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.
All Gins containing: Star Anise
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.
The popularity of so-called Genever-like gins, especially stateside isn’t something new as much as it is the pendulum of fashion swinging back in the opposite direction. These gins, which might be more aptly described as Holland style (or Holland style inspired?) are usually pot distilled (rather than column distilled), and the spirit itself is designed to have a malty-grain like character (sound familiar?).
Firstly, a special thanks to a couple of good friends from North Carolina who picked me up this delightful gin. Jay and Sarah heard (and tried!) this new gin from the nearby city of Kinston, NC and picked me up a bottle. Sarah’s a gin drinker, and Jay’s a fellow Hawks fan (long time readers of the blog have probably seen more than their fair share of Instagram photos of gin set to a background of Seahawks’ football). So first and foremost, thank you both.
In <100 Words
Mother Earth Spirits runs a Leed certified brewery and distillery in Kinston, NC. The label of their spirits proudly proclaims their work as “solar-made,” owing to their use of solar energy to power their distillery. The product itself is sustainable, so you can feel good drinking. In addition to their gin, they make a whiskey and (soon) rum.
Bright cardamom on the nose, with coriander along side, and pink peppercorns coming in as well. Juniper is lower in the mix, but herbaceous and crisp, providing some grounding. Quite nice, and very welcoming on the nose. Fans of G’vine Floraison () will find a similar olfactory profile.
This is the first of what will be a new type of Gin Review here on the Gin is In. Impressions are abbreviated gin reviews for when we don’t always have a full size bottle to put it through our rigorous battery of cocktail tests. We’ll take these reviews as far as the samples allow us, but often they might only contain some tasting notes and some general thoughts. We’ll still score the gins, but the number can be raised or lowered based on the score we give it after trying a full bottle.
Sound good? Let’s get into the gin.
In < 100 Words
Dr. Franciscus Sylvius was, in an oft-repeated, and just as oft-debunked, narrative the person who invented gin. He did his work in the 17th century, at least a couple centuries after the first juniper berries were distilled with a grain spirit. Doesn’t matter, we won’t hold it against this gin which bears his name.
Distilled at the Onder de Boompjes Distillery in the Netherlands, the gin draws its inspiration from Justus Walup’s considerable expertise in Genever and malt-wine. The base spirit is wheat, but the overall flavor profile is botanical driven rather than base-driven.
Citadelle Gin is something of the “Elder Statesman” of the new style of gins. It’s been around long enough to have “always been there” to many, but that is to lose sight that at one point Citadelle was the bold, surprising, innovative new gin on the shelf. Their story is complex, but we’re going to try to make it as succinct as possible.
In our own < 100 Words
Citadelle is half revival, half new innovation: the revival is based on one the first gin produced in France at the “Citadelle.” The innovation is in the where and the how. Maison Ferrand Distillery and the SW corner of France is best known for its Cognac. But perhaps the boldest part was the revelation that during the offseason when they legally couldn’t distill Cognac, they could distill gin. The government finally relented in ’95, and so began the magic of open flames [don’t try this at home] and pot stills: Citadelle 2.0 was thusly born.
On the nose, hints of violet, sweet orange, coriander and floral brightness. Leans slightly citrus, but there’s another side here as well, with hints of a spicy/floral deeper notes: nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom.
When I talk about Spain as the “bold frontier” of gin, you’ve got to understand: I’m not kidding. From the nation that brought you “purple gin” (COOL Gin ), we now have a “green gin.”
The color is usually indicative of flavors added post-distillation. Though, this hue in particular doesn’t seem reminiscent of a bathtub style. It is genuinely odd: a bright, somewhat mint or lime Jolly Rancher shade. I’d guess that whatever was added is only a small portion of the overall list of botanicals: all 19 of them. Only a small list are available: Angelica, Cardamom, florence lily, Cilantro, cinchona, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, cálamos, Lemon, Black Tea, Chammomile, licorice. A couple possibilities exist but none readily come to mind as to what may have given this its shade.
Firstly, the color: pale mint, somewhat fake lime, dilute food coloring. A washed out grass color. Very hard to place, it probably most resembles the color of broccoli leaves to me.
Nose: Surprisingly, juniper and alcohol. Very straightforward gin nose.
Palate: Rather subtle, not quite overwhelming. Juniper and a touch of citrus early, herbs, and floral notes come on the mid and finish,subtle in the back of the throat and edges of the palate.
The season: that is the winter, brings to mind the notions of warmth, heat, and coziness. When I think of those words in terms of spirits, I generally thing of “aged,” “warming,” a bit “hot,” and “spiced.” If I were to paint a picture of the ideal winter spirit, it might capture as many of those ideals as possible. Some gins are naturally full of warm baking spice. Some gins are a bit hot, served over 80 proof, giving a nice warm feeling when sipped. And finally some gins are aged. And then yet other gins are all of the above:
What exactly is a “Ginavit”
Technically, an Aquavit should derive its primary flavor from Caraway or Dill, but like gin the notion of “primary flavor” has a great deal of variance from one distiller to another. Additionally Aquavit is rarely solely flavored by Caraway or Dill: other botanicals (herbs and spices) are used to create each distiller’s individual recipe. You might see how there’s a lot that these two spirits have in common right from the outset. Many of the traditional gin botanicals (anise for example) are common in Aquavit as well.