Cocktails with… Aria Gin from Oregon, USA!

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When a gin makes a name for itself well beyond the shore of its production, then you need to sit up and take notice and the biggest gin that I had heard people talking about (that I hadn’t tried) recently has been Aria. As a result, I was delighted when, on a recent trip to the USA, I got the chance to try some.

Aria, hailing from Portland Oregon is made at the Bull Run distillery by the Martin Ryan Distilling Company. On their website, they say:

Aria Portland Dry Gin is a Classic Gin the bridges the gap between London Dry and Plymouth Styles.” *

Tasting the gin, it certainly has a lot of classic elements going on: juniper upfront and some coriander, but there’s also a really pleasant softness that’s somewhat reminiscent of Plymouth English Gin.

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Bottled at 45% ABV, Aria uses a mix of 10 botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Lemon
Orange
Orris
Cardamom
Cassia
Grains of Paradise
Cubeb Berries

On it’s own
Nose: Coriander with some floral notes and some savoury, herbal notes.
Taste: Juniper upfront, followed by spicy coriander and the some floral elements like violet or lavender. There’s also a long, piney citrus note with a little orange. This gin has a lovely texture, with a smooth sweetness throughout.

Gin & Tonic
A great, spicy nose is followed by some good spicy and herbal notes on the taste. It’s very smooth and has hints of cardamom and some nuttiness, as well as a citrus vanilla note towards the end. Rich, but not sickly. Choosing the right garnish, for me, would be tricky, but – overall – I think it has enough character to stand without one.

Martini
Some sweetness to start. This is very intense and herbal, with fresh pine needles coming through, along with the juicy juniper. This makes the way for hints of dark liquorice and anise. There are some good herbal and spicy elements, but plenty of juniper, too. Very well-balanced.

Negroni
A rich and viscous Negroni with a delightful bitter edge on the finish. The taste is bold, with citrus and floral flavours. It’s easy to drink, with hints of wood and pine mixed amongst those of the Campari and vermouth. Really excellent; one for the aficionado.

In Conclusion
I’ve wanted to try Aria Gin for a while and, to my mind, it was well worth the wait. I’m a big fan of contemporary styles of gin, which US Craft Distillers seem to excel at producing, but it’s nice to see that there are still some craftsmen making delicious gins in a more Classical style. Aria can hold its own against Britain’s finest, in my opinion. My favourite drink was the Negroni.

Check out Aria Gin:
Website
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* Some may disagree, but I don’t think that Plymouth should be considered a style, because its categorization is simply a legal anomaly (a GI status, which would be unlikely to be granted today) and its distinction from other gins has nothing to do with how it tastes. The only impact that being made at its location has that makes a difference is the fact that it uses soft water from Dartmoor (although you could source this and ship it anywhere; your gin wouldn’t have to be made in Plymouth). The sweet and earthy flavour of Plymouth Gin, which I think is excellent, is to do with the choice and mix of its botanicals.

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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.