Price: $39 / 750 mL
Distiller: Vikre Distillery
Origin: Minnesota, United States
Rating: Unique expression of its regional heritage. Fans of aged contemporary gins will find a lot to like in the subtle approach to adding wood/smoke notes to the gin, a design choice that makes a much more balanced final product than some of the other smoked gins out there. Smooth, sippable, I like it on its own or used in cocktails. [Rating:4/5]
From the Boreal Plains comes Boreal Gin, from Duluth’s Vikre Distillery. The team at Vikre sought to capture something truly Minnesotan in culture and heritage with their line of gins. I spoke with Emily Vikre in my most recent book Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival (available now!), so check out the book to learn more about the genesis of their distillery, their gins, and why Minnesota.
Vikre’s gins are made on a base of 100% Malted Barley, and though distilled several times so that the taste itself is clean, there’s a certain sweetness/heaviness that belies the team’s choice in base spirit. With Smoked Cedar, Sumac and Currant, their Boreal Cedar Gin might be the one that most jumps off the beaten path. That’s the one we’re taking a look at today, but if you absolutely can’t wait, yep all three are covered in the book. Let’s get on to the tasting notes.
The nose is complex, with lavender, grain and wood, and some pine/spruce notes just behind it. It’s a touch malty, a touch spicy, and quite interesting and nontraditional. As I grasp for similarities or reference points, it reminds me a bit of a cross between Pathogin () and Koskue ().
The palate is up front juniper, coriander/spice leading in the middle, a touch of angelica, bright floral lavender, a touch of smoke and a tart hint of jam. The overall perception is dominated by the spiciness smoke hints in the finish, but up until that point, it’s a little bit contemporary, a little bit juniper and spruce. I’d say that the finish, quite long as it is, suggests notes of campfire and damp forest with fresh, earthy notes mixing with wet wood and green intimations on the breeze. The spirit itself is certainly quite thick and rich, with a warm, oily mouthfeel.
Overall, it’s not too hot nor firey, taking the botanically intense approach while not having the spirit hit you in the face. The woody/oaky notes add intrigue that might warrant a closer look in a Negroni/Old Fashioned. If you really want to try something that comes literally from the world of cooking, put your next Salmon dish on a cedar plank. And by that I mean, mix up a Salmon Vesper with Boreal Cedar Gin. I like it more in savory/bitter/floral cocktails, and was less a fan of it in fizzy mixed drinks, it’s more of a niche cocktail ingredient than a Gin and Tonic sort of gin. But still, quite good, quite unique and worth checking out.
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