Gin Shootout the Fifth!
My fellow inebriates,
The panic started when my dad invited his entire office to our house for a backyard barbeque.
I mean, my mum lost her shit.
Backing up six-odd years to give you some context, our family was being courted by producers of the TV show Consumed—kind of a “Hoarders-Lite” social experiment in which households are forced to declutter. Which is to say, we had some serious clutter verging on hoarder-type collecting at LBHQ. A family friend had contacted the Consumed producers on my parents’ behalf, hoping to do them a favour and help them embrace their inner Spartans. At the time my mum was very excited and ran around the house snapping photographic evidence of our sickness—piles of stereo gear, manuals for obsolete printers, toasters (yes, our toaster had a manual!) and sundry useless shit, dust-coated baby clothes, painted rocks and children’s art that somehow no one had been ruthless enough to purge, laptops that no longer functioned. If my parents didn’t get their new online, there would have been piles of newspapers too. It was some serious messed-up shit, MFI, and my mum welcomed the opportunity to have the Consumed people storm into our house and start chucking stuff into one of those big refuse containers and transform our chaos into clean, quiet emptiness.
So anyway, my mum sent all these photos to the Consumed people, who were very interested and ready to take next steps. The catch was my dad didn’t know she’d done that, and when he found out he was mortified. And he was very worried about someone swiping all his amazing stereo thingies that in his opinion WERE NOT AND NEVER HAVE BEEN CLUTTER. And so my mum cooled off and stopped emailing the Consumed people. And because the Consumed people probably had about a zillion other interested would-be candidates, aka, fame whores, they cooled off too, and our 15 minutes of fame on Canadian TV never happened.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the clutter never went away, my fellow inebriates. The piles remained and grew larger. We moved headquarters (to a larger but older house with WAY more spiders, all waiting to enweb our clutter, which they did. The clutter landed first in our garage (never to hold a car) and expanded throughout the house into spare rooms, offices, the rec room, the bathrooms, the hallways. If Jehovah’s Witnesses or the UPS guy knocked on our door my mother would immediately start apologizing for the clutter they could see from the front porch, all mummified in spiderwebs. Our home looked like a freaking haunted house. We could NEVER have people over, not if we wanted them to think we were halfway normal.
And that’s why, when my dad invited 30 people over for a barbecue, my mum went nuts. It was a come-to-Jesus moment, people. A moment when they looked at each other and made a fresh commitment to cleaning up the goddamn house.
Which they almost managed to do. I mean, if you don’t count all the areas they cordoned off (where clutter had been relocated), if you don’t investigate the fridge or any cupboards or under the bed, well, you could say they got a good 10 percent of the way there. Which made it okay to have a party.
A Gin Party!
That’s what Dad called it. It sounds really civilized—sitting in garden chairs getting our dose of quinine and talking about décor.
For me and Blackie Bear and all the usual suspects who turned up for this bash, it wasn’t just a Gin Party. It was Gin Shootout #5, and if you’ve been following our gin-related exploits, you know how these things go. It starts with a blast of offensive music to the captive audience that is our churchy whitebread neighbourhood. It’s quickly followed by pushy offerings of straight gin in teeny Solo cups and then an onslaught of inexpertly mixed G&Ts. Yeah! That’s a Gin-Shootout, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
POLO CLUB AMERICAN DRY GIN
Representing the bottom shelf, POLO CLUB AMERICAN DRY GIN (750 mL, $23.99) started us off. Billed as an “artisan gin” (we’ve heard that one before), POLO CLUB is distilled in small batches and boasts 44 percent alcohol. The aroma is piercing with a limited array of botanical notes, mostly citrus and a little spicy. While the flavour profile is much too aggressive for a martini, it doesn’t translate into a delightful G&T either—it’s knifey and impolite, with a decided afterburn. I was willing to pound it on the spot, but our guests made comments like:
A shocker in a bottle—NO!
