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.
All Gins from Minnesota
Metropologin is a “Minnesota Organic Gin,” which as the side of the bottle describes an evocative portrait, that it is designed to be enjoyed with the sun shining on your face at a lake [which is notable, given that Minnesota has 15,291 lakes*, 7 of which are named Elbow Lake and 14 Named Eagle Lake, but I digress]. Loon Liquors was the first distillery in Southern Minnesota in nearly a century. The base spirit is distilled from locally sourced Wheat and Barley, and the label reveals several hints that we might have a less than traditional botanical blend, indicating Black Currant, Rosemary and Cardamom. Though I mostly keep it to the product, let me just say: this is a beautifully designed bottle, with an Art Deco motif that suggests a prohibition era link that also, in the more recent cultural consciousness, strongly suggests the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie adaptation’s cover art.
The Prairie Brand is entirely organic, from start to finish, with every step of the process. The base spirit is distilled from dent corn, which is better known as the corn which is turned into chips, syrups, corn meals, in large part due to its high starch content. The grain is grown by a cooperative of farmers from across the state of Minnesota and makes its way into Prairie Handcrafted Gin via a partnership with the Phillips Distilling Company, who redistills the spirit with a classic gin botanical bill to create their signature gin
The nose isn’t too loud, with subtle hints of coriander and juniper, peppercorn and pine needles. Quite classic, but also quite restrained. Very nice, and classically inviting.
If you’ve already picked up my book Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival (available now, worldwide!), you’ve already seen my notes for Solveig Gin. But it’s such an intriguing and interesting gin (not to mention one of the most handsome bottles I’ve seen) that I’m going to talk about it again here.
What is Solveig?
First, the name itself is relatively well recognized in Scandinavian Culture. It comes from the Old Norse, for a “child of the sun,” or “the sun’s strength.”
The gin itself is grain to glass, with its base distilled of Hazlet Winter Rye, a hardy winter rye grown widely across Canada and the Northern United States where harsh, cold winters are the norm, In what’s becoming more common, each botanical is distilled individually and then blended to produce the final product.
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.
In a bar in Buffalo, I saw this tall bottle of gin sticking out from behind it’s vodka sibling. Prairie Organic Gin, from Ed Phillips & Sons. Claimed to be “made with respect,” it’s certified organic, with the history of the product and means of production detailed carefully on their website.
Okay, so you’re a rocket scientist organic, and you know what? That don’t impress me much. (Fine, Shania Twain I am not.) I appreciate the history, the nod towards local-ism and local business. Plants are fun and the environment is cool! But when it comes to alcohol, I am a bit cynical about the organic label.
My impression of organic aside, I knew that when I saw the gin, it was one that had not be tried and tested here before, so like any good partner would do, I bit the bullet and ordered a shot of it, neat. All in the name of science! I mean, gin reviews!
Prairie Gin is lower proof than regular gins – so I guess you can drink more of it. Okay, this actually results in a somewhat smoother experience. Straight up, you get some faint florals in the front, with a touch of juniper hovering in the middle, and mild astringency on the finish.
“Organic,” for a while I thought was going to be the next BIG thing in spirits. It seemed all at once that vodkas and gins were appearing on the shelf at my local liquor store advertising that the botanicals, the base, everything was organic. So slowly, it seemed an inevitability that the USDA label would start appearing on liquor bottles, proclaiming (legally) that at least 95% of this beverage’s components were produced in accordance with USDA’s guidelines for calling something organic.
Well, I won’t turn this into a referendum on the “organic” label, nor on the USDA’s guidelines. Let’s get to the gin. Straight out of Minnesota, brought to use from the same people that make Crop Vodka [side note, better known as the folks who make the cucumber and the tomato vodka], we have Farmer’s Botanical Organic Gin.
Getting down to business The scent is a little bit juniper and the faintest bit floral, with more than a little bit of alcohol burn. We are dealing with 93.4 proof gin here, so this is to be expected.
The tasting is where the array of flavors in Farmer’s gin begin to reveal themselves.