Review: Peach Street Distillers Tub Gin

Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, Colorado is well known for its whiskey, but it also makes a complement of gins, including this limited edition expression called Tub. The gin is hopped and includes “plum spirits,” but otherwise the company keeps the botanical bill and production information close to the vest on this one.

The hops are light on the nose. What comes forth aromatically is more of a light blend of evergreen notes and fresh tobacco, some hospital character with overtones of overripe oranges and peaches.

The palate never fully gels either. Very dry, it starts off with only a modest character of perfumed white flowers and some light baking spice. Then, just like that, it is all whisked away by notes of lavender, some funky earth (driven by the hops), and a very dry and bitter finish. The juniper and strong citrus peel notes of a classic gin aren’t here at all, and while I understand Peach Street was aiming for something else entirely different from a London Dry, what they’ve ended up with doesn’t ever really engage, either on its own or as a mixer.

80 proof.

C+ / $33 / peachstreetdistillers.com

Review: Anchor Distilling Junipero Gin San Francisco Strength

Craft gin arguably got its start with Junipero, one of the earlier products to come out of San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling. Made in the London Dry style, it was the first post-Prohibition craft gin to be distilled in the United States, and it’s still going strong.

Now 20 years old, Anchor Distilling’s Junipero Gin brand has long kept its botanical bill close to the vest. Well, two decades of sales have finally convinced someone to open the books. At last, Junipero’s botanical ingredients have been revealed, and they are: juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, dried lemon peel, sweet orange peel, seville orange peel, cubeb, cassia bark, cardamom, anise seed, and grains of paradise. Nothing too surprising in there, but the real secret with Junipero is not what’s inside the bottle, but rather what proportions are used to so deftly balance this spirit.

The nose is equal parts juniper and citrus — a rarity in a time when gins tend to swing wildly one way or the other — with smoldering, peppery aromas lingering underneath. The palate is bold, thanks to a near-50% “San Francisco Strength” abv, again with a bold juniper character that really defines the experience. The peppery cubeb and coriander come on strong after that, leading to a finish that is modestly bitter with citrus peel notes and savory herbs.

All told, it’s a definitive craft gin worth stocking on the back bar — and it comes at a completely reasonable price.

98.6 proof.

A- / $27 / anchordistilling.com

Review: By The Dutch Old Genever and Batavia Arrack

Everything old is new again, not only with classic spirits brands returning to the market but also with the revival of long-forgotten types of spirits, too. Among them are genever and Batavia arrack, a type of gin and rum, respectively, which are both resurging in the industry.

By The Dutch is a new brand founded in 2015 “with the purpose of producing traditional spirits with a Dutch heritage. These spirits are distilled and handcrafted primarily in Schiedam, South Holland, a village known as Genever-Town.” The company’s first two releases, Old Genever and Batavia Arrack Indonesian Rum with the U.S. market.

If you need a little primer on genever and arrack, read on:

The origin of English Gin is Dutch Genever. In 1650, Franciscus Sylvius, a Dutch doctor, created Dutch Genever as a medicine that was used by soldiers in the Thirty Years War. English troops hailed the spirit for its warming properties and calming effects, thus the phrase, “Dutch Courage.”

Batavia was the name of the capital city of the Dutch East Indies, and corresponds to today’s city of Jakarta. Batavia became the center of the Dutch East India Company trading network in Asia and commerce of Batavia Arrack was entirely in hands of the Dutch VOC. Almost all arrack exported to Europe arrived in Amsterdam or Rotterdam in wooden barrels, where it would then be matured and blended to create a spirit of consistent quality and fine flavor.

And now, for some reviews of these specific expressions:

By The Dutch Old Genever – “A handcrafted blend of pure malt wine and a distillate of Juniper berries and other botanicals, made according to a secret recipe dating back to 1942.” Quite malty on the nose, with heavy hospital notes and overtones of melon, banana, and pineapple. The palate continues the ultra-malty, layering in notes of juniper (quite mild), licorice, and some fleeting notes of cloves. The genever is round on the tongue, but the ultimate flavor profile is quite mild and limited in both its overall power and its interest level. There’s better genever out there. 76 proof. C+ / $27

