Gin Gents



Conniption American Dry Gin

Distillery: Durham (NC) Distillery

Style: American

Price: $35 (750 ml)

ABV:  44%


Jim’s Take…

All pictures by Jim Trotman

Photo by Jim Trotman Photo Note: Handsome bottle, with interesting graphics, but for the life of me, I devoted way too much time to try to figure out the hidden working on the inside back label. I can make out this much… “Good Graciousness… (letters out of order) Number sign, Question mark, Exclamation point… Us…Crying Out Loud.” But I’d need some psycho-active drugs to make any sense of it. And I don’t do that.

Sometimes, when American Gin makers work really hard to forge a taste all their own, they end up stumbling by putting all the effort into the effort, when a more straightforward approach perhaps would have been the route to take.

With Conniption, the Durham Distillery folks are eager to stress the two-step process where some of the botanicals are heated in the still and other, more delicate flavors are infused via a low-pressure vacuum. That’s a lot of work.

What we end up with here is a gin that blasts its floral essence into your olfactory zone, bringing along what seems to be the essence of cucumbers macerated in honey. I found this to be both sharp and sweet, floral and herbal, spicy and fruity and, dare I say, heavy.

This will find an audience, at least here in North Carolina, which as of printing is the only state in which it is available. I’m quite certain any Duke or Durham Bulls fan who fancies gin will grab a bottle for posterity at least, and some may come to love it because, well, its from Durham. And who doesn’t like something that reminds them of “Crash,” “Nuke” and “Annie?” Right?

For that matter, it may well have been composed on the notion of “build it, and they will come and buy it.” Okay, enough with the inside baseball movie stuff.

Saying this gin is complex is a nice way of saying there is just too much circus happening at once here. The lady with the whip is dealing with the lions, while the three elephants are balancing on beach balls while the trapeze artists are flying above it all. You just want to tell it to slow DOWN! One taste at a time!

Maybe that is the point of Conniption. It gives you a fit.


If you are a fan of all things Durham, this is one for your man cave. If not, eh…

Over at Russ’s house….

Wow! But not in a good “wow!” kind of way.
Flowers, flowers everywhere and then a ton of citrus.
Which is a continuing problem we continue to harp on here at Gin Gents.
We love the revolution in gin, we love the explosion of new distilleries and we love the fact that ‘Merica is producing the stuff–so long tied to Mother England.
But this stuff was like lying down in a field of freshly bloomed spring flowers. And then drinking it. With a twist of citrus. Which made it worse.
Not gin, and not good.
But aptly named. If you are a discerning gin lover, you may throw a “conniption fit”, especially at $35 a pop!

Harold says………

The bottle is squarish and cool with copper and black lettering and says “traditional small batch”, but “merged” with modern lab techniques – whatever that means.

I didn’t read the label first (never do when reviewing), I just popped the cork and the smell was flowery, touch of citrus.

First taste from a shot glass warm gave no burn, but an odd non-gin taste (peat moss was my first thought, then tea, some herb, or maybe an herbal tea was my second).

Poured a shot over ice in a chilled glass with a squeeze of lime (my normal). Tasted like cardboard with an earthy, woodsy, flowery taste. My mind was drawn to the movie Bull Durham, and maybe the taste of the bath water with Susan Sarandon’s perfume and Kevin Costner’s sweat mixed together. If that’s your thing, buy it.

No matter how I tried I couldn’t finish my first full glass over ice. I added more ice, tonic, let it sit and nothing worked for me. I poured half of that first (and only) drink down the sink. Maybe you’d like it. I really didn’t. Sorry, Durham!

SACRED GIN-A London home run–or should we say boundary?

Sacred Gin-London

Distillery:Sacred Spirits Company

Style: London Dry

Price: $50 (at least in Virginia!)


Harold’s Review


Photo Notes: Nice Label. They smartly chose the biblically significant colors of purple and gold.   Photo by Jim Trotman

This distillery is so small, it’s in a house in London, which was quite a popular tradition on this side of the pond during the era of Prohibition. The gin proves size desn’t matter once and for all.

This is just a damn good gin which I could drink all the time if I had more money. It’s not cheap, but it is good in the London Dry style of that I imagine when I think back to the “roots” of gin, with Juniper and other botanicals delicately balanced to make a “gentlemen’s spirit”. It has flavors similar to, but not the same as many London Dry gins, but they are so subtle that you find yourself unconcerned with them, and just enjoying the taste.

If you follow us, you know I pass on almost all additions to my gin except ice. In a glass, poured over ice from the refined waters of Nags Head, Sacred was a blessing. Flowing over my taste buds, it has nothing that offends, and much that commends it. I can’t say enough good about it. The down side is that it is scarce and pricey here in the US, as it will be, given the size of Sacred’s operation. I’m surprised a bottle escaped the United Kingdom and made it to us!

Jim’s Review

I concur with my fellow gents. A grand gin this is.

I found none of the claims on the label to be overblown, which is so often the case. It is, in fact, a creamy, aromatic gin, with Juniper topping the list of citrus flavors bounded with Cardamom and Angelica.

And then Frankincense. Who saw that coming? I consulted my vast research library, otherwise known as google, and discovered that this thing I’ve heard about my whole life was not nearly what I thought it was.

I thought it was a kind of baby powder. You know, that might have been something poor Mary could have used with her new Baby Jesus and all. But seeing as how the birthing suite was essentially a place for livestock, I can understand a greater appreciation for the gift of some heavy duty air freshener. The gold is something we could all use. As for myrrh? Jury is still out.

So Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes. I could not tell you what it smells (or tastes) like but I’m willing to believe it really is in there. There is a subtle hint of something I can’t put my finger on, so I guess that’s it.

