In a nod towards full disclosure, I have to admit that I am a gin drinker. Gin lovers, those who claim gin as their base alcohol of choice, are becoming a rare breed these days. While they can be found among the internet cocktail geekery (such as myself), they are highly outnumbered by the throng of vodka drinkers out there. I’m not referring to vodka lovers, the afficionados who like to sip the stuff straight and have a preference between vodkas made from wheat, rye or potato. I’m talking about the people looking to get hammered and don’t want to taste their alcohol when it’s mixed with something. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes intoxication is a noble goal, but I like to enjoy my cocktails on the way to the floor.
All that said, on of my favorite gins is Hendricks’ Gin from Ayrshire, Scotland. It appears to be gaining in popularity among bars and the nicer restaurants and is finding its’ place on shelves along with Tanqueray Bombay Sapphire and, usually in the well, Gordon’s.
Hendrick’s Gin, like all good gins, has a signature flavor dervied from it’s proprietary collection of botanicals employed. It has become known as the cucumber gin, due to it’s use of mashed cucumber pulp added after distilation. Because of this, Hendrick’s is often the gin used in cucumber martinis.
However, Hendrick’s is much more than “the cucumber gin.” It is a singular gin that makes an extraordinarily clean martini (that actually uses vermouth) yet has the flavor sophistcation to be sipped neat or over one or two cubes of ice.
A great gin is enjoyed as much on the nose as it is in the glass. Hendrick’s has a very big and more assertive aroma than other premium gins, such as Bluecoat. There is balance here, however, with no single note dominating. It truly is like a bouquet of flowers whose aromas jostle for attention one after another but also create a unified whole. Like most gins, the smell of juniper is present but here it is a muted tone. The cucumber is noticeable, but so is the Bulgarian Rose also mentioned on the distillers special bottle tag. All are followed by an array of aromas unlisted by the distiller but ultimately very clean and crisp to the nose.
Tasting Hendrick’s is the real pleasure. It is a lovely gin, again, very crisp with a velveety roundness of mouthfeel. The flavors of rose and cucumber are present, certainly the star players, but in complete balance with the remaining botanicals. There is a definite floral perfume to the gin which is not at all unpleasant and is hightened by getting your nose into the glass as you sip.
When mixed in the venerable gin and tonic, the hint of of Bulgarian rose seems lost. It reappears if taken with soda and no garnish instead of the traditional tonic and lime wedge. That said, I quite enjoyed Hendrick’s both ways. I also found the bontanical strength of Hendrick’s dosesn’t overpower a cocktail. To the contrary, in a cocktail where quality ingredients are required, I find that Hendrick’s excels, coming to the front of the class to make itself know in a new way. It is capable of carrying a good drink. As mentioned, Hendrick’s easily becomes the foundation for the cleanest classic martini I’ve ever had. I have also enjoyed it in a Leap Year Cocktail, a Pony Up, an Avaiation Cocktail and, one of my favorites, a Bijou.
That said, I would not suggest using Hendrick’s in a cocktail that is too sweet or that contains too many ingredients as the specialness of the gin would be rendered meaningless. That’s the time to go to the well.
Hendricks is produced in one of only four existing Carter-Head stills left in the world. It was originally built in 19th century London and has been completely refurbished to original condition. A Carter-Head still is believed to gently build up flavor during distilation achieving more genuine flavor from the botanicals without any bruising or off flavor rendering that might occur if boiling the botanicals as other producers do.
Also unlike other gins, Hendrick’s is bottled at 88 proof, slightly higher than usual. The extra kick is noticeable, especially in a dry martini. Due to its’ singularly unique flavor profile, the Hendrick’s people have chosen “loved by a select few” as their official motto. After tasting, I can see why. This is not a gin for someone who tends not to like gin. It is also probably not for someone who likes Tanqueray or Bombay Dry. But for the open minded, Hendrick’s can be a real discovery.
Loved by a select few? Count me in.
- Tasting Notes – Bluecoat Gin
- Tasting Notes – 12 Bridges Gin
- Tasting Notes – Junipero Gin
- The Classic Martini
- Aviation Cocktail Recipe
Tags: classic dry martini, Cocktail Recipe, Featured, Gin, Hendrick's Gin, Tasting Notes