Cardinal 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.
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.
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: 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]