Review: Painted Stave Distilling Candy Manor Gin and South River (Red) Gin

candy manor ginBased in Smyrna, Delaware and founded only four years ago, Painted Stave Distilling is an artisan craft distiller that is dipping its toe into all manner of spirits. For now Painted Stave has a collection of white spirits in production, with aged offerings en route. Today we’re looking at two products, Candy Manor Gin — the company’s year-round release — and South River (Red) Gin — part of its experimental, avant garde spirit collection.

Available only in Delaware. Thoughts follow.

Painted Stave Distilling Candy Manor Gin – Described by Painted Stave as a “Western style dry gin with strong noted of lavender, sweet goldenrod and lemon-balm to compliment traditional flavors from juniper, coriander, angelica, and orris root.” The nose is a blend of something old and something new — fresh juniper and some earthier coriander, but also floral notes that approximate honeysuckle, iris, and jasmine. I’m not altogether familiar with goldenrod, but I would have expected more of a lavender note than I could sniff out here. The body plays up those florals quite a bit, coming off as almost perfumed with all the delicate botanical elements. Up front it’s a candied, mixed bouquet of flowers, then behind that builds more sweetness — almost chalky in texture. The finish hints at citrus, pine needles, mushroom, and a touch of baking spice. Initially a little scattered, I came to quite enjoy its bracing complexity in the end. 80 proof. B+ / $30

south river red ginPainted Stave South River (Red) Gin – This is a limited-edition “juniper-forward” gin that is aged for 5 months in former red wine barrels. (There’s also a South River (White).) It’s closer to pink than red, but who’s fact-checking? The nose is quite sharp, loaded with notes of pine tar, vanilla, and Vicks VapoRub. The body is initially fiery, with more of that menthol note, but it slowly settles into a more seductive groove. Intriguing notes of chocolate and caramel, licorice, and some slight rhubarb notes all bubble up as it develops. Really quite unexpected and enchanting, and the reddish hue makes it quite a conversation piece. 80 proof. Bottled 5/16/14. A- / $22 (375ml)

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5 Responses

  1. dan May 7, 2015 / 9:04 am

    >The nose is quite sharp, loaded with notes of pine tar, vanilla, and Vicks VapoRub.

    Is the “vick’s vaporub” an “off” note to you?

  2. Christopher Null May 7, 2015 / 9:13 am

    Not necessarily. It’s surprising, but also nostalgic and soothing.

  3. dan May 7, 2015 / 9:26 am

    Can you say what you would consider an off note?

    I personally consider diesel fuel, animal breath, medicines, glues, and paint thinner notes to all be off notes. I find it very confusing reading so many reviews in which something like “old deodorant” is mentioned for the nose, but is not criticized as an off note.

  4. Christopher Null May 7, 2015 / 9:31 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever used “old deodorant” as a tasting note, but I will say that all of those depend on the context. Petrol notes in white rum and cachaca are expected, for example. I greatly enjoy vodka with medicinal or hospital notes, as they can make an often sappy spirit into something fresh and bracing. VapoRub is an intense menthol character — and like I said it has its place in making the spirit soothing and cleansing. Peated whiskeys are probably the toughest area to crack here — campfire notes, soot, charcoal embers, iodine, and seaweed — none of this SOUNDS really enjoyable, but in the context of a spirit that’s balanced by other flavors and aromas they can be dazzling. Again, context is key. If any of these flavors were in a Pinot Noir I’d give it an F, ya know?

  5. dan May 7, 2015 / 9:38 am

    Thanks for that.
    I just have a suspicion, and I’m not referring to you or your palate, that some reviewers are far more forgiving than they ought to be. I do see this most often in the bourbon world where reviewers sometimes get bogged down by their “fanboy/girl” appreciation and appear to forget that they ought to be more discerning and critical. There are core smells and flavors in bourbons that I like and look for. I know everyone is different, but “old glue” for example in JD can’t be anything but a fail for me. I get the same note in Dickel. Also, and this is a personal view, medicine notes and animal breath, both of which I have seen in reviews described in a neutral/positive way are both fails.

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