And Into the Weekend
If you figured I'd be sick of drinking Four Pillars gin after months of consumption and a week full of promotional parties and tastings, you'd be underestimating my love of gin. I'm genetically predisposed to this thirst. My grandmother was a bartender famous for her gin martinis. She passed that juniper-mutated DNA to my mother. My mother passed it to me. If had to choose between gin and whisky it wouldn't even be close. I will always choose drinking over sipping, which is part of the reason I love the new gin renaissance we're currently living in. As my colleague Gary Westby always says to me: "I have plenty of open whisky bottles at home. I have very few open bottles of gin." His point being that the gin gets drunk once it's been opened. It doesn't sit there for years as he slowly decides which bottle to pour from every once and a while. Before Stuart Gregor left the Donato gin and tonic party Friday night he handed me a box, within which were several other gins Four Pillars had created that were either seasonal or one-off editions. I've been tasting them all day, eagerly anticipating the unique flavors of each one while peeling back the seal. Like I've written before, Four Pillars only makes gin. But they make a lot of gin.
I have mixed feelings about today's incredibly cluttered alcohol market (see my two part piece on saturation here). When it comes to whisky, I'm not a fan of the current fascination for limited edition expressions. What was meant to add enjoyment and build loyalty towards the market's core brands has now become the sole focus. The exception has become the rule. But in the case of expensive whisky part of the problem has to do with the actual consumption. I don't think many folks are actually drinking their boutique whisky anymore. They're securing limited allocations, hoarding their acquisitions, and treating the bottles like comic book collections. The scarcity and potential value of the edition is almost more important than the flavor. In the case of craft beer, however, I'm less worried. Beer will eventually get drunk because it won't keep like whisky. Seasonal and single batches may be sensationalized, but at least they'll be consumed in a relatively high volume. Gin, to me, is no different. If I were really in the mood, I could probably clean out a bottle of gin over the course of a weekend by myself. If I'm with friends, then within a single evening—no doubt. I'm in constant need of more gin. Personally, I need another bottle of whisky like I need a hole in my head. I already have dozens of bottles that are three-quarters full. The last thing I need is another expensive limited edition weighing down my overcrowded bar. I need interesting spirits that I will consume quickly. That's what the expanded market for gin and beer have in common: rapid consumption.
So while Four Pillars is currently only releasing their Rare Dry (which is easily the best one, so don't fret) and Navy Strength editions to the American public, they are indeed capable of much, much more, as is evident from my patio table. Each label gives you a description of the edition as well, complete with batch numbers, the name of which of the two stills it was created on, and the breakdown of botanicals. In another nod to the craft beer movement, they even have a collaborative gin—the "Distiller's Series: Cousin Vera's gin—made in conjunction with Santamanía distillery in Madrid. It uses both Spanish and Australian botanicals and a base of neutral brandy base distilled from Spanish tempranillo. They have a Spiced Negroni gin from their "Bartender Series" made specifically for that one single cocktail. They have another "Bartender Series" gin created exclusively for Quantas Air that uses green Szechuan, quandong, macadamia nuts, and apples. Again, Four Pillars is not making vodka. They're not making whisky. They're not trying to find themselves or pander to the many desires of the public. They make gin. Really good gin. I love gin. Hence, I love Four Pillars.
So I'm sitting on the patio. I've got the paper. I've got tonic. I've got seven different bottles of gin to play with. They'll all be empty before June is over and then I'll be back for more. Gin is meant to be drunk. It's meant to be consumed cold, quickly, and in high volumes. It's for that reason that I'm always in search of more gin. What I'm currently not interested in are gins being made by distilleries who really want to make whisky, but need something to sell in the meantime. What I am interested in are people who want to do one thing and do that one thing really well. Whether it's making wooden spoons, patent leather shoes, or gin, I believe in expertise. I believe in utilizing that expertise to make something really great—something beyond simply passable. I also believe that expertise should be the main focus of your portfolio.
In the case of Four Pillars, the Rare Dry gin is the star. The one you can get. The one that anyone can buy whenever they want. The exceptions are a fun and interesting supplement for people like me who want more, but they are not the rule.