When I first drove across Iowa, I found it a state that confirmed my expectations while simultaneously defying my expectations. My family never took long car trips. In fact, before I was 22, the furthest west I had ever been was Erie, PA. So let me just say that I had this impression that all I would see upon entering Iowa were field of corn and an unending flatness.
Well firstly, it was May, so the corn was naught but a gleam in a farmer’s eye. But also, who could have thought that moment where the horizon explodes and unravels itself before the unsuspecting driver, stretching itself further out than I suspected eyes could see ahead would have been so stunning. My first experience with the state of Iowa was unexpected- who would have thought I would have hung photos of the Iowa landscape in my apartment years later? But I digress, merely wanting to stop and note that I once found something wholly unexpected in Iowa, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised to find something so unexpected in a gin from the same state.
Stop me If you’ve Heard this One Before
A gin that boasts rose and cucumber among its botanicals. Hendrick’s make a rather good gin and has probably the most enviable marketing budget of all gin brands, having gone to great lengths to make those notes their trademark. River Rose is the only other gin out there right now that uses both of those botanicals and makes them such an up front part of the formula. But despite the similarities in ingredients, River Rose is not a Hendrick’s knock-off. In fact, I think the similarities end at the botanicals, but since I think I can count on my elbows the number of gin drinks who are unfamiliar with Hendrick’s, I will make a couple of comparisons between the two, mostly just to highlight the ways in which two gins with similar botanicals can be so wildly different.
What do we have here?
The nose is sweet and spicy. There’s a rather uncanny resemblance to a certain kind of Christmas cookie I liked as a kid. Pleasant notes of anise and a warm mild floral scent. Very mild, with no heat or alcohol scent on the nose worth mentioning.
Once we get into the taste though, this is where we begin to get a feel for the unique character of the floral element. The Rose is powerful and sharp, at the front of the mouth, but lingering sweetly through the finish. There’s a warm burst of citrus, with a little bit of lemon and a healthy stab of juniper. Sipped neat, you get a bit more of the burn, but it is still remarkably smooth and very drinkable. At the tail, I get that warm and pleasant anise note again.
A brief comparison on the rose. Hendrick’s Rose is subtle, aromatic, and more strongly on the nose. This Rose is more strongly on the palette and is more a part of the mixture. In Hendrick’s Gin it seems to sit above the body of the gin, hovering as a note on its own. This is very much down in the mix. Rather surprisingly, the cucumber in River Rose is very subtle and hard to pick out even when looking at it. In Hendrick’s, I feel that the cucumber is more of a lead player and often times the lead novel botanical.
In Cocktails and On RiverBoats
River Rose Gin lends itself very nice to mixing, but it is very much a contemporary styled gin to the core. A gin and tonic with River Rose is refreshing, but almost a different type of drink altogether. It reminds me a lot of a cocktail mixed with something like hibiscus syrup. Delightful and different, but maybe not the kind of gin and tonic a real “juniper-head” may be looking for.
I mixed a wide array of cocktails up and down the canon with River Rose and came out impressed pretty much every time. I thought it made some good Aviation and Moonlight Cocktails (at a party no less!). I was pleasantly surprised with how it worked in a Negroni. I would wholeheartedly recommend it in a Clover Club cocktail and would not be shy about making a martini with it. Its very smooth and I found it to be pleasantly surprising.
Q. If you were on a Riverboat, relaxing on a quiet and warm Sunday afternoon, what cocktail might you recommend?
A: If its a long afternoon? Let’s go with a Ballantine Cocktail. There’s a lot of good notes in here, but I think that the dash of Absinthe brings out the spicy complexity of this gin without losing the floral bouquet.
Price: $30 / 750 mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] Iowa, United States
Best consumed: In any classic cocktail where a little bit of contemporary updating might bring out different notes.
Availability: Iowa and nearby states [full list]
Rating: A contemporary gin that stands out in unique ways while paying homage to the state and the region that its ingredients herald from.
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