Review: Victoria Gin 79.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published January 13, 2010
Victoria Gin is hand crafted using a German copper pot wood-fired still. The company producing the spirit (Victoria Spirits) is located on Vancouver Island, British Colombia. The Victoria Gin Website contains a nice video (click here) which shows you the wood burning still and steps you through the process of making their gin. The video shows how the gin is produced in a small batch process from a neutral grain spirit which has been enhanced with ten natural and wild-gathered botanicals. These botanicals include, juniper berry, coriander seed ,angelica, orris root, lemon and orange peel, star anise, cinnamon bark, rose petals and a secret ingredient which the company encourages you guess. Prior to distillation, these ingredients are blended with natural spring water and neutral grain spirit and allowed to steep overnight.
I was provided with a sample bottle for review by Blue Note Wine & Spirits Inc. who are the distributors of Victoria Gin in my home Province of Alberta.
In the Bottle 4/5
I like the clear squat bottle which houses the Victoria Gin. It has substance, and the masculine looking bottle is appealing to me. The label, however seems to be a rather odd fit for the bottle. For starters, the colour scheme is a little bland and uninteresting. I sense as well, that the producers of Victoria Gin are tying to present an image of feminine elegance with portrait of a young Victoria on the label. Unfortunately the feminine portrait really doesn’t fit with the masculine bottle. Another quibble I have is with the closure. A very small plastic screw-cap seals the bottle. It has only one thread, and every time I close the bottle after a sample session I am afraid I may strip or break the cap.
Despite the quibbles I have with the presentation, I do understand that Victoria Spirits is a relatively new producer just getting their feet wet. I have decided in my scoring to be perhaps a little understanding of the obstacles facing a new producer.
In the Glass 8/10
I poured a small amount of gin into my glass and began my review process by taking a deep sniff. Soft piny notes of juniper greet my nostrils beside some light scents of orange and lemon citrus. Mild scents of ginger rise into the breezes along with some light floral notes and a quiet but firm impression of licorice (Anise). I also notice the scent of freshly harvested grain complete with wisps of straw and chaff. A light but firm astringency accompanies these aromas no doubt a reflection of the strength (45 % alcohol by volume) of this bottling.
Despite higher proof (45 % alcohol by volume), the nose is light and laid back. I find myself wishing there was perhaps a little more push of piny juniper and citrus in the air.
In the Mouth 48/60
Fortunately for me, the gin displays more punch upon the palate than it did upon the nose. In particular, the lemon citrus seems to really jump at me as I sip. I can also taste bits of licorice and some nice orange accents which remind me of Triple sec. A light winding bitterness of juniper and angelica seems to fit into the overall flavour of the gin quite well. I do however, wonder to myself about the neutral grain spirit which is used as a base for the gin. I seem to be receiving somewhat harsh impressions of grainy spiciness as I sip on the gin. The Coriander used in the production of the gin is probably partially responsible for this spiciness; however, I sense that the neutral spirit used to produce the gin may also be adding a layer of grainy spice to the flavour as well.
There is only one thing to do, and that is to make some cocktails to see how the gin reacts to the mixed drinks for which it was intended.
I made a nice Lime Gimlet on the first day of my tasting sessions (using real key lime juice instead of lime cordial), and followed that up with a very good Lime Fizz on the second day. Both of these cocktails seemed to play well with the Victoria Gin. I was not as enthusiastic about the Gin and Tonic nor the Gin Martini which I made on days three and four. There seemed to be a light harshness which the spirit carried into those cocktails. Although the producers of Victoria Gin capture only the heart of the distillation, perhaps that heart could be a little finer.
In the Throat 12/15
The finish carries a good push of citrus zest where both the lemon and the orange are on full display. A lightly bitter pop of juniper accompanies the citrus and works well with it. However, things were just a touch harsh in the aforementioned Gin and Tonic and the Gin Martini. When served in fruit-filled or highball style cocktails, the harshness disappears and the flavour of the gin pushes through to the end of the cocktail’s finish.
The Afterburn 7.5/10
Victoria Gin has some great attributes as far as balanced flavour goes, but it also seems to carry some of the harsher elements of its base spirit through into the flavour profile. This makes the gin less desirable for cocktails like martinis which are heavy on the gin and light on the mix. However, if highball style cocktails are your preference, then the Vic Gin works just fine. My final score of 79.5/100 represents a spirit which is fine for mixing tall drinks in a Collins Glass; but which is perhaps somewhat limited the range of cocktails it is suited for.
You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Here are two excellent cocktails which work very well with the Victoria Gin
1 1/2 oz El Dorado 3 year Old White Rum
3/4 oz Victoria Gin
1 1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
3/4 oz Grenadine
Garnish with lemon or lime
The Lime Fizz
1 1/2 oz Victoria Gin
1 oz fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup
Half a glass of Cracked Ice
Mix the three ingredients over ice in a rocks glass.
Lengthen the drink with soda
Garnish with a fresh lime slice added to the glass.
Please enjoy these cocktails responsibly!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)