Of course gin is a year-round spirit. But there’s something about the spring thaw that makes us perk up and think G&Ts on the deck with warm, soft breezes. We tasted three distinctly different gins and – to be honest – these are so interesting and unusual that we might be inclined to hold the tonic and try a cocktail that would show off their unique flavors a bit more.
Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin
This classy Dutch gin distilled from wheat is a new take on traditional dry gin. The Nolet’s website notes that the botanicals are “for a new generation of gin drinkers.” These include Turkish rose, peach and raspberry, resulting in a fruitier – though not sweet – flavor profile.
We still got a lot of pine and juniper on the nose, but there’s a definite floral and fruit component. It’s delicious, full flavored and strong but elegant, with lots of spice and hints of caraway, mint and maraschino. (95.2 proof; about $45)
Genever, the predecessor of gin, is still quite popular in Holland and Belgium. This genever, made according to the original 1829 Lucas Bols recipe, is made from fermented rye, corn and wheat triple distilled in copper pot stills. The resulting “malt wine” is infused with a distillate of botanicals.
It is crystal clear, like gin, but has a very different character. The aroma is rich with notes of butterscotch, maraschino, vanilla and toasted hazelnut, with very little presence of juniper or pine. Its flavor is very dry, rich and powerful with a prominent filbert note.
A tasty treat. (84 proof; about $30)
Ransom Old Tom Gin
Made by the Ransom Distillery in Sheridan, Oregon, this is a nod to the gin whose heyday was the mid-1800s and – according to the Ransom website – “the golden age of American cocktails.”
Amber colored, this gin uses a base wort of malted barley combined with an infusion of botanicals in high-proof corn spirits, which is then run through an alambic pot still and aged for 3-6 months. The botanicals are traditional – juniper berries, orange peel, coriander seed, cardamom pods and angelica root – but the barley imparts a maltiness that is reminiscent of whiskey.
The aroma is a very distinctive mélange of pine, burnt toffee, almond extract, black licorice, clove, chocolate and ginger. It’s huge on the palate, with lots of anise, cardamom and – honestly – cocoa.
While Old Tom gin is traditionally distinguished from dry gin by the addition of sugar, we could not detect any sweetness here – just a lot of great flavor. (88 proof; about $40)
Captain Morgan White Rum
Cap’n fans, here’s something new for you. This white rum made in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, is clean, fresh and not spiced. But it’s still got plenty of flavor. There’s a bit of vanilla and toasted nuts in the aroma, and it tastes pleasantly reminiscent of toasty coconut with just the slightest hint of sweetness. Creamy and smooth, this rum is perfect for daiquiris or mojitos. (80 proof; about $17.50)
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut Vodka
Some flavored vodkas can be over-the-top sweet and artificial tasting. Not this one. It’s very natural tasting, with flavors of ripe pineapple and fresh coconut. Slightly lower proof than most vodkas, it’s also a bit lower in calories, weighing in at 78 calories per 1.5-ounce serving. The Smirnoff folks recommend mixing this with club soda, cranberry juice, lemonade or coconut water. (60 proof; about $14)
Crown Royal XO Blended Canadian Whisky
Finished in Cognac casks, this ultra-premium whisky has an elegant, warm, refined aroma of spice, vanilla, orange peel and toasted nuts. Lush and unbelievably smooth, it’s quite special. So are you—treat yourself. (80 proof; about $51)
Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Handcrafted in Kentucky, this is the quintessential bourbon. Enticing aromas of cherry, vanilla, caramel and walnut lead to deep maraschino notes with buttery toffee spice and a cherry finish. Delicious. (95 proof; about $35)