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Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin

Review: Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin (Slate Riesling Infused)   87/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 21, 2016

Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin is produced at the Avadis Distillery in Wincheringen in the tri-border region of Germany, near the border of Luxembourg and France. This is wine growing country, especially famous for the semi-sweet Riesling dinner wines which, when I was a youngster, seemed to be present at every wedding I attended and almost all major occasions. It is not surprising then, that Master Distiller, Andreas Vallendar has chosen to infuse his dry gin with Slate Reisling Wine.

The gin draws its name from Royal Prussian District Forester, Ferdinand Geltz who was the historical co-founder of the VDP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer growers’ group. Within its recipe are 30 botanicals, all of which have apparently been hand-picked either by the distillery staff or by the producer from which the botanicals have been acquired. (Directly behind the distillery are quince trees; lavender grows in the fallow vineyards; and lemon-scented thyme is grown in the Distillery’s own garden.) And, as mentioned earlier, topping everything off is the wine infusion which uses hand selected harvest wines from the large Saarburger Rausch vineyard site.

Although my sample bottle did not include it, many bottles arrive with a periodic table which list all 30 botanicals as well as the grape varietal. It would be too tedious to name all of the botanicals, however the Ferdinand’s Gin Website makes special note of the basic ingredient of juniper, and other regional ingredients such as sloe, rosehip, angelica, hop blossom and rose.  Exotic botanicals such as almond shell, coriander and ginger, are also used.

Ferdinand'sIn the Bottle 4.5/5

I snapped a picture of my Gin bottle out on my snow-covered deck. The bottle has an old-fashioned look to it with a simple front label. As you can see, the gin is corked flush with the mouth of the bottle requiring you to use a cork screw to open it.  I personally would have preferred a T-style cork topper which would make opening the bottle much easier. Not shown was the awesome tissue wrap which protected the bottle when I received it which made the initial reveal of the bottle quite exciting as I unwrapped the bottle like a precious gift. The back of he bottle includes some important information about the gin including the fact that it is pot distilled in small batches. My bottle comes from batch 002 and if I am reading the back of the bottle correctly is surprisingly a 2010 vintage.

In the Glass 8.5/10

I found that it was best to allow the gin to breath for a few moments before I began to enjoy myself. The reason is that the spirit has a firm olfactory push when first opened as all of those botanicals (and the Riesling grape) seem to want to rush out at once to greet you. This initial rush is very floral and fruity, and perhaps a little daunting for one expecting a more traditional juniper nose.

Once the gin rests in the glass, the familiar piny juniper aroma comes forward and begins to dominate the breezes above the glass as it should. There is a hint of fermentation in the air (touch of grape-like sourness) from the Riesling wine which acts as a nice accent upon the juniper. The floral notes do not vanish as impressions of perfume-like blue iris and rose-water, as well as more subtle notes of lilac and lavender remain in the breezes with the juniper. There is also a firm citrus impression which reminds me of both orange peel and orange liqueur. There also seems to be just a touch of grassy herbaceousness with notes resembling lemon balsam with touches of heather and mojito mint which add a soothing quality to the aroma. A light spiciness with impressions of cardamom and ginger is hinted at promising to liven the palate when we take a sip.

I like the overall aroma and I could enjoyment just sitting back and nosing the glass. My only wayward thought is that I am hoping that the floral perfume-like scents which accompany the juniper do not seek to devour it when I take a sip.

In the Mouth 52.5/60

The predominant juniper flavour is subdued slightly in the delivery as the floral flavours reminiscent of iris, rose petal and lavender take the lead. Bits of lemongrass and menthol cool the palate slightly, and then citrus flavours of lemon and lime (with a touch of orange) come along in behind. The juniper although subdued is not devoured (it is just dampened slightly allowing the other elements to shine). As far as style goes, this gin has it in spades; however the hardened traditionalist may be yearning for a stronger push of the spruce and pine.

There is a light ginger and cardamom spiciness which comes though at the end which bodes well for cocktails, although finding a suitable foil for the firm floral flavours is a bit of a challenge. The gin seems more suited to Martinis than to the Gimlet or the Tom Collins. After giving everything a little thought, I mix a Vesper-style cocktail, and I decide that this serving which reins in the floral style just a little may the strongest path to follow if you choose to serve bar drinks. (See recipe below)

In the Throat 13/15

The finish is dry and slightly bitter with the juniper re-appearing complimented by an ebbing spiciness which is appealing. I find myself wondering if perhaps the Ferdinand’s Dry Gin may not make a nice aperitif to be consumed just before (or just after) an evening meal.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin (Slate Riesling Infused) is an artisan spirit produced to give the consumer a new twist upon a traditional style. The path the gin has taken is a more floral and fruit-filled path; however the path of juniper is close-by and not forgotten. Fortunately the spirit does not stray so far such that the traditional flavours the gin enthusiast craves are lost. It does go far enough though that the experience has a new sense of wonderment.

The gin does not mix easily into some of my favoured traditional cocktails such as the Gimlet or the Tom Collins, it does however work very well in Martinis and Vespers. It does also (after having done further examination) serve well as an evening aperitif just as I had suspected.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Grapeshot MartiniGrapeshot Martini

1 oz Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin
1 oz Belvedere Vodka
1/6 oz Stock Vermouth
Green Grape

Place a green grape in the freezer 2 hours before serving
Chill your Martini Glass
Slice the semi frozen grape in half and place it in the chilled glass
Add Gin, the Vodka and Vermouth into a metal shaker with lots of ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker are frosted
Double strain into the chilled martini glass

Of course, you should enjoy responsibly!

If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing spirit.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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