The pre-apocalypse gin shoot-out!

I can’t remember where I found this poll. Oops.

If I thought my friend Scarybear was in the minority for thinking that we’re nearing the End of Days, well, perhaps I was right, but it’s not a small majority. This freaks me out a little. I’ve been reassuring myself with the thought that Scary’s an idiot, but he’s got solid backup in this poll and others like it.

When he mentioned the sun had just ejected a massive coronal flare, now speeding toward our little planet, with the potential to duplicate the Carrington Super Flare of 1859, I got really worried and started trying to distract myself with various projects, some of which ended badly.

Scary seemed to be enjoying the idea of all our electronics getting fried despite his reliance on the TV to bring him shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad. His contemplation of disaster seemed even more enjoyable because it freaked me out, my fellow inebriates. I even forgot about my DTs for a while.

And then the brilliant Christine showed up with her canvas bag and effectively banished all thoughts of Armageddon. There was no one in the world I would rather have seen at that moment, and what’s more, Scary vamoosed (being afraid of women), taking with him all notions of solar ejecta and electromagnetic havoc.

Which left us free to do the LBHQ Gin Shoot-Out in peace.

Although Christine had brought Scotch, cask-aged beer, red wine, and a honey hefeweizen, she was perfectly game to get into the gin first. We decided to be scientific and sample the different brands two ways:

  • straight up
  • in identically prepared G&Ts

I’d been envisioning a tableful of gin—seven varieties, perhaps, especially because it was my dad’s birthday—but encroaching old age hadn’t helped my dad find his gin-drinking inner child; nor had the attainment of 47 years triggered the sort of midlife crisis makes a man rush out and blow his whole paycheque on gin. So I had to settle for three brands:

  • GILBEY’S LONDON DRY GIN ($11.88/375mL)
  • GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN ($12.69/375mL)
  • BOMBAY SAPPHIRE LONDON DRY GIN ($13.99/375mL)

GILBEY’S LONDON DRY GIN

This is a Canadian product my parents told me I couldn’t review unless I managed to get a free sample. But at $11.88 per 375mL, it represents the bottom shelf, and the Canadian bottom shelf at that, so they relented for the sake of contrast. For this, our first Gin Shoot-Out, we wanted three distinct tiers, and something needed to be at the bottom. Our other choice would have been a big jug of POTTER’S, also Canadian, but my parents didn’t want to pony up $36 for 1.14 litres. They said we wouldn’t want that much. Hellloooo???

Straight up

No two ways about it, GILBEY’S is rough. Jagged and pointy, front-end palate abuse with no backnote to speak of, the taste lacks not just subtlety but almost the entire array of flavors that make gin so famously nuanced. It’s a little like being shivved in the tongue, drinking this ragged stuff. Perhaps it would appeal to drinkers of cheap vodka with its lack of complexity and harsh edge. You couldn’t possibly get down a martini made with GILBEY’S, not unless you were very committed to drinking that martini. I would do it, of course, but only if I didn’t have GORDON’S and BOMBAY SAPPHIRE winking at me from across the table.

Gin & Tonic

GILBEY’S is much more tolerable with tonic and a big squeeze of lime. But it’s still edgy—sort of like chewing tinfoil or being yelled at. I thought it was okay, and I would do it again.

GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN

We’re already fans of GORDON’S at LBHQ; it won us over just last week. The best-selling gin in the world and James Bond’s gin of choice, GORDON’S is a solid, traditional gin.

Straight up

Back to back against GILBEY’S, a straight sip of GORDON’S provides a flood of juniper-infused relief. On the tongue it expands with complexity, although citrus and juniper jump to the foreground. Highly sippable, GORDON’S would make an admirable martini.

Gin & Tonic

Ahhhhhh! Yes! This is what GORDON’S was made to do. With its firm citrus backbone and juniper chorus, GORDON’S owns the gin & tonic. Its personality punches through the tonic nicely and coordinates well with a lime twist. Maybe we’re all primed to delight in a GORDON’S G&T because so many bars mix with GORDON’S by default, but none of us were disappointed by its generously layered flavors. What Christine said about gin in general, “It tastes like more,” couldn’t have been more true with a gin like GORDON’S.

BOMBAY SAPPHIRE LONDON DRY GIN

We haven’t had this at LBHQ for many years. My mum grew up with BEEFEATER, practically the antithesis of BOMBAY SAPPHIRE and famous for clobbering the drinker with not unwelcome lashings of juniper. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE strives to be more delicate: a premium but still affordable gin with a more floral profile. As such we expected it to win the martini category but possibly not the G&T category, because its subtle notes might get lost in a mixer.

Straight up

Ahhhhhh! Yes, indeed, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE tinkles across the tongue with delightful botanical essences, none outstripping the others. Of the three gins, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE is the lightest and most playful sipper. With just a whisper of vermouth it would make a perfect martini.

Gin & Tonic

Here we found ourselves divided. My mum thought her BOMBAY G&T was divine; Christine liked hers but preferred GORDON’S; and my dad departed from all reason, describing his BOMBAY G&T as “dusty.” What he meant by that I couldn’t pry out of him. I live in a house full of synaesthetes who don’t know how to describe flavors except in terms of sounds/colors/textures, and I guessed, when my dad said “dusty,” that he was applying some sort of metaphor—that perhaps a G&T made with BOMBAY SAPPHIRE felt venerable somehow; perhaps it threw him back to a past life in which he was a British colonial pounding tonic for its anti-malarial quinine and getting pissed on gin as a side effect. But he said he meant it literally—that it tasted like dust. So I guess we have to take my dad to the doctor.

Results of the Shoot-Out

Here’s the breakdown (lowest being best):

  1. most favorite
  2. second favorite
  3. least favorite

Resoundingly, the bottom-tier gin got waxed in the Shoot-Out. But the whole exercise illustrates the law of diminishing returns. Once you get past the bottom shelf (which, with a mickey, it costs about a dollar to do), you enter a realm of highly competitive products, the best of which often comes down to subjective tastes. For the 375mL size, the three products we reviewed were about a dollar apart. At $11.88 GILBEY’S got trounced. At 76 cents more, GORDON’S represented a whole other echelon. But adding $1.30 for BOMBAY SAPPHIRE didn’t make a significant difference; it was almost a toss-up, with GORDON’S emerging the winner by one point.

Whether this will play out with three other gins, we just can’t know. We can’t know until we do it. But there’s a Shoot-Out Part Deux in the future. If Scarybear’s ideas about global annihilation are wrong and there is a future.

Photo: Reuters/NASA

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6 responses to “The pre-apocalypse gin shoot-out!”

  1. beerbecue says :

    Awesome. I like LB shootouts. I strongly support more (although that could get expensive). I am partial to Bombay (it’s what we get if we don’t get Bluecoat). But I can see the issue with Bombay getting buried in a G&T.

    I love G&Ts. I used to drink a ton of them. But these days we usually use our gin for martinis ’round here.

    • liquorstorebear says :

      Yes, we definitely have to ramp it up and include martinis next time, to really do it right. The Gin Shoot-Out was one of the best things that ever happened in my whole life, so we’ll certainly have another.
      Gotta get me some Bluecoat…

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