Frankincense is tapped from trees of the genus Boswellia sacra. Sacra = Sacred. There you go.

Now, I didn’t notice the Atlantic parting out Russ’s window, and if I heard his bushes talking, I would have put that to the alcohol, but yes, this gin could be called heavenly.


Russ’s Review

I found this bottle at my favorite liquor store in Virginia Beach, VA.

sacred003It’s must serve as the main state owned store in the city as it always has tons of spirits in any category imaginable that aren’t on the standard Virginia inventory list.

If you special order, they must order a case, but they only make you take two or three bottles. The rest they happily place on the shelf knowing gin, vodka, whiskey, rum and others will come looking.

People like me who almost always leave with a new gin!!

Over the course of three or four trips to the stored I spied 4 bottles of Sacred on the shelf. But at $50 a pop, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go all in, especially after our terrible experience with Monkey Feces 47, which cost $50 for 375 ml.

One day I walked in and there was just one bottle left and it was on their special “exotic display” which translates into “this is special order shit you’ll never see again unless some other dweeb orders it.”

It’s made in London, so I figured it should taste like the London Dry’s this group loves so much.

And it did.

Juniper–right up front where it belongs– but not in the least overpowering. Balance. Zen-like balance.

Hell, this stuff was smooth outta the shot glass.

On the rocks, smooth as silk. The mouthfeel is almost silky, if that’s possible for a gin.

A dozen botanicals go into Sacred and once them is Frankincense. I have no idea what Frankincense is supposed to taste like and therefore, I can’t comment on its addition to the flavor profile.

But there’s citrus in there for sure and it tastes like to good citrus that belongs in gin, such as lemon, orange or lime zest. Cardamon is there also.

Like Jim, I’m just going to cut to the chase.

This an awesome gin as a martini, on the rocks or in a gin and tonic. It is substantial enough to stand up to tonic and smooth enough to be mixed only with ice, shaken or poured over.

$50 is a hefty price, especially compared to Boodle’s ($25 in our neck of the woods) and Plymouth ($32) and I’m not sure how widely available Sacred is.

But it’s in my Top 5 thus far on our gin journey and it gets my highest rating–right up there with Boodles.

Five Churchill’s!


MOTHER EARTH GIN Helping put Kinston, NC back on the map!

American Style Solar-Made!



311 N Heritage Street

Kinston, NC 28501


Alc: 40%, 80 proof


Jim’s Review

Mother Earth 1

Photo by Jim Trotman

I don’t want to come off sounding dismissive. This gin is not to my tastes but I can see where it would appeal to many people who enjoy gin-based cocktails and mixed drinks.

This North Carolina craft gin carries a punch with cardamom and coriander up front. The mix is peppery too, bringing to mind those jars of pink peppercorns you see in boutique cookery shops.

My reaction, and it is solely my own is, where is the juniper? I know it is in there, it says so on the website. But my tongue can’t sift it out with the heavy, resinous tang of the cardamom and coriander. This happens when taken neat and when shaken with ice.

The next note is anise followed by citrus peel, but that wallop from the C & C still lingers. Not like a searing of the sinuses or anything, more like a slight perceived constriction at the top of the throat. In the video we shot of this, I’m seen with a slight grimace as I point to my throat. Not quite Zapruder-like, but still. 

Maybe you shouldn’t read this while eating or having just read a crime caper like The Boston Strangler.

Now, a gin with such a strong profile should thusly retain some character with further mixing, which can be a worthy goal and a beautiful thing. It’s just not my thing.

Also, I am not anti-American gin. We have positively reviewed several. The ones we prefer all explored the space creatively but still kept their gin bona fides, namely, juniper.

I would like to say, Kudos to Mother Earth Spirits for embracing alternative energy through its use of a solar array to power things. Other green initiatives are their use of 100% recycled Blue Jean insulation throughout their building, soy based spray foam insulation the protect their second story ceiling, and eco carpet partially made from renewable resources. The good folks there have created a model for where industry should be moving. This and more can be found on their website at,

Still I will not be seeking this one out. It would be ages before our local A.B.C. outfit would allow it here, anyway. But I would not discount others from reviewing most positively. 

You just won’t find those “others” among the lads you read from here.

Photo Notes… Cool, trippy retro psychedelic themed graphic of a lovely flower child sending kisses to the sun, maybe? The head of the synthetic cork also bears our lovely maiden’s profile in an intricate relief as if by a teeny tiny wood-burning kit. You know, like the ones your cool uncle bought for you and your patents had to take from you because the whole den looks like the Marlboro Man had come to visit and left smoldering cigs on every horizontal surface.



Russ’s Review


Mother Earth 2Kinston, NC has always been a small town, but in it’s day, one could say it thrived.

It was home to numerous industries supplying textiles, finished clothing, automotive parts, even chemicals to the rest of nation while also serving as the primary town where surrounding farmers shopped and found farm-related services.

When American manufacturing jobs began to move overseas, Kinston began to decline.

The decline was capped by the loss of their minor league baseball team in 2010, the Indians, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians moved to Zebulon–a town Kinston at one time dwarfed.

But even before Minor League Baseball added insult to injury, local and transplanted residents saw potential in Kinston and twinned their future with Kinston’s.

In 2006, before the baseball team left town, chef Vivian Howard and  her husband, Benjamin Knight opened a restaurant called Chef & The Farmer.

As the name implies, the menu is composed of ‘farm to fork’ offerings from the surrounding areas.

When I visited Kinston in May, 2016 reservations were full five days out.

To provide some solace to disappointed visitors, impelled to travel to Kinston due the popularity of the restaurant owners on regular public broadcasting programs in NC, they opened a second venue–the Boiler Room Oyster Bar.

