Cocktails with.. Smooth Ambler’s Greenbrier Gin – from West Virginia USA!

SmoothAmblerTitle

Hailing from Maxwelton, West Virginia Greenbrier Gin (40.0%ABV) is just one of Smooth Ambler‘s variety of products, other include a vodka (Whitewater) a white whisky, two bourbons and a rather excellent aged gin.

Greenbrier Gin spirit base is Smooth ambler’s Whitewater Vodka (a blend of  corn, wheat & barley) and contains a mix of seven botanicals:

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1) On its own
Nose: Juniper, supported by warm, savoury spice and a light, warm, sweet yeasty note.
Taste: Smooth, with a very dry, clean taste; almost a hint of soda water to start with. As the flavour progresses, the bitterness increases. There’s spice upfront, along with some juniper and that long, earthy bitter note of a good soda water on the finish.

2) Gin & Tonic
Not bad; some yeast/bread/grain notes, followed by a fruity jamminess. Other than this luscious boost of succulent sweetness, the drink is actually quite dry and a bit spicy at the end. Sadly, with Schweppes, the finish is slightly cloying.

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3) Martini
This cocktail has lots of floral spiciness, which I really like. There’s also a touch of malt and a sweet breadiness. For a Martini, this has some pleasant fruity notes; this fruity aspect reminds me of gins made from potato-based spirit.

4) Negroni
Nutty, with hint of freshly ground coffee beans. There is also a touch of salted peanuts and a pinch of popcorn, which are followed by some deeper herbal notes. Well-balanced, with a juicy fruitiness on the finish. I like this a lot – it was a pleasure to drink.

In Conclusion
Smooth Ambler is a good example of how the base you use for your gin can be just important as your botanical mix. In fact it would be good fun to try the same botanical mix with different spirits bases.

The Negroni was outstanding I really liked the nutty-coffee aspect of the drink and it is something I could enjoy over and over again.

us gin tag
Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Lemon, Orange, Cardamom, Black Pepper

Cocktails with… Aviation Gin

Aviation Gin was created in 2006 and I first tried it at the Boutique Bar Show in 2008. It is made in Portland, Oregon and uses 100% neutral grain spirit as a base and its seven botanicals are matured for 48 hours before distilling (twice the more common 24 hours).

Aviation is described as a New Western Gin and the founder of Aviation, Ryan Magarian, actually coined the term. I’ve spoken to him and he agrees that the “contemporary” moniker also fits. “Botanical Democracy” means that the Juniper “is not King”*, therefore allowing the other botanicals to have a greater say in the overall profile, as it were.

1) On its own
Nose: Menthol, spearmint, dark chocolate, savoury, salty and a hint of cardamom.
Taste: Herbal and salty to start, with some warmth. It grows bitter towards the end, being earthy, with hints of burnt toast, wood, resin and salted butter. In the middle of the flavour profile, there’s some piney juniper. Finally, the finish is warm with floral notes.

2) Gin & Tonic
This makes a herbal and floral Gin & Tonic with notable hints of anise, spearmint and wintergreen. Bitter and earthy, with dark chocolate on the finish. Not typical, but by no means bad. There’s a little sweetness and then some savoury saltiness towards the end.

3) Martini
Dry, spicy and savoury. There’s a hint of cinnamon and sarsaparilla, as well as some saltiness. This not your typical Classic style of Martini, but then the gin was designed to be different and more contemporary and this comes through in a Martini. There’s some spicy cardamom, too.

4) Negroni
Floral and syrupy, herbal and sweet, with some hints of anise and sarsaparilla. This drink has a real medicinal quality. There’s some vanilla, but it’s much less bitter and dry than your usual Negroni.

In Conclusion
Aviation is a new wave of gin and one of its strengths is its savoury character. It lends itself well to drinks like the Red Snapper, but also gives it a relatively unique application for other gin drinks; as a fan of savoury cocktails, I’d like to see more of them. Aviation defnitely has potential.

* Some informed readers will no doubt get a bee in their bonnet about “predominant juniper”, a term from EU Regulation: No 110/2008.

1) This term is effectively meaningless, as what constitutes “prominent juniper” is not defined by the regulation, making it very subjective.

2) A gin that (flavour-profile-wise) is 99% juniper and 1% other botanicals has a more prominent juniper flavour than one that is only 90% juniper and 10% other botanicals, but no one would consider the latter to not be gin. With these sort of gins, juniper should still be the main flavour, it’s just that the others play a bigger part.

Cocktails with… Cold River Gin

Cold River Gin was launched in August 2010 and is distilled at Maine Distilleries’ facility in Freeport, Maine. One very distinctive thing about it, apart from the attractive bottle, is that it uses potato as its spirit base. These potatoes are grown on the owners’ farm, Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg, Maine. I have only ever reviewed two other dry gins that were potato-based and one sloe gin.

