OLD ST. PETE GIN: IT’S A BRUTE
OLD ST. PETE
Distillery: St. Petersburg Distillery, St. Petersburg, FL
Style: New World/Florida emphasis
Price: $28-$30, hard to find outside of western Florida
Some endeavors you just have to love. St. Petersburg Distillery’s hometown pride is obvious. Sure, it would be easy to make hay on a location, but a once-over of their website and it is easy to see their civic love is genuine, and not just marketing schmaltz.
Okay… restraining myself from slipping too far into my Aunt Esther’s Yiddishisms but that may be difficult given subject environs.
Oy veh… For this, they made a gin? Okay. Really. I’ll stop.
Actually, this may be the most charming labeling on a gin ever. Yet on that count, we have been burned before. One of the best labels we have encountered, Uncle Val’s [Horses whinny in the background a la “Frau Blucher”) let us down. It seems sometimes the most plain and simply packaged gins win out. See Boodles (new label) Dingle, No. 209, etc. Those with more filigree tend to disappoint, with rare exception. That’s my schtick, anyway.
Not to be a noodge, but I will say here that this one lands in the middle. I will not seek it out, but for fans of American style gins, where juniper is but a sub-note and where florality is a big plus, Old St. Pete will find an audience. And, it has its merits.
For one, it is entirely welcoming on the first sniff. Pleasant floral tones backed up with citrus leaning heavy to grapefruit beckon. Now, when I want a gin, grapefruit isn’t tops on my list of flavorings, but I also understand that dinosaurs like me are becoming scarcer and I don’t want to step on toes. No one is gonna call me a schmuck.
On a quick taste, one could chock up all the intermingled flavorings to being mostly anise, and I’d have a hard time talking you out of it. That was my first perception as well.
But on closer, undivided attention to tasting all alone with no interruptions, I found a more mellow, pleasing mouth-feel and was able to discern the some of the various flavorings and they were not altogether off-putting.
Still, as with other floral-heavy gins, that long aftertaste was a dud for me. I don’t mean to kvetch. Those who like flowery-herbal aftertastes will disagree. And I’m good with that, although those guys are Meshuggah.
Lucky for me, I had some Booth’s around to follow it up and wash that lingering stuff away. Gin should come, conquer, and vanish. These American gins just can’t seem to end their presence in a timely manner. If they can pull that off, they may get more converts from the London Dry community… as if they cared to.
I don’t usually like to poke fun at websites, but one gin-reviewing locale described Old St. Pete thusly:
“Crisp and clean on the nose, coriander chiefly, but a smidge of juniper on it as well. A little bit of sweet spice underneath it as well.
Assertive palate with loud botanicals. Juniper, sweet citrus, floral coriander, turning citrusy/spicy (but still coriander) mid-palate. Bitter grapefruit zest, orange and lemon a bit later, a momentary flash of anise/fennel, with a long spice-laden finish, cardamom rising from the ashes with peppery hints of nutmeg/allspice on the edges as well.”
Yes, and I’m surprised the soupcon of #2 pencil escaped them, as did the fact the lemons carried the distinct flavors only found in Mrs. Smerzanky’s small 3-acre lemon tree grove just outside of Estero. And, of course, all of those notes are on the product’s website, so no wonder they tasted them!
But let’s get down to the real world, where flavors don’t ‘rise from the ashes’ but go down in a gulp. Afterall, this is gin, not a single-malt whiskey. Or is it whisky?
But I digress.
On the nose Old St. Pete shows the promise of being a London Dry gin. There is a hint of juniper and citrus. And alcohol, which the folks at the other website apparently missed. Not sure how. It’s mild but present.
The label touts the use of Florida botanicals in addition to the usual suspects, in this case lemons, oranges and grapefruit. And all of that impart a ton of flavor, and I agree with Jim that the anise is there in some quantity. It comes across as licorice to me and I’m not a big fan of that in gin or those southern European liqueurs either.
I tried it as a martini and came away confused. It is neither harsh nor hot—alcohol isn’t the problem. Nor is it overly floral or spicy. It it smooth with no bite.
But its damn robust and there are so many flavors in there it just doesn’t qualify as a gin martini in my book with OSP in the mix.
So I went a different route.
I tried it with Q Tonic, industrial strength Canada Dry tonic, and also mixed it into a Tom Collins.
It holds its own here and then some. Juniper is barely a trace, so it loses some interest for me right off the bat.
The cardamon isn’t rising from the ashes, it’s the lemon flavor and maybe a bit of cinnamon on the nose if you want to go that far sniffing your gin. You don’t need to dig deep to seek it out, but most of us just want to shake our gin gingerly over ice and pour into a martini glass, or add it to tonic water and expect it to taste, well, like gin.
When all is said and done, the citrus elements seem just right for the torrid summer Florida heat, and it was in St. Pete where I sampled this during a very hot July visit. It does overpower the tonic and almost anything else you might mix it with, and some may think the anise and the aroma of cardamon might come across as floral.
I liked it enough to give it another whirl, but it isn’t a gin I’d go to first. But for some variety, it’s one I’d keep around when I wanted to change the pace.