London Dry Gin Round 1 – Beefeater VS Bulldog

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Tonight’s matchup is the well-known Beefeater Gin versus the relatively new Bulldog Gin (released in 2007). Both are London Dry (wiki) as well as highly acclaimed. I should note that Beefeater is in the average-price category whereas Bulldog is top shelf, in fact more than twice the price (at least here in Vancouver). Keep in mind that comparing any two gins is like comparing BBQ sauces, or salsa, cars for that matter. It all depends on what flavour you’re looking for since each company’s recipe is unique. I’m basing this comparison on answering the question: “If I could stock only one London Dry Gin in my bar, which one would it be?”

1) Beefeater London Dry Gin – 40% ABV – 750ml, (London, England) ~$24 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • The manufacturer has been in business since 1820, this gin was first introduced in 1876. (wiki)
  • 9 botanicals: juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, licorice, almonds, orris root, SEVILLE ORANGES, and lemon peel.
  • Awarded one double gold, two gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition between 2006 and 2012.

[VS]

2) Bulldog London Dry Gin – 40% ABV – 750ml, (Lawrenceburg, IN, USA), ~$50 CAD @ W.16th/Legacy

  • Came into the market in 2007, (homepage)
  • 12 botanicals from 8 countries: Italian Juniper, German angelica, coriander seeds, Chinese licorice, Spanish almonds, Italian orris root, Seville lemons, CHINESE DRAGON EYE (longan), TURKISH WHITE POPPY SEEDS, ASIAN LOTUS LEAVES, ASIAN CASSIA, FRENCH LAVENDER. (differing ingredients in bold)
  • 90-95 points rated by Paul Pacult, Wine Enthusiast Magazine; Restaurant Magazine’s 2008 Spirit of the Year.

Criteria:

Nose: Nosing the Beefeater, it has strong, sharper juniper up front with very detectable tingly alcohol followed by nasal burn. Bulldog exhibits less juniper and more of a softer, creamy, almond, nuttier scent. It’s almost milky in fact, like orgeat. The alcohol detection of Bulldog is less pronounced. Based on aromatic smoothness, I pick Bulldog.

Taste & Texture: (Since I’ve already cheated and know of the ingredients beforehand, I’m subconsciously looking for said ingredients in each respective gin. Anyhow, let’s get on with it.) Beefeater drinks very citrusy and sweet (5/10) up front, juniper in the mids, light spicy bitter coriander/licorice in the finish. Alcohol burn is there but manageable due to the intense orange and lemon aromas. Bulldog drinks slightly thicker, more tea-like (lotus leaf), less juniper, but definitely way spicier with more licorice and roundness in warmth in the backend. I actually feel both are winners in that they are both balanced, distinct in flavour profile, and easily drinkable. But if I could only chose one, I would choose Bulldog due to the fact it incorporates exotic ingredients that tickle my palate.

Final Notes:

  • Beefeater is all about CITRUS (ORANGE/LEMON), and has a fuller body.
  • Bulldog is slightly smoother, MORE COMPLEX and has more enticing ingredients.
  • Both are winners (I would stock both my bar)

WINNER = Bulldog London Dry Gin

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Grape Vodka Round 1 – Skyy Infusions VS Three-O

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Finally another head-to-head, it sure has been awhile. Tonight we have two American produced vodkas though technically 3-O grape is English Vodka that I assume is flavoured in USA. Skyy is meant to taste like generic purple grape while 3-0 has specified CONCORD GRAPE as their varietal. Neither company list their ingredients but state “natural” grape flavour. (Note: this is an updated review from 2012)

1) Skyy Infusions Grape – 35% ABV – 750ml, (San Fran, CA, USA) ~$24 CAD

  • Skyy also makes a “Moscato infused Vodka”.

VS

2) Three Olives – 35% ABV – 750ml, (Lawrenceburg, IN, USA), ~$26 CAD

  • Made with imported Vodka from England but bottled and produced in USA.
  • 3-O also has a product called “Purple” which is supposed to taste like frozen crushed grapes. I’ll put it head-to-head with the winner in the future.
  • The bottle in the photo is an older bottling and the updated label is much cooler imo.

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Criteria:

Nose: Skyy starts off with half-candy/half-real pleasant grape aroma but is quickly overwhelmed by unwanted sharp alcohol nasal burn. Subsequent nosings are the same. Three Olives has a similar grape nose but much more gentle and subdued. Skyy’s nose is in 8000rpm 2nd gear while Three-O is cruising safely in a school zone. Based on which I would WANT to drink, the winner is Three Olives.

