We’ve reviewed Classic Club rum before and the verdict was: it’s a bottom shelf brand that tries to produce a spirit good enough to pass muster mainly as a mixer. Something perfectly suited for cocktails where the spirit isn’t really the star of the show — think rum & coke, Kentucky mule, dark & stormy, that sort of stuff. But gin, unlike rum, is typically the star of the show in cocktails… which made me very interested in giving Classic Club’s gin a shot and seeing if they upped their game.
Classic Club is a brand of generic spirits that are produced and distributed by Sazerac.
The early 1900s was the height of popularity for the “gentleman’s club” (a drinking establishment for high class individuals) in the United States, and many whiskey companies capitalized on this trend and named blends of whiskey after various clubs (or even just designated some as a “club whiskey”), and typically reserved that distinction for their better varieties. Over the years, the “Club” distinction remained but has gradually shifted to become primarily used by spirits of lower quality trying to elevate their prestige with a classy name.
The Sazerac Company was founded in 1869, named after a bar they acquired in New Orleans, the Sazerac Coffee House. Following the establishment of the company, they started marketing and distributing brands of liquor under their name.
Sazerac maintains its headquarters in New Orleans, but has distilleries in other locations (including Kentucky). They produce liquor under various brand names, despite the lack of the Sazerac name anywhere on the bottle.
- Learn More: What Is Gin?
There’s no back label on this bottle, which isn’t a good sign. Usually, you get at least a little sliver of information about what’s in the bottle and how it was made, even if it is all marketing puffery. But here, we have nothing.
Traditionally with a gin, what we have is a re-distilled spirit. Gins tend to start with a neutral spirit of some sort (usually grain based, which is confirmed for this bottle on the front label) that is distilled elsewhere and trucked into the facility. Herbs and aromatics are added to the spirit, along with some water, and the results are re-distilled to produce an end product that maintains the essence of those added components but without the coloring.
London Dry Gin doesn’t actually need to be produced in London, it just needs to have juniper as the primary component. As such, with this bottle we expect that they at least used some juniper flavoring, but the other contents are a mystery. The addition of the term “Extra” to make it an “Extra Dry” spirit typically means less then 30 grams per liter of added sugar are in the bottle (a “dry” label typically is somewhere between 30 and 50 grams per liter).
You know, at this point, I really wish they had gone super minimalist on the labeling. If you’re going to produce something this boring, why waste the ink on superfluous designs?
The bottle is the same glass bottle we’ve seen time and again: a traditional style of spirits bottle that seems strangely similar to Ancient Age. It resembles a wine bottle with some ridges at the top and bottom of the body, a gently rounding shoulder, and a long neck that is capped off with a plastic screw-on cap.
The label is a big white sheet of paper with some green accents and golden metallic inked lettering. The brand name is in big block letters up top, and there’s a band at the bottom with the designation of the spirit (“London Extra Dry Gin”). In the middle is an odd shield-based crest with two curly Cs in it.
It’s not aggressively terrible, but it feels like something that would be barely displayed on the back shelf of a dive bar.
Take a whiff of the glass and there are three competing aromas that are instantly recognizable: juniper, lime, and nail polish remover. The juniper and lime are barely there, poorly saturated and just loud enough to get a mention. The nail polish remover (or acetone) component is what you are primarily smelling, that solvent quality potentially indicating poor quality control on the distillation process that allowed more of the “heads” of the distillation run to make it into the glass. (Pro tip: letting the spirit sit for a few minutes might allow these components to evaporate and make the experience a bit better.)
Taking a sip, the juniper is almost completely missing in action. The defining quality of a London Dry Gin is the juniper-forward flavor profile… but instead, what I’m getting here is some star anise or black licorice, a hint of vanilla, and then a quick flash of lime around the end. I think that there’s a tiny hint of juniper that lingers way in the background here, but that might be more of the aroma than it is an actual flavor in the spirit.
The good news though is that this isn’t bitter or particularly unpleasant, just flavorfully flat.
This is mostly an improvement… I think. I feel like the ice may have toned down the solvent quality of the aroma here, and what you get coming off the glass at this point has more of the traditional juniper and lime components that you would normally expect. It still isn’t particularly strong or well saturated, but it is an improvement.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that pretty much all of the flavor has disappeared from the spirit. I’m left with just a hint of star anise, which is something I sometimes pick up on in vodka and other neutral spirits. So, pretty much everything else has been sapped out and we’re back to the raw spirit they started with.
There’s absolutely no balance to this cocktail. The Campari is absolutely running away with it, adding a ton of bitterness to the glass with reckless abandon. Usually, you’d want the herbal components in the flavor of the gin to provide some balance or contrasting flavors, but there’s just nothing to work with here.
I started this review thinking that this might be a really good option for a cocktail-friendly gin (similar to the cocktail-friendly Classic Club rum). But my hypothesis has been proven very wrong.
Fizz (Gin & Tonic)
There’s really just nothing here worth mentioning. This is like a vodka with soda water, which might be the most boring cocktail I can imagine. There are no flavors here for the tonic water to provide a bubbly texture to support, it really just is plain and simple… and boring.
All gins start off as raw, neutral spirit. In this case, though, I don’t think that raw spirit was of a particularly high quality… and instead of the added herbs and botanicals being the star of the show, it tastes like someone walked this bottle through a greenhouse and briefly shoved a twig inside. There’s just no flavor here beyond a tiny hint when taken neat, and the second you start using it in a drink, this turns into a vodka.
It isn’t terrible. It isn’t patently offensive. But it just isn’t good.
|Classic Club London Extra Dry Gin|
Produced By: Classic ClubProduction Location: Kentucky, United States
Classification: London Dry Gin
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $5.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 1/5
Pretty much just vodka, with a teeny tiny hint of flavors that completely disappear in a cocktail.