A Kiwi take on gin.
Review: Reid and Reid Native Gin
Made in: Martinborough, South Wairarapa, New Zealand by Reid Brothers Distilling Ltd.
Method: small batch copper pot still
42% alcohol/84 proof
Botanicals 13: juniper, angelica, coriander, cassia bark, orris root, orange, fennel, licorice, nutmeg, cardamom, horopito, manuka, and kawakawa
Style: Modern Gin
Note: This review is for a bottle from batch number 97
Now I can’t say I know a lot about this gin, as I received it as a very nice gift, and their website isn’t exactly overflowing with information, but when I tasted this gin I knew immediately that I wanted to review it.
It’s a New Zealand made gin (the first I’ve ever reviewed) and it’s something quite different. While it has a strong background that makes you think a bit of the classic London Dry flavor profile, it’s got some legs that are distinctly unique. It is one of those rare gins that truly transports your palate to somewhere else on the globe.
But before we get to that let’s talk about the distillers - brothers Stew and Chris Reid (Clever how they picked their name eh?) with a background in wine making and engineering who decided to try to make a distinctly New Zealand gin using local botanicals. They started with a good base of classic botanicals and tasted their way across the country to find unique, but harmonious flavors they could use in the gin.
In the end they decided on three manuka, kawakawa, and horopito. If you know the name manuka you probably think first of honey, as the honey is probably the most famous product of the flowering shrub-like tree, which is also known as a tea tree (and not surprisingly you can make a tea from it’s leaves, though it is somewhat medicinal).
Horopito, or the mountain pepper tree, is one of the oldest known tree species dating back over 65 million years. Its leaves have a huge amount of volatile oils, and a very strong peppery taste, so much so that the plant itself is pretty much unpalatable - but those oils, seem made for spirit making, as well as for their medicinal properties..
Kawakawa is a herbaceous shrub which produces a sweet orange colored berry and black peppery, bitter seeds. Both parts are used for flavorings in food in moderation. Too much and you might get a bit of a laxative effect (happily I can report that I found no such trait in this gin!!)
Lastly there is something else pretty unique about this gin - the base spirit is derived from whey, a product left over from milk, typically in the cheesemaking process. While there are a handful of spirits being made from whey, I don’t think there are many gins using it today.
So what does it all taste like together? Let’s go inside the bottle.
This is delightful as a sipping gin, though it has a bitter and almost medicinal opening that certainly won’t appeal to everyone but is countered by a slight sweetness that helps it balance out. What heat there is here can be attributed as much to the botanical bill as they can be to the ethanol of the gin. The flavors are bold, and forceful on the tongue, this is not a subtle drink, although you will taste plenty of layers in this.
Scentwise you get some floral lemon and orange blossom, juniper, bitter lemon zest, angelica and a very small whiff of fennel. I certainly found this very appealing.
The initial sip has a medicinal bitter aspect to the taste that vaguely reminds me of Fernet Branca, but it’s very complex too. There are a lot of different citrus notes - bitter zest, gentle verbena, and sweet fruit, followed by a herbal bomb with juniper, burnt orange, cardamom, and licorice all coming out to play one after another in layers. It finishes with well balanced ginger, and warming traces of nutmeg and cinnamon at the tail end.
On the tongue the gin has a lovely silk viscous nature that coats the mouth and lingers for a long time before dissipating. It’s rather nice.
While the backbone is traditional here the taste is very herbal with flavors that make me think of spirits like amaro. That suggests it will handle complex mixed drinks very well.
In a traditional G & T I found that Native gin certainly held its own. Mixed with Regatta dry tonic it meshed very well, and produced what was largely a classic tasting gin and tonic but with some herbal undertones, mostly pepper, that really worked well in the tonic. Chalk it up as winner in this category.
As a martini gin I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised, extremely so in fact. I was thinking the herbal nature of the gin would not work well in a classic dry martini. In that I was dead wrong. Not only did the gin balance well with the vermouth but it made for a superior cocktail that I’ll happily make again and again until the bottle runs dry (not all in the same day, or even week thank you). But I think this was the strongest category for the gin.
There were three drinks I debated trying this with, the Aviation, the Southside and the Negroni. However I was severely lacking in fresh mint (my hydroponic garden has been struggling with mint lately) so I decided to try the other two. I found it good but not exceptional in either. The strong flavors of the other ingredients overwhelmed the more unique flavors of Native gin. That said - I think this gin would do well in a Corpse Reviver #2 or a French 75.
For those looking for strong, complex gins with a lot of flavor where you can really taste the botanical blend this gin is a clear winner and one worth having around for your martinis, G&Ts and for just enjoying neat. That said it’s I think the almost medicinal notes of some of the unique botanicals will scare away the more casual drinker.
This is not a good gateway gin for those who don’t really like gin, and while it’s a good mixing gin, it’s best in martinis.
Rating (Sipping): 88 - While I liked it a lot I think there is a hint of medicinal bitters that will be a bit much for the average sipper.
Rating (Mixing) 87 - If I were just judging on martinis I’d have given this one a low 90s score, and I’d happily make some gin and tonics with it as well. It’s a good mixer, but not quite an exceptional one.
Overall rating: 88 - If you like classic martinis, and like the taste of a good bitter liqueur you’ll really like this one. I’m not sure however that the masses will appreciate it quite as much.
What you need to know about 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.