Cocktails with… Bellewood Gin

With the rise of craft and micro-distillers comes an increased desire to innovate and experiment in search of a gin that breaks boundaries and sets itself apart from the crowd. An increasingly popular way of doing this is to use a non-typical base spirit (i.e. not Neutral Grain Spirit). Often, the base spirit used is inspired by what grows around the distillery and one such example is apples. There are apple base spirits in use throughout the US and the William Case Gin of the UK also uses an apple base.

Bellewood Gin

Today’s focus is on another gin with an apple base spirit, named Bellewood Gin from Lynden, in the North of the state of Washington. Bellewood Gin’s apple spirit base is made from a blend of 21 varieties of apples, primarily Jonagold and Jonamac, but generally a mix, depending on the harvest. Its seven botanicals are vapour infused using a gin basket in a Vendome still and include:

Juniper
Coriander
Cinnamon
Angelica root
Cardamon
Orange peel
Lemon peel

On its own
Nose: Spiced apple with juniper, angelica, and some lovely, warm spiced notes: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cassia, as well as fruity raisin. Warm and inviting.
Taste: A lovely, smooth spirit with the apple working well with the dry botanicals (juniper, angelica); this is then balanced out by some of the sweet, baking spice notes, which are somewhat reminiscent of an apple crumble or baked apple.

Gin & Tonic
The base comes through strongly, giving a dry apple flavour that’s followed by a flair of gingerbread spice, although this is slightly more subtle than the flavours of the gin on its own. The finish is dry, with some bitterness from the quinine and juniper that stops the drink from becoming too sweet.

Martini
A spicy Martini with citrus (orange and lemon) and spice, including cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia, and even a hint of vanilla. It’s a little like some kind of cinnamon bread, but one that is, thankfully, not too sweet. All-in-all, this is a smooth and viscous Martini that I’d happily have again.

Negroni
Another delightful Bellewood drink. This is full of fresh, crisp apple notes, as well as piney juniper and cinnamon spice, which work well with the cocktail’s other ingredients to create a tasty drink that’s full of flavour.

In Conclusion
Bellewood is an exemplary example of an apple-based gin. Depending upon how it’s mixed, different aspects of the spirit came through – a sign of good gin. My favourite cocktail was the Martini.

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Cocktails with… Aria Gin from Oregon, USA!

AriaGinTitle

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:
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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.