Rating: Contemporary Navy Strength Gin with a strong floral perspective, though it suggests lavender, the rich vanillin and honey undertones buoy the aroma of fresh flowers and rich meadowsweet. Though it dials back the juniper, it’s by no means lacking; careful sippers will find it poking through towards the finish, but likely might not find enough of it to turn over those who prefer the classic styles. Well executed and an enjoyable, unique spirit.
The Distiller’s grandfathers’s eponymous gin— Gustaf— is grain-to-glass distilled from Winter Rye— hand done at that, and then distilled with a decidedly modern botanical blend, including meadowsweet, oft purported to be the botanical which gave early Hendrick’s a unique touch, sadly since replaced, and botanical du-jour thyme— for that herbally citrusy kick and cucumber— well where isn’t cucumber these days?— all bottled up nice and tidy at the strength the British Royal Navy would have liked— but this one hails from the decidedly inland Rye plains of Minnesota— in a beautiful austere bottle no less.
The nose has a distinctively rye hue, backlighting a piquant and heavily spirited nose, rife with lavender, thyme, honey sweet vanilla and dewy meadowsweet as well. Intense, but very contemporary in profile with very little to suggest juniper or gin at all for that matter. However, that’s not to say it’s not lovely. It is.
On the palate, it’s an incredibly assertive heat that begins awash from front to back, droning out much with it’s roar until the fading finish where hints of vanilla, fennel, citrus and peppercorn.
Diluted slightly, I get some more peppery notes along with some fennel on the nose. The palate unfolds more carefully with plenty of meadowsweet, freshly picked thyme, and a terpenic white breeze smell [how northern!], juniper adds a casual side note that mid-palate/early finish emerges, with clean pine and fresh juniper berry, seguing into a much more strongly fennel and anise tinged finish. Only medium length on the finish, it is dry with an herbal bitterness that you can activate again long after the taste has finished by pressing the tongue against the roof of your mouth. Overall, quite nice and much more complexity is evident when sipped with a bit of water.
As for cocktails, I rather enjoyed Gustaf: you get a hint of the cucumber in the Gin and Tonic, while the herbal meets herbal with a creamy vanilla and meadowsweet back note in a Martini. Gustaf is a solid mixing gin with a bold contemporary perspective. Some may find it to be lacking in juniper, but as far as contemporary mixing gins, this is near the head of its class.
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