I have a love/hate relationship with martinis, as in I love them but my wife hates it when I drink them. I pride myself on being a responsible drinker (I am a professional, after all) but apparently, I have a hard time self-regulating when I starting digging into the vodka and vermouth. No other drink seems to affect me the same way, and I’ve ruined more than a few birthday parties, family dinners and Christmas mornings thanks to my over-indulgence of this simple three-ingredient cocktail (two parts vodka, one part vermouth, one part shame).
So, I was pretty psyched when The Walter Collective sent me their gin and vodka to taste. My wife, not so much.
The Walter Collective is a new “distillery” out of the Pacific Northwest focusing (at this point) exclusively on gin and vodka. I put the word “distillery” in quotes because they actually partner with existing distillers to make these spirits. Think of it like contract brewing; The Walter Collective provides the recipe and the distilleries provide the means to get it done. The company is named after the founder’s grandfather, who worked in Chicago’s waterworks department by day and drank vodka martinis and painted by night. I’ve never met the man, but I already like him based on those few details.
The Walter Collective Vodka is made from spelt and triticale, which is a wheat and rye hybrid. It’s twice distilled so it’s smooth without being stripped of all its character. When had neat, it has a nuttiness to it that I think will work well with olive brine in a dirty martini. There’s a creaminess, and richness to the body that I like as well. This sort of depth of character can be hard to find in a spirit that is often classified as “tasteless.” There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking about this vodka, but it’s well executed and a treat to drink at room temperature, which is a quality you don’t often find at this price point (about $30).
The Walter Collective Gin caught me off guard. If I’m being honest, I’m not much of a gin guy. I like a gin and tonic on a hot day while I’m waiting for my yacht to be detailed as much as the next guy, but drinking gin straight has never been my bag. I even prefer vodka martinis to their gin counterpart. But this particular hooch had me hooked on the first sip.
The Walter Collective Gin smells like, well, gin—all Juniper berries and mystery herbs. And the first sip is hella perfumey. But don’t let that turn you off. This gin has character. In addition to a bunch of secret stuff (gin makers are a private, paranoid bunch) the Walter Collective Gin incorporates grapefruit, lemon, cassia, Italian juniper berries and cardamom. The result is a spirit that’s more fruit forward than I expected and dry as hell on the backend. It’s a bit spicy and I even found a layer of salinity in the booze when I had it neat. I didn’t think I’d be able to pick out the cardamom, but it’s there, adding a subtle savory element. The result is a gin that’s complex without being annoyingly so, and it all softens when you stir it with some ice and drink it cold.
The Walter Collective Gin has me rethinking my strict “no gin martinis” policy.
Distillery: The Walter Collective