I realized that Fords was not just good, but really good when I bought the bottle for making cocktails and precisely none of it ever went into a cocktail.
For that reason, I'd like to tell you how Fords Gin stands up in a Negroni or a Gin and Tonic, but I ain't gonna lie: 100% of my bottle was consumed straight. It was so good on its own that using it in any other application at all seemed like I was selling the gin short. Whenever I felt like making something like a Collins or a gimlet, it was always something else on the shelf that went on the chopping block.
Mind you, I never thought of myself as the kind of guy who could drink rum or gin like I could whiskey. With gin in particular, there always seemed to be a kind of extremely bracing quality to the drinking experience that required a pretty heavy degree of fortitude. Maybe drinking martinis (and slowly making them less dirty over time) honed my palate for just straight 'ol gin.
What I think was more likely is that I happened into a few different styles of softer, more approachable gins that were carefully and thoughtfully crafted, such as Martin Miller's and Aviation. Fords is right at home in this style and will happily ferry you through the choppy waters of drinking the spirit on its own. For a surprising number of reasons.
To begin, the nose on Fords is simply wonderful. It's bright, for lack of a better term, like the smell of a nice summer day. There's juniper, sure, but it seems to play second fiddle amidst a surprising amount of lime and jasmine that makes a very strong first impression. Feel free to smell this over and over like a maniac.
Of course, it's the taste that's the real draw. The best way I can describe Fords is that it's light and traditional at the same time. To me, the lime hits hard, but there's a lot of very soft vanilla and cream that mixes surprisingly well with the pine from the juniper. The gin also has a strangely (but intriguingly) oily quality that gives you a lot to play with as you taste it. Again, I wanted to savor this without diluting it with even a meager amount of ice or vermouth. It's a perfect balance between being complex and comforting right out of the bottle.
Incidentally, Fords is so easy drinking I was stunned it was 90-proof. It was so smooth that I could have sworn that they were using a copper pot still for distillation since this often a great way to get something to taste more delicate than its ABV would imply, but nope: just stainless steel. Whatever the process, Fords has none of the astringency, bite, or sourness of a lot of cheaply-made clear spirits. Maybe they made some kind of dark pact with the devil to get it like that. I'm not complaining so long as it's their souls, not mine.
This litany of awesome qualities is made all the more surprising considering that Fords was designed to be a good mixer. Not to mention it has a mixer price point of about $25. The verdict seems to be that it works well in that capacity, and I'll take the word of others on this one. Because when I get another bottle, I'll probably just drink another one exactly as I did the first.
All in all, Fords is a great example of what I think makes warrants a maximum score around these parts: there's nothing about the bottle that leaves me flat or wanting. I'd happily buy this again and savor it again. It might not knock your socks off if you're someone who uses bitters by the quarter ounce or the type of person who settles for nothing but a cask-strength Islay scotch at the end of every day. For me, though? I really began to love this pretty little gin and now recommend it often.