I don’t really like Whiskey. There. I said it. It’s out there in the open and there’s no going back now. If I’ve offended you then I apologise and I’m quite happy for us to part ways as friends at this point.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not for the want of trying! I’ve been to Whiskey tasting events. I’ve bought bottles and hoped it’d ‘grow on me’. I’ve tried it in various different guises but to no avail. For some reason, it just doesn’t do it for me.
Who knows, maybe that’ll change and it’s something I’ll grow to love – like my new found appreciation for Blue Cheese, Goats Cheese and my now seemingly insatiable drive to watch the Great British Bake Off from start to finish each year (by the way, I have a great anecdote about the time my Wife & I had the opportunity to cook with Paul Hollywood. It’s a story for another time, but suffice to say that Paul congratulated me on a ‘good bake’, much to the horror of my Wife & her admittedly far superior culinary skills!).
I digress. My point is that when it comes down to it, ‘Mr. Jameson’s & friends’ are having a party that I just can’t bring myself to attend.
Which brings me on to the subject of this particular write up; St. George Terroir Dry Rye Gin. And my, oh my, this is a different beast to any other Gin you’ll have tasted before.
Hailing from Alameda, California, we’re presented with a Gin that it’s distillers call an “Ode to the Golden State”, inspired by the forests of Northern California. And in this offering, the guys at St. Georges aim to transport you ‘in to the wild’ via your taste buds by including Douglas Fir, California Bay Laurel and Coastal Sage as the core components amongst the list of 12 Botanicals they’ve included. This a story of humble beginnings, started by a chap called Jorg Rupf from Germany (yep, the Black Forest again!) who set up a small distillery after moving to the US, aiming to develop drinks he remembered from homeland. Since then, and over 33 years later, St. Georges now operates on a far grander scales (from within a 65,000 square foot ex Naval Air Station no less!), operating multiple Stills and producing numerous Spirits including Vodka, Whiskey, Absinthe and (of course) Gin.
Now, as the name suggests, this is a ‘Rye Gin’. And the first thing that hit me on first inspection of the scent was…intrigue. This certainly didn’t smell like a Gin. I got vapours reminiscent of Tequila. There was a feel of Citrus Zest (think Grapefruit and Lime, with a hint of Orange and Lemon). It’s difficult to explain, but there was almost a ‘Saltiness’ to it that prepares you to start sipping on a Margherita! There was a definite sense of an impending strength (deserving of its 45% proof mark up) but not a suggestion of too much heat or spice.
Well, all that changes when you move on to taste – there is far more heat than you’d expect and it packs a Spicy little punch, perhaps inspired by its Naval birth place! The initial ‘Margherita’ feel is replaced by a far Maltier offering. My overwhelming feeling was that if you tried this blind you’d swear you were drinking a Whiskey rather than a Gin. I started to get tones of Oak (almost like a barrel aged Spirit) and Vanilla. While I definitely still got the taste of Grapefruit, it had a dry nature, and was extremely long lasting. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t describe it as ‘unpleasant’, there was definitely an aggression that I felt may come across as a little harsh and a bit at odds with the gentle ‘forest pines’ feel that the makers were going for…
In a Gin & Tonic, I found the Fevertree did take some of the sting out of the tail, allowing the taste of some of those woodland Bontanicals to come through once the power of the Alcohol was calmed down. And Grapefruit was the perfect Garnish to emphasise the Citrus notes.
I’ll admit, this doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement. But here’s the weird thing. That intrigue I had on first ‘sniff’ is back…I’ve found myself wanting to go back for more…
Whether this turns out to be the ‘Paul Hollywood’ or ‘Mary Berry’ of the Gin world, just waiting to take me by the hand and gently win me over as a new found love remains to be seen. And while I feel that ‘Gin Purists’ may not be willing to accept this as a ‘Gin’, and I wouldn’t recommend this to someone after the more traditional taste of a Juniper ‘Ice & Slice’ refreshment, I’ll certainly be returning with a fascinated anticipation for round two.
And if you know someone who refuses to drink ‘White Spirits’, preferring darker offerings of the Whiskey world, run this one by them. They may just change their minds…