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.

What Is Contemporary Gin?

American Gin Summit 2012 Review & Thoughts on Contemporary/New western Gin

To embrace the international aspect of the 4th annual World Gin Day, I decided to arrange an American gin tasting, accompanied by open discussion on the American/Contemporary style of gin.

The tasting was attended by over twenty of the great and good of the gin world, including: Sam Carter and Sean Ware of Bombay Sapphire, Ian and Hilary of Sacred, Martin So and Adam Smithson and Sarah Mitchell of the Juniper Society.

The spirits were tasted blind (even I didn’t know which was which) and contained within the eight identical bottles were seven gins, plus a wildcard: a botanical vodka that was made using many of the traditional botanicals of gin, but no juniper.

What did they think?

Overall, the panel responded warmly to the products, praising their variety and quality. In addition, the botanical vodka was singled out for its distinctive lack of juniper. The panel agreed that, although the products generally tasted of gin, many of their flavour profiles were apart from the standards that have been well-established by the traditional English distilleries.

The three most popular varieties were: No:209, Junipero and Aviation. The first two are, by their own admission, a slight twist on London Dry Gin, whereas Aviation describes itself as belonging to a far more contemporary style of gin.

Our attention then turned to the concept of a modern, American style as a separate, descriptive category of gin. The panel agreed that such terminology could have useful meaning and that identifying different styles can help to “broaden the category’s appeal” and may help to re-introduce people to the spirit. Evidence from speaking to American distillers supports the latter point.

Explaining the Differences

On the subject of why the gins differed so much in style, three main reasons were proposed:

#1) Alcohol Base
In the UK, many gins are made under contract by distilleries such as Thames, Greenalls and Langley, using brought-in neutral grain spirit. As such, the botanicals are the main aspect of differentiation. In the USA, distilleries often also make their own base spirit using local crops, including, but not limited to the use of: potatoes, green apples or even honey. As as a result, American gins can differentiate on this basis as well as with botanicals.

#2) Owner-operation
American craft distilleries are often owner-operated, with the distiller having been involved in the founding, development and maintenance of the brand. With such a large investment of time, money and creativity, it is unsurprising that producers want to make something “a bit different” to the big, established British brands.

#3) US Tonic Water
This was an unexpected, but apt, point. Tonic in the US (especially Schweppes) is far sweeter and more sticky than British or European tonic, and, as such, drinks made with British gin often seem unbalanced. When formulating US gin flavour profiles, adjustments are subconsciously made to compensate for the additional sweetness; this was a major consideration when Bombay Sapphire East was created for the US market.

The story so far: “New Western Gin”

In 2008, Ryan Magarian, co-creator of Aviation Gin, first outlined his thoughts on the subject of this different style and introduced the term “New Western Gin”.

Whilst the concept is good, there have been two main criticisms of the terminology:

#1) “New Western Gin” has geographical connotations; many US distillers feel it refers only to gins from Pacific states. It is also felt to exclude non-US, self-labelled, contemporary gins, such as Nolet’s Silver.

#2) Some gin brands (e.g. Miller’s, Tanqueray No. Ten and Hendrick’s) felt that the term was thrust upon them and argue against the label.

Recommendations

Finally, the panel discussed how the idea could progress, making the following points:
Appropriate terminology would be useful to describe this style, creating greater clarity for consumers.
Any categorization should be descriptive and stylistic, with no regulatory implications.
Terminology/labelling would need to be self-adopted by gin brands; speaking to distillers this seems plausible and, in fact, some already do.

A pair of terms were suggested:

#1 Classic
Dry gins, of the sort that have typically been made in England for generations, with flavours that are led by green, piney juniper and accented by the notes of other botanicals.

Self-identifying Classic gins include: Beefeater, Sipsmith and Hayman’s London Dry.

