Category Archives: Gin

Review: TOPO Vodka, Gin, and Carolina Whiskey

topo piedmont gin 208x300 Review: TOPO Vodka, Gin, and Carolina WhiskeyTop of the Hill Distillery, affectionately “TOPO,” promises its spirits are “100 miles from grain to glass.” That’d be more comforting if I was closer to North Carolina, where TOPO is based. Good luck finding these farther afield. Fortunately, I was able to sample the full lineup of three unaged spirits from way out here in California. Thoughts on these organic spirits follow.

TOPO Vodka – Made from organic Carolina wheat. Whew, pungent on the nose, redolent of a typical white whiskey, with lots of grain aromas filling the nostrils. On the tongue, it belies that funky nose with a brisk sweetness, almost marshmallow-like in character, with a pungent medicinal character underneath. Kind of a strange combination. There’s a lot going on here, and those that like their vodka on the more rustic side will find plenty to enjoy. On the other hand, if you’re looking for balance and refinement, TOPO’s definitely got some growing up to do. 80 proof. B- / $29

TOPO Piedmont Gin – Also an organic wheat spirit. Piedmont, I’m guessing, refers not to Italy but to a big swath of area that runs along the eastern seaboard and crosses straight through central North Carolina. (Now you know!) But whatever the nomenclature, it’s an American style gin flavored with ample juniper, cardamom, coriander, star anise, and organic cucumber. On the nose there’s ample juniper, so much so that you might think TOPO Gin is going to be a one-trick pony. Take a sip and you’re in for a surprise: The juniper fades. Sweet licorice notes, floral snippets, and hints of orange peel arise in its wake. What’s most surprising is the kind of candied flower finish. Either that, or that my tasting notes bear no resemblance to those of TOPO’s. 92 proof. A- / $29

TOPO Carolina Whiskey – Like the above, this is young whiskey based on organic Carolina wheat. It has a lot in common with the vodka, too, as you might expect. It is, however, considerably more pungent (distilled fewer times and likely more pot-distilled spirit than in the vodka, I’d guess), full of deep grain and traditional fuel-driven notes on the nose. The body is of greater interest, loaded with chewy sweetness, plus plenty of cereal notes. The effect is not unlike a good granola bar, breakfast and dessert all in one package. It’s not overblown, but surprisingly well balanced among its various characteristics. As white whiskeys go — which is often a Bad News Bears situation — it’s one of the better ones around. 84 proof. B+ / $22

Review: Roundhouse Spirits Gin and Corretto Coffee Liqueur

roundhouse gin 200x300 Review: Roundhouse Spirits Gin and Corretto Coffee LiqueurRoundhouse Spirits, based in Boulder, Colorado (only the 6th licensed distillery in the state), makes a trio of products, a gin, a coffee liqueur, and a “super rare” aged gin. We got to tangle with the first two products on that list. Thoughts, as always, follow.

Roundhouse Gin – Overall, a classically-structured, big gin (the company calls it New Western), infused with juniper berry, coriander, citrus peel, star anise, angelica, and orris root, plus some oddities: sencha green tea, lavender, and hibiscus and chamomile blossoms. It’s redistilled from neutral grain spirit in copper pot stills, but bottled hot. The heavy alcohol burn keeps the botanicals at bay, at least until the booze burns off a bit. What you’ll find here then starts with the juniper and marches forward with curious biscuit and pretzel notes, characters that aren’t so much driven by flowers as they are by the granary. Chocolate notes develop after that, and finally some more floral elements show themselves on the finish. I’d say the hibiscus is most on the forefront, but the red pepper you get on the very back end makes for a fun little kicker. 94 proof. A- / $30

Roundhouse Spirits Corretto Coffee Liqueur – Brisk coffee grounds on the nose, authentic as you could want. It’s a modest roast, not burnt at all. Corretto is slightly sweetened and touched with vanilla, giving it a real dessert drink quality (but far fewer calories, the company says, than competing coffee liqueurs). I wouldn’t call it complex, but it is wholly drinkable. The long finish tends to grow sweeter and sweeter, which forces the hand to reach for another sip. 40 proof. A- / $24

Review: Bond Street Gin

bond street gin 300x200 Review: Bond Street GinThis artisanal gin hails from Bend, Oregon, where Jim Bendis, of Bendistillery, was recruited to help craft this brand new, small-batch spirit. A “proprietary blend” of local juniper berries are used, but little else is revealed about the ingredients of this modern gin. (The base spirit is distilled from 100% corn and lava rock filtered.)