Cold River Gin is made using seven botanicals:


The gin is cut down to 47% ABV by adding water drawn from the Cold River Aquifer at the Green Thumb Farms.

On its own
Nose: Sweet, creamy vanilla, salted caramel, butterscotch and a floral flair.
Taste: Intense spirit-wise, this is perfumed and floral. There’s juniper in the middle, with notes of violet and a touch of salt and butterscotch. There’s a tingle at the end, along with a fruitiness reminiscent of other [potato based gins].

Gin & Tonic
Sweet and floral, reminiscent of bergamot orange and earl grey tea. The unusual alcohol base makes it more fruity and juicy than other Gin & Tonics, and reminds me of those made with Larry’s Gin. Rather left field.

Martini
This makes a floral Martini with a good amount of fruitiness followed by some more bitter, earthy notes, like dark chocolate. There’s also a little black pepper spiciness, too.

Negroni
A very reasonable Negroni, but one that is also quite floral, sweet and fruity. There’s a touch of anise, but it’s not as smooth as it might be. It’s less bitter and more sweet than the usual Negroni, with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweet spice.

In Conclusion
Cold River is a rather different gin, fruity and very contemporary in style. If you want to know what a potato-based gin tastes like this is one to try. It works well in some cocktails but I think some of classics need some tweaking to compensate for this gins unusual characteristics.

American Gin Double Feature – Farmer’s Gin (NY) and Berkshire Mt. Ethereal #4 (MA)

In today’s update on American gin we shall look at two gins, one is organic, the other rather experimental.

Farmers

Farmers Gin is made by the Crop Harvest Earth Company in New York and the whole spirit is made from sustainably farmed grain grown in the U.S.. Both the grain and the gin, therefore, are certified organic by the USDA. The gin is called Farmers in tribute to the four farms that grow the organic crops that are essential in making the gin.

The folks behind Farmers Gin wanted it to be organic for two reasons:
1) they believe that it’s better for the Earth; and
2) they argue that organic gins should taste better, as the organic neutral spirit is cleaner and allows the botanicals to infuse more effectively. Similarly, they also suggest that organic botanicals have more flavour.

The gin was designed to have a different character to those in the Classic London-style, and be less dominant in terms of juniper. It is becoming quite typical among Craft Distillers in the US to opt for a more contemporary style of flavour rather than the Classic style of, say, Beefeater or Tanqueray.

Farmer’s Gin uses the following botanicals:
– Juniper;
– Elderflower;
– Lemongrass;
– Coriander;
– Angelica root;
– plus a number of undisclosed botanicals.

A sample of this was kindly sent to me by a benefactor in the USA.

1) Own
nose: coriander and citrus
taste:  avery smooth start followed by plenty of citrus, orange, slightly soapy coriander and then a lot of lemon grass, then a touch of dry bitter juniper and then a hint of floral and vanilla sweetness right at the end.

2) Gin & Tonic
This is the drink where I think the juniper and elderflower comes through the most, in fact to my taste the juniper is quite prominent up front this then give way to a fresh leafy citrus with elements of the lemongrass and elderflower I think it rather good.

3) Martini
A very floral and heavily citrus Martini quite perfumed and rather contemporary in style. Fresh but not as crisp as a classic martini. although it has a lot of citrus it is a more floral orange, lemon grass lemon verbena type of citrus as opposed to the zesty citrus of lemon or lime.

4) Negroni
A very complex and intense Negroni with the dry floral and perfumed citrus seems to increase the bitterness of the drink and gives it a very powerful flavour. One for the Negroni fans.


Berkshire Mountain Ethereal #4

A sample of this gin was brought back from the USA for me by my dear friend-in-gin, Dickie.

This is made by Berkshire Mountain Distillers in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. They also make their standard Greylock Gin, which their distiller informed me is closer to the Classic London Dry Gin style. In the spirit of innovation, they also make a limited edition Ethereal Gin (currently on Batch #5); this uses 14 botanicals, with each release having a different selection and balance of botanicals. The idea being to give each batch of gin its own unique character.

Own
nose: coriander, citrus and a slight vegetal quality
taste: Smooth initially with a strong floral/citrus mix of flavours there is also a hint of vanilla oak on the finish. Complex and very contemporary in style.

Gin & Tonic
This was a powerfully flavourful Gin & Tonic; very floral, with star anise and coriander coming through, as well as some herbal and citrus notes. Zesty and perfumed, this was definitely a departure from a classic Gin & Tonic, but, given the experimental nature of this gin, I think that’s what Ethereal #4 is all about.