#2 Contemporary
Gins that still have juniper as a main flavour, but where the flavours of other botanicals are more in the foreground than in gins of the Classic style. Generally, a more experimental approach to flavours may be used, which may include the use of local or unusual botanicals and more unusual, in-house, base spirits.

Contemporary Gin also can be used simply as a collective term for New School Gin/American Gin/Californian Gin/New Western Gin/New World Gin/Modern Gin/21st Century Gin/New American/American Dry

Self-identifying Contemporary gins include: Nolet’s Silver & Reserve, DH Krahn, Dry Fly, Twisted Nose and FEW

David T Smith – 27th June 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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.

An Update on American Gin with Small’s and St George’s Rye

Living, as I do, outside of the USA, makes it rather tricky to acquire gin made by the plethora of craft/artisan/small distilleries in the country; most of the samples that I have tried have been very kindly brought back by friends and relatives.
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I think the lack of accessibility of this market is a shame, because there are some really exciting things going on in the US Gin World, including both innovative styles and even more innovative ingredients, whether that be unusual botanicals, such as lavender (River Rose), fennel (Death’s Door) and distilled* cucumber (Seneca Drums, Yahara Bay), or unusual alcohol bases. Examples of the latter include Comb9, which distills a fermented honey mead when making their spirit, and Nevada’s Seven Grain Vodka, whose base spirit is made from a blend of 7 different grains.
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With so many exciting developments going on, I was very pleased the other day to meet up with Michael Vachon from Ginuine Spirits, a company which specialises in American gin in the UK.
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Michael was kind enough to bring me two samples to try:
#1 Smalls Gin
Made by Ransom Spiritsbased in Sheridan, Oregon. They also make Ransom Old Tom Gin. Small’s Gin includes botanicals such as  juniper, orange, lemon, coriander, cardamom, angelica, caraway, star anise, and raspberryOwn
Nose: Herbal pine and a touch of jam to start. This nose was slightly salty with some musky notes. After a few seconds, I also picked up some soapy coriander and floral notes. As you can probably tell, this wasn’t classic at all.
Taste: Initially smooth, with pine and a fair bit of cardamon. It was also very floral: iris rose and lavender came through, making it seem perfume-like, with a slight peppery-ness at the end and a hint of sweetness in the middle. Mrs. B described it as,“Floral, perfumed and exotic”.Gin & Tonic
This had very strong cardamon notes, alongside fresh juniper and citrus. I thought it was fresh, crisp and generally superb; I think any other cardamon fans will feel the same, but those who don’t like the flavour might disagree.Martini
A fruity and slightly salty nose led to a martini that had considerable warmth and a touch fruit, but was also very floral. There were some sappy, pine-y juniper notes and some herbal floral ones. Lavender, too. Herbaceous.Negroni
The herbal and floral flavours of this gin worked quite well with those of the Campari and vermouth; the result being a drink that was intense both in its general flavour and its level of herbal notes. I thought this was an extraordinary Negroni and, whilst it’s certainly not classic, it was still rather good.

#2 St. Georges Dry Rye Gin
This is made by the team at St. George’s Distillery, Alamada, California, who are the folks behind Hangar One vodka. They also make two other gins: Botanivore and Terroir. The Dry Rye Gin is based on rye spirit and contains twice as much juniper as the other two.
Own
Nose: This was a dry and slightly floral nose, like Soochu, with some sweet brandy notes, too.
Taste: Smooth, with a slightly oily texture and some building warmth. It had a big mouth feel and a complex flavour with juniper, citrus, jammy berry notes and a menthol/euclyptus finish. As is typical with menthol, the finish was very cooling when you breathe in after drinking. There was also a little raspberry mixed in with the mint on the aftertaste, which hung around for 10+ minutes.
Gin & Tonic
This had a jammy nose with hints of floral. Altogether, it made a very floral Gin & Tonic that was a bit musky at the end. There was a nice freshness from the piney berry flavours and a strong tannin dryness at the end, alongside a hint of vanilla.
Martini
Dry, floral and souchu, again, with a hint of dry, dry berry. A bit like perfume and a bit like hairspray. Yeasty, too. Frankly, this was too fragrant for me, with neither enough juniper nor enough crispness.