In 2008, Mother Earth Brewing opened in the small town, where the population is less than 30,000 and, to put it mildly, hit a home run. Apparently, a baseball team is nit required for extra base hits!

Mother Earth produces some of the best beers I have ever tasted and more and more bars and restaurants are serving their offerings all over eastern North Carolina.

Another notch in Kinston’s belt.

And then they decided to produce spirits.

Which begs the question–were my comments above necessary?

Answer: Yep. Gin Gents has over 100 different gins in our collective possession and there is no way we can visit more than 1% of them.

But Mother Earth is less than three hours away and a Shrine parade placed me there a few weeks ago.

So why not add a bit of personality about the gins we drink when we can?

So let’s get to the gin.

If Gin Gents is to be successful and useful, one of the primary issues we will need to come to terms with is the emergence of non-traditional botanicals to gin.

Al three of us prefer the London Dry juniper forward style of gin; especially Harold and Jim since they tend to drink their gin martini style or on-the-rocks.

I’m more apt to drink gin & tonics and even use other mixers and combinations.

All three of disdain gins that are so juniper laden they literally taste like a pine tree. And many of the bottom shelf gins pricing under $10 taste like jet fuel mixed with pine tree.

So for us, the nuances were how other botanicals–orange zest, cardamom, coriander, anise and other traditional ingredients played a supporting actor role and that is what separated Boodles from Bombay from Tanqueray from Booth’s.

But the new gin which go by classifications such as New American, New West, American Dry and others have gone leaps and bounds beyond juniper and the other half-dozen regular players.


You can on;y sample a small portion of gin, but the adjoining bar serves us Mother Earth’s awesome brews in a funky and enjoyable bar adjoining the brewery and distillery. (Russ Lay)


They aren’t really vodka, but old-timers struggle with whether they are gin.

Mother Earth lands in that category. There’s the ‘good guys’: juniper, coriander, star anise, angelica and cardamom. Also orange and lemon peel.

But there is also some new ingredients; peppercorns and grains of paradise.

On our first attempt, on the rocks–juniper was not really detectable. And to our collective liking.

But later, after the Gin Gents test, I tried it with some quality tonics–“Q” and “Fever Tree.”

And I found I liked it.

These ‘yuppie’ tonics are pricey, but they lack the industrial strength quinine taste of mass-produced Canada Dry and Seagrams.

And, in the case of Mother Earth the juniper was coaxed out, but so was the earthy angelica and the grains of paradise added some pepper and a tiny bit of floral. Finally, the peppercorns seemed to add a little bite on the rocks, while in a G&T it added some cool pepper notes rather than a black pepper hit to the solar plexus.

In short, I found it to be a very, very good gin for summertime gin and tonics–refreshing, smooth, and while not juniper forward, it’s far from a flavored vodka. it’s a real gin and if you honor it with the proper mixers, it’s worth the effort.

I have seen it distributed widely in ABC stores in North Carolina and it is on the shelf at several Outer Banks bars.

Harold’s Review

When we tasted this gin, I was at first not swept away by it. I thought it had an oaky or grain heavy flavor.

Although I liked it, it wasn’t exactly what I crave in a gin.

However, at the end of the evening, I was “gifted” the remainder by Russ, and brought it home.

At my house in my liquor cabinet, its NC roots took hold and as I had it over the next several weeks in an occasional evening drink, I came to really like it.

It is “different”.

I’m not sure how to describe it, but it has definite “earthy” undertones that must come from the wide variety of botanicals that the folks who distill it use. It also fits their legacy and their name. The gin is solar distilled and they list nine botanicals on the bottle, which is also an homage to their connection to the land.

Would I buy it and drink it regularly as my go-to gin? Probably not, but I did like it in my Friday night treat, and maybe that what its intended to be since they are a small batch, craft distillery.

Three out of five Winston’s here!



Dogfish Head Jin

New American

Dogfish Head Brewery–
Milton, Delaware

Review and Pic by Jim Trotman

Well, I haven’t had their beer. I understand it is quite good and has loyal adherents, our buddy Harold for one. 

But I think I smell a vanity project. For one, calling the contents of the bottle dogfishrgin would be a serious stretch, to call it “jin” is just being a little too cute.

Now, this isn’t so far off that it won’t find fans. I just have a wee problem with a gin that would list whole leaf hops as a botanical. 

Why they tossed cucumbers into the mix I have no idea. I’d never know if it wasn’t right there on the warning…. I mean label. Interesting note is the bottle shown on their website looks different. Maybe they changed things up somewhere in the batches. Why am I going on about the label? Because I think Russ wants me to crank out as least 250 words for these things. He’s never said that, I just imaging him saying it. That happens. Hang around with him enough and you’ll imagine he telling you stuff like that too.


Oddly, the one photo I made of the shows it mostly empty. Russ has some explaining to do. How did that much of it get drunk? I’m thinking this was its second appearance at a gathering.

There was a note of juniper, but not enough in my case to liven up this spirit.

But you may like it. After all, somebody out there claims to be a Jerry Lewis fan. So I’ve heard. I haven’t met one, but I’m sure they are out there.

Harold’s Review

Dogfish Head is made by the same people that brew Dogfish Head Ale’s in Rehoboth, Delaware – a beach town almost as nice as Nags Head. 

Unfortunately their gin was not as big a a hit with me as their ales. 

It was very smooth, with no burn, but it did have a hoppiness to it, which made me wonder if they share zany of the same equipment in their processes. 

It was a little smoky and was not unpleasant, but I don’t think I’d drink it regularly, if at all.

