Cocktails with… Green Hat Gin from Washington D.C.

GreenHat Title

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There are few distilleries whose progress – from construction to production – I have followed as closely one over 3,660 miles away in Washington DC. I was hoping it would be part of our United States of Gin Tasting, as it would have been fun to have had a gin from a district in addition to those from the states, but it was not to be.

I have, however, been able to get hold of some recently, thanks to my good friend, Michael Vachon of Ginuine Spirits.

GreenHat Gin is made by New Columbia Distillers and the first batch was released in the second half of 2012. This distillery is the first in the Capital since Prohibition. They use a new-make spirit base of red winter wheat (made by the distillery themselves) and a mix of 12 botanicals:

Juniper, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Lemon Peel, Grapefruit Peel, Cassia Bark, Fennel, Sage, Grains of Paradise, Lemongrass, Celery Seed.

Celery Seed is a rather rare botanical to use; I know of only one other gin that uses it (St. Georges Botanivore).

GreenHat Gin Bottle

THE TASTE

1) On its own
Nose: Creamy with herbal lemon, pine, orris and liquorice root. Interesting but quite soft.
Taste: Smooth is a building warmth. Complex with plenty of herbal notes, anise and liquorice followed by some more savoury herbal notes like celery salt and sage then a little juniper and a long finish which included a hint of maple pecan. Engaging and good to drink on it’s own or on the rocks.

2) Gin & Tonic
Fascinating: the first flavour I get is a hint of chocolate chip cookie dough, followed by a touch of pine and coriander. This followed by a mix of citrus and floral notes, and a hint of herbal sage. This is fresh, crisp and a departure from the classic style; that said, it is still dry and very refreshing.

UPDATE: we usually try our gin and tonic with UK Schweppes which is what I used above. I did however try some of the gin with Q and it was even better. Lovely rich nutty notes of pecan and maple come through from the gin as well as a little sweetness which is finely balance by the dry earth finish of Q – very elegant.

3) Martini
Strong, both in terms of flavour and perceived alcoholic strength, but also flavourful, with an earthy dryness running through it alongside some savoury notes. There’s some anise towards the end and the slight saltiness of celery seed. Herbal and spicy, this is a great drink to rouse your appetite.

4) Negroni
A very rich and complex Negroni, with a strong “pow!” of bitterness followed by notes of anise and dark chocolate. This has some great herbal and floral notes and the vermouth is surprisingly forward, providing a good opportunity to showcase a special fortified wine.

In Conclusion
I was very excited to try GreenHat Gin and, thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. It has herbal and spice notes and, in certain drinks, distinct hints of maple and pecan also come through, which I really like. My favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

GreenHat Gin (40.7% ABV)
www.greenhatgin.com

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Cocktails with… Barr Hill Gin (from Vermont)

During my recent trip to New York, I tried 40 new gins and, of these, two really stood out. One was BIG Gin and the other is Barr Hill, which causes me to come over a touch nostalgic whenever I think of it. So what’s so great about this gin?

The premise is simple: Barr Hill is a single botanical gin (juniper, of course!) that is infused with raw honey after distillation*.

On its own
Colour: Given the honey infusion, the gin has a light straw colour.
Nose: Juniper, pine and beeswax. Very strong and very intriguing.
Taste: Plenty of fresh, green and piney juniper, just like walking in a forest. This is followed by a touch of sweetness (although not much) and the flavour of the honey. The finish is a combination of the two, which reminds me of the piney/honey scent of beeswax wood polish. This may sound unpleasant, but I thought it was lovely and incredibly interesting.

Gin & Tonic
BRILLIANT! Juniper and pine up-front, with a touch of floral notes, herbal honey and a beeswax finish. This is so unusual, but very, very tasty. Rustic, but balanced and, overall, a flavour that is decidedly morish.

Martini
Superb. Unlike any Martini I have ever had before, but this is as good as the best of them. If you like your Martinis with a punch of juniper, then you’ll like this. The honey does not detract from this too much and simply adds a dash of silky sweetness on the finish.

Negroni
A very classic Negroni, with both bitter and sweet aspects and a smooth honey finish. Packed full of flavour, with hints of cedar wood and very satisfying. One of my favourite Negronis.