*Hendrick’s Gin (and Martin Miller’s) also use cucumber, but, in their gins, it is not distilled.

Cocktails with… Bluecoat American Dry Gin


Based in Philadelphia USA, Bluecoat Gin was one of the first of a new wave of artisan gin distilleries, with the first bottle being released in May 2006.
1) Own
Nose: Coriander, followed by citrus, including orange and grapefruit peel, before slight, creamy notes and pine.
Taste: This is quite an intense gin, with fresh, piney juniper and rich citrus. The citrus has been dialled up to 11 – very intense. The more I drink it, the more the coriander comes through. All-in-all, I think it’s bit much to drink on its own.
2) Frozen
Smooth and viscous, with the full range of citrus elements noted above all tasting more concentrated. This strong citrus was joined by equally strong herbal notes, reminding me of a well-stocked culinery spice rack. Quite unlike any other gin.

3) Gin & Tonic
Very fresh and crisp. Again, strong coriander and other citrus came through, reminding me a little of breakfast juice (a blend of orange and grapefruit). Additionally, there was some piney juniper on the finish. I found that the gin was at its best when mixed with Schweppes or Fevertree; the added citrus from Fentiman’s being a bit too much. Also, you probably don’t need any citrus garnish.

4) Martini
This makes a slightly unusual drink, but I really liked it. There were distinctive notes of lemongrass, coriander, lemon verbena and a more general taste of citrus peel. There was also some piney juniper, but it was a little more rounded than in some of the other drinks. This is a modern Martini, packed with flavour and certainly worth a try.

5) Negroni
Quite an intensely bitter drink, with hints of chocolate and some citrus. For hardcore fans of the Negroni, this will really appeal. Despite the extreme bitterness, there was a little sweet syrupyness in there and, overall, it was quite smooth.

6) Collins
Like the G&T, this was very fresh and crisp, but – surprisingly – the gin, which usually has a strong character, was almost lost in the rest of the mix. As a result, I would consider this a nice enough drink, but not a great way to appreciate the gin.

7) Buck
Very tasty. The gin really came through well, with the citrus, coriander and some other herbal complexities remaining prominent. Refreshing, but still flavourful. Superb.

8) Gimlet
I thought that this made a good Gimlet, even at a 2:1 (gin : Rose’s lime cordial) ratio. The gin really stood up well in this drink. As it’s all about citrus, Bluecoat naturally works quite well, also contributing a hint of herbal notes, too.

9) Pink Gin
An interesting Pink Gin. The characteristics of the Angostura match this gin quite well, so that they seem like an extension of the gin, rather than a part of a mixed drink. This is the only Pink Gin that I’ve had that’s like this, nonetheless, I thought it was rather good.

10) Gin Old Fashioned
This worked really well. The intense citrus of the gin is slightly curbed, but without the spirit losing any character. It isn’t too sweet and the bitters add a pleasant level of complexity. I thought this was an excellent way to sip Bluecoat Gin.

Cocktails with… Dry Fly Gin, Vodka and Whiskey


A little while ago I came across the Dry Fly Distillery, based in Washington State, USA. After a pleasant phone call with one of the founders, Kent, I found myself in possession of a lovely care package of their products. Dry Fly Distillery was founded just over four years ago by fishing buddies Don Poffenroth and Kent Fleischmann; hence the name “Dry Fly”, after the fishing technique. Given the focus of our site, it was their gin that captured the majority of my attention. For further background why not check out this video.
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GIN

