Spirits Confidential with Max Solano
Around The World with Gin Part 2 of 2
Last month we covered some amazing and diverse gins from various geographical regions throughout the world. This month, I decided to continue riding this gin train and cover some of the delicious gins “local” to us.
If we were to take a trip back to NYC in the latter part of the 19th century, we would see the evolution of the cocktail from its early 1800s infancy and how much it has become an integral part of our culture and society. Most of the gin-based cocktails heavily imbibed leading up to Prohibition were made with a rarely seen style used today called Old Tom, Old gin or simply “gin.” This style, which has existed since the early 18th century, is sweeter than the London dry style as producers would typically add sugar and/or licorice to mask the harshness of the spirit. This was most likely due to the pre-existence of the Column still.
The London dry style was also present during this time in the US, but did not begin to experience a dramatic growth until the repeal of Prohibition.
With the unprecedented boom of the American craft distillery scene in the US in the early 2000s up through today, we started seeing a tidal wave of new vodkas and gins from these producers because of the quick turnaround time from harvest to market. This new style typically referred to “Western” or “New World” style is much more appealing to a vodka drinker, as it focuses less on the juniper and more on the integration and showcasing of all the botanicals.
EMPRESS GIN (42 % ABV)
British Columbia, Canada
One of the more interesting new gins on the block is produced in Victoria, British Columbia. Empress Gin is contemporary as well as aesthetically eye catching. It’s distilled in small batches and uses eight unique botanicals including juniper, tea, rose, coriander seed, grapefruit peel, ginger root, cinnamon bark and butterfly pea blossom, from which it gets its beautiful indigo color. Owners Danny & Kelly Pettit’s inspiration years ago when creating Empress was due to the very impressive afternoon tea program offered at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Empress Gin works exceptionally well in lighter profile cocktails such as a gin & tonic with Fever Tree elderflower tonic or a Collins with a tea syrup… Just saying!
FREY RANCH (45% ABV)
Nestled up in northern Nevada is a 1,200-acre parcel of land that the Frey family settled on before Nevada was a state. Several years ago, Colby & Ashley Frey decided to embark on their own distillery, which was pretty much built by their own hands! And, for most of their spirits offerings, they are literally “Frey farm to glass!”
They offer a line of artisanal spirits that are both diverse and very well-crafted. But, their award-winning gin(s) are made using grains only grown and harvested from their own land. The juniper and sagebrush are two of the essential botanicals used for their Frey Ranch gin and also foraged on their property. The other five botanicals consist of angelica root, cardamom, coriander, lemon and orange peels. Note that this gin base is made differently than their vodka.
The barrel-finished gin is made in small batches and, unlike the main gin, no two will use the same exact botanicals. This gin is rested for up to six months in virgin charred oak barrels (No. 4/ No. 3 on the barrel-head) char from the Barrel 53 Cooperage in Missouri. I have had fun using both Frey Ranch gins in cocktails such as the Southside and Last Word.
ALPINE SUMMIT GIN (45% ABV)
Park City, Utah
Alpine Distillery founder and owner, Rob Sargent, can easily be a candidate for “Most Interesting Man in the World.” About 15 minutes away from the High West distillery, Alpine is already making a name for itself for its diverse and quality spirits offerings. Alpine uses its own handmade Detroit still using full vapor extraction and is also Orthodox Union Kosher Certified made in small batches. This award-winning gin uses botanicals such as lemon and orange peel, ginger, coriander seed, juniper, angelica root, cardamom and more……. separate from their distillery, Alpine has a fun bar and visitor center where you can experience all of Alpine’s spirit offerings and even make your own gin style. Rob recommends drinking the Summit gin with soda, or in their “PGT” with Summit gin, Preserve liqueur & tonic.
JUNIPERO GIN (49.3%)
San Francisco, California
When we talk about O.G.’s of craft spirits in this country, we have to bring up Hotalings & Co., formerly Anchor Distillers, founded by legendary brewer turned distiller, Fritz Maytag. Although the brewery had been in existence for quite a few years, Fritz wanted to turn his hand to distillation and opened up the distillery in 1993.
Junipero is a full-bodied and diverse gin style that has both London Dry and Western style characteristics! Head distiller, Bruce Joseph, continues to oversee the production of the spirits still that are made at the Hotalings Distillery. This gin incorporates some classic and unique botanicals such as anise seeds, cardamom, cubeb and Seville and sweet orange peel. My recommendation is a Vesper or classic martini.
WOODY CREEK GIN (47% ABV
One artisanal spirits producer that believes in keeping things local is Woody Creek. Their Colorado gin offers a complexed flavor profile. One unique fact about their gin is that like their vodka, they use the same 100% potato base that was distilled in their custom-made Carl stills. The gin is made from locally sourced juniper, as well as lemongrass, coriander, cinnamon, angelica, hibiscus, lavender, cranberries, grains of paradise and multiple citrus fruit and allowed to macerate for a full 24 hours before being re-distilled. I would recommend their gin in fun classics like the Monkey Gland or Corpse Reviver No. 2.
These gins are just some of the great “locally” produced standouts that you should take the time to become intimate with either at home or your favorite watering hole. My hunch tells me that we will be seeing many more of these unique and greatly crafted artisanal spirits down the road!