I’ve avoided writing this review for quite a while. It’s been nearly a month since we finished off our bottle of Bluecoat and I’ve been intending to write about it since we pulled out the cork (yes, it seals with a cork and yes, that’s pretty cool). The problem – aside from a bit of procrastination – is that I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
Here’s the dilemma: Bluecoat is a fine gin. It’s clearly well made, lovingly crafted in small batches, and has a distinct, purposeful flavor to it. But, and this is a very large but, it doesn’t go well in most gin cocktails.
When I say that Bluecoat has a very distinct flavor what I really mean is that it has very little flavor, or more accurately, it has a very subtle flavor. The flavor of a gin is usually dominated by juniper, but with Bluecoat it would be unfair to say that any flavor dominates. Juniper is certainly in there, but not any more than the citrus or floral notes (Shanna swears she tastes carrots but I’m not sure I believe her). This gives Bluecoat an almost overly subtle flavor that, while advantageous for drinking neat or on the rocks, doesn’t necessarily mix well with other spirits.
Of course the ultimate test for any gin is what kind of Martini it makes. A Martini should be crisp (unless you like them dirty) and elegant in its simplicity. Unfortunately, the understated flavors in Bluecoat end up either overpowered by the vermouth or tasting muddled when mixed drier.
The one cocktail I’ve mixed with Bluecoat that really worked, and better with Bluecoat than other gins, is the Chelsea Hotel. The triple sec and lemon juice in this drink really bring out the citrus notes in the Bluecoat. Gin always goes well with citrus flavors (good to know when you’re deciding what drink to pair with a meal), but the subtle flavors in Bluecoat in particular really seem to blossom when mixed with a hint of lemon.
Of course image is also important and Bluecoat, by Philadelphia Distilling, brands itself as a distinctly American variation on a distinctly British spirit. The name reinforces this notion with a play on the Revolutionary War-era nickname for British soldiers, “red coat.” Regardless of your opinion of the spirit itself, it is rather nice to see an American gin getting international respect (Bluecoat has won British gin awards, no small achievement), and let’s face it, the bottle looks really cool sitting on your home bar.
This is one to try for yourself (though beware of the near $30 price tag in PA liquor stores) and form your own opinion. Because it lacks the strong juniper flavor, this may be a good starter gin for people who aren’t usually gin fans. On the other hand, purists who look forward to a good Martini may want to sample Bluecoat at a bar before they invest in a bottle.