Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin Review

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Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin Review

Mankind has long known and benefitted from the fact that, in a pinch, almost anything containing sugar can ultimately be made into alcohol. This knowledge has occasionally come back to bite us at times when people were desperate to make spirits–experiments such as turning the sugar trapped in wood into alcohol in the 1700s and 1800s resulted in a concoction that was decidedly poisonous in nature, resulting in more than a few deaths. But the fact remains: There are a whole lot of different ways in which you can make liquor, and many different starting points. A neutral spirit such as vodka (or the base of gin), for instance, is frequently made from any number of different grains or plants: Corn, wheat, rye, spelt, triticale, sugar cane and many more. Through distillation, they can all yield a neutral base spirit, with most of the original material’s flavor stripped away.

And indeed, that source of sugars doesn’t even need to be plant-based. Bertha’s Revenge, an “Irish Milk Gin,” has illustrated this quite clearly: Their spirit is actually based on whey alcohol, utilizing the sugars found in the dairy byproduct whey, leftover following the production of cheese. When curds are separated to make cheese, whey is the thin liquid left over. Ireland’s Ballyvolane House Spirits, a grass-to-glass distillery founded in 2015 and based in “an Irish country inn along the Blackwater River,” has taken this whey and fermented it with proprietary yeast, converting the milk sugars into alcohol. From there, it’s a simple matter to distill the product and infuse it with botanicals like any other gin–the long list of botanicals include the following: “Juniper, coriander, orris, licorice, cardamom, angelica, lemon, lime, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, almond, elderflower, alexander seeds, grapefruit, sweet woodruff and sweet and bitter orange.”

What we are ultimately left with, then, is a pretty recognizable London dry gin, albeit from a genuinely oddball source of alcohol. One immediately wonders, how big of an impact will this have on flavor? Is there purpose to the gimmick? We’ll give it a taste and see. Bertha’s Revenge–the name is based on “legendary cow Big Bertha,” who lived to be 48 years old and gave birth to 39 calves in that time–is bottled at 42% ABV (84 proof), with an MSRP of roughly $40. It’s shipping nationally via Flaviar.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting.

On the nose, Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin immediately stands out, not for anything particularly related to the dairy aspect, but for the strength of spiciness in its botanical profile. You get some expected gin notes–sweet orange, resinous juniper and some herbal celery seed–but it’s the spice that really jumps out of the glass. There is very distinct cumin and coriander here, maybe more pronounced than I’ve ever experienced in a gin before. It can’t help but put me in a culinary mindset, and there’s something very “masala” about the overall impression. I could see some drinkers quite liking this, and some finding it offputting.

On the palate, this is likewise quite spicy, with lots of mixed peppercorn, some pine resin, orange and then lots more of the cumin and coriander character. It’s not quite as omnipresent as it is on the nose, with some nice supporting citrus and juniper berry highlights, but those particular spices are still the star players here, and it feels perhaps a little out of balance unless you’re really searching for a gin to highlight those notes.

Perhaps more importantly, though, you end up wondering what exactly the spice focus has to do with the thematic background of the Irish Milk Gin. Perhaps there could have been a bigger focus on botanicals that reflect the dairy theming? Plants that grow in cow pastures? Parts of a cow’s diet? I really don’t know, but to have the flavor profile instead evoke Indian cuisine is something of an odd choice. Regardless, Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin is a perfectly competent London dry gin that will primarily appeal to those who enjoy that particular spicy profile.

Distillery: Ballyvolane House Spirits
Region: Cork, Ireland
Style: Gin
ABV: 42% (84 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $40 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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