Vodka before, whiskey after has been my family's Christmas tradition for a long time. While I'm in the kitchen poking the prime rib (or suckling pig as the case may be), my dad is busy mixing Ketel One martinis (super dry, on the rocks, with a twist). After dinner, we'll hold informal tastings (which involve tasting sheets and blindfolds, btw) of all the various bottles of whiskey given and received as gifts earlier in the day.
Gin, on the other hand, is a relative rarity at family events, and it was a long time before I developed a taste for it. I carried a strong aversion, mostly fueled by a few bad run-ins with the cheap stuff in college (we all had those, didn't we?), for a long time feeling like sipping on gin was akin to chugging perfume. Only once I started drinking it the way it's supposed to be drunk—that is, well chilled and well diluted—did the "oh, I get it" lightbulb snap on in my brain. Then, a few weeks ago, I attended a cocktail dinner hosted at Blue Hill Stone Barn and tasted a new spirit that might forever change our holiday ritual.
Nolet's Silver Dry Gin is made by the Nolet family, who own the oldest distillery in the Netherlands, where the family has been making genever—the Dutch ancestor to modern gin—since 1691. These days they're most well known for their vodka, the same Ketel One that my dad favors in his martinis. Getting back into the gin business is a good move for them, and their new product, at $50 a bottle, is geared towards a decidedly high end market.
Unlike traditional gins, which tend to be very juniper-forward, with a range of botanicals that emphasize its piney, spruce-like aroma, Nolet's is much softer, mellower, and more floral. Sure, a few of the usual suspects make an appearance—juniper, licorice, orris root—but they're tempered by rose, peaches, and raspberries. Unusual, but it really works. What Hendrick's did for gin and cucumbers, Nolet's has done for gin and stone fruit—and they do it better, in my opinion.
In fact, when it first enters your mouth, you'd be hard pressed to find the juniper at all, instead smelling mostly ripe berries, stone fruit, and flower shop aromas that develop into rounder, creamier flavors on the palate. Only as it's going down do you catch the distinct piney whiff of juniper. It's just enough to remind that you yeah, you're drinking gin. At almost 48% alcohol, it's hotter than most gins, but it goes down as smooth as you could wish for (and it'd better, for that price)
We're not the only ones who think so, as a quick internet search shows that many are calling it the new face of gin. My dad and I are excited to see what it can bring to the martini, and I can't wait to see what bartenders will be doing with it.
Nolet's is already available in most states and retails for $50 (press samples provided for review). Check out their website for details on where you can find it.