Unlike many modern gins, juniper is the easily the most forward note on this spirit, made in a strongly London Dry style that will go up well against most classic bottlings. After that, you get modest lemon and some cucumber notes, with a bit of sweet vanilla on the back end. It’s a very easy-drinking gin on its own and works well with mixers. Try it in a gin & tonic vs. a martini.

80 proof.

B+ / $30 to $35 /

Review: Few Spirits American Gin and Rye Whiskey

Evanston, Illinois-based Few Spirits makes old-timey spirits and even bottles them in old-timey decanters. Today we take a crack at two of the company’s bottlings — the “American” gin and an aged rye whiskey.

Thoughts follow.

few gin 249x300 Review: Few Spirits American Gin and Rye WhiskeyFew Spirits American Gin – Big and malty, this is a far different experience than most dry gins you’ve likely encountered. Many call Few’s gin closer to a genever, and that’s a fair descriptor. I think it’s more like a flavored white whiskey, intensely grain-focused and a little funky. Atop that, you get some gin-like character. Clear lemon oil from the second you crack open the bottle, for starters. Hints of vanilla on the finish. But by and large this offers beer-like malt and hops character throughout the body, overpowering the more subtle botanical elements in the whisk… er, gin. If you told me there was no juniper in this at all (you can catch it if you hunt for it, but then you start to wonder if it’s your imagination), I wouldn’t be surprised one bit. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2-2-13, bottle #91. B- / $40

few rye whiskey 277x300 Review: Few Spirits American Gin and Rye Whiskey
Few Spirits Rye Whiskey
– A rye/corn blend (actual mashbill unstated) that spends “less than four years” in new oak barrels, Few’s rye offers a plethora of youthful flavors and chutzpah, a punchy whiskey with intense elements of cornmeal, fresh bread, and malt. As with many very young whiskeys, it is a little brash and angry, a brooding spirit overflowing with grain. Oddly, it doesn’t come across as particularly hot, though it’s bottled at 93 proof. Instead, it gets its fire in the form of toasted grains, and the ultra-long finish speaks more of gentle smokiness than heat. What I don’t get is a lot of fruit — just touches of applesauce. The cereal notes are simply overpowering of everything else. Reviewed: Batch #11-85, bottle #77. B / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: “Art in the Age” Sage Liqueur

art in the age sage 201x300 Review: Art in the Age Sage LiqueurSage is the fourth product from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which focuses on creating wholly unique and, sometimes, questionably mixable liqueurs. These liqueurs are often drawn from historical texts and/or are inspired by curious ingredients (like gingersnap cookies). With this product, sage herbs are the focus.

Unlike AitA’s three other spirits, sage is clear. Like them, it’s infused with a vast array of botanicals to give it its character, including elderberry, pine, black tea, rose, dry orange peel, cubeb, angelica, sage (at last!), lavender, spearmint, dandelion, thyme, sumac, rosemary, licorice root, and fennel. Whew!

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Review: Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka and Gin

caledonia spirits 261x300 Review: Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka and GinCaledonia Spirits in Hardwick, Vermont primarily markets its products in the Northeast and uses honey in just about everything it makes, from honey mead to vodka and gin. We tasted both those spirits, plus an elderberry cordial from the company. Thoughts follow.

By the by: Mind the beeswax seal on the vodka and gin (they use this stuff in everything!). It’s extremely pungent and can be smelled from a mile away once the plastic wrap is taken off.

