Gin Shoot-out #4—the most scientific ever … until we lost the data
My Fellow Inebriates,
Where to start after three months?
Between themselves they declared the winner, and I defer to their wisdom. Now go visit their blogs! They’re much better than mine.
Not that mine has exactly been active lately. You may think this is the eventuation of too much alcohol, but it’s rather the opposite, my fellow inebriates. LBHQ had the driest summer ever, and fall isn’t shaping up to be much better.
Let’s start by blaming my parents, who aren’t nearly the alcoholics I took them to be when I jumped into their Christmas shopping cart almost nine years ago. They totally conned me with that magnum of crappy sparkling wine, cases of beers, dozen wine bottles, and giant bottle of Irish Cream. I thought they were hard-core and we would never stop partying. Wrong! These items were occasional purchases—my parents were shopping for Christmas. How was I to know, MFI? I was a brand-new bear.
So this year they decided they would rein in their alcohol spending. They started a budget! They set a limit! They didn’t ask me what I thought! That was that!
As you may imagine, summer was pretty crappy, especially for us bears in the heat with our fur matted to our bodies. And no booze. The saving grace was our next-door neighbours, who invited me over for Naked Grape and Budd, and helped normalize the idea of pounding 18 beers on a Saturday night in the face of my parents’ determination to dry me out.
And the best part about our neighbours? One of them is a huge gin fan. And while my parents might be jerks, they aren’t made of stone—with our good neighbours, the lovely Christine, and a host of other random neighbours on board, we couldn’t do anything but have another Gin Shoot-Out.
We knew we’d sometimes failed to be scientific in the past, so we committed to making Gin Shoot-Out Part Four the most rigorous ever. We made a chart for our guests to fill in. We measured our drinks. We standardized our mixers. And we carefully interviewed our tasters to optimize our data harvest.
In the running:
BOMBAY SAPPHIRE EAST. Infused with Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese peppercorn, it would have sounded scary coming from any gin-slinger but BOMBAY.
TANQUERAY RANGPUR. Exotic and rare Rangpur lime vs peppery BOMBAY? Bring it on!
BROKER’S GIN. The perennial frontrunner and a gin that I campaigned to put on the BC Liquor Store shelves (admittedly not single-pawedly—the lovely Julia Gale did most of the heavy lifting).
BEEFEATER. The gin of drunken grandparents and people whose tastebuds need a big juniper hit if they’re not to mistake their gin for vodka, BEEFEATER came to this Shoot-Out courtesy of our neighbours—and I love them for it because OMG, people, I love BEEFEATER.
ENDEAVOUR. A pricey gift from Christine, ENDEAVOUR is a new product from Granville Island’s Liberty Distillery—hand-crafted, artisanal, and featuring 12 traditional botanicals. Would it blow all these more venerable gins out of the water?
Actually, ENDEAVOUR wasn’t there, but Christine brought ENDEAVOUR on another day, and since we’ve lost all our data (I’ll get there in a minute), I thought I’d conflate two of her three summer visits (the third involved tequila) and pretend that all our tasters had a sip of ENDEAVOUR (and those that didn’t are pretty lucky).
(In a way, this is what metadata is all about. With so much so-called Big Data flying about these days, how can one ever parse all of it? We have to skim and skip and add and subtract, trust our Gladwellian “Blink” impressions, and—knowing the LBHQ Shoot-Out isn’t a life-or-death matter—produce a synthesis. I know all my fellow inebriates would trust me to do that …)
So anyway, we had the usual suspects: Christine, Blackie Bear, my parents, our next-door neighbours, my mum’s good friend L, and about a dozen children going apeshit in the back yard. As with previous gin tastings, we started with a small straight-up sample, then proceeded to mix gin & tonics with President’s Choice tonic water and Mexican lime slices. The martini shaker stood at the ready should anyone progress to harder cocktails.
Without further ado…
BOMBAY SAPPHIRE EAST LONDON DRY
Straight-up: As we poured little jiggers for our guests, we wondered if it was a mistake to start with a peppery gin. And indeed, BOMBAY EAST was peppery; the promised lemongrass and spice were pronounced, the mouthfeel substantial and even viscous. Guests picked out not just pepper but almond and other undefinable herbals that lingered on the tongue. It was a blast to the palate for 3:00 in the afternoon but hey—that’s what LBHQ gin tastings are about.
Gin & Tonic: No question, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE EAST makes a nice G&T. The lemongrass is a nice accent to the tonic and the pepper punches through just enough—assertive but not intrusive. For those who find that the flagship BOMBAY SAPPHIRE disappears into mixer, its Eastern sibling is an alternative that won’t go unnoticed.
