One of the benefits of being a drink blogger, is that you occasionally get some free samples sent your way. In fact, that was the whole reason I started this blog; I saw other bloggers getting stuff to review, and I got jealous. Then I decided since I was doing all this drinking anyway, I may as well write about it too. Turns out, if you do a decent job writing about it, you too can get some booze! So, on my visit to Grand Ten Distilling in South Boston, after being blown away by their gin, Wire Works, I hoped that Spencer and Matt were kind enough to toss a sample my way so I could tell everyone how awesome it is. And they did, because they rule.
Now, you might be thinking “Well, SquirrelFarts is a biased jerkface. Of course he’ll say it’s awesome, if they gave him some for free.” Well, yes and no. I don’t have to be objective, because I’m a blogger, not a reporter (and let’s face it, reporters and the “news” aren’t exactly objective these days). But I try to be objective because I love booze, and want you to love it too. So I won’t tell you something is awesome when it’s not.
Now here comes the reasoning. Gin is not my drink of choice. I’ll happily slurp a Manhattan, but shudder at a Martini. I’ve grown quite accustomed to Negronis, and a Tom Collins on a hot summer morning, but gin in generally isn’t what I first think of for a cocktail. My opinions changed somewhat when I discovered Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Gin from Great Lakes Distillery. Theirs is an “American” style gin, which means they ease off on the juniper/pine taste and let some of the other botanicals shine through. It’s a much easier style to jump into for a non gin-drinker, and I thought it was fantastic.
Grand Ten’s Wire Works is also branded as an American gin. While tasting at the distillery, I was given samples of Beefeater London Dry and Tanqueray along with my Wire Works sample. The two British offerings were big one-two punches of juniper and alcohol, while the Wire Works was MUCH smoother. I was amazed. It was right up there with Rehorst as a gin even I could enjoy.
So here’s the vitals: it’s an American gin, which means not too much juniper. There aren’t any ingredients that are terribly unique (Rehorst, for example, uses Wisconsin ginseng and sweet basil in their botanicals) but an interesting addition is the use of cranberries, not for flavor, but for mouthfeel. The acidity of the cranberries gives it a smoother coating effect in your mouth, though not overly cloying like syrup. It’s 45% abv/ 90 proof, though you’d never guess from the taste. Again, those big London Drys are all juniper and booze in their attack, even if they’re lower proof. The Wire Works name comes from the history of the distillery building, which was formerly the South Boston Iron Company, and the spectacle of the wire being produced with showers of sparks and molten metal was quite a tourist attraction back in the day. GTD prefers to brand their spirits uniquely, each having a purpose behind the name, rather than just “we’re GrandTen, and here’s our gin.”
The label isn’t too boastful with the fact that it’s from Boston, but it is mentioned on the front, along with all those exciting craft spirit terms. “Small Batch” and “Distilled from Grain” are on there, and “Handcrafted in Copper,” reinforced by the metallic copper stripe and accents on the label itself, a beautiful touch from a print nerd point of view. The paper bottle seal depicts a spool of wire on the top, and the back label tells a short blurb of the gin’s history, and it’s intended audience. Overall, it’s an elegant, old-timey stylized label that fits very nicely with the past they’re connecting to.
But you don’t care what it looks like. You want to know how it tastes. Ok, fine.
Tasted neat, at room temperature, which today happens to be like 80. Ugh.
Nose: I’ve had a taste poured while I wrote the preceding paragraphs, and keep catching wafts of sweet pine. It’s not an overwhelming sensation of Pine-Sol, as I’d get from a big London Dry, but rather sweet and smooth. A more focused sniff does get the juniper pine in the nostrils, but very smooth, very refined, and a bit spicier. There’s certainly citrus in there, and a light selection of spices, though I’d be buggered to tell you exactly what they are. There’s almost a bark in there, though not quite cinnamon. Just the fact that I can notice other aromas other than the juniper makes this much more appealing to me. There’s a touch of heat from the alcohol, but again, but more subdued than it’s counterparts from across the Pond. The key words here are sweet and smooth.
Taste: Initial sensation of warmth, but not too much of a burn. Sweet, sprucy pine, spicy but not TOO piney, then lemon. There are some darker spices in there that swirl beneath the citrus, and the mouth-coating effect helps ease the alcohol burn, which is still milder than expected. It finishes with a dry sensation, but not in an alcoholic way, rather… what’s the opposite of thirst-quenching? It literally dries your mouth, and makes you thirsty for more. Again, the pine flavor lingers, though it’s a different sort of pine, spruce versus fir, dry and powdery, not sickly and fake. Christmas in a quiet New England town, rather than Times Square.
For a second taste, I dripped a few drops of cold water into the spirit, just to see if it would open up a bit more. The aroma certainly sprang forward with renewed fervor, a mixture of fresh dark evergreen and penny-candy sweetness. The citrus leapt to the forefront in the taste, though the pine was quick to follow. An even milder burn, and a strange tongue-tingling sensation, almost numbing the mouth in a pleasing way. It really does stick in your mouth, though again, not like syrup, but rather like a very small man has carefully painted the inside of your maw with it. See also, Burt Dow.
The Lady Friend had been dying for me to crack the bottle after the photography was done. She took a whiff of the sample I poured and said “Smells like juniper.” Well, yes, that’s sort of the point. It is gin after all. As she continued to sniff, she did pick up on a sweetness underneath. “Honey? Vanilla?” I then brought over a bottle of Bombay London Dry to compare aromas, which is much more of a juniper bomb than the Wire Works. She tasted the GTD bottling, and didn’t even make her customary “gin face” of furrowed brow, wrinkled nose and grimaced pout. “A world of difference from the Bombay. It still had the juniper, but with sweet notes that made it a lot more palatable.”
So, naturally, we’ve got to try this one in a cocktail. Luckily, I found this posted on GrandTen’s Facebook wall: “We sponsored the Karma Loop party last night at their HQ near the park. Lots of happy customers. The custom Wire Works Old Fashioned we were making was flying off the table.” Sounds good to me.
The Wire Works Old Fashioned
Courtesy of GrandTen Distilling. More GTD drink recipes here.
– 2 oz Wire Works American Gin
– 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– Dash of bitters (Used Fee Bros Orange)
Shake and serve on ice. I went with an Old Fashioned glass. Naturally.
The nose is very smooth and with subtle gin aromas. Light juniper with a lime citrus, much as can be expected. The taste is also… quite smooth. Nice gin piney sensation with lime tart, then gives way to the orange notes and a dry semi-bitter finish. Very nice. This is a new contender for a late summer afternoon porch drink, the new G&T. Refreshing and tasty. A big London Dry would overwhelm the sweetened lime juice, but with this milder American gin, it’s quite lovely.
The Lady Friend tried a sip and proclaimed it “Pretty good. I feel like the gin/juniper taste is dulled down in this. Maybe the lime tart and simple syrup… I like it. Very well-balanced, not too far on the gin side, not too sweet, not too tart. It’s basically a Daiquiri but with gin.”
So. Go get some Wire Works. Seriously. It’s my new go-to gin. You can find it at these places if you live in Boston. If you don’t, it’s worth the trip to grab some. Do it.
Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along. Put it to the test: send me your booze!