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka – Made from raw Vermont honey, and it shows. Distinct — but richly earthy — honey notes pervade the nose, a common trait among vodkas distilled from honey. This one’s pungent enough to come across like a flavored vodka, intense with that almost nougaty, caramel flavor. Barr Hill has far too much residual character in it for the most common places where vodka finds itself, but for fans of honey, this may make for an interesting sipper. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #20 reviewed. B / $33 (375ml)  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin – This is overproof Barr Hill Vodka flavored with juniper, and nothing else. That may sound a little simplistic for gin, which typically comprises at least 8 ingredients, and Barr Hill Gin doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. It’s unapologetically juniper-forward, but the strong honey character from the vodka provides a lot of balance. The nose is heavy with forest notes, but the herbal body is balanced with moderate sweetness. The finish is big and piney, lacking the citrus and earth notes that the great gins typically offer — but some drinkers may find that advantageous. Not at all hot despite weighing in at 90 proof. Batch #32 reviewed. B / $58 (750ml) [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Caledonia Spirits Elderberry Cordial – Pungent and exceptionally sweet, this cordial (flavored with elderberry, apples, and honey) is intense with notes of prune, lingonberry, and dark, dark fruit. Almost syrupy in consistency, it’s a monstrous cordial that’s clearly designed for the after-dinner drinker who finds Port too daunting. This isn’t at all bad, but the overwhelming fruitiness is just too much for my palate. 14.4% abv. C+ / $35 (375ml)

Review: Captive Spirits Big Gin

Big Gin 300x226 Review: Captive Spirits Big GinSeattle-based Captive Spirits makes one product and one product alone: gin. Big Gin, actually.

Crafted in the London Dry style 100 gallons at a time and is imbued with nine botanicals: juniper, coriander, orange peel, grains of paradise, angelica, cassia, cardamon, orris root, and Tasmanian pepper berry. Altogether it’s a fairly traditional botanical bill, with only a couple of twists in store.

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Review: Schramm Organic Gin

schramm gin 166x300 Review: Schramm Organic GinYes Virginia, they make gin in Canada. This unique gin comes from Pemberton Distillery in British Columbia, where a smattering of products are produced. None seems more highly lauded than Schramm Organic Gin, an organic dry gin made from distilled potato base and infused with a mere eight (organic) botanicals: juniper, coriander, orange peel, rosemary, angelica root, Ceylon cinnamon, rosehips, and hops.

A more unique infusion bill you’re unlikely to find, but when poured, the immediate nose is none of these but rather — inexplicably — cucumber. A deeper exploration into the aroma reveals that it is the last two elements on that list — rosehips and hops — that strangely meld into this unique cucumber character. Behind it there’s a sort of smoky/earthy character that is likely driven by the angelica root.

On the body, this is a gin that’s overflowing with flavor. That cucumber character dominates here, too, but it takes on a deeper and more smoldering character than you get on the nose. Very much like a tree bark (cinnamon-driven, maybe) character and hints of the forest floor. Not so much juniper berries, but definitely limbs of juniper trees scattered about under the canopy shadows. The finish offers a respite from this depth, with notes of lemongrass and some mint. All of which is curious because none of those ingredients are actually in this gin.

Reviewed: Batch #09 (now sold out), bottle #165. Distilled Dec 2012. 88 proof.

A- / $55 /

Review: Plymouth Gin and Navy Strength Gin

plymouth gin 2013 200x300 Review: Plymouth Gin and Navy Strength GinI’m no stranger to Plymouth Gin — it’s the very product that started me off in spirits reviewing, over a decade ago. Plymouth is a unique gin because the term describes both a style and a brand. “Plymouth Gin,” like “Scotch whisky,” is gin that is made in Plymouth, England. There’s only one company making gin in Plymouth, though, and that is the Black Friars Distillery, where it produces Plymouth Gin (the brand).

