My friend Lars once claimed that “gin tastes like Christmas trees smell.” And, quite truthfully, he wasn’t far from the mark. Gin, as with Christmas trees, comes with a lot of options to consider: London Dry, Plymouth, Old Tom, Genever, Sloe, Artisanal.
Picking one gin to represent the lot (well, not just one, but that’s another bottle-to-be-named-later) wasn’t the easiest of tasks, especially as gin, unlike most other spirits is the summation of so many various ingredients. Without all the subtle and carefully-balanced botanicals, gin would be… well, just vodka.
London Dry gins were my choice when I looked no further than the local supermarket shelves to stock my bar. But that was a different age. With the cocktail renaissance upon us, long-forgotten products like Old Tom (a sweeter gin) and Genever (Dutch gin) are as close as your local Bevmo. Whenever someone comes to my house and claims that they don’t like gin, I pour them a shot of Hayman’s Old Tom, and with one sip, their definition of the world changes.
So why, if I’m raving about Old Tom, did I pick Leopold’s? As good as it is, Old Tom really isn’t what you’d call a “utility player”. Still, it wasn’t an easy choice. My house gin for many years has been Plymouth. It’s great, great stuff — so good that, years ago, I would bring a bottle to the bartenders of any place I frequented that didn’t have it on hand. Okay, so why not Plymouth?
Leopold’s is a lot like Plymouth with the following exceptions: a) it’s American; and, b) it’s handmade in limited batches by a small, family-owned company . I’m a sucker for those kind of things. Like Plymouth, Leopold’s is slightly sweeter than London Dry but not as sweet as Old Tom, and frankly, that suits my palette perfectly. There’s a crisp citrus quality that pervades Leopold’s, and it’s so damned clean tasting that, ultimately, it beat out my long-time champ, Plymouth, if only by a whisker. Also, it’s cool to have a bottle like Leopold’s on your shelf; it makes people wonder “of all the gins in the world, why that one?” Leopold’s has soul. Not that Plymouth, historically, doesn’t, but I’m prone to wonder how Horatio Hornblower would feel knowing that his daily ration came courtesy of the French (Plymouth is now owned by Pernod Ricard). British naval gin owned by the French? Something’s not right there.
The great thing about gin is that, only one bottle into our list, we’ve already got our first drink: Leopold’s and Tonic (try Fever Tree brand, if you can find it). I like 2oz of Leopold’s to 3oz of Fever Tree, but the drink recipes will come later.
- Leopold’s American Small Batch Gin
- Plymouth English Gin (Read the history of the stuff; it’ll make you buy some)
Leopold’s also ranks well in a couple of other online tastings:
Esoterica: Plymouth Navy Strength gin is 57% Alcohol by Volume (the normal Plymouth is 41.2% ABV). As Plymouth was the official gin of the Royal Navy for two hundred years, it had to be of a high enough proof that, if spilt on gunpowder, the powder would still ignite. Finally, a gin even Lars can appreciate.