Straight-up: No one who attends our Gin Shoot-Outs ever truly likes to taste their gin straight-up. They’ll do it once with our first taster but after that forget about it. Which was lucky, because we’d actually purchased TANQUERAY RANGPUR a couple of weeks earlier (okay, so my parents did buy some liquor this summer) and hoovered back most of it, leaving only enough for a few tastes. Naturally I tried it and so did my parents and Blackie Bear, who then passed out and contributed no more to our event. It was delectable. My dad liked it more than my mum did, and I liked it more than anybody.
Gin & Tonic: If BOMBAY EAST holds its own against tonic water, TANQUERAY RANGPUR goes it one better. Those crazy little limes-that-aren’t-limes have a distinct and lingering flavour, and if you’re accustomed to squeezing Mexican lime into your glass before pouring the gin as we are, you might want to rethink this practice and allow the TANQ to stand on its own. Still, the RANGPUR notes just aren’t as delightful as a fresh lime—the taste is akin to using ReaLime instead of lime. Shortly before our Shoot-Out (we’re talking July, people, that’s how long it took to get blogging again), my friend Scarybear told me that Mexican drug cartels had in fact expanded into the lime business, boosting prices as high as $1.50/lime in Canada, which made TANQUERAY RANGPUR a viable lime substitute and contributed to our decision to purchase it—that and the fact that my mum told my dad not to buy any more things, so of course he immediately went out and bought a whole bunch of things, among them TANQUERAY RANGPUR and some Mexican limes.
Straight-up: After two somewhat weird gins, BROKER’S GIN struck us—despite our years of loyalty to the brand—as less nuanced. Our tastebuds had been in overdrive detecting unusual botanicals and here was BROKER’S giving us a solid London Dry experience. Perhaps our guests were just rebelling (as usual) against straight-up samples, but everyone was very, very quiet.
Gin & Tonic: This is where BROKER’S dominates, my fellow inebriates. BROKER’S is classic, leading with juniper and following with sweetly balanced citrus and floral notes, all in good harmony. Not to be cowed by tonic water or Mexican limes, it powers through those complementary flavours with its signature distinction. No one would ever bitch about a BROKER’S G&T, and judging by how little remained in the bottle at the end of our Shoot-Out, everyone loved it.
Straight-up: “Now that’s gin,” said our neighbour. “That’s ginny.” Booming with juniper character, BEEFEATER is the baritone of our gin choir, rich with botanical chords and happy to belt you in the head should you cast a glance at something as delicate as BOMBAY SAPPHIRE. When you drink BEEFEATER, there is no question that you’re drinking gin.
Gin & Tonic: Arguably BEEFEATER is just as dominant in a G&T as BROKER’s, albeit in a more bullying sort of way. So juniper-heavy is BEEFEATER that anyone with aspirations to cut back on their drinking could subtract 30 percent or so from their jigger and retain all the flavour you’d get with a BROKER’S G&T. But then you wouldn’t get as drunk, so you be the judge.
Straight-up: Full disclosure: this gin wasn’t at our Shoot-Out, but my dad accidentally (accidentally on purpose?) recycled the tasting notes I’d collected from our guests, and since we don’t have any data any more to produce a cool comparison table, we might as well pretend that ENDEAVOUR was there. Of course, if it had been there, it would have singed everyone’s eyebrows off. Straight-up it’s a volatile business, all acetone and chemicals not just wafting but shrieking up at you from your little tasting cup. Not a good idea—unless you’re an alcoholic bear.
Gin & Tonic: Even in a G&T, this Liberty Distillery offering will not behave. Crafted with 12 traditional but threatening botanicals, it is harsh and knifey with a liquorice shiv at the end for good measure. I have to admit it really grew on me—it was (I imagine) like being mistreated by a very expensive dominatrix. ENDEAVOUR goes for about $27 for 375 mL, and as such was an exceedingly generous gift from the current love of my life, Christine, who also noted its polish-remover characteristics and elected to leave it in our fridge rather than take it home with her. After that it sat in the LBHQ fridge for several weeks, its screechy siren calls not even tempting my parents. But then the sun grew hotter, the tonic water sitting beside the ENDEAVOUR started to seem lonely, and somehow some $1.50 Mexican limes jumped into our grocery cart. And so, with only a little initial reluctance, we finished Christine’s ENDEAVOUR. And because there was no other gin around at the time, we didn’t mind it.
So there you have it, my fellow inebriates. A comprehensive play-by-play of what should have been our most analytical Gin Shoot-Out ever. Free of any actual data. Thanks, Dad.