By The Dutch Batavia Arrack Indonesia Rum – This is “a sugarcane molasses-based distillate produced exclusively on the island of Java, Indonesia. Setting it apart from the standard sugarcane rum is the addition of local red rice in the fermentation process. The Master Blender ages Batavia Arrack in oak barrels for up to 8 years, creating an extremely rich rum, deep in flavor, with a lovely, lingering finish.” On the nose: pungent and “rummy,” with big molasses, burnt sugar, and some forest floor notes. The palate is rough and rustic, a hearty maritime style of rum that kicks off with some briny character and leads to some interesting tropical flavors as well as notes of dark barrel char and heavily toasted spices. The finish is lengthy and reminiscent of cooked vegetables and coconut husk. It’s a curious and often intriguind sipper, but that said, Arrack is rarely drunk on its own; rather, it shows up from time to time in classic cocktail recipes — for which this bottle would seem well-suited. 96 proof. B / $34

bythedutch.com

Review: Spirits of Long Road Distillers – Vodka, Gin, Aquavit, Wendy Peppercorn, Cherry, and Wheat Whisky

Long Road Distillers, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has an exhaustive spirits catalog (now spanning 10 products), almost all of which is made from locally-sourced red winter wheat. Want to see how versatile a single grain can be? Here’s a look at five different spirits that Long Road makes from it (plus a cherry brandy made from local fruit).

Long Road Distillers Vodka – Quite pungent on the nose, with notes of mushroom, bean curd, and varnish. On the palate, there’s a vanilla cream and marshmallow sweetness but these can’t overpower the funky, shroominess of the experience — ultimately blurring the line between vodka and white whiskey. 80 proof. C- / $35

Long Road Distillers Gin – Six botanicals are used in the making of this gin, but none save juniper are revealed. And juniper is the primary aromatic and flavor element here, and it actually works well with that earthy, mushroomy base that is revealed in the vodka. Light citrus, both orange and lemon, show up on the palate later in the game, adding a much-needed layer of brightness and adding some acidity. The finish is on the earthy side, but works well enough with what’s come before to merit a cautious recommendation. 90 proof. B / $35

Long Road Distillers Aquavit – Long Road doesn’t disclose its aquavit botanicals, but the nose offers blatant caraway notes, giving it a rye bread character from start to finish. Long Road keeps it simple throughout — there’s no overload of herbs and spices to distract you, just a touch of mint on the finish and some coconut husk character — but if caraway’s not your bag, well, you’ll want to explore other spirits. 90 proof. B / $35

Long Road Distillers Wendy Peppercorn – This is an exotic name for an overproof vodka that’s spiked with pink peppercorns, pepper being a classic Scandinavian garnish. The nose is very fragrant, loaded with fresh pepper aromas along with a gentle fruit character that tempers the spice with sweetness. The palate is initially racy, but the pepper quickly settles down to reveal notes of fresh pine needles, cherry fruit, and a touch of antiseptic astringency. Approachable even though it’s over 50% abv, and fun to drink. Try it ice cold, of course. 101 proof. A- / $35

Long Road Distillers Cherry – This is Long Road’s cherry brandy, a limited release distilled from Michigan cherries. They are sweet and lush on the nose — Maraschino style cherries with a burst of sugar — but the palate takes that cherry and filters it through light notes of savory spices and a touch of roasted grains. The palate is less sweet than the amazingly expressive nose would indicate but it’s gentle enough to sip on and works well as a cocktail ingredient. 80 proof. B / $35 (375ml)

Long Road Distillers Wheat Whisky – Distill that red winter wheat and age it in a #3 charred oak barrel for 6 months and you’ve got Long Road’s wheat whisky. Nothing all that surprising here. This is a typically youthful craft spirit that offers a nose of heavy barrel char, toasty grains, and some butterscotch, all whipped into a slightly scattered experience. The body is loaded with that lumberyard character, then it quickly fades into notes of spent grain, mushroom funk, and more barrel char — though a solid vanilla character, layered with gingerbread, manages to come through clearly on the finish. 93 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B / $40

longroaddistillers.com

Review: Eden Mill Gins – Original, Love, Oak, and Hop

Eden Mill is a combo brewery-distillery in Scotland’s St. Andrews that makes beer, whisky, and gin, including this quartet, which all come in unique, swing-top bottles. Eden Mill makes quite an array of spirits in its copper pot stills; it’s a bit unusual for gin to be pot-distilled, so let’s take a dive into four of Eden Mill’s releases, which are just now becoming available in the U.S. thanks to importer ImpEx.

