A Californian entry to the upscale gin market with a lot of hype behind it.
Review D. George Benham’s Sonoma Dry Gin
Made in: Graton, CA by Graton Distillery.
45% alcohol/90 proof
Botanicals 12: Juniper, mint, Meyer Lemon, peppermint, vanilla, grains of paradise, angelica, coriander, cardamom, orris root, Buddha’s hand (a multi-fingered citrus fruit), and camomile.
After reading about this gin for a while I was pretty excited to try it. It came in one of my first orders of gin during the quarantine period.
The first thing you notice about this gin is the bottle, and in truth, I don’t mean that as a good thing. It’s a jarring with stripes and changes in coloration that make it look like it was pasted together as a ransom note made from strips of magazine ads - some quite badly cut (especially if you see it from the side and from behind). While that makes it stand out, it’s not so much in a good way. Yet certainly I thought it’s what’s in the bottle that matters.
Benham’s bills this as a one of a kind gin, and honestly that’s a pretty good thing. It’s won a few gold medals, and to be fair I thought I’d rather enjoy it. Sadly after tasting my feeling is it’s far more hype than substance.
One thing I always judge a gin by is how well it drinks by itself (actually on the rocks) - a sipping gin in other words. And on that I have mixed feelings about it. There are some things I like about the gin, especially it's silky mouthfeel, but in terms of flavors there is something that rubs me very much the wrong way, especially in terms of the astringency of the gin - it's not quite refined enough, and flavors that taste disjointed.
And I think that’s the botanical mixture itself. It’s more of a muddle than a celebration of the flavors that are mixed together here. While there is a certain crispness, it’s moderately harsh, and fails to let any flavors truly shine through. The citrus falls a bit flat, you can taste whiffs of the vanilla, angelica, and grains of paradise and the slight lingering taste of the peppermint and cinnamon are present, but they fail to work well in concert.
Oddly enough it feels a bit like a dirty martini with a hint of olive taste.
While I know this gin has gotten a lot of good press, and has a bevy of fans, but unfortunately I think there is a lot more hype than substance here. This is a solid gin but in this modern market hardly, a great one, or even a standout.
This may well be a good mixing gin, but it’s not a great sipping gin, it’s just too astringent, that’s a strike against it. But as a mixer it should pair well with a mediterranean style tonic to make a fairly good gin and tonic (it was poor with a more Indian style traditional tonic water), but I’d hesitate to say it was more than fairly good.
In terms of other classic drinks I can’t say that this is the right gin. It was best in a Tom Collins and decent enough in a cajun martini. It failed to do much for me in a classic martini (as it surprised me with a strong licorice flavor that reminded me more of ouzo or arrack) , or negroni.
spice 4/5 Loud, but muddled
Overall rating: 72. Different but average at best - I’d call it nothing special. For less money (average price is about $38) you can find much better - and had this been less expensive I might have rated this one better.
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.