Juniper Jones Earl Grey Gin Review
Aged in tea barrels
Review: Juniper Jones Earl Grey Gin
Made in: Denver Colorado by The Family Jones
Base: Winter wheat
48.5 alcohol/97 proof
Botanicals : Juniper, coriander, orris root, cucumber, cocoa nibs, dill, earl grey tea, charred American oak.
Style: Barrel aged gin
Now I love my trips out to Denver. It’s a city full of distilleries, breweries and locally made and sourced spirits. On my last trip I managed to find the time to hit three local distilleries that have been on my radar for a long time - Leopold Brothers, Deviation, and the Family Jones. Every one of them makes several varieties of gin and was determined to taste my way through them, as well as manage to bring home some bottles for review.
As I just mentioned one of the distilleries on my list was the Family Jones, who produce three different gins - their Jones House Gin, which is by far the most traditional, a gin called Juniper Jones, which the server was essentially meant to be a gin made for people who don’t really like gin. It is a very solid offering and fits well into the modern gin category, but the gin I’m reviewing is the last one. The Juniper Jones Earl Grey Gin
I have to admit that picking this gin to review was sort of random, I actually already managed to acquire the bottle before I made it to the distillery. That’s because it caught my eye, both for being barrel aged and for the Earl Grey tea flavor. Now I’ve reviewed and tried a few gins using black tea as a key ingredient including Empress 1906, Corgi Earl Grey Gin, and Jin JiJi , all of whom use black tea with varying degrees of forwardness of that ingredient. But of all of those none is quite as tea-like as the Juniper Jones Earl Grey (though the Corgi is not far of the mark)
The difference is that the tea itself is not a botanical in the sense that it was distilled into the gin, but rather that the Family Jones created this gin by aging regular Juniper Jones gin in bourbon barrels, which afterwards had been used first to store Earl Grey tea by the Colorado based tea company Teakoe. The final product bears flavors not just from the bourbon barrels but from the essence of the tea that had impregnated the wood of the barrels.
Thus the barrel added not just the notes of oak and char, but of the tea.
So what’s in the bottle? Let’s find out.
First impression of the gin (on the rocks) : good bourbon notes but softer than found in most barrel aged gins. There is plenty of intrinsic sweetness, along with sensuous, soft notes of orange, with a mellow and luxurious mouth feel. It definitely has some seductive qualities.
The aroma of this gin is very true to Earl Grey tea. It smells like tea, with strong floral notes and the notes of bergamot/citrus you associate with quality Earl Grey tea, along with a very faint whiff of juniper adding a subtle pine note to the aroma.
In terms of flavor look for the juniper in the finish, and a gentle finish it is. The gin leads with its bergamot base - soft sweet orange, countered by a pleasant bitterness that keeps the orange from being overwhelming - likely from the cocoa nibs. You can taste fine floral notes from the tea as well as a slight taste of honey here, and a coolness that you feel rather than taste which I associate with the cucumber used in distilling. The finish takes that cucumber, juniper and a bit more herbal nature to a nice lingering finish.
Cool and viscous the mouthfeel of the gin is very silky.
Barrel aged gins. are not the most mixable gins when it comes to classic cocktails. They tend to do well in places where they can substitute for brown spirits. In this case I found the Juniper Jones Earl Grey did a bit better than most.
The first thing I tried this gin in was a Gin and Tonic mixing it with Fever Tree light Indian style tonic and a wedge of lime. This was the only place I felt the gin fell totally flat. It wasn’t sharp enough to stand up to the tonic, and the intrinsic sweetness of the gin when combined with the tonic, gave it more of an Irish whiskey and soda sort of flavor profile than that of a gin and tonic. The problem was that it wasn’t a very good whiskey and soda substitute either. I’d definitely give this a pass with tonic, although it might go fairly well with soda water.
Now in a martini this gin popped well. Definitely not classic, but interesting and quite good. I used a 6:1 ratio with Dolan here to create a fairly dry martini. I liked the notes of tea and the vermouth made the bergamot stand up. There are definitely some notes of sweetness here, but a good martini olive helped balance it out - and I suspect a lime wedge would work nicely too. For those who like a bit more sweetness garnishing it with a cocktail cherry would probably make you very happy.
So in something more complex I figured to play to the strengths of this gin - using it’s brown liquor-like qualities to find some drinks where it plays nicely. The winners in my book were a Gin Old Fashioned (although you did need to dial back the simple syrup by about half) and the Martinez - although again you had to dial back the sweetness. Due to its strong tea essence I think this would be an excellent replacement spirit in a hot toddy too.
I found this gin a bit confounding. It’s quite a niche gin, in that it is the single most tea-like gin I’ve ever tried, and that comes through as it shares dominance with the bourbon-like characteristic I expect from a barrel aged gin. That is not a criticism but an interesting fact.
This definitely has a place in cocktail making, and as a very good sipping gin. That said it has limitations and will require a skilled hand to mix well - as the citrus notes, and floral qualities of the Earl Grey tea won’t work with every cocktail and will require some adjustments to sweetness. But due to its nature it should go well with almost any drink that could be made with brown spirits, although you will find it softer than many other barrel aged gins - which can be a plus or a minus depending on the drink being created.
spice: 1 of 5
Herbal: 4 of 5 due to the nature of the tea
Juniper: 1 of 5
Floral: 2 of 5
Citrus; 4 of 5
Heat: 1 of 5
Rating (Sipping): 88 - A very solid sipping gin with a lot less harshness than many other similar gins. Something about this is very seductive - and it works well for those who don’t love gin.
Rating (Mixing): 83 - I’d like to give it a higher rating but while it’s a good gin for mixing, it is not at all a gin in the traditional flavor sense, and just doesn’t mix well in certain essential drinks like the gin and tonic. Use it in place of bourbon though with a steady hand and I don’t think it will disappoint.
Overall rating: 85: Quite a good barrel aged gin with strong Earl Grey tea flavors.
What you need to know about my reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.