Taste & Texture: Skyy – very grapey up front, the intensity of the grape flavour matches the intensity of the nose. Medium sweetness in the mids, alcohol nastiness and bitterness thereafter. Three Olives is thicker, delayed alcohol burn, and more refined overall; the grape flavour isn’t quite in your face but neither is the alcohol burn. Skyy feels like an OVERHAND RIGHT whereas Three-O hits like a BACKPEDALING JAB. If I could only choose one grape vodka on my shelf I would choose Three Olives. As a sipper it’s obvious, but as a mixer I think Three-O would be easier to balance since it isn’t so “in-your-face”. In reality though I’m sure both go well in cocktails.

Final Notes:

  • Skyy has bolder flavour but is less smooth. It’ll go well in a low ABV mixed drink.
  • Three Olives is much smoother, balanceable, packaged nicer, and more suited for higher ABV cocktails.
  • (Don’t bother with Smirnoff White Grape (D-), read my review here)

WINNER = Three Olives Grape

Old Rosie Cloudy Cider – Westons (England)

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  • My Rating: B-

Old Rosie Cloudy Cider – Westons English Ciders (Estd. 1880), 7.3% ABV – 500ml, (Herefordshire, England)

on the back label:

“Old Rosie is the name given to our 1921 Aveling and Porter steam roller. Strong, reliable and so loved by everyone in the Westons family we name this cloud cider in her honour. As a truly old fashioned light, crisp and dry lightly sparkling cloudy cider, sediment may affect its colour, please gently invert to ensure an even distribution of the sediment.”

  • Style: (oaked) Apple Cider
  • Taste Profile: incoming apples -> oaked red/green apples/yeasty -> tart/off-dry oaked finish.
  • Where I got it : Brewery Creek
  • How much: $8 (after 10% off), April 2013
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to cider aficionados: yes

Visual: High quality printed label. Pours cloudy light pale yellow with no head but with some mild activity.

Nose: very powerful oaked tangy fermented apple juice with some barnyard yeastiness

Attack: ultra-light fizzy, incoming fruitiness

Mid-palate: tangy, (MAIN) aromatic oakiness, sour red & green apples, (HINT) yeasty

Finish: med-tartness, off-dry tangy acidic long oaked finish.

Summary: I appreciate the deep oaked flavour in addition to the clean sour/tangy-sweet apple. Too bad it drinks flat and monotone about a third way through.

Thirsty Farmer Saison – Granville Island Brewing (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

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  • My Rating: C

Thirsty Farmer Saison – Granville Island Brewing, 6.2% ABV – 650ml, (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

on the front side label:

“After plowing through a long day’s work, the refreshing taste of this Belgian-style ale is enough to keep a parched farmer mighty satisfied. Freshly harvested unmalted wheat and rye, Belgian yeast & a crop of secret spices.”

  • Style: Saison
  • Taste Profile: sour fizzy -> sour barnyard/dry wheat malt/hops/lemon -> coriander/dry hoppy tangy bitter finish.
  • Where I got it : Brewery Creek
  • How much: $6 (after 10% off), July 2013
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to beer aficionados: yes for sure

Visual: Eye-catching artwork on the label. It reminds me of the “how stuff works” PC series back in the day. Pours almost clear yellow amber with a decent-sized dissipating head, thin layer of retention, tiny bubbles, lots of activity.

Nose: sour tangy lemon wheat malts with mild barnyard funk.

Attack: incoming sourness

Mid-palate: (MAIN) barnyard sourness, dry wheat malts, bitter hops, sour lemon (HINTS) puke

Finish: strong coriander dryness, lingering hoppy dry tangy bitter finish.

Summary: The profile is quite different as it warms up. Chilled, it drinks crisp, clean, and mildly sour. Near room temp it drinks overly sour, pukey, and very off-putting.

Green Tea Elixir Mead – Middle Mountain Meadery (Hornby Island, BC, CAN)

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  • My Rating: C+

Green Tea Elixir Mead (Green Tea & Ginger)- Middle Mountain Meadery, 11.8% ABV – 750ml, (Santa Cruz, California, USA)

from the Middle Mountain Mead website:

“Finally, a wine that’s perfect with Asian food! This mead is made with GINGER, a blend of SENCHA and JASMINE TEA and BC GINSENG. Last but not least, it has been INFUSED WITH NETTLES and has a lovely green colour. Heat it like sake or drink it at room temperature. Who knew a wine could taste like this.”