In Conclusion
This was a clear favourite for the whole panel, who like the contemporary innovation whilst keeping with the very classic characteristic of strong juniper. In each drink that we mixed it in, it brought its own flair, whilst remaining true in part to the more traditional varieties of those drinks. If you get a chance to try it, I’d highly recommend it. It is expensive, at $45 a bottle, but I think it’s worth it. My favourite drink was the Negroni.

Don’t just take my word for it, check out the review at TheGinIsIn (America’s Gin Website).

* Yes, this technically makes it a “Distilled Gin”, which some argue is inferior to the precious “London Dry Gin”, but wait until you have tried this before judging. It’s also worth noting that gins that are often cited as people’s favourites (Hendricks and Martin Miller’s) are also distilled gins. These are also two of the most successful new gins to have been released in last ten years (another being Tanqueray No:10).

** Interestingly, some authors have suggested that this is something of an Old Tom style of gin, which I find to be a fascinating premise that requires more attention.

 

Cocktails with… Gale Force Gin

Gale Force Gin from Massachusetts was the fourth gin that we tried during our recent tasting, New Hampshire having joined the union on February 6, 1788.

(There is currently no New Jersey (3rd) or Connecticut (5th) gins.)

It is made by Triple Eight Distillery on Nantucket Island, which was founded by Dean and Melissa Long in 1997. The distillery is named after its ultra pure water source, well #888.

Gale Force Gin was first released in January 2005 and is made with an organic wheat spirit base and a mix of 8 botanicals:

3

There are notable absences of Coriander and Angelica (two very popular gin botanicals).

The Taste

1) Own
Colour: Light straw-yellow.
Nose: Vanilla and citrus, like a tart au citron (lemon creme tart). It also reminds me of French Milk and Lemon Eau de Vie. There are some floral elements, but, overall, the gin is rather confectionery, somewhat like gin ice-cream.
Taste: Soft to start, then up pops the juniper, cream and citrus; the flavours build for an intense flavour at the end. The finish is dry, but maybe less refined than other gins. There are additional hints of orange blossom and a touch of cinnamon.

2) Gin & Tonic
Fresh, with lots and lots of cardamom and an earthy, bitter finish. There’s some dry juniper and a bit of citrus in the middle. Crisp, clean and rather good.

3) Martini
Full of citrus and spice. This is warmer and less crisp than many other Martinis, with warm, spiced notes of cinnamon and cardamom coming through. A twist of orange may be a better choice for a garnish than the ubiquitous lemon or olive.

4) Negroni
Sweet, clean and dry, with a long, bitter finish. Unlike its contemporaries, a Gale Force Negroni lacks deeper herbal notes. However, it still has the typical bitter/sweet profile and a fair dose of juniper. Perhaps this would be a gentle way to introduce otherwise reluctant Negroni drinkers to the cocktail?

Cocktails with… No:209 Gin

There are lots of gins that are made in the USA, but – sadly – few of them make it over to the UK. One of the more readily available, and more popular, varieties is No:209 Gin from San Francisco.

No:209 Gin is bottled at 46% ABV and its botanical mix includes:

Juniper
Angelica Root
Coriander
Cassia Bark
Cardamom Pods
Bergamot Orange Peel
Lemon Peel

On its own
Nose: Juicy juniper, coriander, some sweetness and cardamom.
Taste: Initial flavours of coriander and spicy cardamom, moving to orange. Smooth to start, with a gradually-building strength and warmth, but no burn. Very tasty, with a lot of flavour. Rather classic in style, but with a self-confessed contemporary twist.

Martini
Excellent: very crisp and refreshing. There is a strong, spicy edge, especially on the finish. Cooling and very smooth, this is a really good drink.

Gin & Tonic
A rather classic, crisp and refreshing drink with an extra twist in flavour from the citrus boost and  green, spicy cardamom. Another classic drink with a contemporary slant and, frankly, a rather delightful one.

Negroni
The flavours of the cardamom work well with the other bittersweet characteristics of the Negroni and No:209 has plenty of these. There is a running theme to cocktails with this gin: that of classic styles with a contemporary twist and this is no exception. Another superb drink.

In Conclusion
I think No:209 is a good example of a Classic London style of gin that has been given a contemporary Californian (or, more generally, American) twist. The spicy cardamom is superb and my favourite drink for No:209 is always a Gin & Tonic.

Cocktails with… Junipero

The first American gin that I ever tried – even before the behemoth of Seagram’s Extra Dry – was Junipero and, with it, I experienced something a little bit different: a departure from the English Gins that I’d been used to. Since then, I’ve done my fair share of research and writing on the matter and, today, I turn to it once again, for a review.