Plymouth Gin also has a specific style associated with it. While it is similar in structure and distillation process to London Dry, it is less juniper-focused, more citrus-forward, and imbued with more of the earthier components typical of gin, including orris and angelica roots. The total bill of botanicals includes nothing unusual: juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seeds, angelica root, orris root, and cardamom. Just seven ingredients… nothing in a world where modern gins will commonly have 20 ingredients or more.

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Review: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

Monkey 47 gin 224x300 Review: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry GinMonkey 47 is one of those spirits with a really long and involved backstory, but the nut of it is that you’re drinking crazy gin from Germany. Created by a WWII Royal Air Force pilot who settled in the Black Forest after the war, our hero made his own gin out of local ingredients and exotic botanicals inspired by his upbringing in India. The gin wasn’t commercialized, but its recipe was meticulously documented.

That recipe — plus intact samples — were recently discovered, nearly 50 years after Monkey 47’s creator vanished. And now, this oddball German gin is being commercially produced and can be yours… if you can track it down.

The Monkey refers to sketches that accompanied the gin (and which now grace the bottle). The 47, to the number of ingredients that are used in its production. That’s a really huge number, and while the full list isn’t published, the known ingredients include such items as cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, almond, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, liquorice, Acorus calamus (aka sweet flag), bitter orange and lemon, spruce tips, lavender, iris, honeysuckle, blackberries, pomelo, lingonberry, sloe berries, sage, and verbena. The botanical list seems to have been driven as much by what was growing around the creator’s house as it was anything else.

And so, on to the tasting. While juniper is prominent on the nose, intense herbal notes rise up to meet it in stride. Dried rosemary and cloves are prevalent, along with a kind of dried mushroom character. On the body, there’s much less juniper, as those herbs punch through to the forefront. On the tongue the herbal quality comes across as fresher — again, rosemary is a biggie — plus lots of evergreen notes and some black pepper shortly behind. There’s a huge forest floor element to Monkey 47, too: woodsy, earthy, and a bit like the embers of a smoldering campfire. If you’re wondering if all that fruit in the infusion bill comes across, it does. At the end, Monkey 47 takes a sweet and fruity turn, with a slightly tart character that offers notes of blueberries, orange, crisp apples, and peaches. It’s very easy drinking despite clocking in at 94 proof.

Bizarre, lots of fun, and a wholly unique gin experience. Find some.

Reviewed batch #21, bottle #11413.


Review: Master of Malt Origin Single Estate Gins

origin single estate juniper series 300x232 Review: Master of Malt Origin Single Estate GinsIt’s well known that Pinot Noir from California tastes different than Pinot Noir from France — even if the wines are made identically. But does the concept of terroir extend to spirits like gin, too? Can juniper berries sourced from the far ends of the world really express their differences after going through the long process of distillation and bottling as gin?

Master of Malt sets out to find the answer with this, the Origin Series of Single Estate gins. Seven versions are on offer, each made with juniper sourced from a single location, each in a different country (all are in Europe). Each batch arrives in a bottle that is distilled just from juniper, with no other botanicals added. However, a small add-on vial of distilled botanicals (the usual gin stuff) comes with each bottle. To turn your juniper-flavored spirit into real gin, just add the vial to the bottle and you’ve got single-estate gin, with all the fixings. (Note: You can buy them as minis if you don’t want to shell out for full bottles of seven experimental gins.)

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Review: Master of Malt Worship Street Whistling Shop Cream Gin

master of malt cream gin 135x300 Review: Master of Malt Worship Street Whistling Shop Cream GinMaster of Malt has no shortage of bizarre concoctions, but this one is a new one for me: Gin distilled using cream as a botanical. The result is called, simply, cream gin.

Cream gin, we are told by MoM, “was popular in the Gin Palaces of the Victorian Era, however back then the gin would probably have been mixed with a cream and sugar then left to infuse. To update this classic idea, this Cream Gin has been cold-distilled using fresh cream as a botanical (the equivalent of 100ml cream per bottle!), to capture the fresh flavour of the cream in a perfectly clear spirit. Because the cream is never heated during the distillation process, no ‘burnt’ or ‘off’ flavours end up in the finished product. Cream Gin has the same shelf-life as any other distilled spirit.”

