To acquire wisdom, one must observe

No Mom, I don’t have a drinking problem: Introduction and Terra Gin

Hello there! My name is Harper Pollio-Barbee ’21. I am a 21-year-old, that, like many other 21-year-olds (and absolutely nobody younger than 21) likes to occasionally drink in a safe and responsible manner. (I get hungover from one drink. These things happen.)

Why me? What makes me, a 21-year-old like any other, qualified to write a column about booze? I have only one goal with writing this column: I want to make the general drinking scene at Brandeis better. Gone are the days of Natural Ice when you can get Narragansetts for literally $3 more. I’m not going to claim I know a lot about alcohol. I’m not going to claim I have the sharpest palate. I’m not going to hide from the fact that Buffalo Trace tastes like WHISKEY, not like “brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise,” according to the product description on the website. I’m no botanist, so call me crazy when I don’t know what the hell “dark fruit” tastes like. My point is as follows: I know a little bit more than the average 21-year-old does about alcohol, but in writing these reviews, I hope I can take you all on a journey with me towards learning a little bit more about the vast, often terrifying, shockingly expensive world of beer, wine and spirits.

In the interest of making this as accessible as possible, here’s some terminology that I’ll use that people might not be familiar with, even if we can all collectively get it from context:

Nose: How the booze smells

Palate: How the booze tastes/feels in your mouth

Finish: How the inside of your mouth feels/tastes after the booze is no longer in your mouth

Dry: Not the opposite of wet but the opposite of sweet. A more acidic flavor that someone might think is sour or tart (it is neither of these things).

Note: I get <insert flavor> vibes with this one (e.g. notes of vanilla means I might not necessarily taste vanilla, but I sure do perceive it and definitely get vanilla vibes).

One final note: I have an embarrassingly large collection of booze in my house right now, but if you want to send me a recommendation to try, reach out to me via email (hpolliobarbee@brandeis.edu).

Terra Gin

I’m writing this on a Monday. Today, we take a journey to a place near and dear to the hearts of tens, nay, dozens of people. Today, we take a journey to the distilling capital of these United States of America: Indiana.

I figure that I should put on some music native to Indiana, so as I drink this gin, Freddie Gibbs’s flawless album “Alfredo” plays softly in the background. Terra Gin is not like other gins, according to the bottle. This gin is “Nostalgia in a Bottle” and a collaboration between a “legendary New York Spice company” and Cardinal Spirits (the distiller that makes Terra Gin). It is “wilderness in a bottle,” reads the bottle. Forgive me for being a liberal coastal elite, but have they considered that perhaps the smell of nostalgia in a bottle (for me, at least) would simply be a $1 Arizona Mucho Mango bottle filled with piss and cigarette butts? 

Already, my delicate Philadelphia feathers have been ruffled, and I am RILED UP as I prepare to try this mystery gin that not one single person at Gordon’s (the liquor store I work at) has tried (including the owner and spirits buyer). I am angry, and I am a trailblazer. There is no other respectable way to try alcohol. I poured the gin into a Tequila Ocho tasting flute that I got for free at work (I wanted to be able to nose the gin while still keeping a little bit of distance between my schnozz and the booze), rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Nose: acetone, juniper, mint, something citrusy/bitter (grapefruit?) and maybe flowers? Whew, this smells HOT (boozy) considering the proof (84 proof or 42% alcohol by volume [ABV], which I realize sounds high proof to sip to the average college student, but coming from someone who will willingly drink 100 proof corn whiskey, it’s not that high).

Palate: YEW, that’s a lot of mint. Some cool funky little grapefruit notes, but at least it doesn’t taste as hot as it smells. There is an inexplicable spiciness that I can’t figure out. Is there rye in the neutral spirit or is that a botanical flavor? Is it just the alcohol coming through? I don’t know.

Finish: Mint, mint and more mint. Also, my mouth is inexplicably watering. Why is my mouth so wet? It’s horrifying and intriguing, but not in a bad way. Again, my mouth is just straight up DAMP. Nobody should drool and salivate that much from such a small sip of gin. Absolutely absurd. But, I love it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My definition of nostalgia is almost certainly different than someone who grew up in Indiana, but it sure did taste like I was drinking the flora from some forest floor in a fantasy realm like Cockaigne or Vermont, which was certainly…interesting. 

But the question remains: Should you buy this gin? Here’s the deal: I have no idea where you can get it outside of the clearance rack at Gordon’s. It’s pretty solid overall, but after some light Google detective work, I learned that this bottle that I bought for $18 regularly retails for $30. Don’t get this for $30. It’s far too chaotic, and while I am certainly a proponent of injecting some chaos into your life, there are cheaper ways you can do that.

Note: The author of this article is of legal drinking age in the United States. Please do not binge drink, drink and drive or drink underage. Please drink responsibly. 

Editor’s Note:  This is the first article in the series “No, Mom, I don’t have a drinking problem.”

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