Cardinal Gin

Cardinal GinCardinal gin hails from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and from a small city which could once boast as being on the cutting edge of prohibition. Kings Mountain was one of the first places to officially declare itself a “dry city,” and yet they now find themselves on the cutting edge of craft distillation.

Southern Artisan Spirits proudly talks about their inclusion of “fresh” and “organic” botanicals. Though Southern Artisan Spirits does not make their list of botanicals available, we can make some good guesses as to what is in here as a couple stand out boldly.

Tasting Notes
On the nose is a warm whiff of juniper and a few complimentary floral notes. Hints of warm spice in the background which betray more of themselves on the tasting. The taste begins with a potent, but smooth burst of alcoholic with a hint of burn. Warm notes of complimentary juniper start to shine. The floral and spice which are present but not individually discernible on the nose reveal themselves, slowly unfolding. There’s a warm perhaps christmas-like combination of spice. Perhaps some cinnamon and nutmeg, but predominantly clove like. There’s a hint of citrus in there, before the juniper then begins to fade into the background giving way to an intense note of mint. Its distinctly spearmint  like in nature, almost like chewing on a mint leaf. The mint flavor lingers 10, 15, even 20 seconds after tasting. It feels rather fresh, and invigorating, but perhaps a bit too strong on the mint for my tastes.

In Cocktails
Cardinal Gin does a few things quite well I must say. The mint offers a nice counterpoint in a traditional gin and tonic. Though I found the citrus notes somewhat lacking in Cardinal Gin, these are nicely filled in with a dash of fresh lime in a gin and tonic. In terms of Gin and Tonics, many gins go heavy on the citrus, to the point where the lime if a luxury. With Cardinal Gin, the lime is expected; it is necessary. I find that the mint still comes through, giving even a gin and tonic a note reminiscent of another summer classic: the Southside Cocktail. Which might I add, is another cocktail this gin works well in.

The strong mint notes and minty flourish stand out in other cocktails as well. I could take it or leave it in a gimlet. It is interesting in an Aviation, and  a novelty in a Negroni. As for a martini, I think it works well if you’re a fan of spearmint. The mint notes work in harmony with a dry vermouth in a complimentary fashion. But I kept finding myself wishing that there was a hair less mint in the finish of this gin.

It begins with notes which make you think that it will be a classic styled gin, but ends on notes which put it squarely into the contemporary camp. Cardinal Gin does a lot of things well and I think it is sure to please many a gin drinker.

Price: $30 / 750 mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] North Carolina, United States
Best consumed:  
Try it in a Southside Cocktail or Gin and Tonic.
Availability: The Carolinas, NJ, Georgia and Virginia [list here]

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Readers' Reviews

Last updated July 9th, 2012 by Aaron

10 thoughts on “Cardinal Gin

  • September 1, 2012by Tony Goodin

    The spice notes are too strong for my taste. I’m just old-fashioned, but I think cinnamon and nutmeg belong in rum or mulled wine, not in gin. But the experience taught me to trust the blog’s flavor profiles, as this gin’s profile is clearly heavy on spice. Live and learn.

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  • January 5, 2013by Josh B

    Slap some Cardinal in a last word.. that is the kind of bold this gin was built for

  • January 5, 2013by Josh B

    Next time you work up a last word use Cardinal. A street fight gone soft… spot on!

  • December 13, 2013by Ben D

    Before I start, let me say that I’m a relative newcomer to gin. That being said, I’ve discovered that I tend to lean more toward traditional gins (Broker’s and Beefeater being my go to’s). When I do stray to a more contemporary (western style) gin, this is the one. I may be a little biased considering I’m from North Carolina, but I find this to be a great compromise between a traditional gin and one of the newer flavored gins (Rangpur) or “vodka style” gins (New Amsterdam). If you can get this in your area I highly recommend buying a bottle and experimenting with it in some of your favorite cocktails. After reading this review, I look forward to trying it in a “Last Word” (a cocktail that i was unaware of).
    In a side note: The past five to ten years has seen a great crop of distillers spring up in the state of North Carolina. I think it was around 2005 when the law was changed to allow legal distilling of spirits. In that time we have had several high quality small batch distillers come on the scene. Everything I’ve tried (with the exception of the first one to be approved, Catdaddy Moonshine) has been great. The highlights for me are the Cardinal Gin and Defiant Single Malt Whisky (one of the few whisky’s I enjoy neat) . Also relatively new is Topo Gin out of Chapel Hill, NC which I’ve yet to try. So, If you’re passing through our state be sure to find an ABC store and try some of these with my recommendation.

  • December 16, 2013by Palmer

    The first time I tried it, thought it was a “chick’s gin” — too floral for my tastes. But when tried again — and again– realized it was more “ephemeral” rather than “effeminate.” Now my gin of choice
    Kudos to Cardinal.

  • January 17, 2014by Leo

    I hate spearmint and love this gin, whaddya know?

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  • April 14, 2014by Ted Erickson

    I’ve been a gin drinker for more years than I care to remember. Had them all, Beefeater, Bombay, Tanqueray, Plymouth and many others. But when I tasted this Cardinal Gin I was really amazed at the great taste and quality. Converted a few others over. Keep up the great job.

  • September 15, 2014by Tom Ringland

    as a founding member of “The Austin Martini Foundation” living in N.C..I’ not a pro, but have been a gin drinker for 40 years..and Cardinal is the BEST I’ve found for gin & tonics ..and now that they’ve got the barrel-rested gin..well, that solves the old dilemma of it not being proper to drink white liquor after Labor Day..gin all year long!! life does not suck… – Tom Ringland , Raleigh, N.C

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