A new sample of liquid goodness recently made its way across the threshold at Vine HQ -- a sample which was definitely a bit of a changeup for your Wine Guy’s palate. This representative from a family of potent potable not seen before in this space is an interesting twist on a common white liquor: G'Vine Floraison Gin.
Wine is my usual tipple, but I've been known to drift into the world of distilled spirits from time to time. I enjoy a good gin Martini (or even better, a Vesper...mmm....), but I've not gone on the deep dive into that world of spirits the same way I have with bourbon and rum. I was looking forward to trying this green-capped clear liquor.
The description of G'Vine (which I may also use as name of my upcoming mixtape with 50 Cent) proudly states that it's "generously infused with the vine flower as well as over 9 different botanicals." The tech sheet list of botanicals, minus the vine flower, is ten items long, so that's an accurate statement. But why do botanicals matter when it comes to gin? And what really *is* gin, anyway.
Gin in its present form was created in the 17th century in the Netherlands. Dutch distillers had been creating a form of neutral spirit flavored with various berries and herbs since the 1500’s for medicinal purposes to treat ailments such as lumbago, kidney stones, and gout. A version for its current use came about in the late 1500’s, when it was known as jenever (yeh-NAY-ver).
English soldiers fighting in the Eighty Years War were given jenever before battle to calm their nerves, giving rise both to the term “Dutch Courage” and to the gin-drinking culture in England. Gin was used to mask the flavor of quinine in tonic water – as quinine was given to Dutch and English colonists in some parts of the world to prevent malaria. (Yes, your refreshing gin and tonic started as a form of disease prevention.)
Gin is generally distilled from either grains or grapes. The neutral spirit created from this process is then re-distilled with some sort of botanical, which imparts the bulk of the herbal flavors. Juniper berries are always the primary botanical (which is why some folks say that gin tastes “like a Christmas tree”), but any number of other flavors, including citrus peel, anise, and many others.
G'Vine Floraison, which is neither Dutch or English – instead hailing from the Cognac region of France -- belongs to the “distilled from grapes” category. In addition to juniper, G'Vine uses ugni blanc grapes, coriander, cassia bark (better known as cinnamon), licorice, cubeb berries (similar to black pepper), nutmeg, ginger, green cardamom, and lime.
What does this combination of flavors do, in this case? Honestly, I've never tasted anything like this version of gin before. I tried it both in a Martini and in a gin and tonic. This is easily the most aromatic gin that’s ever galloped across my taste buds. My typical gin selections are Hendrick’s and Bombay Sapphire, and neither comes close to matching the strength of the nose here.
Honestly I found the G’Vine almost overpoweringly perfumey. At first sniff, I was interested, but the aroma quickly became too much when featured on its own in a martini. It was better in a gin and tonic. The bitter flavor of the tonic balanced out the perfume somewhat, but it was still a powerfully scented concoction. On the flipside, it's one of the smoothest gins I've ever tried. Many gins I’ve tried bite hard, but this one has little grip and next to no burn. If you find that the perfume scent is to your liking, it's very drinkable.
The best use I found for it was as a mixer. I had some gin in the back of the liquor cabinet that was given to me as a gift once upon a time. I always found the gift gin (which isn’t a brand that you’d likely run into around here) to be a little harsh and I'd gone through it very slowly. I mixed it 2-to-1 with the G'Vine Floraison and made another Martini. (Different day, kids. I’m not that much of a lush!) That worked. The G'Vine gave a nice little boost to the other flavors in the other gin and rounded off the bite. I found the result quite pleasant.
If I were going for a gin of my own at this point, I'd probably stick to my tried and true pair mentioned above -- but if you're a gin fan and you're looking for a new experience, or if you have some less expensive gin that could use a little dressing up, certainly consider at least giving this a run. G'Vine runs around $40 for a 750 ml.
[Vine note: yeah, I know that I wrote about this one before. But I liked my expansion, and I wanted to share it with you. Ain't I a peach?]