Bottle No. 1 – Leopold’s American Small Batch Gin

Leopold's makes a tasty G&T.
Leopold’s makes a tasty G&T

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 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.

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58 responses to “Bottle No. 1 – Leopold’s American Small Batch Gin

  1. I adore Leopold’s! What do you think of Hendricks gin?

    • I also love Hendricks. We probably have about 10 gins on-hand at most times (my wife is writing a book on the subject), and I would say my favorites are: Leopolds, Plymouth, Hendricks, and Hayman’s Old Tom. There’s nothing better in a Pimms than Hendricks, but when I had to pick one, I found Leopolds the most versatile for cocktails.

  2. Amy loves Fitzgeralds… I think we will try those next. We have Hendricks on hand so will use that.

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  6. I’ve been drinking gin (on the rocks) my entire adult life, and as any gin drinker knows, that means I’m something of a booze outcast. Most of the time, and certainly before the recent mini explosion in gin availability, I’d get Bombay Sapphire since it was widely distributed and passably good. Recently though, I’ve had a chance to try a brand called Right gin, and it is amazing. Super clean, super smooth, so much so it may perhaps be too subtle for aficionados of dry or malty gins. I respect small, local distillers, but their products aren’t necessarily better for that sake. Dogfish Head, which is a brewery based in nearby Delaware, makes a gin that tastes like rosemary and soap. Love your blog, keep it up. Here’s mine.

    • Thanks for reading, Henry. I haven’t tried Right yet, but I look forward to. And I do agree with you – artisanal doesn’t always mean better. What’s funny is that certain gins are horrible straight and phenomenal in cocktails. Go figure.

      I am bugging my wife for cobbler for dessert as I type this.

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  26. So I am from Ontario and we have a more limited selection of gins here (no Leopold). Have you ever tried Victoria gin? It is a small batch product from Brittish Columbia. If so, do you find it comparable to Leopold’s?

    • Eli – Haven’t tried Victoria, but any gin you like is fine by us. If you can get Plymouth there, it’s a great bottle. We also pour a lot of Beefeater and Tanqueray around the house.

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  36. If you can you should try Broker’s gin it’s a very traditional London dry that is exceptional. Although I too keep hendrick’s around so I can make Pimmlets.

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  44. onethoughttoomany

    Both of your links mention the Aviation. Any thoughts on it? I’m in the NY metro area, and Aviation abounds, but Leopold’s is like a ninja.

    • Don’t take this as scientific research, but we tend to put modern gins into three broad categories (these exclude genever, Old Tom, etc.) which are “Classic London Dry”, “Citrus-forward”, and “Botanical-forward”. Leopold’s is citrus-forward, which not only makes it great with a vast majority of gin cocktails, it’s a profile that most tradition non-gin drinking Americans like. Aviation, like Hendrick’s, is more botanical in its profile, which makes it work wonderfully in its namesake drink but potentially more limited in all around use. If you can’t find Leopold’s, Plymouth is marvelous, as is Martin Millers.

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