The scene: downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
The stage: the dark pre-2013 world where craft distilling still hadn’t found it’s way to the cocktail loving people of Charleston. The Tavern, the nation’s oldest liquor store had nothing of its own-city to call its own.
This was all set to change when Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell opened up High Wire Distilling Co. As co-master distillers and owners, they are bringing craft distilling back to Charleston. They have many spirits in the works and planned, including rum and vodka- but the subject of our discussions today is their Botanical Gin.
The bottle calls to mind turn-of-the-20th-century culture, with the distinctive art on the bottle.
The nose is bright, juniper, orange peel, and fresh lemon. A bit sweet, slight jam notes as well faintly on the finish, with a touch of alcohol. A bit contemporary.
The palate is rich and full bodied. Dry touch of juniper at first, then creamy vanilla and lemon, earthy mid notes, spearmint leads off the finish, bright and strong. A hint of that floral/jam note, intimates hibiscus and fresh fruit, but not quite altogether distinct. Lingering orange rind, angelica, and rosemary- long and smooth.
All in all, a lot of complexity, and a good deal of balance as well. Each note segues into the next elegantly and smoothly. The finish is clean and refreshing, even neat, with barely a touch of heat to overwhelm it. I’m quite impressed and quite a fan, even though I do not know objectively which botanicals are in here, there’s a lot going on. Even when drank quickly [and I recommend savoring it], you can distinctly taste the different parts of the taste, although I think the floral and fruity sweetness tends to dominate the quick sip.
I mixed Hat Trick up in one of my favorite drinks: the Aviation. I was quite impressed, lemon and violet on the nose- the gin seemed overwhelmed, but the taste really saw the gin open up and compliment the flavors of the violet liqueur in particular. At first tart, but then cherry blossom, and fresh violets, lilac and berry, with the citrus again taking over on the finish. Quite nice, that slightly spearmint note was quelled, but still Hat Trick showed some versatility, and some complimentary qualities. Highly recommended.
I also thought it made a really nice martini. Those floral fruity qualities, the bright spearmint, the touch of juniper, all put together make it a really nice, well put together drink. I think there’s not a lot of intersection of the notes from a the Vermouth, which contrary to expectation [they might clash] they actually go together really nicely. Again, highly recommended.
I also mixed it up in a lot of gin and tonics: I liked it, but I think it really stood out in combination with tonic syrups. I liked the way that the minty notes, as well as the brightness of the gin just continues to shine through.
In summary, I loved the gin neat- and would drink this simply on its own. But as a cocktail mixer, it’s excellent as well- as long as you don’t mind the fact that it comes with its own loud perspective. It’s certainly not a Tanqueray substitute. It is a stellar contemporary style that rewards the appreciative gin drinker with many layers of complexity and a deceptive smoothness. Highly recommended.
Price: $26/750 mL
Origin: South Carolina, United States
Best consumed: Martini or Aviation, but Neat also comes highly endorsed.
Availability: South Carolina
Rating: Interesting and complex, with a lot of depth. I like gins that I come back to in a variety of circumstances and never feel like it might have been the “wrong gin for the job.” While it probably won’t win over those looking for a Tanqueray/something similar replacement, it will quickly work its way into the heart of those who are looking for something different, modern, but ultimately gin-like.