BRUICHLADDICH – THE BOTANIST ISLAY DRY
Next up, and decidedly top-shelf, came BRUICHLADDICH – THE BOTANIST ISLAY DRY (750 mL, $46.29). I’ve been lusting after this gin for a couple of years. Islay! Who knew there was such a thing as an Islay gin? Gorgeously packaged, this gin features 31 botanicals including Islay juniper, bog myrtle leaves, mugwort, red clover and many more. The nose is lush and layered with big and small notes. On the palate it’s oh-so-subtle, with no one botanical stealing the spotlight, cool yet mellow, with a delightful citrus/coriander finish. This gin would make a world-class martini. We worried that it would disappear into tonic water, and to an extent this was true; with no one botanical dominating the flavour profile, the resulting G&T—while being highly drinkable—wasn’t as memorable as we would have liked. This didn’t prevent our guests from polishing off THE BOTANIST, though. As one commented,
Delightful. Get ready to get shitfaced on this one!
GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN
Next in line, an old reliable and James Bond favourite gin, GORDON’S (750 mL, $22.49).
You’ve heard all about GORDON’S in this space before, so I’ll skip to the comments.
Crisp and clean like folded linen.
A delightful favourite. Gross, but it works.
Tastes like a man named Gordon.
(The author of this last comment won a prize for its insightfulness.)
VICTORIA DISTILLERS EMPRESS 1908 GIN
Up to the top shelf again, we have VICTORIA DISTILLERS EMPRESS 1908 GIN (750 mL, $46.99). The product of a collaboration between Victoria’s famed Empress Hotel and Victoria Distillers, this gin features, in addition to juniper, ginger, grapefruit and other “ginny” botanicals, vibrant butterfly pea flower extract, resulting in a jewel-like indigo tint, as well as tea infusion (the Empress Hotel’s own brand). Fully organic, this gin promises to turn from indigo to pink when an acid (such as citrus juice) is added. Perhaps we didn’t add enough lime juice, but we didn’t observe this phenomenon. Everyone loved the colour, but the flavour received mixed reviews. It lacks crispness and is heavily floral, which some liked …
So delightful … a little rascal.
… some didn’t mind …
Very floral bouquet, better with tonic.
… some minded a little …
Like a forgotten garden.
… and some overtly hated it:
Tastes like SHIT … Fuck that, but I will still drink it all.
HOMEMADE LAVENDER GIN!!
Check out the small mason jar in our gin assortment. This was a homemade gin brought by guests. Astonishingly, although the base spirit is POLO CLUB, the addition of lavender infusion manages to elevate it beyond its cheap-ass niche. Delicately pink (or yellow, as the phone camera would have it), this homemade hooch earned rave comments …
… and not-so-rave comments …
I’d rather drink essential oil.
I loved it, and my dad’s co-workers should know that mason jars of gin are always welcome at LBHQ.
BROKER’S LONDON DRY PREMIUM
And finally—of course!—the perennial winner of our Gin Shootouts, BROKER’S GIN (750 mL, $27.99). I’ve been horrible about keeping in touch with Julia Gale of BROKER’S GIN, who at one point considered me one of her very closest international friends, but I will loop her in on this post so she knows that we continue to enjoy BROKER’S and in fact billed it as the gin to beat at this party.
Every so often we ask ourselves, is BROKER’S GIN really all that? With dozens of other gins on the shelves, surely it can’t be the best. And then we buy it and go ahhhhhhhhhhh! It really is wonderful. Our one under-age drinker agreed; he said from now on it would be his gin of choice, although, truth be told, he had some of everything. I do hope the police don’t arrive and put me in small handcuffs.
Where was I? Tasting notes. Lovely smoothness and botanical character, BROKER’S is delicate and nuanced straight-up, while still having the chops to cut through tonic just enough to announce its presence. It is a near-perfect gin at a reasonable price. Not all of our guests agreed, mind you; one called it “plain old gin.” Julia?
And that’s about it. A herd of people attended our backyard barbeque. I skulked in the background. They ate, they drank, they gave us their insightful comments. Not very much hard data, unfortunately. Although my mum designed score sheets, she neglected to include scoring instructions. So you’ll have to make do with qualitative data only.
Until next time, my fellow inebriates. (And no, I don’t know when that will be. My parents suck at doing my typing.)