Russ’s Review


I agree with my buddies—this is not really a gin that I would classify as such.

So, if you are a gin drinker, even one with a broader definition of what constitutes “gin” and possessed of a sense of adventure that has escaped these three old, traditional farts, this batch still doesn’t make the grade in our book.

Yet, I am going to disagree somewhat with my ‘partners in pursuit of gout and other alcohol related issues.”

Dogfish is first and foremost a highly recommended craft brewer that, at least on the East Coast, has broken out of the “boutique” category and become more of a commercial product–perhaps where Sam Adams was 15 years ago.

The brewery self-identifies itself as producing “off-centered ales for off-centered people.”

Why would we expect the gin, including the spelling, to be anything different?

Dogfish also follows another trend, which Jim noted peripherally in his review, something we have discerned in other craft distilleries.

The trend of which I speak is the tendency of a brewer, vintner, or distiller to expand into other genres of alcoholic beverages that center on their primary product.

Hence, we see grape growing producers, such as those in France, producing gins and vodka where grapes are the neutral sprit and after distillation…somehow retain their ‘notes’ in the allegedly neutral spirit and affect the other traditional botanicals.

When we reviewed White Tiger Gin, ( and even TOPO Gin ( we found these inclinations.

White Tiger’s Dark Corner Distillery emphasizes moonshine and bourbon and there was no escaping the fact that the wheat/corn mash base found its way into the gin.

TOPO, which makes one of the smoothest moonshine whiskey’s on the planet (I am sipping it now as I type this review) uses a wheat based neutral spirit that all three of us could detect in their gin–which resulted in mixed reviews from our little band of tasters.

Dogfish follows that trend: “A gin distilled with the following four botanicals: juniper berries, coriander seed, cucumbers & whole-leaf hops.”

All three of us would embrace juniper and coriander–traditional botanicals in the London Dry vein.

While Jim is not a fan of cucumber and I usually would reject such a radical introduction of a botanical, I actually love Hendrick’s Gin, where somehow the cucumber and juniper coexist in harmony.

And, in Colorado on a farm where pears, apples ands other citrus fruits abound, we found Cap Rock ( and a gin that tasted like apple cider.


Viva la difference. But please…just because you add some juniper into a spirit, let’s not call it gin (or ‘jin’). It may be a perfectly delectable spirit, but don’t call it gin.

In the case of Dogfish, the “whole-leaf hops” predominate, so call it an IPA spirit..too much alcohol content and the presence of distillation removes it, legally and otherwise from the
“beer” or “ale” category, but at the end of the day, Dogfish is an IPA in another dimension. That single botanical killed it for us.

It is not a gin!

And, for what it is worth, this “jin” is limited production, meaning Dogfish produces it irregularly and one is most likely to find it, if at all, while visiting the brewery/distillery in Delaware.







JASPER’S GIN-The Palmetto State strikes out again/

Jasper’s Gin

American Style (Farm-Raised even)

Charleston Distilling Co.

Charleston, South Carolina

Alc: 47%, 94 proof


Review and Photos by Jim Trotman

I’ll take you behind the scenes for a second. It’s alright. I have cleared it with security. Okay, it works is like this: Much of the time, we all sit down for a formal tasting and usually we are all jaspersrsampling a gin completely new to us.

Other times, Russ, known to the neighborhood as “that Gin Collector dude,” will show up at a friendly neighborhood get together and will, when the host isn’t looking, add one of his newly acquired gins to the bar. “Lo, what fresh Hell is this?” we all say and toss a bumper down. If the majority of the crowd doesn’t wince too much, and if there is any left, he’ll schedule an official tasting about a week later.

There was plenty of Jasper’s left for tasting after a Halloween shin-dig. Maybe it was more like a wing-ding. Not sure. Anyway, I’m thinking he just didn’t notice the wincing this time, and treated (subjugated) we gents to another go at Jasper’s a couple of weeks later.

Frankly, it has taken me that long to come to terms with Jasper’s.

On the one hand, I simply adore South Carolina. My son went to college there, we have vacationed there and have had a blast in Charleston.

It’s the only place I have been where, while enjoying a drink at a bar, a man walked in with an 18th century cannon ball that his gardeners had discovered in his front yard, a few blocks away. It was most likely British, shot into town during our late 1700s fisticuffs.

It’s where my mother, a life-long nature lover, found her favorite tree, the Angel Oak on John’s Island. As a history nut, it’s where the first (major) shots of the awful Civil War were fired.

And the bottle! A work of art! The raised lettering, the detailed Palmetto fronds, the motto, “Hand Crafted With Honor” on the label, complete with the fortress, the Liberty Crescent, and right there in the corners, little blue juniper berries! One Hell of a set up for a gin guy, right?

Hell, even on their website, they dare you to find fault with it.

In all caps, no less.

That line speaks volumes.

In the end, the taste did not live up to any of the class or swagger of the packaging.

Basically they are saying, throw out what you know gin is supposed to taste like.

Even if I could, I’m not liking this as a substitute. Sadly, Jasper’s ends up being just another grain heavy, juniper light, waltz through a too-humid, breezeless hot house of concentrated flora.

I tried it three ways. First, like usual, a thimbleful straight from the bottle, then on the rocks and lastly with tonic. Each step was less an improvement over the previous.

I was all ready to go for this one. It slipped away.


Russ’s Review


I discovered this gin on a road trip to Tampa, Florida and back in 2015.

I had planned a stop over in Charleston on the way down, met up with some friends and on the way out of town, planned at stop at Charleston Distillery Company on King Street.

South Carolina allows distilleries to let visitors try an 1/8 ounce taste after a mandatory distillery tour.