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Review: Aviation Gin (2013 Bottling)

aviation gin 2013 label 142x300 Review: Aviation Gin (2013 Bottling)“New Western Dry Gin” from House Spirits in Portland, Oregon, Aviation has been a popular spirit across the U.S. since its launch in 2006. We’re finally getting around to reviewing it seven years later, just in time for a brand new bottle design (pictured at right), which is being rolled out later this year. (The recipe hasn’t changed, mind you.)

The botanicals in this gin (distilled from rye) are by and large traditional, though they offer enough uniqueness to be evocative of the Pacific Northwest, where Aviation is made. The roster includes: Juniper, cardamom, lavender, Indian sarsaparilla, coriander, anise seed, and dried orange peel.

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Review: Russell Henry Gin Lineup

Who the heck is Russell Henry? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing Craft Distillers is referring to this guy, a chemist and expert in digestion from the late 1800s. Not sure he had anything to do with gin, but in a funny coincidence, there is a Henry Russell who wrote about the cotton gin in this book.

Think about all of that while you sip on these gins, namesakes of, er, somebody (but not distiller Crispin Cain). One is a London Dry. Two are flavored gins — unusual, but since gin is really just flavored vodka, not a crazy idea. Both of the flavors are, per Craft Distillers, “works in progress” that they will continue to tinker with.

Thoughts follow on the state of these gins as of January 2013.

Russell Henry London Dry Gin – More piney than juniper, like a walk through an evergreen forest. You don’t get the overwhelming prickliness of juniper-heavy gins, instead finding sweetness, citrus, and cardamom notes. Hints of pepper on the nose. Great overall structure and balance, but very light on the body. It will stand up to simple tonic but is likely too delicate for more complex cocktails. 93.4 proof. A-

Russell Henry Malaysian Lime Gin – Made with leaves and fruit from limau purut limes from, yes, Malaysia. Not much lime on the nose here, and it’s very slight on the body, too. Slightly earthy and with just a touch of lemon/lime character, but otherwise difficult to distinguish from the London Dry. 94 proof. A-

Russell Henry Hawaiian Ginger Gin – The ginger is organic, from Kauai. Far stronger and more unique, with a distinct ginger character on the nose that melds nicely with the citrus elements. The notes from the London Dry still apply, plus a spicy kick in the end. I like the way it all works together. This is the gin to use in that exotic cocktail you’re making — or even something to spice up a simple G&T. 94.6 proof. A-

1200 bottles of each are initially being produced. Arriving this month nationally.


Review: London 40 Dry Gin

London 40 dry gin 110x300 Review: London 40 Dry GinHow classic is London 40 Dry Gin? There’s a picture of a dude wearing a top hat on the label, that’s how.

Produced by Old St. Andrews (we’ve written about its oddball whisky in the past), this gin is four-times distilled and imbued with 12 botanicals that include, in part, juniper, angelica root, almonds, nutmeg, coriander, licorice root, and orange peel.

The nose is typical, traditional juniper. It’s got a light touch though, so don’t go in expecting a Beefeater bruising.

On the body, juniper makes the first appearance, followed by some more muted notes — red flake and black pepper, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, and a touch of sugar. There’s an interesting bunch of flavors here, but they’re not entirely in balance. The finish is drying and a little bitter, reminiscent of dried herbs. The body’s a bit thin; this gin could stand to be 86 proof or so (though that would muck with the name, I guess).

Ultimately, London 40 is happy to let its juniper do most of the talking, even if its closers get an more than their share of the action here, talking over the crowd.

80 proof.

B / $28 /

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Review: Ransom Old Tom Gin

Ransom Spirits Old Tom Gin 189x300 Review: Ransom Old Tom GinA reader recently turned me on to Ransom’s Old Tom Gin, asking (nay, begging) for a review. I’m obliging.