Eden Mill Original Gin – Beautifully balanced right from the start, featuring moderate but omnipresent juniper, a healthy slug of lemon and orange peel, and aromatic hints of cinnamon and cloves. The body picks up the spice a bit, playing up torched orange peel, cardamom, and hints of eastern spices, while finishing clean with some light florals notes. A perfect rendition of a modern gin that keeps one foot in the new world and one in the old. Use it for, well, anything. 84 proof. A

Eden Mill Love Gin – Flowers naturally come to mind when “Love” is on the menu, and roses are fragrant on the nose of Love Gin, right from the start. Evergreen character is surprisingly a bit stronger here, both on the nose and on the palate, which gives way to some orange peel and a hint of mushroomy forest floor. The finish is juniper-loaded, giving love a strangely feminine beginning, and a surprisingly masculine finale. Further proof that gender fluidity is hot right now. 84 proof. B

Eden Mill Oak Gin – Clearly barrel-aged (thanks to both the name and the color), though details on the treatment are scarce. Gentle citrus and vanilla notes on the nose give way to a cake frosting character on the palate, which eventually leads to the juniper at the gin’s core pushing its way through the sweetness. The finish is a pleasant combination of sweet and savory notes, with toasty baking spice elements layered on top. 84 proof. B+

Eden Mill Hop Gin – This hop-infused gin is a complete departure from the above trio, which can easily be seen as close members of the same family. The nose has strong elements of green olives, while the palate turns heavily hop-focused and very bitter, growing in strength as the finish, with echoes of lime peel and bitter amari, comes into focus. An acquired taste. 92 proof. B-

each $40 / edenmill.com

Review: A. Smith Bowman Rye Expectations Gin

A. Smith Bowman, owned by Sazerac/Buffalo Trace and based in Virginia, is known for some impressive whiskeys. Now it’s launching an experimental spirits line, and its first experiment is… gin. And that’s just the start.

Says Bowman:

The line will include a wide variety of distilled spirits, including the aforementioned gin, and will grow to include different expressions of rums, vodkas, and brandies. The Experimental Series will explore a wide variety of spirits delving into unique recipes, wood types, exotic fermentables, and the use of local ingredients such as grapes, apples, pears, grains, and much more.

The first offering, a gin titled Rye Expectations, is very limited and will only be available at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery Visitor Center.  It is a one-time only release, and is the first release ever from A. Smith Bowman’s new custom microstill, George, installed in early 2015. This gin is a custom recipe created by Master Distiller Brian Prewitt, distilled three times and crafted using a distinct rye grain base including Virginia rye and a botanical mix of juniper, coriander Spanish orange, and angelica.

If you’ve ever wondered what a juniper-flavored white whiskey tastes like, give Rye Expectations a shot. While technically it’s not a whiskey, it sure does come across like one, its racy rye notes worn right on its sleeve. The botanicals are there, but barely — a twist of orange, some indistinct evergreen, and rosemary notes, but these are understated, almost to a fault. The nutty grain notes are what endure well into the finish.

I thought it was strange that a distiller known only for whiskey was making a gin — but now that it’s here, I can report that it tastes exactly like you would expect a gin from a whiskey distiller to taste like.

90 proof.

B / $35 (375ml) / asmithbowman.com

Review: Four Pillars Rare Dry and Navy Strength Gin

Four Pillars is a new distillery based near Melbourne, Australia. Inspired by American craft distilling, the company is focused exclusively on gin — with at least eight expressions under its belt in just three years — and its products are now coming to the U.S. (The four pillars in question are largely symbolic (the fourth pillar is love).)

Today we’re looking at two of the primary releases from the company (the others don’t appear to be available on our shores yet), Rare Dry (the flagship) and a Navy Strength expression.

Thoughts follow.

Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin – Four Pillars’ first gin, this is a modern style featuring juniper and oranges, plus indigenous Australian botanicals including lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepperberry leaf. The nose is very heavy on juicy citrus — which may be off-putting to some — with evergreen notes and some grassy (lemongrass?) character underneath that. The palate is a different animal, heavily herbal with notes of sage, plus some light mushroom, rose petal, and just a hint of black pepper on the finish. Versatile but different enough to merit exploration. 83.6 proof. B+ / $38

Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin – This isn’t a mere upgrade of Rare Dry, it’s a different formulation, with much of the orange removed and Australian finger limes added, along with fresh ginger and turmeric, a quite unusual botanical for gin. It has surprisingly little in common with Rare Dry, with a nose that’s much heavier on juniper, with a healthy undercoating of lime peel. Heavily perfumed, it takes some time to really delve into the palate, which offers a little sweetness, backed up by a substantial lime character — think limeade. There’s a spiciness on the finish that I credit to the ginger, though it lacks the sinus-clearing character that’s traditional with freshly ground ginger root. Ultimately it’s nice and cleansing, though; try it in a gimlet or a long drink. 117.6 proof. A- / $48

fourpillarsgin.com.au

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