Junipero was created in 1996 by Anchor Distilling. It is made by hand in the classic, “distilled dry gin” tradition in their distillery on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, USA. Bottled at 49.3% ABV, Junipero is made using a mix of over 12 botanicals. It recently won Double Gold – Best Gin in Show at the 2012 NY World Wine and Spirits Competition.

1) On its own
Nose: Juniper, coriander and sweet citrus.
Taste: Strong, fresh, green piney juniper, spicy citrus, and coriander. It is surprisingly smooth for its strength (49.3% ABV) and is in a classic style, but with a slight twist that makes it smoother, vibrant and more lively.

2) Gin & Tonic
Delicious! Classic juniper and citrus with an extra, zesty sweetness. Very smooth and easy to drink. A great mix, with very good balance; quite dry, but refreshing and simply superb.

3) Martini
One of the best Martinis out there and easily one of the smoothest. It has a rich, full and silky texture. Notes of juniper, coriander and citrus, with a little residual sweetness. At risk of waxing lyrical (maybe we’re past that), this is silk in a glass and at nearly 30% ABV it is a real treat which will appeal to aficionados and new converts alike.

4) Negroni
A Negroni with an extra dose of juniper. It has a balanced flavour, slight nuttiness and, overall, is rather excellent. With its hint of sweet spice, this would satisfy any Negroni adorer. Tip-top.

In Conclusion
I’ve been a fan of Junipero ever since I first tried it (nearly 8 years ago) and so it was good to revisit it and see that it is just as good as ever. I like it in a Gin & Tonic, but, for me, it’s at its best in a Martini.

Junipero is available for around £42 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange

Many thanks to Junipero and Coe Vintners for their help in this article.

Cocktails with… Jackelope Gin

Jackelope Gin is made at Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, Colorado. It is bottled at 40% ABV and contains eight locally-sourced botanicals.

So what is a Jackelope?

It is a rarely seen creature of North America, looking something like a jackrabbit with an antelope’s ears. They are notoriously difficult to catch, but it’s said that they can be lured into intoxication (making them easier to catch) by leaving them a flask of whiskey out overnight.

On its own
Nose: Dusky floral with hints of earthy, herbal notes, along with marshmallow and juniper.
Taste: Juniper (piney & sappy) came through more on the taste than the nose, along with plenty of coriander, too. This was quite a perfumed and floral gin, with additional hints of anise, chocolate and citrus. It had a medium-length finish with spicy black pepper towards the end.

Gin & Tonic
Very citrusy and exceptionally floral, this was heavy on the citrus: primarily lemon and lemon verbena, but also lemongrass and coriander. Not typical, by any means, but still quite nice.

Martini
A very herbal and floral Martini, with notes of lavender, coriander and woody bark. I thought this was rather contemporary in style, with maybe even a touch of the Eastern European style of gin. Tasty, with a floral and anise finish.

Negroni
This made quite a classic Negroni, but perhaps one that had a few more bitter, herbal notes than would normally be expected. Nonetheless, this is pretty textbook for Negroni lovers.

In Conclusion
A pretty classic gin with a more contemporary twist, juniper and a good bunch of herbal flavours. My favourite drink was the Negroni which was intense and excellent.

Seagram’s Sunday – Seagram’s Lime Twisted Gin

For the third installment of Seagram’s Sunday, the focus is on a Twisted gin of a flavour more commonly associated with the spirit: lime. Often found garnishing Gin & Tonics, lime can often be found in flavoured gins, with Beefeater making one in the 1990s.

1) Own
Nose: Simple, straight-forward, zesty lime.
Taste: Quite strong on the spirit, but not too many of the gin notes come through. Fortunately, though, there is a fair bit of lime, too, which is zesty and fresh. This reminded me somewhat of a creamy key lime pie.

2) Gin & Tonic
Very lively, like a Gin & Tonic with added Rose’s Lime cordial. I thought this was quite nice, authentic and not very artificial, making it a good variation on a classic drink. Very tasty.

3) Martini
This reminds me of a Key Lime Martini or a cross between a Martini and Gimlet; either way, I am rather fond of it. There were strong notes of lime, juniper and a touch of cream. I’d certainly have this again.

4) Negroni
A pretty standard, classic Martini. Funnily enough, the lime didn’t come through very much and added very little to the drink. That said, it wasn’t bad at all.