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.
Well, the label is a little conglomeration of several things. Russ found out the people that make Taaka aren’t even sure of the origin of the name. Seems Eastern European or maybe former Soviet Bloc to me, with the Cyrillic-style motif of the brand name. But then you have the English crown, the Lion Rampant, from the Royal Standard of the Kingdom of Scotland, and some gold and red filigree. And they love to hear from their customers.
Being a value gin, they save some coin of the single label decal the only other adornment being a simple neck sheath. There is no back label.
Show up to a party hefting a 1.5 liter plastic bottle of gin in one hand and other guests will come to two conclusions—either you came with a serious intent to drink, or more likely, you brought some cheap stuff in order to avoid sharing your good gin with strangers.
I must admit, our expectations for our Taaka gin tasting were low—based upon two criteria: price and the plastic bottle containing the object of our desire. (Although the bottle comes with very cool hand grips, allowing for easy pouring and perfect for a game of “toss the gin bottle” if things get out hand. Held correctly, you can almost get a perfect spiral going on a toss.)
At $14 to $16 for the large bottle, price is certainly not an issue.
And yes, I literally found it on the bottom shelf at Total Wine & Spirits in Florida–nestled next to the usual avoid-me-at-any-price rotgut gins.
But we were pleasantly surprised.
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 determine.
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” translated to “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 overwhelm.
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 of the pine tree taste or smell, 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 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.
By the way, we queried the maker on the origin or meaning of the name. They replied with an email that said the creator had passed away long ago and no one at the distillery knows where the name came from.
Too bad. Someone deserves credit.