I don’t care much about Gin. To me, it is not much more than the most recent hype with another overpriced brand that no-one really needs sprouting out of nowhere basically every day. Especially the prices of some of these unaged, mass-produced, flavoured vodkas are so incredibly ridiculous when compared to other spirits that I cannot understand how these brands can survive.
But enough of the bad words, of course I also enjoy the occasional Gin with Tonic/ Ginger Ale/ Ginger Beer/ whatever (Fever Tree’s Smoky Ginger Ale is the nuts!) so when Alambic Classique released two 19YO Gins in 2016 my attention has been caught. The ensuing bottle splits did not tarry and so I got my samples. Two years earlier, in 2014, they already released a 16YO Gin which received a finish in an ex-Bunnahabhain cask by the way, which was incredibly dark.
The first of these two Gins I’ll be reviewing today has been distilled in Scotland in 1997 and received a two-year finish in a former Bowmore Whisky cask while the latter received an equally long finish in a former Nicaraguan (hence Flor de Caña) Rum barrel. I am pretty sure that both Gins come from the same batch but I couldn’t figure out which distillery is responsible for the distillate. Besides being the very first single cask Gins I get to try, these are also the first Gins at full strength, coming in at an abv of 61,4% and 63,6%, respectively.
As a small sidenote, notice the additional “c” in “Scottisch” on the label, which I refused to copy. ‘sch’ would be the German way of spelling ‘ch’, but either way it doesn’t make any sense since it would have to be “Schottisch” in that case. It doesn’t come close to the error level on some of Velier‘s labels (Scusi, Luca!) but it is amusing nevertheless.
Dégustation Alambic Classique Special Scottish Gin 1997 19YO “Bowmore Whisky Finish 61,4%” versus “Nicaragua Rum Finish 63,6%”
Nose: I’ll start with the Bowmore. At first I was like ‘wtf’, this is smelly and alcoholic but then I’ve let it breath for a bit and it got better and better. After some time I get lots of citrus notes, papaya, kumquat and sweets honey melon. This is getting better by the minute and isn’t really comparable to unaged gins. Now plenty of woodruff and red berries. Certainly interesting.
The Nicaragua version is quite different and I can immediately say that is isn’t even remotely as good. It also has the citrus elements but behind that we can find plenty of sweet and sticky candyfloss, candied apples and green grapes. Even though I know it isn’t it smells quite artificial.
Palate: The first sip of the Bowmore cask Gin reveals more herbal elements such as rosary (dominant) or thyme and oregano (weaker). Behind that lures the woodruff very prominently (the sentence doesn’t make much sense, I know). Here and there we have citrus, red pepper, and the spice mix that can be found in the ‘Indian-style’ Gins (e.g. cardamom or cloves). Eventually I also get some slightly smoky and maritime notes, just like with a nice Bowmore.
Plenty of quince & citrus fruits at first, followed by the more typical Gin notes of juniper berries or red pepper. Further, I get pimento, hard pears and the standard package of ‘botanicals’. Compared to the Bowmore version, it is sweeter and not as harmonious and fitting. The more maritime notes of the Bowmore cask are a much better fit with the Gin if you ask me.
Finish: Short with the Indian spices as well as salty, maritime notes.
The finish of the Rum cask Gin is not too long with wood, herbs and ‘standard’ botanicals.
Adding Tonic Water (Thomas Henry): What’s a Gin without Tonic? Usually an undrinkable product but with these two it is different. Nevertheless I’ve tried the combination with both versions.
Bowmore Whisky Finish: Certainly more interesting than your standard Gin & Tonic but really nothing that’s special enough to warrant the higher price. The citrus notes and ‘Indian’ spices are emphasised even more, as is the papaya. Too much of the Gin’s complexity gets lost in the drink, however.
Nicaragua Rum Finish: Again, most of the more volatile associations get lost but nevertheless it’s an interesting Gin & Tonic that’s quite different from the standard combinations. However, it doesn’t add enough to warrant the high price of the drink either.
An interesting experience. Quite to my surprise, these are very sippable, especially the Bowmore version, but nothing I would ever go for.
While differences between the two Gins were very large in the nose, both are rather similar at the palate. I prefer the slightly smoky and maritime touch of the Bowmore version, which is just a much, much better fit than the Rum finish.