mixologist we’d recommend Canada Dry, although Schweppes is also very good.  I’d reocommend trying both and deciding which you prefer.  And finally, if you have the time and motivation definitely try making your own tonic.  The results are truly a special cocktail.

There are two other premium tonics, Q and Fever Tree, that I’ve heard very good things about but haven’t gotten my hands on as yet.  If I can score some of these I’ll be sure to update the tasting notes to include them.

Review – Jackelope Gin

Posted by Reese On September - 23 - 2008

Jackelope Gin was the next gin on our tasting list.  This is a small batch gin produced by Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, CO.  Being a sucker for small batch, artisinal spirits I knew this bottle had to come home with me the minute I saw it.  The gents at Peach Street give a superb telling of exactly why gin is the best bait for the Jackelope and sadly I can’t say we had any luck in catching any.  I think this stems more from my location in a small city though than our choice of bait.  As any amateur cryptozoologist knows Jackelopes prefer the sparsely populated high mountain deserts and sand stone mesas.  What we did find is a great gin that is well worth seeking out.

Jackelope has a nice fruity nose and the taste of sweet fruits comes through in the flavor as well.  We all concurred that this gin is much smoother than our control (Bombay Sapphire) and has little burn which is also nice.  Peach Street uses a blend of local junipers which I think adds to the uniqueness and great taste of this gin.  Beyond that the “secret” ingredients are the standard gin fare: Coriander, Angelica, Oris root, Licorice, Lemon peel/zest, Lime peel/zest, Cassia bark.  In this gin they are very nicely balanced and make for a complex but tasty gin.  None of the botanicals are screaming at you but they are all there.  I think this gin would be excellent in a Martini, but maybe go a little light on the vermouth, say 5:1, so as not to overwhelm the subtle flavors.

Overall Jackelope is a great gin and well worth seeking out if you’re in the Colorado area.  I’m starting to see it at a number of local liquor stores and with luck it will be going nationwide soon.

Review – Bombay Sapphire

Posted by Reese On September - 9 - 2008

For our gin tasting Bombay Sapphire served as our yard stick, so to speak.  More so, I think this holds true for a large portion of the population.  Sapphire is the most common top-shelf gin that you’ll find when ordering drinks at most restaurants and bars.  And so it follows that this gin be the one people are most familiar with.  It was certainly the case for me up until a couple years ago when I really started to enjoy gin over vodka and started expanding my horizons.  I started buying various gins to get an idea of what flavors they bring to the party.  My typical sampling drink was always the Gin and Tonic, which I assure you we will cover later on.  Sapphire works fairly well with a G&T although not currently my favorite.  Because of this fact it was hard to top Sapphire and it reigned king for me for quite some time.  It wasn’t until I branched out to other gin cocktails that it came clearer to me that Sapphire need not be king for life.

Without question Sapphire is a very good gin, but I think Sean summed it up nicely during out tasting.  The spirit is “too complex [and has a] muddled [flavor]”.  Sapphire uses ten botanicals in creating its spirit which seems to lead to a somewhat muddled flavor.  I think the key reason behind this is because no flavor is prime.  The result of this is a gin that can easily compete with vodka, which I think is no mistake on the part of Bacardi, Sapphire’s producer.  Vodka became the dominant spirit in the market in the mid-70’s.  In order to compete I think some gins have toned down their flavors.

But back to our comments from the tasting.  We felt that Sapphire had a nice creamy beggining but ended with quite a bit of burn.  Someone, who will remain nameless (ok, I forgot to include a name in my notes) felt there was a smell of bark.  The only realy complaint was that there was no forward flavor.  That said, Sapphire remains my gin of choice when ordering drinks out, at least at less well stocked bars.  If you haven’t tried many gin drinks, Sapphire is certainly a good place to start.  Its mellow flavor will ease you in to enjoying gin.