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Bottled at 40% ABV, the gin uses the same spirit as the vodka and has 6 botanicals:
Juniper
Coriander
Hops
Lavender
Mint
Apples
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The inclusion of the likes of apple and mint were an endeavour to use natural resources found close to the distillery. This is something that is becoming increasing popular in the American Gin market; another good example is Death’s Door.
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Own:
Nose: Creamy and floral with a hint of spice. There was also a certain jammy quality and a hint of juniper.
Taste: Incredibly, absolutely smooth, with no burn at all. The only way that I could tell that it was alcoholic was by a slight tingle on my lips at the end. This was quite floral (violet and lavender), with some sweet creamy citrus (maybe mandarin or lime). The juniper is there, but it definitely takes a back seat. Overall, I thought it was rather sippable. Upon a second inspection, I also noticed a slight saké-like quality to the gin, which was quite pleasant.
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From Freezer:
A viscous texture, alongside a nose of ginger, flowers and juniper. Very tasty, this was full of flavour, being slightly brandy-like with additional hints of juniper and vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
This drink had strong notes of mandarin and citrus on the nose. Alongside the citrus and floral notes, there was a herbal note akin to dry vermouth. The drink is also quite dry and has a crisp quality, which made it both thirst-quenching and refreshing. I would suggest having no garnish and using Schweppes or Fevertree; I think that Fentiman’s citrus profile would overpower the drink.

Martini:
This was very clean, with quite light flavours and some juniper. It had different characteristics to most Martinis, but was very good nonetheless: it was silky and slightly floral, with a long finish.

Pink Gin:
This Pink Gin was quite floral and herbal, but there seemed to be a slight clash between the gin and bitters. Of those that I tried, this wasn’t the best way to enjoy the gin.

Negroni:
Like the Pink Gin, the Negroni was floral and herbal, with some additional hints of citrus. There was a good balance between bitterness and sweetness. As a whole, the cocktail was complex, rich and quite tasty. Top notch.

Fruit Cup: Quite dry, but with an additional buttery richness, this was relatively light whilst still having some strong juniper notes. With as some citrus fruit, we thought this was delightfully refreshing.

VODKA

Room-temperature
nose: grain, vanilla cream and a hint of almond
taste: initially smooth then some warmth. Flavours of vanilla icecream followed by hints of coffee and dark chocolate.Frozen:grainy, vanilla icecream nose. Thicker than at room temperature but not that viscous. The light grain and vanilla note persist and there is also a hint of coffee followed by a very clean finish.Vodka Martini: rather lovely. Very clean, more flavour than a normal Martini but the flavour is a soft and subtle creamy vanilla. Despite this slightly confectionery taste it is not at all sickly. Overall very nice and rather unusual.

WHISKEY


This section is written by in-house whisk(e)y enthusiast Mrs. B.

Dry Fly make two types of whiskey: Bourbon (aged for 3 and a half years) and a Wheat Whisky (aged for 2 years); both are aged in New American Oak Casks.

Bourbon

This had a very sweet nose, reminding me of caramel, with a touch of vanilla and slight hints of a rawer alcohol at the end. To taste, it had a strong start that continued the caramel notes from the nose, whilst also being dry and woody in texture. DBS found it to be incredibly dry and was reminded of bread – wheat and oats. The finish was of honeycomb, with a distinct sweetness at the back of the throat.

After the addition of a touch of water, the nose opened up to reveal an oat-y, cake-y scent underneath the caramel. The taste was warmer and clearer, but followed the same profile as noted above. DBS also detected some fruity, jammy notes after water had been added; red berries in particular.

Wheat whiskey

The wheat whiskey had a very straightforward, dry nose of wheat and wood; there was no real sweetness or fruitiness to it. To taste, though, it was surprisingly complex. Again, it was very dry, although I found it to be slightly viscous on the tongue. This unusual combination is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. The main flavours were of wheat and other savoury cereals, freshly varnished wood, and maybe a hint of pine. The finish was spicy, with a heated, peppery sensation.

We found that this whiskey didn’t improve with water: it simply diluted it, making the flavours more disjointed. I felt it could be used very well in cocktails, however.