Yeah, over here there is a good deal of small-scale distilling going on. That is a very good thing in the long run; I don't think anyone would argue with that. But "small scale" is not automatically synonymous with "craft," just as "large-scale" is not antonymous (why do we never use that word?) to it. I think that's the gist of what Sam and I are saying (oh, and thanks, Sam!). We're far from the only ones--the whiskey writer Chuck Cowdery, for example, has been on about this for some time.
Some of the small-scale producers are making traditional-style London gins, with purchased GNS and the usual botanicals. Their gins taste "normal" and work just fine in the classic gin cocktails. If their prices are within a few bucks of the Tanquerays, Plymouths and Beefeaters of this world, then I don't particularly mind spending a little bit extra to encourage a small local business, but I'm also not going to trumpet the stuff as the greatest thing since juniper met ethanol. If their prices are appreciably higher than that, then I'll pass.
Others still use purchased GNS, but come up with their own, often hasty and random-seeming (although definitely not juniper driven), botanical formulae, wrap the mantle of art around themselves--"we're redefining the category of gin," etc. etc.--and charge people through the nose for the privilege of trying their "hand-crafted" formula. I'm tired of these. I participate in a lot of blind tastings, and they rarely fare well in them.
Yet others actually are hand-crafting their gins: long-time, experienced distillers who are making all or at least a significant part of their base spirit from mash, coming up with either painstakingly-researched historical formulae that enable us to wake up old recipes or patiently developed new formulae that are balanced, clean and delightful. I don't think anybody's arguing against them. Unfortunately, they're in the minority. My hope is that as some of the enterpreneurs and career-changers who populate the first two categories gain experience they're going to step up their games; come out with better or more interesting products. We'll see.
So, umm, I don't suppose, umm, someone, won't mention any names of course, who has a long and noteworthy history of experience in the "spirits world" and perhaps even no ax to grind or hidden association to promote might be willing to suggest a long-time experienced distiller or three who are making new formulae that are balanced, clean and delightful? Could be for gin/botanical spirit/whatever we want to call it today in keeping with this thread or could be on other enchanting new spirits for that matter.
I don't generally have a chance to sit down and experience samplings of a variety of distillers where I can determine for myself what might be well worth a little extra added expense in support of innovative distillers, whether they be large or small, without first spending that $35-$40 or more to buy each bottle myself and find out the hard way. I would like to support said long-time experienced distillers when I can but would welcome help in avoiding those no doubt equally hard working but perhaps slightly less innovative distillers out there. Buying a variety of bottles each time gets a bit spendy when sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Would like to improve my odds of having it work out!
I do try to read a lot of different reviewers before buying something new but so often the reviews provide little to truly distinguish one spirit from another. They all tend to say the same thing. Usually that this gin/botanical spirit/whatever is pretty good or on occasion that it is truly awful. So I suppose I would also welcome some sites for a few reviewers to try to judge from as I navigate the vast cosmos of the internet cocktail world.
I know individual tastes vary but I guess you gotta start somewhere!
(And yes I made note of the aforementioned Kuchan Peach Brandy
and the link to Chuck Cowdery!)
Edited by tanstaafl2, 01 September 2011 - 03:53 PM.