Style: London Dry “Extra Dry”
Owned by: Sazerac Company of New Orleans, La
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Ky
ALC: 40%, 80 Proof
Average US Retail Price: Cheap!
Review and all Photos by Jim Trotman
I was not too familiar with Taaka gin before our tasting but certainly remembered the distinctive label in visits to liquor stores in my travels. I should have jumped in earlier.
When Russ told me the paltry sum he paid for this girthy, 1.75 liter plastic bottle, I didn’t sneer. I’ve learned not to do that on impulse. In fact, my own “regularly stocked” gin, Booth’s, is part of the plastic value pack and only a few shekels more than Taaka.
Still, on tasting I was on the lookout for problems. In the value brigade, the 1.75s that go for $20.00 and under, quality varies greatly. But try as we may, we could not find anything wrong with this gin. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but it is not. It was just the mindset going it.
It is not the smoothest gin to pass my lips, but if you pay attention to the “extra dry” part of the label, you’ll be ready for that. It is warm, bracing and quite tasty, with a certain earthy quality we found pleasing but it’s origin hard to pin down.
For those of us who insist on upfront juniper, Taaka doesn’t disappoint. Whatever that other umami taste factor was (the botanicals and both imported and a secret) it played a lovely counterpoint to the juniper.
We don’t have to work hard here to note the benefits of a gin like Taaka. For a party it is most economical and for the gin lovers in your crowd, it should go over well.
There’s not a lot more to say. This is a good, high even, quality gin with a low price tag. What is not to love.
Poking around I learned a bit about the owner. Sazerac Company is based in New Orleans, Metairie actually, and lays claim as the largest distilling company in the United States. I did not know that.
I do know that the Sazerac cocktail, which is said to be the first of all cocktails, was born there in the Big Easy by pharmacist Antoine Amédée Peychaud. I also know they are delicious and it in fact ranks as my very favorite non-gin drink. My second favorite non-gin drink is the Moscow Mule. But, we’ll discuss those at a later date.
Back to the Sazerac company. Their info says the New Orleans location is largely their administrative headquarters and they own various distillery sites around the country, including the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky where this lovely beverage is made.
I’ll have another Taaka. Danke.
Carry this large plastic bottle to a party and the other guests will likely think you are communicating one of two messages: a) I came here to seriously drink, or b) I left the good stuff at home so as not to waste good money and good gin on unsophisticated palates.
I must admit, our expectations for our Taaka gin tasting were subdued—based upon the incredibly cheap price ($14 to $16 for 1.5 liters) and of course, the plastic container (which comes with useful handgrips–great for hefting the bottle for a pour or tossing it to a friend forward pass style.)
Also, I found it literally on the bottom shelf of a Total Wine & Spirits in Florida, right next to other plastic enshrined gins we know are, shall we say, subpar.
But the tasting proved our trepidation to be unfounded.
From the shot glass, the nose is subtle. A little strong on alcohol, but our beloved juniper scent is present, yet not overpowering.
What else is going on inside is a little tougher to grok.
Jim and I came up with a similar nose, but it wasn’t a flavor, it was a color—a “brown” note.
It’s got to be coriander, and “brown” means a little dusty or earthy.
Downing the shot in one fell swoop, the taste shocked me.
In a good way.
Quite smooth and yes, a nice juniper forward taste presented itself but did not overwhelem.
Something in Taaka definitely tones the juniper down and makes this one smooth and subtle gin—without straying into the lavender, apple, or medicinal flavors high-end American boutique gins employ to create the faux gins we don’t care much for at Gin Gents.
So we moved on to the “on the rocks” phase.
A smooth gin, juniper forward and nary a hint of harshness or off flavors were detected.
As a gin and tonic, Taaka easily makes the cut—a super-refreshing cocktail and one that we now say is a perfect choice for those who turned away from gin because a heavy-handed juniper presence, but want to know what real gin is supposed to taste like.
However, I want to emphasize how smooth this gin is and how soft the juniper presence reveals itself.
If you like a drink with a strong gin taste, or if you mix it in a cocktail like a Collins or with the new tonic syrups out there, Taaka could easily disappear in the mix.
But I still liked it.
And no, we’re not getting carried away here.
Taaka is not on the same level as Boodles or Bombay or even some of the more expensive boutique gins such as Aviation, Waterloo or Bluecoat.
Why? Because it’s not super complex and hardcore martini fans will want more than Taaka offers. For that crowd, it’s way too subtle.
But if you want an everyday gin that is inexpensive, this stuff blows Aristocrat, Fleischmann’s and other cheap offerings away.
You can be a gin hero without breaking the bank!
And, if you really want to tie one on, Taaka is a great choice—because you and I both know after two drinks of expensive stuff, you no longer recognize the qualities that make those gins expensive—so why waste your money?
Of course, as responsible drinkers when we say “tie one on” we are saying, “drink at home” or “call a cab” when you imbibe to the point where you believe the Red Sox still have a chance to make the playoffs in 2015, or you start drunk texting an old girlfriend.
It’s also great for parties because you get the best of both worlds—an inexpensive gin that tastes great and won’t burn the throat or nostril hairs of your guests.
It is of course, not available here in North Carolina, but I suspect it’s fairly easy to come by in the rest of the country—even those with state controlled liquor stores.