Vintage doesn’t mean quite what you think it does. Not quite like a wine, where the annual growing conditions (i.e. the rain, the heat) affect the composition of the grape; the evidence for annual variation based on botanical alone in spirits is tenuous at best. But that’s not what the folks at Blackwood Distillery are getting at (solely). In previous years the composition of their gin differed (such as the ’07 featuring mint and elderflower, or the ’08 featuring violet and bog myrtle). The 2012 variation that we are trying today features angelica, sea pink (!!), Marigold, Meadowsweet, among some of the more standard gin botanicals.
A. van Wees distillery de Ooievaar is best known for its Genevers, which is the last traditional Genever distillery in Amsterdam (well, so they say). In operation since the late 18th century, the distillery now has 18 different takes on the traditional Dutch spirits, and more than a few gins as well. Three Corner Dry Gin is something of a curiosity owing to its rather lean botanical bill. Simply lemon and juniper, its an apt exploration for students of gin looking to focus on learning the ways different botanicals taste in isolation, but more than that, despite its simplicity it’s a rather versatile gin with a rather distinctive flavor to boot.
Bitter Lemon or Lemon Tonics are something of an interesting creature in the world of mixed drinks. Many of the sodas themselves occupy an odd space between supermarket tonic and Squirt Soda. In many cases, the saccharine, and sweetened soda character is part of the charm. Surely, with lemon notes, it’s less real lemon and more a facsimile of lemon like lemon soda.
Certainly that is not its origin, but that’s where it generally is.
Now contrast this with another trend towards authenticity and more natural ingredients in soda. You see soda makers like Q, taking an approach more rooted in the natural flavors and botanicals that modern “cola flavor” is derived from.
With unflinching focus on juniper, New Deal’s 33 Portland Dry Gin uses copper trays for the berries in the distilling process. Furthermore, New Deal only uses Juniper Berries, heightening and tightening the focus botanically, while starting from a base spirit of locally grown Oregon wheat and finishing with the addition of local water.
The distillery is focused on the art of hand-crafted DIY spirits, with a bias towards local and organic in their ingredients.
Lovely, juniper and pine bough notes leap forward on the nose, but creamy hints of lemon and honey lie underneath, emerging among the low notes.
Junipers are long lived species. A single bush can live for hundreds of years in the wild. Most of the juniper grown in captivity is much younger than this, and with human development expanding further and further into the wilds there’s fewer of these long lived bushes than their once was, particularly in the UK where although the juniper’s demise might have been prematurely declared. One distillery in particular in Scotland, Crossbill Distillery has traded its reputation on locally sourced juniper, rather than the Italian and Balkan sources most distillers rely on because of its invariability and steady supply.
So Crossbill 200 is the distillery’s love letter to the 20 century old bush that grows just outside its distillery; lovingly distilled along with the rosehip that grows alongside the bush in its natural habitat.