Martini
Cool, silky, herbal and piney, with a good dose of floral, as well as coriander and warm cinnamon. I also got lemongrass and a hint of coconut. I think this made a great Martini using the Diamond Method, i.e. pouring the gin straight into a chilled glass that has had a vermouth rinse. Quickly finished.

Negroni
This was superb; in addition to the dry juniper and bittersweet herbal notes that you would expect, there was liquorice and anis, a rich succulent fruitiness, dark chocolate and a hint of gingerbread. It was so smooth and silky, and with such a complex flavour profile, that it was probably one of the best Negronis that I have ever had.

Thanks to Dickie for his help with this article.

Cocktails with… Yahara Bay Extra Dry Gin – From Wisconsin!!!

Those of you who have read my review on Death’s Door will know of my fondness for its US State of origin, Wisconsin. So, as you may imagine, I was delighted to find out that there is another gin that comes from Madison, Wisconsin, made by the same distiller that makes Death’s Door.

The gin in question is Yahara Bay, which is made by master distiller Nick Quint at the Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison, Wisconsin. The bottle, to anyone familiar with Madison, is striking: tall and bright, with the Capitol Building of the State of Wisconsin in the background.*

Yahara Bay Distillers also make a range of Vodka, Whiskies, Brandy and Liqueurs, as well as selling the fascinating “Age Your Own Whiskey Kit”.

But for now, let’s get back to the gin. Yahara Bay is made using a Carter-Head-style still, is based on a wheat/corn spirit mix and contains 5 botanicals:
Juniper
Coriander
Fennel**
Orange Zest
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And, finally, Cucumber; but, unlike Hendrick’s, this is part of the botanical mix rather than an essence added at the end. As such, the cucumber flavour works with the rest of the gin in a different way to those where it is added afterwards.
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Own
Nose: Juniper and angelica; it’s also slightly salty, with a hint of cucumber and gherkin accompanied by a touch of brine.
Taste: Smooth. An initial sweetness is followed by dry juniper and a slight savoury sweetness from the cucumber on the finish. Very pleasant and a different, more savoury, sort of cucumber flavour than you get from Hendrick’s or Miller’s.Frozen
This was more viscous and floral than having the Gin at room temperature. Juniper and coriander came through, as do some of the savoury notes, including the cucumber; very good indeed.
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Gin & Tonic
Coriander and orange initially, before fresh herbal notes from the cucumber. This a really fresh drink, which is slightly fruity. Packed with flavour, there were dry juniper, citrus and leafy characteristics, as well as a little vanilla towards the end and a superb, lasting finish. Top notch!
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Martini
Superb. Whilst obviously being a Gin Martini, this is one with a twist. The primary flavours are of juniper and coriander, with some savoury notes of fennel and fresh, slightly salty, cucumber. Lovely stuff.
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Negroni
Very tasty; soft, silky and savoury. There is a touch of sweetness just before the typical Negroni bitter finish, but not that much. This makes for quite a complex and rich cocktail, with the herbal notes of the Gin working well with the even deeper herbs of the Campari and Vermouth.
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Alexander
Given how savoury this Gin is, I was surprised how well it worked in an Alexander; the resultant drink was pretty clean and not too sickly, with a hint of fennel and hot spice at the end. It works quite well.

Gimlet
Interesting combination, savoury and quite spicy. This finishes off with some tart lime. reminds me of Thai fishcakes.

Pink Gin
Quite a savoury and slightly bitter concoction, this was also rather bracing, but quite clean. A lot less sweet than many Pink Gins and, actually, the best I have had in a little while.

In Conclusion
Yahara Bay is another great example of the contemporary style*** of gins being made in the USA at the moment. I’m a big fan of Death’s Door and so it’s really good to see another excellent spirit come from the same distillery in Madison Wisconsin.

It was also nice to try a gin with distilled cucumber and see what that brings to the spirit in a different, but not necessarily better, way to the use of an essence in Hendrick’s or Martin Miller’s. And, of course, to finally try a gin that began with a “Y” has been a long time coming.

My favourite cocktails with Yahara Bay were the Martini, Gin & Tonic and Gimlet. If you get a chance to try this, I’d really recommend it.

* I toured this building during my time in Madison; rather spectacular!
** Those of you who are familiar with Death’s Door may realise that Death’s Door also contains the first three of these botanicals. Unlike Death’s Door, however, the fennel in Yahara Bay is much less dominant.
*** By “contemporary style”, I mean not in the Classic London Gin style, i.e. not dry and not heavy on the traditional botanicals of, not just juniper, but coriander/angelica/orris and citrus. Whilst those in the contemporary style are obviously still gins, with the juniper being present, they are also notably different.