Simon Ford, a wise man when it comes to gin, likes to say, “If you ask someone who likes gin what their favorite gin is they will have an answer, but if you ask someone who loves gin they’ll say, ‘Well, this is my favorite gin for a Martini… and this is my favorite gin to have with tonic…’ and so and so on.” When I heard him say this I agreed wholeheartedly, but I have a confession to make: I can finally answer the question. Four Pillars Rare Dry is my favorite gin.
I certainly still fall into the second category. I love gin. When I first started building out my home bar I might have had one or two gins around. Then I thought it was impressive when I had eight or nine around. Now I’m not even sure how many I have, but about half of the bottles I have at home are gin. Four Pillars Rare Dry came home with me from work (I like to joke that by working at Bitters + Bottles I’m just trying to break even) a year ago, right when it made the jump from Australia over to the US. I have reached for it with increasing frequency over the past 12 months.
I have another confession to make: I’ve become a Four Pillars fan girl. I mean, how could I not? I love their gin, they have well designed labels/bottles, a really fun line of products, and everyone I’ve met from the company is warm and friendly. Sadly we don’t get all of their products here in the States, but I’m going to tell you about the ones we do have.
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, $31.50
If you’ve been to our store you know one side of “Gin Island” is old-school gin (London Dry and juniper forward styles) and the other is new-school (the ones that feature other flavors, like floral, fruit, or savory, along with the juniper that have emerged in the last 15 years or so). Four Pillars lives on the old-school side but lands somewhere neatly in the middle of the spectrum. They set out to make the perfect gin that holds true to traditional standard but also impresses modern palettes. Rare Dry features a nice amount of spice (I get some nice cardamom and cinnamon) with distinctly Australian botanicals like Tasmanian pepperberry leaf and lemon myrtle too. The thing that really makes this gin stand out to me is the use of whole oranges in the vapor basket of the still. So many gins get their citrus notes from lemon peel, and I find the orange to be very appealing in my favorite cocktails like a Negroni or Martinez.
Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin, $40.50
Do a Google image search for “finger lime” to see the fruit they use in the vapor basket for this high-proof option. They’re sometimes also called caviar limes, but basically it’s a long skinny lime with little pearls of pulp inside. So where the Rare Dry is orangey the Navy Strength is limey. This gin packs a boozy punch! I put it in some potent but delicious Gimlets (I just can’t with the Rose’s Lime; Speed Craft is a great alternative).
There are still a lot of people who come into the shop and are surprised to see how many barrel aged gins there are these days. Some distillers use the same gin they’ve bottled unaged and some have different recipes to start with. This gin begins its life as Rare Dry but becomes quite a different gin after it spends some time in the Four Pillars solera system of barrels. They use Chardonnay barrels that were steamed, not toasted, so where some barrel aged gins have taken on a whole lot of barrel color and flavor, the influence here is important but balanced. The juniper still shines through big time. The distiller blends a batch every six months and they’ve found different spices take center stage from batch to batch. This is a brand new arrival to the US and the Bitters + Bottles shelves! We currently have bottles from Batch 6 which feature a fantastic ginger flavor you just can’t deny. There’s also a luscious vanilla and spice thing going on that I’m sure we can thank the barrels for. This is not a gin trying to hide out as a whiskey but you can certainly sip it neat like you would a whiskey.
Four Pillars also makes some fun stuff like Spiced Negroni Gin, which I really hope makes it to the States some day (I almost booked an Airbnb in New York last month just because I spotted it in the photos), Bloody Shiraz Gin, which is their answer to sloe gin (you guessed it, it’s made with Australian Shiraz grapes as opposed to importing sloe berries), and orange marmalade they make from the oranges that are in the vapor basket during gin distilling! I’m a particular fan, of course, of the marmalade mixed with a little Campari that they label as Breakfast Negroni. When Cam, the distiller, was in our shop for a tasting he told me a funny story about having to make a batch of gin because he needed more oranges prepped for marmalade.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Australia, keep an eye out for Four Pillars because you might spot some special editions that will never make it overseas. If you’re visiting Melbourne, go visit the distillery; it’s only about an hour outside of the city. In the meantime, stop by and pick up some of the Four Pillars we do have and I think you’ll become a fan just like me.