The vodka, King Charles, I could tell from the minuscule sample was quite good…smooth as silk and just a hint of wheat.

The itsy bitsy gin sample was inconclusive, so I did what any dedicated alcohol fan would do…I purchased a bottle of the vodka and the gin.

Jim was correct that I introduced (i.e. snuck) it into a neighborhood Halloween fire pit party.

He is incorrect on the other detail. I did indeed try a Jasper’s and tonic that fright filled night and thought it tasted pretty crappy, and I saw a ton of wincing from the entire ‘hood.

But this site is dedicated to serious (in our own minds) gin reviews and dammit, I was going to force the guys to another try, this time with no distractions.

I mean, as the unofficial leader and supplier of gin to the group, it is their job to follow me to hell and back, isn’t it?

So we gathered ’round the gin and this time, it was a group wince.

I mean, this concoction has absolutely no right to call itself “gin.”

It was like sucking down a floral bouquet, and a bad one at that.

I can’t even recommend it, as I have other non-gin gins, as a reasonable alcoholic beverage.

It tastes bad neat, on the rocks, and mixed with just about anything.

I’m guessing even RC Cola could not make Jasper’s taste palatable.

Sorry guys…because of the awesome vodka (seriously, buy the King Charles Vodka) I wanted to like this; doubly so as a southern dude who wants gin to gain a foothold in the land of bourbon.

But my advice….avoid Jasper’s like a friend request on Facebook from a “hot” Russian girl you’ve never met…

Harold’s Review:

Jaspers Gin is another small batch gin that hails form one state south in the Plametto State of South Carolina.

Sadly, for me, it has a very grainy taste, almost like a whisky – perhaps it’s Palmetto fronds, because it has almost a cardboard taste to me.

Maybe it;’ a nuttiness of pecans, which are mentioned on the bottle as in anise, and there is a clear licorice smell and taste.

Overall, it smelled like the bottom inside lining of your grandmother’s purse, if you have ever been looking for an old pack of Lifesavers in such a place.

At least for me, all of that blended together was not a hit.  It’s just not what I’m looking for in a gin…maybe in a flavored vodka, but not gin.

The bottle is nice though.





Brand: Dingle Original Pot Still Gin

Style: London Dry

Distillery: Dingle Distillery, County Kerry, Ireland

ALC: 42.5%  –  85 Proof

Average US Retail Price: $30-$35



Jim’s Review

(All photos in this review by Jim Trotman)

Time and place.

Sure, circumstances can color our appreciation of certain things in life.

One of my top five favorite meals was a simply fried whole red snapper in a garlic chili sauce. You may know this by its Mexican name, Huachinango al mojo de ajo.

Granted, Laura and I had spent a blissful day lolling in the Pacific and hanging out on the crescent of sandy beach below the verdant hills of Zihuatanejo, had sipped our share of cocktails, and our feet were in the sand under a thatched hut on that beach, the day growing cool as the sun raced for the horizon. But still, that dish would be just as wonderful even taken in less than idyllic circumstances. And when I am able to have that dish again, surely it will take me back to that sweet memory.

Can a gin do that?

galwaydingleFor me, Dingle does. Dingle has all the aspects I seek in a gin of choice. And I happened on it quite by accident. 

Long story short, we ended up in Ireland. This part of the trip we landed in Galway. The hotel we had picked was quite unique. It was as if Austin Powers himself had decorated it and added a cat fetish. It was, as he might say, “Darling, baby.”

Importantly, the House Hotel had a fine restaurant. More importantly, this nifty hotel restaurant had an even niftier bar. 

Now, I know Ireland isn’t known for gin and so for the better part of this trip, I was ordering gins from that bigger, British Kingdom across the small sea. But this night I spied a bottle in the classic gin shape on the bar and made out the label, “Dingle.” Yeah, it makes you smile when you say it. Give it a shot, right?

This was for me a “wow” gin.

The juniper was there on the nose, the sip, and solidly in the crisp finish. But also there was that clean taste of what we had been smelling in the perfumed air. It was the pleasing grassiness of the heather, the mountain ash tree berries, and bog myrtle. These botanicals, plus chervil, angelica and coriander and the others they stay mum about, combine to deliver a fine, well crafted example of how gin can be done right.

Back in Dublin, toward the end of our stay, Elissa, my adult daughter, and I parked the rent-a-car and strolled the grounds of St. Stephen’s Green and made our way to the Celtic Whiskey Shdinglepenop on Dawson Street. I just followed her as she had done her homework. There I nabbed a bottle of Dingle for my allowed liter to take home on the flight. She opted for a bottle of Writers Tears Whiskey.

The name derives from the location of the distillery. The tip of the Dingle Peninsula is mainland Ireland’s westernmost point. It is located on the southwest coast in the scenic County Kerry. Yes, the dingle berry vs. juniper berry jokes are fun.

Fortunately for GinGents, I had Russ sample some at a get together but we weren’t in a note-taking mode. That rascal somehow managed to lay his hands on bottle of it here, stateside.

We took some notes then I think his cat ate his.

Maybe he can scare up another bottle, or I’ll have to go back to Ireland.

Not a bad thought.

Russ’s Review

As our regular readers may remember, the tie that binds the three GinGents is Boodles Gin.

How three folks ended up on the same small barrier island in a state that doesn’t even sell the stuff, became friends and started an ad hoc gin tasting group is begging the odds.

IMG_0182Now add Dingle to the mix and discover that all three of us not only like this stuff, but place it on the same top shelf as Boodle’s is even more remarkable.

