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Off the Shelf #3: St. George Gins

Not long ago I saw St. George posted some pics of their fruit liqueur production and immediately made it my goal to obtain some to try.  I looked around, and all I could find at my usual providers were St. George gins.  I engaged them in the Twitterverse to see where I could get some of their liqueurs and they said, “Why not try our gins first”.  This seemed to me less exciting, but I was convinced that St. George made gin that was different enough that it would work well for an Off the Shelf episode.  But I wanted to get other opinions too, so I decided to do a mobile tasting and have my friends try these gins and share their thoughts.

This show is one of the longest to date.  It’s a lot of opinions and gin discussion, people bringing their own insights to the conversation.  At the end is a wrap up wherein I answer some of the questions posed along the way.  The results and favorites were quite varied, and each of the three had their fans.

I approached St. George to do an interview and they were kind enough to take the time to answer these questions I’ve included below.

Is there a way you approach making gin that you feel is different from other distillers? 

I hope that our approach to making everything is different from other distillers. We see distillation is a form of self-expression.

There were several trends among the selected tasters for each gin:  The Botanivore was considered more of a traditional style, The Terroir was consistently being paired with food, and the Dry Rye Reposado was considered a surrogate for whiskey.  Do you consider these characterizations accurate or would you like to add another angle to them that might not have been considered?

The Botanivore is much closer to a traditional style of gin, but rebalanced for our tastes at St. George. While the Terroir does pair well with food, it’d be a waste not to enjoy it in cocktails for its own sake. The evocative nature of the Terroir really brings forth the sense of being in the coastal wilderness of California. The Dry Rye Reposado is a bit of a freak show. Because the regular Dry Rye has a white rye whiskey as a base, it seemed like a worthwhile experiment to see how it would change with time in a barrel. 

As I understand it, the Dry Rye Reposado was aged in barrels, yet you cannot call them “barrel-aged”.  Can you shed some light on why there is this distinction?
The US federal government considers gin to be an unaged product, and as such they won’t allow any statement of aging on the label.

We noted that the Reposado is aged in wine casks.  Are they sourced from one wine producer? One wine type? 

The wine barrels for the Reposado were all sourced from Blacksmith Cellars, which happens to be owned by distiller Dave Smith’s brother Matt. They were a combination of syrah and grenache barrels.

Most of the tasters were blown away by the taste and aroma difference between the Terroir and the Botanivore (so much so that we considered the Botanivore to be more traditional), yet the ingredient list in the Botanivore seems more varied and longer.  Did you change the process in the Terroir to bring out the stronger herbal smells and tastes?

There SHOULD be a dramatic difference between gins in the market. The real impetus behind the artisan distillation movement is to provide stronger viewpoints in spirits categories. The artisans will do what the big companies are afraid or too smart to do. The botanicals in the Terroir are specifically chosen to evoke a sense of landscape. Even though they are fewer in number, they’re more powerful in their impact. The botanicals in the Botanivore all hit more softly so that they can ultimately harmonize with one another.

The music included in this episode are excerpts of “Gone Away” by the Offspring.
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