If You Don't Like Gin, Maybe You Just Haven't Tried The Right Gin

November 10, 2017 1 Comment

Flavor Spectrum for gin and vodka.

Gin or vodka. The great martini debate. But to me it's the wrong debate. Because if we look at what I call the "Flavor Spectrum" for vodka and compare it to that of gin, we realize that it's dangerous to compare "vodka" to "gin," categorically. Dangerous in that one may kill his or her inner gin lover by mistake. Let me explain.

The Flavor Spectrum for vodka is tiny - not a  lot of dramatic variation in flavor between vodkas. However, the Flavor Spectrum for gin is ridiculously wide. Sometimes it's hard to believe that two gins are from the same category they can be so different. 

So choosing between vodka and gin is like choosing between a soap store and a mall. And because the Flavor Spectrum for gin is so wide one can't judge "gin" as a category simply by tasting one gin. That's like rejecting sports because you don't like golf.

Besides, Gin Is Just Punked Out Vodka.

Adding fuel to the "gin or vodka" debate, did you know that gin starts as essentially vodka and transforms into gin by what's added next? In fact, for gin to be gin according to the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau: “It shall derive its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries and be bottled at no less than 80 proof.” But that's just the beginning for most distillers. 

The distiller's "color palette," if you will, in making gin includes botanicals such as juniper (mandatory), coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, almond or licorice. The Scottish gin Botanist has 31 botanicals for goodness sakes. And that's why the Flavor Spectrum is so wide with gin. Spicy/"licorice-y" on one end and floral/fruity on the other.

Discovering Gins Is Fun.

I travel to New York City quite often. And, as you likely know, there are a gazillion fantastic bars there, each serving different collections of spirits. Oh they'll have the mainstream gins - Hendricks, Tanqueray, Bombay Saphire, etc. - but most will have one or two more interesting gins.

So my first question when I belly up to the bar is, "Do you have any interesting gins?" The good bartenders love to show you their stuff, so also love this question. If they do have some, I'll then ask for a tiny taste. I've never been turned down. But I am not going to commit to a full-on martini - at NY prices! - without a little taste test.

Whether I like the gin or not I have more recently started taking pictures of the bottles and writing down my experience with the gins. Here's a screenshot from my Notes app on my phone.

Gin brands knob hill, privateer, bols genever, damrak, amiator, greenhook, heartland gin, prairie organic gin, ferdinancd's, four pillars, drumshanbo gunpoweder gin, miller's gin, berkshire mountain distillers, grey lock

It's like a sport "collecting" gins in this way. It's fun to hear the bartenders talk about the gins and even more fun to judge them myself.

You may think differently than me on any or all of these particular gins I've tried, but that's my point. Gin is not a flavor, it's a universe of flavors.

So the next time you hear someone say they don't like gin remind them of the Flavor Spectrum and challenge them to give it another, well, shot.

1 Response


January 01, 2018

This was a great read. I did not know a lot of what you wrote about Gin. I just thought there were sleep got variations. It sounds like Gin is more common to Bourboun or Scotch with regards to flavor spectrum than Vodka, so I think I may start to seek out my favorite Gin. Also just on a side note, there are apps for recording your Gin experiences. I’ve been doing that for wine and whisk(e)y for years, but some developers have made apps specifically for Gin- this way you wouldn’t have to keep it in your notes app. Anyway, thanks for the great read. Much appreciated!

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