Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hendrick's Gin: An Evening With A Most Unusual Gin

"From the warmth of our little distillery in the deepest corner of Scotland, we create a gin that really is like no other. Its distinctive taste comes from the unusual way we make it - no other gin both steams and bathes its botanicals and no other gin would dare add cucumber and rose petal essences. It may not be to everyone's liking, but it does have a following amongst the most vanguard of gin drinkers."

Lesley Gracie, the master distiller behind each and every limited batch of Hendrick's Gin, sum it all up in describing "a most unusual gin." From the dark apothecary-style bottle and its classic typography reminiscent of the Victorian era, the intricate and meticulous distillation process, the infusion of cucumber and rose petal essences and the wide range of botanicals (fruits, seeds, flowers and roots), to the distinct and smooth aroma and finish of each sip, Hendricks's Gin is truly in a class of its own. And one night at The Fairmont Makati, I got to experience first-hand just what makes Hendrick's Gin a most unusual gin...

Defined as a "Distilled Gin" by the European Union, Hendrick's Gin is noted for a few unusual twists in its curious formulation. Only Hendrick's Gin is made with infusions of cucumber and rose petal essences producing a unique and refreshing flavor with a floral aroma. Distilled in the rustic seaside town of Girvan in Scotland, the family-owned distillery sources the freshest pure soft water from the local Penwhapple reservoir. Each batch of Hendrick's Gin is a blend of spirits from both a Carter-Head and a Bennett Still, vintage copper pot stills, where the various botanicals are boiled for a depth in flavor, and gently bathed in vapor for an incredibly smooth gin with balanced and subtle flavors. The premium botanicals, a total of eleven botanicals from flowers, roots, fruits, and seeds are selected and sourced from around the world. Produced in limited and miniscule batches of only 450 litres at a time, allowing the master distiller, Lesley Gracie, full and total control in each step of the distillation process.

The base of all gins start with the Juniper Berry, a type of soft pine cone from the Cypress family, with its lavender and herbal hints. The juniper berry base is then enriched with orange peels for citrus and acidic notes, lemon peels for fruity hints, cubeb berries with its floral and spicy flavors, coriander seeds with its spicy and ginger layers of flavors, caraway seeds with its unique liquorice and floral notes, angelica root with its warm and earthy tones, orris root with its pungent and musky notes, chamomile for a layer of floral sweetness, elderflowers for herbal and floral layers, meadowsweet for sweet fragrance, cucumbers for that distinct and refreshing herbal and floral notes, and Bulgarian Rosa Damascena rose petals for a subtle and fragrant finish. The complex blend of flavors is intricately balanced by the master distiller in a complex distillation process unique to Hendrick's Gin. And as you open the distinct bottle of Hendrick's Gin, a flowery and fragrant bouquet is released. And it's time to taste this most unusual of gins in a series of handcrafted cocktails...

William Grant & Sons' Regional Portfolio Brand Ambassador, Zachary Connor de Git,  prepares a trio of specialty cocktails made even more special with Hendrick's Gin. Each cocktail highlights the unique flavor profile of Hendrick's Gin, as well as the versatility and range with various cocktail concoctions. 

Rows of glasses filled with clean, clear and crisp Hendrick's Gin are then given the final touches, with the distinct cucumber garnishes.

My experience with the world's most unusual gin starts with a refreshing tall glass of Hendrick's & Tonic, with 60 ml Hendricks Gin topped with tonic water, finished with a swirl of thinly sliced cucumber. The flavors are fresh and crisp, with a subtle hint of sweetness from the cucumber and rose petal infusion as well as the diverse blend of botanicals. The light sweetness plays well in a tonic-based cocktail, and the cucumber adds that unique layer of fresh floral notes, almost like a hint of sweet melon, to the cocktail. One sip, and you'll never go back to the usual gin & tonic. Not without Hendrick's Gin. And a long slice of fresh cucumber.

After a few more rounds of Hendrick's & Tonic, dinner was then served. The Fairmont Makati's first course, Smoked Tomato Soup, a hearty and comforting basil and cheddar cheese souffle with rich and thick tomato soup, bold flavors perfectly contrasted by the clean and crisp Hendrick's & Tonic. Though we were told that the dinner was not a formal pairing with Hendrick's Gin, it just seemed to work. And I go for yet another round of Hendrick's & Tonic.

Brand Ambassador Zachary Connor de Git then serves his second cocktail, Cucumber & Martini, with 40 ml of Hendrick's Gin and 20 ml dry vermouth, garnished with a thin strip of refreshing cucumber for that distinct sweetness. A more potent cocktail with a little more punch, balanced by the subtle sweetness of Hendrick's Gin and the fresh cucumber. The pure and crisp flavors of the gin are more pronounced, and the subtle layers of fruity and floral notes from the various botanicals add depth and flavor in every sip.

The main course was then served, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Onion Confit, in red wine reduction on mustard mashed potatoes with glazed carrots. Fork tender with robust flavors, a perfect match with another round of Cucumber & Martini. The clean flavors of Hendrick's Gin cleanses the palate as you go for another bite. And another sip.

More glasses, and more Hendrick's Gin. And one can imagine the source of the pure soft water from the seaside town of Girvan in Scotland in every glass filled with clean, clear, and crisp Hendrick's Gin.

For dessert, the Fairmont Makati's Apple and Cinnamon Crumble with vanilla sauce was served to cap the simple yet elegant three-course dinner with Hendrick's Gin.

The refreshingly sweet Ayrshire Twinkle, a smooth blend of Hendrick's Gin and sparkling wine, garnished with a rose petal, complements the dessert. My Hendrick's Gin experience was an eye-opener of sorts. Who knew a fresh cucumber garnish, which initially looked strange on a glass, would taste so good? And the versatility of Hendrick's Gin for a variety of different cocktails. And Hendrick's Gin, with its clean and fresh flavors with just a whisper of sweetness from the meticulous blend of botanicals. Unusual? Definitely different. And refreshingly good. So good, you'll want to go a few more rounds.

After Hendrick's Gin, my usual gin & tonic will never be the same. Unless it's Hendrick's Gin. Garnished with a thin, long strip of fresh cucumber. One more round? Absolutely.

William Grant & Sons is an award-winning independent family-owned distiller founded by William Grant in 1886 and today still controlled by his direct descendants. The company distills some of the world's leading brands of Scotch whisky, including the world's favorite single malt Glenfiddich, the handcrafted range of The Balvenie single malts and Grant's blended whisky, as well as selected other spirits, including Sailor Jerry, Monkey Shoulder and Reyka Vodka.

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