Metropologin is a “Minnesota Organic Gin,” which as the side of the bottle describes an evocative portrait, that it is designed to be enjoyed with the sun shining on your face at a lake [which is notable, given that Minnesota has 15,291 lakes*, 7 of which are named Elbow Lake and 14 Named Eagle Lake, but I digress]. Loon Liquors was the first distillery in Southern Minnesota in nearly a century. The base spirit is distilled from locally sourced Wheat and Barley, and the label reveals several hints that we might have a less than traditional botanical blend, indicating Black Currant, Rosemary and Cardamom. Though I mostly keep it to the product, let me just say: this is a beautifully designed bottle, with an Art Deco motif that suggests a prohibition era link that also, in the more recent cultural consciousness, strongly suggests the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie adaptation’s cover art.
All Gins containing: Cardamom
Lee Spirits Co. was founded in 2013, and their flagship gin is distilled on a hand-assembled stainless steel still; the botanicals are macerated for ten hours before being distilled. The botanical blend was perfected over 31 test runs, and while it doesn’t pull any surprised using seven of the eight most popular botanicals (Juniper, Coriander, Cardamom, Orange, Lemon, Angelica, and Orris Root), the range within every botanical can be immense. So never assume that the same botanical in the hands of a new distiller might taste like something you’ve had by ingredients alone.
The nose is quite lovely. Punchy citrus and orange, juniper with some piney notes forward, and a gentle green cardamom pod, freshly broken open, pushing forth a gentle Chai tea and vanilla cake note underneath it.
Distillers Oliver Ullrich and Ralph Villager sought to create a gin which could be known as the Swiss Gin. As Swiss as Cuckoo Clocks. As Swiss as banks and neutrality. As Swiss as the Edelweiss growing in the alps.
The botanicals are distilled in four passes, loosely grouped by their aromatic profile, before being blended to create the final gin. Among the unusual botanicals in this mixture are Black Currant Leaves (a popular herbal tea, particularly in the plant’s northern Europe range), the barberry (a subtropical, very tart and bitter berry, who was repatriated in Northern Europe due to its reputed medicinal qualities) and the Carlina (which looks vaguely like a daisy, and could once be found growing from the Canary Islands all the way across Europe, Northern Africa and Asia).
From a distillery that’s been in operation since the 1980’s, formally known for their Eau De Vie, the team of Jörg Rupf, Lance Winters and Dave Smith have helped propel the same distillery the frontline of the gin world, making a line of gins that is as well-respected as it is imaginative: the Dry Rye which wears the Rye base on its sleeve, the legendary Faultline Gin, and their “it tastes like Redwood trees, but in a good way” Terroir Gin.
We’ve previously covered Durham Distillery’s Conniption American Dry Gin, and much is similar. Distilled via a two step process in a German built pot-still, Conniption Navy Strength Gin still splits the botanicals into two batches for distillation (vacuum, and traditional) to maximize the aromatics expressed in the final product.
Like other Navy Strength gins, this one is bottled at 57%, giving it a bracing on its own character that is well suited to cocktail mixing. But more on that in a bit.
On the nose, coriander, resinous juniper, a touch of English cucumber and a delicate hint of caraway towards the back end.
With extremely limited distribution, Spy Hop Distilled Gin, and the rest of the line which includes several other spins on the local fauna of the San Juan Islands are pretty much only available there. And by design too. By keeping their distribution radius small, they cultivate a local following, but also are able to experiment in ways, and on scales that a large scale distiller wouldn’t be able to.
Spy Hop gin is a study in the terroir of the San Juan Islands mashed up with a traditional, global, assortment of ingredients. Cardamom meet local lavender. Local barks meet lemon, orris root meet wild roses and so on.
One of the process trends from the world of gin has been more and more distillers experimenting with low temperature distillation methods. Many common gin botanicals have aromatics present at room temperature which are destroyed by heat, and therefore are destroyed during conventional distillation.These aromatics are rarely part of gin and are therefore rarely part of consumer expectation.
But therein lies the rub of vacuum distillation.
Where out story left off, a Victorian dandy/scientist and distiller created an unctuous, vivacious liquid which was all the rage in late 19th century London. “Juniper, Cardamom and Citrus melting together in perfect harmony.” I can’t quite tell if the backstory is a bit tongue in cheek, an anachronism riddled back story to poke fun at the genre, or if this really is Sir Raleigh Holmes-Dunston’s 1892 creation, resurrected [most certainly by hand powered robots capable of passing a Turing test, held back merely by their crude source of power] and re-created.
From the Boreal Plains comes Boreal Gin, from Duluth’s Vikre Distillery. The team at Vikre sought to capture something truly Minnesotan in culture and heritage with their line of gins. I spoke with Emily Vikre in my most recent book Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival (available now!), so check out the book to learn more about the genesis of their distillery, their gins, and why Minnesota.
Vikre’s gins are made on a base of 100% Malted Barley, and though distilled several times so that the taste itself is clean, there’s a certain sweetness/heaviness that belies the team’s choice in base spirit. With Smoked Cedar, Sumac and Currant, their Boreal Cedar Gin might be the one that most jumps off the beaten path.
Bourbon Barreled Big Gin. 100% Corn base spirit, with a relatively traditional botanical bill buoyed by Tasmanian Pepperberry and Cardamom, the folks at Captive Spirits Distilling rest their flagship gin in barrels formerly used by Heaven Hill Distillery for their Bourbon.