Unlike Jim, my first taste of Boodles was not the magical Emerald Isle, but at Jim’s house and whilst I love the dude, his countenance is not one to link imagery and a gin forever in my mind. Beyonce he ain’t…

In spite of those hurdles, Dingle, to borrow a phrase from southern writer/humorist Lewis Grizzard, Dingle “tore out my heart and stomped that sucker flat!”

Is it a clone of Boodles?

Absolutely not. Blind taste test it and you’ll know they are different gins.

But damned if these Irish lads didn’t stay true to the London Dry tradition, placing our beloved juniper front and center, while avoiding the scent and probable taste of a Christmas tree shaped car air freshener.

Smooth on the nose, smooth on the palate–perfect on the rocks, shaken or stirred into a martini–even mixed with tonic water, there was no denying this gin’s near perfection.

As Jim noted, they keep their botanical mix close to the vest, but the angelica and coriander are definite contributors to the overall success of this gin–and I’m not sure there isn’t the slightest hint of citrus zest in there to kick up the refreshment quotient.

Through hook and crook, I’ve been able, over twelve months to grab hold of three bottles of the stuff.

Each time the verdict is the same–a must have gin–if you can find it!

In honor of Winston Churchill, who was reputed to claim my two favorite gins, Boodles and Plymouth, as his two favorite, I rate Dingle 4.5 Churchill’s!







Harold’s Review


OK, just up front let me confess that it was my favorite of the night’s tastings.VR0J0082

It wouldn’t last long in my liquor cabinet!

Dingle is distilled in Ireland, in a classic London Dry Style, but with a twist.

I’m not sure what the twist is, but it works.

Of course I have Scot and Irish roots, so telling me it’s a rare find from Ireland starts me with a good attitude, but it has a blend of pure grain spirits and a secret mix of botanicals to create quite a prize in a bottle.

Maybe you can tell, but I loved the aroma, which is juniper, but subtle, complemented by the usual scents and then some I couldn’t name.

I loved it taste on the tongue. It was one of the few gins that I think I could drink straight up, but maybe not for long.

On the rocks, it was like a sweet wild Irish rose — smooth, sweet, soft and subtle.

There was no alcohol bite, and no aftertaste. It was just plain good! Great, in fact.
I couldn’t bring myself to add tonic to it, but I did have several on the rocks. Each was better than the one before.

If you can find it, get it, and enjoy. Whatever it costs you, it’s worth it!

Brooklyn Hand Crafted Small Gin

Brooklyn Hand Crafted Small Batch Gin

Brooklyn Craft Works



Base Grain: New York grown corn

Price: $35-$45/750 ml

Review by Jim Trotman

All photos by Jim Trotman

“Brooklyn owes the charmer under me…” –Steely Dan

First off, thumbs up to the crew at Brooklyn Craft Works for a fine, tasty beverage. My first encounter happened toward the middle of an evening in which several sips had already passed the lips and I was not so keen to its charms. The biggest impact of that first chance meeting was the awe of holding the heavy disk cap in my hand. The thing is an absolute weapon. Who needs brass knuckles when you have a bottle of Brooklyn handy?

And it came to pass that on our second introduction, we all had on our serious gin scrutinizer hats.

Not that is affects the quality of the liquid within, but as I have stated before, presentation gets you style credits at the very brooklynrleast. The bottle is impressive. The pseudo art deco lines deep relief ribs in the glass make it so even Ryan Tannehill couldn’t drop it if he tried, not that he tries to drop things. Then there’s that (brass?) plate front and center. It’s like a cross between an Olympic Medal and a manhole cover. Together with the weapons-grade cap, the packaging reflects the industry and strength of character of that jaunty borough.

Inside, it’s a bit of juniper and a dose of citrus. It comes on fairly bold, yet with a neat smooth feel.

Beyond that, I just kind of enjoyed it. To make things even goofier, I discovered a perfect pairing. Seriously, I’m not fooling. Take note.

So I go to fill my glass, I was considering a bout with a tonic tag-team when what did I spy? Yep, Orange Slices. That gooey, gummy orange-like candy you always lost your first loose tooth in.

Took a sip, took a bite…. Whammo! Now I realize this is about as far from the ideal mash-up the makers of this gin every imagined and yet, there it is. I did it. I liked it. I told it. I’m sure there’s a Latin phrase for all that but it’s late and I’m late.

Really, try it.

Russ’s Review


It may not be smart to bring a knife to a gunfight, but as Jim noted, the Brooklyn bottle by itself could double as a weapon and that bottle cap weighs in a 3.35 ounces–about the same weight as the lead sinkers we use surf fishing when the waves are active but not too heavy.

But you didn’t come here to learn how to use your gin bottle cap as a way to knock a person out if used as a projectile.

You want to know how this gin tastes.

First–two adjectives sum this gin up: bright and refreshing.

When I first tried Brooklyn, again as Jim noted, it had been a longish night of food and drink and the Brooklyn came out late enough in the that that it’s difference from traditional London Dry gins was too much of a change of pace.

But the next time I tried it, fresh palate and all, Brooklyn strutted its botanical stuff enough to be worthy of the borough’s moniker.

According to the bottle Brooklyn hand cracks the juniper berries and hand cuts the fruit and zest into small pieces. They employ one Carl copper still and it takes them three days to make 300 bottles.

Pour this lovely concoction over some ice, or shake it into a martini and you will be rewarded with an incredibly vibrant gin that is super smooth and refreshing.

Pair it with tonic and the result is the same–the juniper is there–right where it belongs, but the citrus, which seems to be mostly orange zest quite simply makes the stuff taste so good you need to pace yourself–because you will want another.

brooklynuprThese folks have found a way to complement the juniper we love at Gin Gents while adding a new flavor profile that is nothing like Boodle’s or Bombay or Tanqueray, but far from the inferior flowery or overly citrusy gins that taste more like flavored water.

