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Review

Seagram's Extra Dry Gin

Distillery

Joseph E Seagram & Sons, New York (part of the Pernod Ricard Group) and made by MGP, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA.

Website

Seagram’s Gin and Pernod Ricard Group

History

The first distillery, destined to become Seagram’s, was initially started in 1857 in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Joseph E Seagram became a partner of the distillery in 1869 and gained full ownership of it in 1883, when it was renamed Joseph E Seagram & Sons. The distillery remained in the Seagram family, even after Joseph’s death in 1919, until it was sold in 1928 to Distillers Corporation Ltd.

With the introduction of prohibition in the US, Samuel Bronfman based in Montreal, had established Distillers Corporation Ltd. From the beginning of prohibition the company had made a strategic decision to buy up distilleries along the US and Canadian border and this included Seagram’s – taking on their name too, to become The Seagram Company Ltd. Throughout prohibition the company made substantial profits and this suggests Samuel Bronfman was either supplying bootleggers or was a bootlegger himself. One thing is for sure, he was never convicted of any such crime and we shall leave this aspect of the story firmly in the hands of historians to tell accordingly.

With the repeal of prohibition in 1933, Seagram’s was in an ideal position to supply alcohol to the US and the company continued to grow and expand. It was during this time Seagram’s became the largest distiller of alcohol in the world. When Samuel Bronfman eventually passed in 1971, his son Edgar became CEO and in turn, his son Edgar Jr. became CEO in 1994. While under the stewardship of Edgar Jr. Seagram’s sold off their approximate 25% holding in Du Pont (which accounted for 70% of Seagram’s revenue) and pursued a series of deals in the entertainment industry. Unfortunately this proved to be the demise of Seagram’s and led to its break up in 2000. It ended in the selling of the entertainment arm to Vivendi, the soft drinks to Coca-Cola and the alcoholic drinks businesses to Diageo (including Seagram’s Seven Crown Whisky) and to Pernod Ricard (including Seagram’s Gin and the Seagram Distillery in Indiana.

The Pernod Ricard Group was established in 1975 as the result of a merger of Pernod and Ricard, two French liqueur companies. In 1978, Patrick Ricard became Chairman and CEO of the group. It has been through his leadership the group has grown with numerous acquisitions, perhaps most notably: Wild Turkey Bourbon, Jameson Whiskey, Jacob’s Creek Wine, Seagram (including Chivas and Martell), Allied Domecq (Ballentines, Malibu, Mumm and Perrier-Jouët) and Vin & Spirit (Absolut). Although Patrick Ricard sadly died in 2012 the group continues on and its products are found in over 80 countries.

The distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana where Seagram’s Gin is made, was founded in 1847 and was bought by Seagram’s in 1933. Called the Jos. E. Seagram Lawrenceburg Plant it became better known as the Seagram Distillery and was acquired by Pernod Riacrd in 2000. In 2007 Pernod Ricard sold the Seagram Distillery to CL Financial (who called it Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana) and it was later sold to Kansas based Midwest Grain Products (MGP) in 2011. Today it is known as MGP Indiana and produces (besides Seagram’s white spirit brands) mostly Whisky, under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Greg Metze, including the brands: Bulleit Rye, Cougar Bourbon, Filibuster, George Dickel Rye, High West, James. E. Pepper, Redemption, Smooth Ambler and Templeton Rye.

Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin was launched in the USA in 1939 and became one of the first successful Gins to enter the market after prohibition. This classic has been the number one selling Gin in the USA since the late 1980’s, and this was probably due increased advertising including the TV commercials with actor Bruce Willis, and the tagline: “It’s wet and it’s dry”. This title as No. 1 Gin brand still continues today, with around 30 million bottles (2.5. million cases) sold each year. Since being owned by Pernod Ricard, the Gin has received heavy investment from them to enhance the ongoing promotion of the brand.