Ransom Old Tom Gin is different than most gins. For starters, it’s yellow, not clear. That’s a characteristic of the rarely-seen Old Tom style, which was popular in the mid-1800s and faded into obscurity when the more juniper-focused London Dry Gin. It is traditionally sweetened, and it stands between genever and traditional gin on the spectrum of flavor and funkiness.

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Review: Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin

We recently raved about Smooth Ambler’s Yearling whiskey. Now we’ve got another, far different, spirit from the same company up for consideration.

In a world increasingly dominated by flowery, lighter-styled gins, the small batch Greenbrier Gin is a whole different animal. It’s a juniper bomb without being overpowering, far more herbal than floral, which gives it a pleasant but distinct bitter edge.

There’s a curious dark chocolate character beneath the greenery, and the finish heads back into the land of citrus — mandarin orange, with a touch of lemon peel and even grapefruit. There’s no ingredient list made public for this West Virginia-born gin, but on the palate it speaks more of tradition than the avant garde. Very pleasant and set for a variety of workhorse cocktail applications.

Distilled from a mix of grains. 80 proof.

B+ / $30 /

Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin Review: Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin

Review: Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin

From the same folks who brought you Masterson’s awesome 10 Year Old Rye — in Sonoma, California, of all places — comes this new gin, inspired by a recipe (it’s said) drawn from an equally odd location: Lucca, Italy.

Some backstory, courtesy of the company (an affiliate of the Sebastiani wine empire):

Company president August Sebastiani named the handcrafted, small-batch gin after a favorite uncle, Valerio Cecchetti, who is a retired physician near Lucca, Italy. “In addition to being a highly regarded doctor, Uncle Val is a great cook and avid gardener. The botanicals we selected for this unique gin — juniper, cucumber, lemon, sage and lavender — are the same as those Uncle Val likes to use in his cooking and grows in his home garden,” Sebastiani said.

Gin’s history also played a role in the selection of Dr. Cecchetti’s name as the brand. “Gin was invented in the Netherlands by a doctor — Franciscus Sylvius — who was a professor of medicine in Leyden, Holland, back in the 1650s,” Sebastiani explained. “He was trying to find a cure-all for kidney and stomach disorders, so he infused juniper berries into distilled spirits. The elixir became so popular that distillers began commercial production and by the end of the 1680, the Dutch were exporting more than 10 million gallons of gin each year. Gin is the only spirit that started out as a medicine, so it’s fitting that we named ours after Uncle Val.”

Distilled five times from grain, the gin offers a nose that is immediately evoking of limes, even though they’re not part of the botanical bill. It’s like a lime-emblazoned gin and tonic right out of the bottle. On the tongue, plenty more of that lime character, and that lavender becomes apparent. Cucumber gives this gin a bit of a cooling effect, so much so that the juniper is almost a tertiary character.

It’s a fine gin, and quite unique. And if you like your gin mild, Uncle Val’s for you. It does however seem to be missing that heady aromatic punch that great gins have: The overwhelming citrus character pushes it almost into the realm of fruity vodkas as the other ingredients don’t quite find a purchase. Dangerously easy to drink though. Watch out with this one.

90 proof.


uncle vals gin Review: Uncle Vals Botanical Gin

Review: Cardinal American Dry Gin

Cardinal Gin. Get it?

Sure ya do.

This American gin hails from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The 11 (organic and wild) botanicals used in this gin don’t get enumerated, so we have to guess at them instead. Modestly juniper-infused and intensely floral, this is a gin with a different and unique style to it.

Let’s pick out the flavors we can peg, shall we? The most prominent ones I get: Licorice, cinnamon, and chamomile flowers. Orange and juniper come along later, particularly in the finish until the cinnamon notes grab hold again at the very end. This is a gin with a moderate body, but quite a bit of sweetness in comparison to other gins. Almost a nougat-like, creamy sweetness. Really quite pleasant, lasting, and inviting.

Overall, a really great product worth experiencing if you’re a gin lover.

84 proof.

A- / $29 /

cardinal gin Review: Cardinal American Dry Gin