  • Style: (Tea, ginger, ginseng) Spiced Mead
  • Taste Profile: sweet/alcohol/tangy -> ginseng/honey/apple -> warm/ginger/green tea/sweet tannic finish.
  • Where I got it : Brewery Creek
  • How much: $23, Sometime in 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to wine drinkers: yes

Visual: Unfortunately the label doesn’t list the other ingredients on the label which is shame since BC ginseng and jasmine tea sound very intriguing with mead. Pours light white wine yellow, clear as water with tiny bubbles settled at the bottom of the glass.

Nose: bright mead, red apple, jasmine

Attack: dense sweetness(8/10), subdued alcohol, light tangy sourness

Mid-palate: (MAIN) ginseng bitterness, light honey, red/green apple

Finish: alcoholic warmth, light-med ginger burn, green tea exhale, light tannic semi-sweet finish.

Summary: A nicely constructed mead with unique ingredients that work well together.

Siamese Twin Ale – Uncommon Brewers (Santa Cruz, CA, USA)

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  • My Rating: B+

Siamese Twin Ale – Uncommon Brewers, 8.5% ABV – 16 fl.oz. (1 PT), (Santa Cruz, California, USA)

printed on the side:

“There’s a long tradition in Belgian brewing of using exotic spices to enhance a beer’s flavor. Although many have been used, CORIANDER is undoubtedly the king. In tribute to this heritage we present to you our Siamese Twin Ale.

It is a traditional Belgian-style Double seasoned with CORIANDER and entirely uncommon Thai spices. At first surprising, the floral notes of LEMONGRASS and sharper bite of KAFFIR LIME blend with the deep malt of this double to produce a dangerously drinkable beer.

Served alongside a fiery curry or enjoyed on its own, the Twin brings a taste of the tropics to every occasion. And who doesn’t need a taste of the tropics every now and then.”

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  • Style: Spiced Ale (Dubbel)
  • Taste Profile: creamy malts -> caramel malts/chamomile -> kaffir lime/lemongrass/coriander/malty-tangy finish.
  • Where I got it : Brewery Creek
  • How much: $4 (after 10% off), December 2011
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: possibly
  • Would I recommend this to beer aficionados: yes for sure

Visual: Enticing ingredients but in a can… At least I already know this will be good based on their Baltic Porter and Golden State Ale. Pours cloudy dark mahogany brown with a small micro CO2 head, thin retention and some active streams.

Nose: Sweet caramel malts, with a hint of lime zest (7/10-strength)

Attack: fizzy-creamy, underlying lime sourness(3/10)

Mid-palate: (MAIN) sweet(9/10) caramel malts, chamomile

Finish: lemongrass + kaffir lime peel exhale, coriander dryness, alcoholic kick, malty-sweet light tangy finish.

Summary: A rather smooth brew but gets imbalanced toward the sweet side as it warms. I love the complexity that keeps it interesting with every sip and the creeper alcoholic effect.

Marlborough Pale Ale (IIPA) – Renaissance Brewing (Marlborough, NZ)

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  • My Rating: B-

Marlborough Pale Ale (Imperial India Pale Ale) – Renaissance Brewing, 8.5% ABV – 500ml, (Marlborough, New Zealand)

On the back label:

“M.P.A.~Marlborough Pale Ale~ is built to showcase Rakau, a new Hop variety developed in New Zealand. Starting with Canterbury grown Pale Ale Malt, we add Rakau Hops ~ heaps ~ and then we do it again and again throughout the brewing process. We even add hops to the fermentor. The result? Well…one sip of M.P.A. and you will know Rakau!. M.P.A. pairs well with curries and other strong spicy foods or mature cheese.”

  • Style: Imperial IPA
  • Taste Profile: cream citrus sweetness -> grapefruit/caramel malts -> gassy/bitter grapefruity hop finish.
  • Where I got it : Brewery Creek
  • How much: $9 (after 10% off), July 2013
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to beer aficionados: yes, worth a try

Visual: Pours cloudy light brown amber with a nice-sized lasting head, very foamy CO2, lots of lacing, lots and lots of activity.

Nose: citrus caramel malts, with easily detectable hops

Attack: creamy, 6/10-sweetness w/ citrus

Mid-palate: cream-fizzy, (MAIN) yellow grapefruit, caramel malts, (HINT) orange, pine

Finish: light burpy/gassy, soft-intensifying sharp bitter grapefruit hops, lingering bitter finish.

Summary: The alcohol is well hidden beneath the citrus malt body and hoppy bitterness of this one. Quite drinkable and goes nicely with spicy food. This IIPA doesn’t tire out my palate as much as other IPAs I’ve tried.