Should you buy and try?


Harold’s Review:

Brooklyn was a really interesting gin, that I could find myself drinking as a regular.

It does have a heavy citrus aroma and taste, but I like that in a gin.  The juniper is also present, although not overpowering.

It had a smooth initial feel to the taste with no strong burn, and was quite good unadorned over the rocks.

It’s also in an attractive bottle with a stopper that could be a paperweight and all in all adds to its appeal on the bar.

I drink my gin with no tonic on the rocks, usually with a wedge of lime.

Just by itself with nothing but ice Brooklyn was a wholly fine gin for me…it brings its own citrus.

The label says it includes citrus peel and cracked juniper berries, which explains the aroma and taste.

Final Gin Gents rating: Compared to Donald Trump’s ego, Brooklyn actually has form and substance. Buy it and if you’re not driving, drink it irresponsibly.

BRISTOW GIN–Yeah, we love it!!

Bristow Gin

Distiller: Cathead Distillery, Madison, MS

Style: Leans toward London Dry

ABV: 47%

Price:  $30-$35


Jim’s Review

(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 Bristow2rswallow, 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.


Russ’s Review


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 Bristow3rstyle 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?

You betcha.

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.

Strathearn Classic Gin–What is Scots for “this stuff sucks”?

Strathearn Classic Gin
Strathearn Distillery
Bachilton Farm Steading, Methven
Perth PH1 3QX

40% ABV

Price: Not sure, and likely will never try to find out!

Russ’s Review

Thanks to my sister bringing this gem back from Scotland, we were quite sure we had the only bottle of this stuff not only locally, but perhaps in the entire state.

My one prior experience with Scottish gin was Hendrick’s, which was one of the first-ever non-traditional gins that drew me in like a moth to a flame. I could appreciate, even become effusive about cucumbers and juniper as gin botanicals.

Since Strathearn was labeled “classic gin” and Scotland is a hop, skip, and a jump from England, where gin rules, I figured our sample would really be a classic gin where our palates would be tested to see what botanicals they snuck in under the juniper radar.

Instead, a quote from an old Monty Python album serves best to explain this gin:

And so it was, at a party, we pried open the 20 cl bottle and kept nary a record, note, or comment for posterity.

Our only clues on how the gin fared that night was the fact 90% of the contents were still in the bottle—never a good sign following one of our neighborhood gatherings, and a vague recollection of the group not quite loving it.

And so we trotted out our near virginal bottle for a second round—but this time, clever boys that we are—we kept the camera rolling.

And right off the bat I could identify a taste…


..with a hint of citrus cough drop sans the menthol or eucalyptus.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s a lovely drink, especially over ice or mixed with tonic water, where it transforms into quite a tasty liqueur—maybe a little like ouzo or Sambuca-but milder.

In fact, on one gin web site a reader commented, “My wife doesn’t like gin, but she loves Strathearn.”

Which I suspect is true because Strathearn isn’t gin in any sense of the word. In fact, it’s the worst attempt at creating a traditional gin that doesn’t taste like gin we’ve ever seen.

Whether it’s anise, fennel, or both, there is no mistaking the licorice taste of Strathearn, and right as it passes over the back of your tongue, just the slightest hint of citrus.

But if you’re looking for Jaeger Lite, this might be a choice.

Review and Photos by Jim Trotman (except where obvious)


It was about a week after our “official” tasting of Strathearn Classic Gin when it hit me like a bolt of lightning. The flavor sense that I couldn’t quite place at the tasting finally connected with the item that was, metaphorically and actually ,on the tip of my tongue. 

I was headed over to Russ’s house at the time. I bounded up the stairs, my heavy footfalls sending his cats into hiding. He let me in. Breathless, I swallowed… stood back, forced air into my lungs and blurted it out.



He laughed. “What?” 

“Parsnips! Bloody parsnips! That’s what I had been trying to place with the Strathearn!”

He poured me a drink.

Now, I have no idea if that beige, pungent, carrot-cousin is actually used in the distilling of Strathearn gin, but if I were to learn it was, I would not be surprised.

strathearnginNow, I like parsnips. I like turnips too. Any Scot-descended person knows “neeps ‘n tatties” are the only proper side to Haggis. Well, parsnips are like a cross between a turnip and a carrot, with another whole nutty factor on top. 

It may have been a confluence of the anise and lemons and grapefruit that gave it that parsnippy tinge I was detecting. Maybe not. I’m a little suspicious. 

Okay I have become real suspicious of any gins that come in tiny 350 ml bottles with a hefty price tag, but that’s from experience born of sampling Russ’s gin collection.

Right away though, that anise, fennel flavor drowned out any chance of a juniper not showing up. Juniper may be there but it is far down in the mix so as to be an essential no show. 

And as for the Scot thing, I so wanted to like this. After all, if it’s nae Scottish, it’s crap, right?

But this one just isn’t my mug o’ joe. 

I have to say I did enjoy their website. You have to love a distillery so small they can make you your very own cask of whisky. 

On the site they describe the gin as a “new style gin” with added elements of zest, herbs and spices combining a hint of Italian lemons and Spanish grapefruit with a suggestion of kaffir lime leaves and star anise. Great in cocktails or on the rocks with a slice of pink grapefruit.”

I wish I had known that. A slice a grapefruit might have turned the key for me. 
Still, if it is a “new style gin” then why did they go and call it classic? 

Oh, hey, it’s that Scot sense of humor. They got me. They yanked my sporran, for sure.

TOPO-Let’s visit a distillery!

We’ve had a rough summer of 2015–our usual avocations, vacations, and then a round of illnesses conspired to keep GinGents from updating often.

