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.
Bottled at 45% ABV, Aria uses a mix of 10 botanicals:
Grains of Paradise
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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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.