Bill Dowd photoThe folks at the Hendrick's distillery in Ayrshire, Scotland, really try to emphasize that their gin is not for everyone. "Loved by a select few" is its byword. I count myself as part of that group.
• Hendrick's Gin:
Gin sampling, in my experience, involves the nose as much as the palate. While each gin has a juniper berry and alcohol base, the recipes can vary greatly. Some -- Bombay Sapphire being the most prominent example -- put their ingredients right on the label. Others -- Plymouth, for example -- rigorously guard their old, old recipes.
Hendrick's, bottled at a slightly-higher-than-average 88 proof, likes to talk about the obvious: cucumbers and rose petals. Both are obvious in the initial nose and throughout the tasting.
Hendrick's manufacturing process may have as much to do with its gin as do its ingredients. It has one of only four existing Carter-Head stills in the world. It was built in 19th century London and was restored to its original condition. The distillers explain that instead of boiling ingredients, the Carter-Head "bathes" them in vapors to foster a very slow buildup.
No matter how they do it, Hendrick's comes out as a beautiful gin, the fresh taste of cucumber helping create perhaps the cleanest dry martini I've ever experienced, but gentle enough to be pleasant merely over a few ice cubes.
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