We are close to being able to get the wheels back on, but we thought we’d follow up our TOPO Gin review with an article about of visit to the distillery. which also turns out some fine whiskey and vodka.

Story by Russ Lay, all photos by Jim Trotman.

Across the street was a building that used to house a newspaper.

06topo_DistilleryThe front looked like a typical office, but no sign of our goal—the TOPO distillery.

But, the GPS said we were in the right place and we all know GPS’s are never wrong.

We tried the doors—all locked

We walked around back and saw what appeared to be an older building that probably housed the printing presses and loading docks for the defunct paper

Nothing that looked like a distillery until we spied an awning over a door and read it:

Top of the Hill/Distillery.

We had come full circle. This journey began at Top of the Hill Restaurant & 01topo_ext05topo_StacksBrewery and we were now visiting their latest achievement.

Proprietor Scott Maitland and Esteban McMahan, the distiller, met us before their scheduled tour for a private tour.

McMahan spent the most time with us, walking us through the business history of the distillery and driving home the same philosophy that animates Top of the Hill restaurant and it’s brewery.

The philosophy is simple—organic ingredients, true hand crafted products, and the best equipment for the job at hand.

Whether it’s locally sourced food for the restaurant, or North Carolina hops and grains in the beer—it hasn’t always been easy for Maitland and McMahan to stay true to their belief in farm to fork, or in this case, “Grain to bottle in 100 miles.”

McMahan explained that most microbreweries in North Carolina, many of the non-Muscadine wineries and a large number of distilleries get their grains, malts, grapes and hops from out of state.

Locally made, not locally sourced.

TOPO makes four products, gin, vodka, a clear moonshine whiskey and the brand new Eight Oak Carolina Whiskey.

TOPO is the only organically certified distillery in the South, or at least it was at the time of our visit.

The brewery came before the distillery and McMahan noted that ingredients and care in fermentation separates good beer from the run-of-the-mill stuff.

Their product was so good Top of the Hill was one of only six microbreweries in the world to have won three Platinum medals at the World Beer Championships.

Success their led them to open the first micro-cannery in the state so they could distribute their product.

It was in doing research on that project that led Maitland and McMahan to look at fermentation and distilling.

The canning facility was sold to another producer and the duo began to focus on keeping their microbrewery at the restaurant and adding a distillery instead.

But first they needed an organic, North Carolina product as their base —the place where all distilled spirits begin.

McMahan explained that prior to the Civil War, rye and wheat based whiskeys were the most popular varieties in the country.

After the Civil War, the South was devastated economically and agriculturally. Corn was both cheap and easy to grow and that is how corn came to be a mainstay in Southern whiskey.

15topo_TastingMcMahan says it generally makes for a harsh tasting drink, so sugar and molasses were added to cover up the base. Over in Kentucky, they decided to add other malts and grains to the corn mash, and bourbon was born.

At TOPO all of the spirits begin with organic North Carolina soft winter wheat, sourced from a farm in Scotland Neck.

Next up was the machinery of distillation—fermentation tanks, copper pot stills and tall column stills.

By using the right ingredients from the start, the clear whiskey and TOPO vodka come right out of the stills smooth as silk.

No need for multiple distillations, a concept that Maitland mocks in his tour presentation.

“Tito’s vodka? The base spirit comes out of a mass production factory in the mid-west, a factory that also produces ethanol. How is that hand made? It then travels to their distillery by truck where they brag it is distilled five times for purity.

It’s distilled five times because the base is so harsh it takes that much time in their column still so that it doesn’t set you on fire on the way down. And even then, it’s still not as smooth as ours.”
He pours everyone in the crowd a small 1/8 ounce sip, the most allowed by the state’s ABC board and he’s right.

The vodka is smooth as silk, yet retains a hint of that soft wheat flavor.

The same thing occurs with the moonshine.

Compared to traditional corn moonshine and it’s sugary varieties, TOPO Organic Caroline Moonshine goes down smooth a silk. And again, a tiny bit of that whet lingers and adds a touch of complexity to the experience.

Last up is the gin.

The Dutch invented gin and after a few wars, the British brought it home and made their own versions.

McMahan said most of the English gin was of the “bathtub” variety and gave off foul smells and tastes.

Juniper was commonly used at that time to cover up the smell and taste of spoiling meat, so the Brits just added it to their foul smelling gin.

04topo_CarlAnd as the British Empire spread, they took their juniper-laden gin with them and it soon became the standard flavor profile for the spirit.

To be legally called gin, most countries proscribe juniper has to be present.

How much juniper is the big debate, but TOPO, finding about 20% of people who have tried gin dislike the “piney-ness” of the drink, decided to dial it back.

After all, TOPO’s stills come Carl, a fifth-generation factory in Germany that makes what many consider the best copper and column stills in the world.

The TOPO Gin has a juniper smell, but a bunch of other stuff is in there—rosemary, coriander seed, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, fresh lime, cucumber and lemon juice.

And with the exception of one botanical and the lime/lemon—all of the rest of the ingredients come from organic North Carolina farms.

And that 1% bothers McMahan enough that he has a local farmer experimenting with that ingredient and hopes to have that locally sourced by next year.

TOPO led the micro distilling movement in North Carolina and their insistence on state sourced product and organic growing methods gives one a sense of Tar Heel pride as well as the knowledge the money you spend is staying in the state and promoting health farming practices.

In Dare County, TOPO’s products have been hit or miss as far as availability, which is true of virtually all of the state’s distilleries. You will have more luck in Currituck and Elizabeth City finding state made liquors.

Quite a nice return on investment from a bottle of vodka, gin, or whiskey.

Website for tours and info: