I have in hand a gin and tonic. It is odd.
It’s strong, but that’s not odd, because I don’t drink gin and tonic because I like tonic water. (I drink them to keep away malaria.) What’s a bit odd is that aside from its usual junipery goodness it smells like roses.
What’s very odd is that while smelling like roses it tastes vaguely like cucumber.
It’s Hendricks Gin, and it’s one of a few particularly peculiar gins that I’ve wanted to try lately. It’s around the same price as your favorite premium gin, provided that your favorite costs about $40 for a bottle, but it’s very much unlike any other gin I’ve tried. The base flavor reminds me of the stronger premium gins, like Tanqueray Ten (and not like Sapphire at all), with enough rose petal and cucumber to make you aware that it tastes different but not so much that it tastes like you are eating a cucumber — although they do recommend garnishing a Hendricks martini with a slice of cucumber rather than an olive.
According to their website, they also use an unusual distillation method, a Carter still, of which there are four in the world, none of which are Googleable. But I have no reason to doubt them. I couldn’t tell you what Carter-distilled gin tastes like, though. The cucumber and rose is enough to make it hard to pick out subtleties of distillation technique. As if this weren’t all strange enough, it’s a product of Scotland. It comes in a brown-glass bottle with a cork closure that wouldn’t look out of place on the shelves of an apothecary. The back label warns: It is not for everyone.
If you’re a fan of flavorful gin, I can’t think of a better fit with summer than a bit of cucumber. There’s no reason for it to be more refreshing, since it’s still just liquid gin, but it manages to trigger the refreshing-cucumber memory anyhow.
I suppose this all depends on whether or not you like cucumber. I might still toss in an olive occasionally for old time’s sake, though.
(On the subject of unusual gins: have any of you tried Old Raj? It’s a boutique gin like Hendricks, but with saffron in the botanicals. I’m intrigued but not convinced, and it’s not like you can find this stuff stocked in bars.)