Karner Blue Gin

Karner Blue Gin Karner Blue Gin is the flagship gin of New Hampshire’s only in-state distillery at Flag Hill Winery in Lee, only a relatively short drive from the oft traveled I-95 as it hugs along the coast of the state. Flag Hill Winery was founded in 1990 and has been distilling spirits using local ingredients since 2004. Probably best known for their General John Stark vodka, they launched Karner Blue gin in Fall 2011. I had heard good things, so during my brief sojourn up to Maine last month, I made a point of stopping at the state liquor store just off I-95 to pick up a bottle for myself.

A little background on the Spirit
Karner Blue is the first gin I’ve reviewed which uses apples as the base instead of grain. Locally grown apples add a unique local note to this contemporary styled gin. Among the botanicals there are a couple of unique points of difference from most gins. Joining the classic juniper, citrus and orris root, are savory and cubab berries.

But the question that is still on your mind, what is Karner Blue? You might be ready for Jeopardy if you knew off the top of your head that the butterfly adorning the front of the bottle wasn’t just a novel decoration, but instead the state butterfly of New Hampshire: the Karner Blue Butterfly.The Karner Blue butterfly is threatened in its natural range in New Hampshire, Vermont and Upstate New York, but fortunatly conservation efforts have been successful at maintaining the Karner Blue’s numbers in recent years. Good? On to the gin.

The nose is immediately floral: rich and intoxicatingly sweet. Notes of citrus and warm tropical fruit, almost fruit punch like. It smells luxurious and rich.

But noses can be deceiving. The first taste is a pleasant burst of juniper. A bit sharp, but gives way to peppery background notes and robust citrus. The juniper lingers and has a long smooth finish. It sticks around sweet and junipery in the back of your mouth for even a minute after. Straight, very pleasant with a good amount of nuance. Its easy to recommend it for a martini based on this.  The floral notes are going to please fans of modern American contemporary gin, but the juniper is there and forefront for enough of the tasting to make clear that this is a gin.

Karner Blue works well in any number of cocktails. I like the floral/juniper combination and this gin works exceptionally in an Aviation. It was a dark horse candidate for a good Negroni, but I found that it worked, if a few of the things that I liked so much about Karner blue straight did not come out. I think it goes without saying that this gin makes a great gin and tonic as well. Certainly easy to recommend it for folks who are not normally gin fans, but even easier to recommend for people who are. A good amount of depth, and a unique enough flavor profile makes this an enjoyable and unique gin that is worth of a purchase, even among the bevy of solid American microdistillery gins currently on the market.

Karner Blue butterfly

Price: $30/ 750mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] New Hampshire, United States
Best consumed: 
I like the Aviation or the Martini with this gin, but its hard to go wrong in my opinion.
Availability: New Hampshire, look for it in the state run liquor stores.
Rating: A fine contemporary gin that does a lot of things really nicely. Come for the floral notes, but stay for the juniper burst. 

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Readers' Reviews

Last updated May 14th, 2012 by Aaron

8 thoughts on “Karner Blue Gin

  • May 14, 2012by jellydonut

    Lovely! I’ll make sure to pick up a bottle when I can finally visit the Live Free or Die state.

  • May 14, 2012by Aaron

    There’s great gin being made everywhere, but New England surely seems like a hot bed to me. A couple good ones in Maine, a couple good ones in Mass, and of course this one in New Hampshire. Haven’t tried any from Vermont yet, and don’t think the gin bug has spread to Rhode Island and Connecticut…. (yet!)

  • May 16, 2012by Heather Houle

    We are thrilled to hear that you like our Karner Blue Gin! Drink on and look out for our White Mountain Moonshine available beginning 5/13!

  • May 8, 2013by Rick Corsi

    I was offered a complimentary Karner Blue gin and tonic by the wine steward at the Mt. Washington Hotel last week. I was very impressed. I’ll be looking for it here in Massachusetts!

  • November 22, 2013by Kris Merrill

    Karner Blue is by far my favorite. I imbibe Winston Churchill style: a straight up martini with a whisper of vermouth. Of course, I’m partial because I used to live near Lee, but now that I’ve moved to San Francisco, I find myself missing it like the dickens! Will they ever export to the West coast? I’ve plenty of friends and acquaintances who were won over with my martinis.

  • March 22, 2015by Sue Allen

    Had Karner Blue in a Negroni this weekend at Moxie in Portsmouth. It was excellent and will look for it at state store at traffic circle.

  • June 11, 2015by Richard Binder

    I must disagree with the review. The floral notes are almost overwhelming, and they do not go away. There seem to be very little juniper, not anything like the amount that characterizes a good London dry gin like Hendrick’s; rather, the sense I got was as though I were drinking perfume. I can’t remember the last time I threw away good liquor, but this stuff went down the drain after a couple of sips in my standard Martini. My wife’s reaction was exactly the same as mine. Brits have an expression to fit the name of the Belgian national airline, Sabena: “Such a bloody experience, never again.” Roger that.

  • October 26, 2015by John D. Anderson

    Karner Blue is the only gin I drink if I can help it. I graduated from Citadelle, a French gin full of botanicals. I drink it from the fridge in a martini glass with nothing else in the glass…nothing, not a whisper or a drop of anything. By the way, the butterfly was classified by Nabokov, the author of Lolita. Thus, it’s a literay experience to drink this gin.

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