Distiller: Cathead Distillery, Madison, MS
Style: Leans toward London Dry
(All photos by Jim Trotman)
What’s not to like? This little gem, surprisingly from the Magnolia State, keeps to the London Dry tradition but manages to chart its own happy path. The botanicals in use, and they don’t tell us too much about them, keep things interesting with a subtle earthiness matched with a slight sweetness.
Bright and fully present juniper maintains its presence throughout the sip. Warm pepper notes percolate and on the swallow, the ending is finite with a slowly fading warmth that satisfyingly fallows all the way down.
Being the curious type, I prowled around a bit and on another review site saw a mention of hyssop being a part of the botanical batch here.
Hyssop? I mean, when have you come across that term since Sunday school?
I’ve never tasted hyssop, but I understand it to have a bitter quality. I guess the rapini was busy. The architecture on this gin is solid however so whatever part it plays, its inclusion is fine by me.
As you folks may have picked up by now, I don’t report much on all the various cocktail permutations with the gins we review. I’m a rocks or martini kind of guy and that’s just the way I’m made. On occasion I’ll try one with tonic and a lime squirt, but usually only to see if the swill can be improved in any appreciable manner.
Bristow, with it’s fully shaped flavor profile and at 94 proof, is not likely to be diminished in any cocktail in which it is used. It should stand hale and hearty in the mix.
The story on the label is quaint. I appreciate the creators putting a bit more into the bottle and labeling. If nothing it gives you something to read to check to make sure double vision isn’t sneaking up on you.
Not to much of a stretch to see myself sitting on a veranda, pouring a bit of Bristow over some rocks in my favorite glass, spinning some Bukka White on the Victrola and soaking up some warm, honeysuckle breezes.
I’m real glad Russ found this one and I hope he finds some more. Maybe we can get back to it after the next hundred or so gins we have piling up.
Mississippi isn’t a ‘’top of mind” location when gin is the subject.
But Phillip Ladner, Master Distiller of Cathead Distillery, has hit a homerun with Bristow Gin.
Madison is just 20 miles north of Jackson, one of the major cultural centers of blues, gospel and jazz music in the south and an important region in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. And now, it can add gin to its list of important cultural contributions.
The label describes Bristow’s origins:
“In exchange for his granddaughter’s hand in marriage, a curious young bloke presented his new grandfather-in-law, Judge, with a bottle of gin. The gin was triple distilled with a curious blend of spices. The Judge was tickled by the gin and insisted his grandson-in-law provide him with a regular allocation of the toothsome spirit. With that encouraging nod, Bristow Gin was born and went on to live most happily ever after.”
Whether true or apocryphal, this is one rocking gin. Bristow doesn’t try to classify itself—you’ll find no references on the bottle or their website to stylistic terms such as “traditional London Dry”, “New Western” or “American.”
But I have no problem describing this beauty—let’s call it one freaking awesome spirit that pays respect to the London Dry style while maintaining its own distinctive flavor and mix of botanicals. On the nose and in the shot glass there are subtle aromas, with juniper right up front where it belongs. But there are also some citrus and light peppery notes.
Throw the shot glass back and you’ll get some alcohol burn (Bristow is 94 proof) but also an amazing smoothness. You’ll also notice Bristow is assertive and like a good whiskey, it retains its own unique flavor profile with enough aggressiveness to stand out when mixed, while being subtle enough to remain your partner all night long. Next up was on the rocks and as a martini with no vermouth.
Now we’re talking!
Once Bristow mixes with a little water it becomes smooth as silk and all manner of flavors come out from behind the juniper—citrus notes, licorice, even some earthiness—all of which combine for a smooth and refreshing gin experience.
The next test was designed to put Bristow through its mixing paces. Add 1.5 shots of Bristow and top with some industrial strength Canada Dry tonic water and a squirt of lime from a fresh wedge—a typical gin and tonic.
Would Bristow stand up to the onslaught of quinine and whatever-the-hell else goes into garden-variety tonic?
From the first sip, you not only could tell there was gin in the drink, you knew it was a damn good gin and if put side-by-side with, say, a Bombay and tonic, you would also notice the Bristow was distinctly different from the Bombay.
In short, Bristow is a gin drinkers gin and, here I go again—it is, in my opinion, the type of gin you introduce to someone who dislikes gin because they’ve had brands that tasted like a pine forest.
Like Jim, I have a serious issue with gins that stray so far from the juniper profile that they might was well be A&W root beer or apple cider.
Those aren’t good “gins” to bring someone back into the gin fold, nor do they make for a good introduction to gin.
Bristow will be among my regular stock if I can continue to buy it just across the border in Virginia. That “must-have-in-stock” shelf just got a little more crowded.