Thursday, March 13, 2014

Triple Take: A Trio of Gins from St. George Spirits

Triple Take: A Trio of Gins from St. George Spirits

Photos courtesy of St. George Spirits
Had the occasion to taste all three of St. George Spirits’ gins this week, and came away impressed.  This Alameda-based distillery has always been an avatar of quality and unique styling, and these gins are very much an extension of that tradition.

If you have to ask, “Why do three different gins?” then you obviously haven’t tasted all three, because when you do, the question becomes moot. These are three entirely different expressions of what gin can be.

Botanivore Gin
While generally not a big fan of the ‘throw everything in the batch and see what comes out’ approach to building a gin, I have to confess this one works.  With 19 different botanicals---St. George claims angelica root, bay laurel, bergamot peel, black peppercorn, caraway, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, citra hops, coriander, dill seed, fennel seed, ginger, juniper-berries, lemon and lime peel, orris root, Seville orange peel, and star anise (excuse me, I have to take a breath now)---it would be easy to muddy up the botanicals into a vast stew of indiscriminate, or even combatting, aromas and flavors. Bu the Botanivore pulls it off. 

The profile is crisp and herbaceous, with brisk, sharp definition of some aromas and muted background notes of others, but they do play well together.  Not terribly overt on the juniper element, and with a bright burst of pungent citrus mélange with understated florality, this would be an intriguing gin for bartenders, budding or pro, to tinker with.  A good all-purpose gin leaning forcefully to what they're calling the  “new American style.”

Terroir Gin
If by the evocation of the word “terroir” St. George Spirits means a palpable sense of place, then I’d go beyond their suggested California and take this gin all the way to the Sierra Foothills, because it’s very much like the experience of taking a walk through the Sierra Redwood forests on Christmas day: there’s a blast of Douglas fir in all its evergreen glory that nips at your nose before you even begin to pick up the teasing interplay of the other botanicals: angelica root, bay laurel, cardamom, cinnamon, coastal sage, coriander, fennel seed,  juniper berries, lemon peel, orris root, and Seville orange peel.

Ho Ho Ho!, and put a green-striped candy cane in your martini glass. This is an audacious gin with exuberant focus on the woodsy/earthy/evergreen slice of the aromatic flavor wheel. And Terroir is a great name for it.

Dry Rye Gin
Not for the faint of flavor heart, this bold gin might also be a puzzlement to staunch traditionalists of gin…but then again, maybe not, if you go all the way back to the precursor that got the whole thing started, Dutch genever.  Decidedly based on grain, and specifically rye with its spicy, dry, slightly astringent herbaceous quality, Dry Rye Gin comes across at first as malty, genever-like, white-dog-whiskey-like with woody spice and bright citrus added.  That’s a lot to put in one bottle, folks; this is an altogether impressive and highly individual gin expression. The recipe, beyond 100% rye, is black peppercorns, caraway, coriander, grapefruit peel, juniper berries, and lime peel.

It would be easy to sip this one solo.  It would be just as easy to put it in a classic Negroni. The folks at St. George heartily recommend crafting an Old Fashioned with it---and I can certainly see their point.

So there you are.  As to the question of why three gins, let’s classify them as Balanced and Elegant, Evergreen and Christmas, and Bold and Complex.  Seems reasonable to me.

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