There may come a point in the near future where the first distillery in _________ since Prohibition will become a quaint reminder of the past, a past where we cast of the shackles which held back creativity in spirits. Until then, Darjeeling Gin hails from California Distilled Spirits in Placer County [yep, a first since]. Their first product doesn’t disclose much in the way of botanicals [the name is a hint I think], but it does fit well within the world of craft. “Small” [yes], “curated”, [yep], “labor of love,” [it says it right on the website] are all there. How about the gin?
The nose is mildly exotic, with hints of earl grey tea, pecan sandies, cardamom, and cinnamon sugar. Slight hints of citrus on the edges lending a lemon flavored, sweetened tea sort of note. Really interesting, but quite inviting.
The palate is quite complex, with a lot of affects swirling about: slightly smoky, black tea leaves with a floral lavender-led and citrus undertone—grapefruit oil and lemon peel primarily. Juniper with a slight pine bent comes on early-mid to mid palate. The overall profile is incredibly aromatic as it crosses the palate. Very long finish, cardamom, black peppercorns, green tea, even a hint of something minty. The overall quality of the base spirit is quite smooth as well, with a pleasant warmth that never rises above that.
Overall, taste-wise it’s quite unique and interesting. Although juniper doesn’t come through as loudly as some of the other notes, it’s readily apparent that it is indeed a gin.
Firstly, in a Blue Moon it came across as richly floral and spicy, with citrus and lavender cues on the nose. Marmalade on the palate, with jasmine butter, and slight tea like notes a bit lower. It’s not quite your usual Blue Moon though. I think there’s something challenging about this drink, good in its own right but perhaps one worth contemplating. This combination of warm, toasted notes, the sweetness, the earthy funk of rich jasmine, the sweet floral rise of lavender. There’s a lot going on here and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to those looking for a thinking cocktail.
Nextly, how about a Gin and Tonic with Jack Rudy’s Cocktail Syrup. It was bright and clean, with spices and tea leaves, cinnamon, zested orange, lemon peel. Refreshing and quite accessible, some of the more surprising notes are nicely showcased here.
I then chose a Hot Toddy to try and play up the tea-like character of the gin. It didn’t disappoint, wherein the warmth really liberates those notes from the gin, the lemon and extra sweetness balances things out quite nicely. Highly Recommended.
Finally, we dug through an old cocktail book to find something new. 1934’s Mr Boston Bartender’s Guide features several gin curiosities. This one caught our attention as it was kind of bizarre. Take two base spirits, and mix them as you might a Negroni.
Equal parts Dry Vermouth, Gin and White Rum. The Buddy Cocktail. And it was really weird. The gin was buried beneath fruit, wormwood, hints of gentian, bittering, with fresh herbs and an interesting sweetness. The rum didn’t do much to complement: rather it clashed quite wildly. Anyway, I don’t hold this cocktail against Darjeeling Gin. I’m not sure that this drink works with any gin, let alone Mr. Boston’s.
Drinks with two base spirits can [and do work well], but this particular variation I think is best left where I found it.
Price: $35 / 750 mL
Distiller: California Distilled Spirits
Origin: California, United States
Availability: California [see here for locations].
Rating: Strikingly aromatic and nicely balanced, the palate is a pageant of vibrant full bodied spice, citrus zests and the comforting warmth fresh brewed tea. Fans of contemporary gins will find a versatile cocktail gin that always brings its perspective; fans of classic gins may find it pushes the envelope, but it does so in ways that respect the style’s roots. Give it a try in a Martini or Hot Toddy no matter what your gin preferences are. [Rating:4/5]
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