UNPACKING JUNIPER WITH ITS MANY FLAVORS AND COMPLEXITIES
Creating A Spirit That Has Withstood the Test of Time
By Kay Schroeder
Laguna Woods(Spiritsman)8/3/15/–Although gin was first made in Holland, the English discovered gin while fighting the Thirty Years’ War in the seventh century in Holland. The British picked up on the French name for juniper (genever, the main flavoring ingredient in all gins). The English went on to market vast quantities of the liquor under the name of Geneva (the Swiss city of the same name). Not long after, customary to the British penchant for contraction, it became know simply as gin.
In the 1970’s, it was nothing short of genus when the vodka producers recognized the huge financial potential of creating cocktails that the younger adults would enjoy. They knew that the ideal cocktail would have to be something more than just alcohol. To be attractive to this market, the cocktails would have to be mild, sweet, and colorful. Enter the Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop, Apple Martini, and a myriad of other flavored vodka martinis. Some believe that vodka is the king of spirits when it comes to its ability to mix well with other ingredients, both sweet and savory. Old standbys like the Bloody Mary and the Screwdriver have remained favorites for years.
However, as any gin lover can attest, gin also shares a great reputation for being amenable to mixing with sweet and savory ingredients as in the Gin Gimlet, Gin and Tonic, Singapore Sling, Tom Collins, French 75, Salty Dog and the all time favorite gin drink, the Martini. Purists insist that a vodka martini is not a real martini. To be a real martini, it has to be made with gin. When it comes to making cocktails, more recipes call for gin than any other spirit.
Today many brands of gin are available to the consumer; we will compare four of them: Tanqueray Gin, Tanqueray 10 Gin, Bombay Original Gin, and Bombay Sapphire Gin.
One rating system that seems to garner considerable respect is the Smart Rating which is a weighted average of scores and awards from these sources: International Wine and Spirit Competition, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the Beverage Testing Institute, and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Gins with ratings of 80 plus are considered to be the most desired brands of gin. Gins with ratings of 60 or more, while not the top picks, have appeal commensurate with, or slightly above their prices.
Like most spirits, in the final analysis, it all comes down to a matter of personal taste, largely influenced by your preference of the ingredients used in the production of the gin.
Tanqueray Gin: Those who love a pronounced flavor of juniper will likely favor Tanqueray Gin (1.75 ltr. = 59.174 oz.), $35.99). Other attributes include additions like the musky aroma provided by the angelica root. The coriander seeds contribute an interesting complexity to this gin.
Beverage Testing Institute gives it 93 points in the Five Stars-Spirit Journal, 2009, assigning these attributes: Pungent, aggressive citrus and juniper aromas; very flavorful with a pleasing tartness and snappy spice.
Tanqueray 10 Gin: A step up in price (750 ml = 25.360 oz.), $37.99), Tanqueray 10 Gin, in addition to the juniper and coriander seeds, adds orange peel to give it a sweet orange/citrus flavor.
Beverage Testing Institute gives it 97 points in the Five Stars-Spirit Journal, 2009, assigning these attributes: Bright, deep juniper and citrus aromas; assertive juniper bite, with a very smooth, oily mouth feel; tremendous depth of flavor.
Bombay Original Gin: Bombay Original Gin (in the clear bottle), (1.75 ltr. = 59.174 oz.), $27.99).
Beverage Testing Institute rates it 92 points, assigning the following attributes: Reminiscent of citrus and spice with a soft, delicate texture. Elegance is the key here, as all components are superbly balanced in a seamless, captivating fashion.
Personal Observation: Although Bombay Original Gin contains juniper, almond, angelica root, coriander seeds, orris root, lemon peel, cassia (Chinese cinnamon), and cubeb berries, I found this gin lacking in flavor as well as complexity.
Bombay Sapphire Gin: A bit more pricey is Bombay Sapphire Gin (in the beautiful blue bottle), (1.75 ltr. = 59.174 oz.), $40.99. This gin, while staying true to the use of juniper, angelica root, and coriander seeds, infuses other ingredients like almond (for a nutty flavor), licorice (for a complex sweet flavor), and lemon peel (for a citrus flavor). While some may find the taste of Tanqueray and Tanqueray10 a little biting at times, Bombay Sapphire Gin tends toward a subtle flavor that has endeared it to many consumers. The strong sales of Bombay Sapphire Gin suggest that it is worth the upgrade in price.
Beverage Testing Institute gives it 97 points, assigning the following attributes: Perfumed juniper, bitter citrus, and brown spice nose; smooth entry; medium-bodied palate; pungent, spicy juniper notes.
Conduct your own 4-Gin Survey and decide if you agree with the Beverage Testing Institute’s ratings, or if you decide to go it alone and trust your own palate. After all, pleasing your palate is what it’s all about.
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