Since I’ve last written about a gin from Maine, I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time exploring the beautiful state. In April 2012, my wife and I took the scenic route up the coast (Route 1 and the scenic bypasses) driving through small coastal town after small coastal town. The weather was a hair cool, with a spring wind blowing off the ocean. There were a few people walking the beaches in brightly colored windbreakers; kids flying kites, folks playing fetch with their dogs. Idyllic, peaceful, surely the quiet before the lobster stands open and the crowds of summer return. Although I was disappointed that there was no fresh lobster [yes, I know I was early], I felt like I got to see a little bit of what Maine was all about, in particular Freeport, Maine which is along the oceanic coast. Next time, I want to venture inland, but for now we get to the reason why you’re here.
The Cold River Gin Experience
True to the spirit of Craft Gin, Cold River Gin is handcrafted from fresh Maine-grown potatoes, to the small batch copper pot distilling, this spirit in terms of technique embodies what “craft gin” is all about. Cold River boasts a small number of botanicals which are clearly identified: Juniper, Coriander, Citrus Peel, Orris Root, Angelica and Caradmom. The last one being the most significant departure from the traditional and classic gin profile.
The nose is strikingly close to what one might expect from a London Dry. Fresh and bold, heavy emphasis on the juniper. There’s a fair amount of earthiness present too: warm notes or coriander and a faint floral spiciness. Likely due to the cardamom but it doesn’t stand out as such. Its very inviting on the nose, though the juniper may be too much for some.
Tasting, the alcohol’s potency comes through. Its smooth and almost silky, but it tastes hot with a heavy focus on the strength of the drink. The taste has a nicely balanced. Lemon and Orange from the citrus rinds shine through, complimenting the juniper, which fades into a lingering spicy earthiness. Long after the sip, you can taste faint hints of warm caradmom and fresh juniper. Although the nose hints at something floral, nothing quite floral strikes you upon tasting. The long finish though is extremely pleasant.
As for mixing, Cold River Gin more than holds it own. Its among the best London Dry alternatives that has come from the United States Craft Distilling movement so far. Tanqueray fans looking for a craft alternative should look no further. Nice gin and tonics; it adds a warm juniper note to classics like the Tom Collins or the Aviation. Was not crazy about the way it went with mint in a Southside, but Cold River Gin worked well in nearly every cocktail I threw at it, so I could hardly say that this was a deal breaker.
Martini drinkers will likely appreciate the complexity of Cold River Gin, but may find its rather-bracing-for-a-94-proof-gin heat a little much. It does compliment a good herbaceous vermouth very well, so Its hard for me to not recommend it. Just that it may not for everyone.
Gin Wife’s Take
People of the gin world, hello! I am here to give you the Gin Wife’s Take™ on some gin. Now the Gin Husband here, he loves gin. He looks at a gin bottle and says, “Let me love you.” I know this because I hear him say it to our massive collection in the kitchen that has taken over our counters and all my secret yarn spaces. Now, when I look at a bottle, I say, “Why are you looking at me?” and then, “Get off my counters,” and finally, “You’ll have to work to make me love you because I prefer pine in tree form.”
For me to like a gin, it is a hard won battle. So I thought to myself, Gin Wife, you should give your unvarnished take on some gins. The world needs to know what people who don’t really like gin think of gin. Also, give Gin Husband a break and let him stay sober on Sunday for once. The world also needs more sober Gin Husbands.
So I bit the bullet and tasted some gin. (Don’t worry too much, the Gin Husband is going to do a “proper” review in the near future. Pfft, like you’ll learn anything new.) Here are my thoughts:
The Gin: Cold River Traditional Gin, “The Spirit of Maine”
Botanicals: Cardamom. And flowers!
Smell: It smells like gin, which means lots of juniper/pine and something else. I thought to myself, Gin Wife, this reminds me of Christmas cookies. And sure enough, I checked out the front of the label. Cardamom is proudly listed on the front (which reminds me of cinnamon, which reminds me of cookies), along with a bunch of flowers and stuff. So between the pine and the cardamom, I was ready for sugar cookies and presents. I’d like to note I got neither.
Straight up: Very juniper-y, and to me, very cardamom-y herbal. I did not enjoy the herbal taste, though I know some people are into that.
In a Gin’n’Tonic: Much nicer. I threw in a strawberry too, because
bitches love strawberries and cardamom is a winning combination in my book. A very strong flavor is still present, but tempered by the tonic and enhanced by the strawberry. The strawberry is key, I tell ya.
So overall, I would drink this gin in a gin’n’tonic if it was handed to me. There’s a very pronounced herbal taste to it. The website notes the “astringency” of the juniper, and that’s exactly the word I can never think of when I drink gin. Astringent. The astringency is strong with this gin – everything is. In other cocktails, I think it would overwhelm the other flavors of the drink, so it might be best to stick to gin and tonics.
Rating: Strong appeal for those who want a juniper forward craft gin. Well balanced, lots of complexity, and a worthy addition to the shelf of any gin aficionado.
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