There’s a lesson somewhere within my review below, for you young distillers out there. I’ll let you try to suss it out on your own, but (*hint, hint*), a higher ABV is not necessarily a good thing.
Anyway, let’s get on to the competition – and for two weeks in a row, I’ve agreed with you the readers. Tanqueray? I’m not a fan. It turns out, you guys aren’t either. I’ve updated both my bracket and yours to reflect these choices.
My quick review?
Tanqueray: Strong in the alcohol, and strong juniper notes, with only a smallest hint of citrus beneath it all.
Leopold Bros.: Warm yet light. A solid cardomon taste, with the juniper more in a supporting role here, and the citrus sitting below all of it, supporting all of it.
Okay, I lied. I’m not going to let you suss it out as much as tell you directly. A strong alcohol presence can work. We see this in whiskeys all of the time where the flavors work with the alcohol. But there is a point where you can have too much, especially if there’s no flavor in support of it. Sitting at 94.6 proof (47.3% ABV), Tanqueray has to bring something bold to get over the numbing effects of the alcohol. But all they seem to bring is the standard juniper flavoring. Everything else sort of gets lost in the buzz and burn of the spirit. When you’re big on alcohol, nuance is not your friend.
Leopold’s Gin, working at only 40% ABV has a little more breathing room to do something interesting and, yes, ends up with a bit of nuance. The cardomon flavoring works here, in part because, yes, it’s a strong spice, but also because the makers of Leopold’s give it space. This is one aspect of what is called balance.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years of tasting/judging, beer, whiskey, and otherwise: There are those who simply follow a recipe and settle for good enough, and there are those who work at perfecting their product. When the products of these two philosophies go head to head, the latter almost always stands out. Leopold Bros. is a perfect example of that when compared against the likes of Tanqueray.