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No. 209 Gin

Review: No. 209 Gin     (81/100)
by Chip Dykstra (AKA the Rum Howler)
Published February 17, 2015

No. 209 Gin is produced by a company called Distillery No. 209 who is apparently located on the waterfront on San Francisco’s Pier 50. Their gin is produced from a four times distilled (multi-column distillation) corn-based spirit. Although the main flavour of any gin must be juniper, the company uses a variety of botanicals (some of which they are quite secretive about) in the gin’s construction. Some of the major botanicals which the company does identify along with juniper are bergamot orange, lemon peel, cardamom pods, cassia bark, angelica root and coriander seeds.

All of the botanicals are macerated overnight within the corn-based distillate, and the resulting infused alcohol is then distilled a fifth time upon a Copper pot Forsythe still. This final distillation takes about 11 hours, with the head and tails of the distillation discarded and only the heart captured as No. 209 gin. The final spirit (according to my bottle) is bottled at 92 proof or 46 per cent alcohol by volume.

209 Gin SAM_1426In the Bottle 4.5/5

No. 209 Gin arrives in the medium-tall bottle shown to the left. It has a rectangular shape which is wide at the shoulders and tapers slightly to the bottom. This tapering of the bottle actually serves an ergonomic function making the bottle easier to grip especially if you chill your gin in the fridge or freezer before serving.

No. 209 is embossed upon the front of the bottle, and a crest of sorts is embossed upon the back. Labeling on the front of the bottle includes a circular window which is placed such that it sits around the crest design near the bottom of the bottle. The long screw cap doubles as a  jigger which is handy if you happen to make a cocktail and have misplaced you own measuring device.

In the Glass 8/10

The gin is colourless, and when I pour a little sample into my glencairn and give the spirit a slow tilt and turn, I notice that the crest of gin releases small droplets which deposit slender slightly thickened legs down the side of the glass.

The breezes above the glass initially reveal a lightly sweetened aroma which carries impressions of lemon balsam and orange peel citrus with deeper richer notes of juniper developing over time. There seems to be a hint of spiciness in the air which reminds me of ginger, coriander and cardamom. I notice that the spiciness builds over time, and a bit of alcohol astringency seems to have crept in as well. In a spirit which is bottled at 46 % alcohol by volume, the astringency I note is not completely unexpected especially in a mixing spirit.

In the Mouth 49/60

When I take my first sip of the No. 209, I notice that the spirit begins its traverse across the palate with a lightly sweet citrus flavour which carries impressions of both lemon and orange liqueur, and of lightly sweet corn. This sweetness is followed very quickly by the light earthy bitterness of angelica root and a soft piny juniper which is quite pleasant. By the time the spirit reaches the back of the palate, a pungent spiciness has built up within the spirit which carries firm impressions of coriander, ginger, and cardamom.

As I continue to sip, I notice that running through the flavour profile are obvious dark licorice impressions, and some hints of cinnamon. The underlying juniper (which is supposed to be the backbone of the spirit) seems now to struggle to be noticed after only a few sips, and the spiciness of coriander, ginger and cardamom have become dominant. In fact, the juniper seems to behave more as an accent upon the pungent spiciness of the gin rather than as the spirit’s main attraction (as juniper should be).

I found the overt spiciness of the No. 209 Gin combined with its high alcohol content made the spirit hard to sip. As a result I decided it was time to reach for my cocktail shaker. After all, gin is not usually a sipping spirit, and I suspected that the spiciness I encountered will work very well in a nice tall bar drink. The delicious Collins style cocktail I constructed proved me right (see recipe below).

In the Throat 11.5/15

The finish reveals more spice, but also more than a hint of medicinal sharpness. This spirit may have been five times distilled; but the heart of that fifth distillation seems to have been captured from a rather wide swath.

The Afterburn 8/10

The No. 209 Gin seems to be a spirit which follows a recent American trend of reigning in the prevailing juniper flavour in order to allow other botanicals to shine through. For this particular gin; coriander, cardamom, and citrus zest  shine the brightest; however in my case, I would have preferred a stronger juniper presence to act as a counter balance to their overt spiciness.

My final score of 81/100 represents a gin with very strong mixing potential, but not necessarily very much sipping potential. You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

209 Long Darby SAM_1425No. 209 Gin seems much more suited to tall cocktails than short. Here is a Collins-style bar drink which I found quite delicious:

The Long Darby

2 oz Gin
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Pink Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup

Pour the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker are frosted
Strain into a suitable glass filled with ice
Complete with soda
Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my 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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