Production

Made from grain grown in Indiana and twice distilled, the first creating the neutral base spirit (probably using a column still) and the second time at a low temperature where the botanicals are imparted into the spirit. This distillation is said to involve mineral rich water and a “unique” process, implying they use a vacuum still, but no further details are provided on this. Once distillation is complete the spirit is matured in ex-Bourbon charred white oak casks, which has resulted in a light straw colored finish to the Gin. However the Gin is now produced as a clear liquid because, from a marketing perspective, it is more attractive to consumers. This color change has generated some speculation: Has the recipe changed? Some believe the taste since 2005 is different. Has the aging period changed? There are some reports stating the resting period for the Gin is 3-4 weeks, rather than the 3-month timeframe indicated previously by Seagram’s. Finally the clarity of the liquid has been achieved somehow, does this include filtering? Unfortunately we do not have the answers to these questions, if anyone can shed some light on this, please let us know.

The Gin is presented in slightly frosted glass rectangular bottle adorned with raised shapes, said to represent stars and seashells but we believe it is an abstract pattern (some even refer to it as tire tracks). The sides of the bottle are slightly concave and along with the bumpy glass, provides for a secure grip. It has a large yellow rectangular label (with scalloped edges with gold trim) and has red, blue and gold text – a new design introduced in 2013. Despite being owned by the Bronfman family for most of its life, the Seagram’s family crest is shown at the top of the label.

This Gin is considered suitable for Vegans.

Category

Barrel Aged Gin (in a London Dry style).

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

40% (80 Proof).

Price Range

$ - $$. Widely available within the USA. Both priced online suppliers include: Internet Wines & Spirits, Pavilion Wine & Spirits, or Binny’s Beverage Depot.

Botanicals

Uses 6 botanicals including: angelica (Germany), cardamom (Sri Lanka), cassia bark (Vietnam), coriander (Czech Republic), juniper berries (Italy) and orange peel (Spain).

Name

Named after the original owner, Joseph. E. Seagram, and was originally called Seagram’s Ancient Bottle Distilled Dry Gin. The mellowness from the aging and the embellishments on the bottle has lead to it being colloquially referred to as “Smooth & Bumpy”, “Old Bumpy” or just plain “Bumpy”.

Tasting Notes

On the nose is sweet citrus plus a hint of piney juniper, and although not found by us, some manage to pick up a floral lilac, vanilla and even peppery spice notes too. On the palate this creamy, medium bodied and slightly sweet spirit has a burst of juniper, bright citrus (coriander), earthy angelica, warm citrus (orange), light spice (cinnamon) and very faint vanilla notes. On the smooth mellow close the citrus fruit continues with more juniper and hints of spice in the fairly short finish.

As the oldest continuing barrel aged Gin brand available it makes a passable sipping Gin drunk neat but is much better when used in mixed drinks. The best of which we liked was the ubiquitous Gin & Tonic (with a citrus garnish and go heavy on the Gin) but it is also at home with citrus drinks such as Tom Collins, Gimlet etc. For us this makes a mediocre but not unpleasant Martini or Negroni, both lacking any real “bite” or depth. All in all, this is a generally versatile everyday Gin and any drink could be enhanced with the use of spiced bitters (or similar). Unusual tip: try using this Gin instead of cologne – apparently some do!

Overall this is one of the best, if not the best, low budget American made Gin we have tasted – especially for a mild Gin & Tonic. Although some people are derisive of it we think this is severely unwarranted - there are plenty of low budget Gins out there with nowhere near this level of quality. In fact if the price was unknown it could easily be mistaken for a premium contemporary Gin. For us, if we didn’t know it was wood aged we wouldn’t have noticed but this aging obviously plays a significant role in “rounding off any harsh corners”. Some people find this too sweet but we found it to be somewhere between New Amsterdam (quite sweet) and something like Gordon’s (quite dry) – both within a comparable price range. A highly recommended Gin at this price point.

Awards & Accolades

88 Points, Beverage Testing Institute.

Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2014.



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