Above all, your humble narrator loves gin.
Sacred Gin hit my radar in London a few years ago, where the excellent history Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London upended my itinerary and sent me instead in search of Sacred Gin at Gerry’s and cocktails at Artesian, Nightjar, and Callooh Callay.
Nestled in my checked luggage, a bottle of Sacred’s London Dry survived the return voyage to California where it now holds a place of honor among my bottles. American markets don’t offer the London Dry so cocktails made from it are few and far between in my home.
Therefore, Sacred’s event at renowned gin palace Whitechapel required a pilgrimage.
Held in Whitechapel’s handsome back room, space and decibel level generally permit comfortable conversations with featured distillers and fellow attendees. Half an hour early as I was, I was lucky enough to fall into conversation with Ian, Hilary, and Rachel of Sacred almost immediately.
The Sacred crew enthusiastically forced taste after taste upon me (forced, I tell you). Though usually a proponent of their basic London dry, I came away with a far greater appreciation of their strong varietal gins. Here’s what I tasted:
- Sacred Cardamom Gin. Their varietals use the same twelve botanicals but each focuses on one flavor above the others. The Cardamom Gin is flavorful and fresh yet smoother on the palate than many “spicy” botanical-heavy gins. It was invigorating in a G&T with Fever Tree tonic and a rosemary garnish.
- Sacred Pink Grapefruit Gin. Jumping citrus flavors without the sweetness one might expect from the words “pink grapefruit.” This would absolutely work in savory applications.
- Sacred Orris Gin. Previously unfamiliar with orris on its own, my greatest touchpoint for describing this flavor is violet. Using this in an Aviation cocktail would require a downward adjustment of the Creme de Violet, I wager. To paraphrase Rachel of Sacred, it tastes like the very essence of the color purple.
- Sacred Coriander Gin. Oh, warmth! A slight nuttiness from the coriander seed with an attendant freshness.
- Sacred Rosehip Cup. Billed as a less bitter alternative to Campari, this was offered straight as well as in a Negroni variation. It offers light gentian bitterness, bold rose, and ginger (though with 27 botanicals, there’s also a great deal more at play that my palate didn’t immediately discern). Rachel recommends it with sparkling wine or soda water.
- Geranium Premium London Dry Gin. I understand that Sacred are partnering with Geranium to bring it to the States. This Copenhagen-based spirit builds geranium distillate atop a gin base for an incredibly floral drink.
- Hammer & Son Old English Gin. From the same folks as Geranium. Ian of Sacred was excited to share this one. He informed me that the heavy use of licorice root gives it a warm, earthy note without strong anise flavors. He described it – glowingly – as almost a “gasoline” tone (which I note is not uncommonly found in wines like pinotage).
My cocktail menu ended the evening somewhat annotated.
As you can see, some items evolved. The Cardamom G&T traded orange blossom for rosemary. The Negroni underwent the most changes and while I’m interested in trying the original on the menu, my opinion is that love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, and I love Negronis in all their infinite variety. This one ended up using Sacred London Dry, Sacred English Spiced Vermouth, and Sacred Rosehip Cup for a lighter, sweeter take on the traditionally bitter recipe.
One of the evening’s takeaways was this: culturally, palates differ.
For instance, I shared my favorite barrel-aged gin (St. George Reposado Rye gin) with the Sacred crew, who were very polite in response but explained that this barrel-aging of gin is an American thing and if we want to lick a barrel why not just order bourbon?
Representing the other side of the pond, the Negroni variation on the menu challenged some bitterness-loving American tongues. A gentleman (and area beer brewer) named Dan dubbed it “too sweet.”
Joyously for my mouth but grievously for my wallet, the evening clarified that I require Sacred’s varietal gins in my home, where they will join the London Dry and English Spiced Vermouth already there.
But until the London Dry hits American shelves I think that precious bottle I brought home from England will continue to be reserved for special occasions.