Articles Tagged: 5 stars

Gin Reviews

Ginavit [Green Hat Gin, Fall/Winter 2013 Seasonal]

ginavit bottle

The season: that is the winter, brings to mind the notions of warmth, heat, and coziness. When I think of those words in terms of spirits, I generally thing of “aged,” “warming,” a bit “hot,” and “spiced.” If I were to paint a picture of the ideal winter spirit, it might capture as many of those ideals as possible. Some gins are naturally full of warm baking spice. Some gins are a bit hot, served over 80 proof, giving a nice warm feeling when sipped. And finally some gins are aged. And then yet other gins are all of the above:

What exactly is a “Ginavit”

Technically, an Aquavit should derive its primary flavor from Caraway or Dill, but like gin the notion of “primary flavor” has a great deal of variance from one distiller to another. Additionally Aquavit is rarely solely flavored by Caraway or Dill: other botanicals (herbs and spices) are used to create each distiller’s individual recipe. You might see how there’s a lot that these two spirits have in common right from the outset. Many of the traditional gin botanicals (anise for example) are common in Aquavit as well.

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Gin Reviews

Halcyon Organic Distilled Gin


From that distilling hotbed that is the Pacific Northwest, we have another new entry. This one is from Bluewater Distilling in Everett comes with a sustainability focus. A portion of profits go to an environmental organization; the gin itself proudly declares it “organic.” It also performed well at the Seattle Gin Society’s annual Ginvitational. Halcyon won best Washington gin.

Followers of gin and gin awards in particular should know by now that there’s certain predilections among certain awards. Last year the Seattle Gin Society trended towards preferring classic style gins. Martin Miller’s, a personal favorite of this blog won “best gin,” and the best Northwest Gin was the also excellent and classic leaning Big Gin. As the winner of best Washington Gin this year, would it be a classical styled gin? Yes. Let’s get on to the tasting.

Tasting Notes Bright with juniper, fresh lemon and a hint of cinnamon spice on the nose. Smells smooth, very nice, very gin-like. The taste echoes the nose beautifully. Deceptively smooth for a 92 proof gin. A little earthy and warm first, juniper builds quickly with citrus sweetness hovering just around the edges, never quite overpowering the juniper forward approach.

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Gin Reviews

Barr Hill Gin


There was a time when the craft of distillation was less a science than an art of approximation. The resulting spirits were uneven, impure, “harsh,” “unpleasant;” they were the spirits which gave the stereotype of bathtub gin its truth. So how did the master distillers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century address this problem?

Old Tom Gin was born. Old Tom is a slightly sweetened classic styled gin. Once rare, they’re becoming more common.

So why this apparent digression? New Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill Gin is technically an Old Tom Style Gin. Barr Hill has a classic and simple basic formula: fresh neutral grain spirit with zesty juniper. The honey is added after distillation. And the result? Quite remarkable. Its a refreshing gin that is easy— even for gin novices— to wrap their heads around. Every element of the gin is present, well done, clearly identifiable and [as an added bonus] well balanced.

Tasting The nose is subtle and understated. A slight, sweet, and mild juniper note is evident. But its quiet. It plays it close to the test on the nose: inviting but not domineering.

The taste is simple and elegant.

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Gin Reviews

St George’s Dry Rye Gin


I can see how some people who profess a love of gin might turn their nose up and this fine gin [and more on how fine a gin very soon] and other gins like this [Smooth Ambler’s Greenbrier comes to mind]. Although not officially a requirement of gin, most gins work from a truly neutral spirit base. Not simply in the sense that the base alcohol is “unflavored,” but in the sense that the base flavor brings little to no discernible flavor of its own. I would say that apple, potato and the various types of wheat fall into this category.

But then we have the outliers, the gins that use a neutral-in-definition-only base alcohol spirit: Grape from G’vine and Seneca Drums; and the Whiskey/Rye style base of gins like Smooth Ambler’s and St George’s Dry Rye Gin.

Why might these great gins not win over every gin-drinker? Well because I think in taste and mouthfeel they resemble a nice Genever more than your average gin, and possibly even a White Whiskey.  Are they gin? Most definitely. But sometimes I wonder if there needs to be another category of gin unto itself.

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Gin Reviews

G’vine Nouaison

We’ll G’vine, we meet again. again.

Long time readers of the Gin is In will know that this was the first gin I officially awarded five stars too.

A lot of what I wrote about Floraison  is equally true about Nouaison, so let’s get on to the actual tasting notes, shall we?

The Scent The smell is a more muted variation on Floraison. A subtle floral bouquet, but no intimations of its strength (44% vs Floraison’s 40%) nor of its more juniper-like stature.

On the Tongue There’s some warm citrus notes a  powerful note of cassia. The floral notes are there but very quickly give way to juniper and a burst of London Dry style heat. But don’t be fooled. it’s not as intense as other classic gins. Its a muted, slightly floral take on it. In other words, I think its the ideal balance between the strong floral notes of Floraison and the juniper notes of a classic gin. If you’re a gin buff who didn’t really dig Floraison, Nouaison meets you half way.

The finish is a little bit of ginger, a little bit of cinnamon and a little bit citrus.

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Gin Reviews

Back River Gin


There are only a small handful of states that I’ve never visited: Alaska (hard to get enough time off work to drive there), Hawaii (I’m not a fan of flying), Michigan (I don’t know, always just seemed a little out of the way) and Maine. My reasons for not visiting Maine aren’t for lack of trying. My wife and I once attempted a weekend drive to Kittery. But that drive came up short as we spent the weekend wandering the Green and White mountains respectively (beautiful, of course). So I’ve never been to this state, but if the botanicals of Back River Gin are telling me anything about what this place is like, then the omission of Maine from my travelogues is a grave mistake on my behalf that I should remedy as soon as possible. Okay, now on to the gin but first- a special thanks to Keith and Constance at Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery for sending me this review sample.

First Impressions The nose of this gin is certainly unique. I’m immediately struck by the sweetness of it. There’s notes of Cassia and Cinnamon, a vague hint of citrus and floral fruitiness backed with a gentle and pleasant juniper aroma.

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Gin Reviews



I have covered American Dry and London Dry styles of gin at length. I’ve talked about Genever. So that really leaves Old Tom and Plymouth as the two types I haven’t covered. Today, we’re going to fill in one of these glaring omissions: Plymouth Gin.

Plymouth Gin is a combination terroir/trademark. Only one maker is permitted to use the term “Plymouth Gin” and that is the distillery Plymouth, Coates and Co. which is located on the port of Plymouth on the English Channel. Plymouth gin is one of those odd examples where the brand and the style are one and the same. So this review will talk about Plymouth, but also more generally the style.

The flavors are not out of the ordinary for gin. There’s a strong citrus element and a strong juniper element. The flavor is smooth, but astringent. It has a bit of an oily lingering, but very pleasant mouth feel. It makes for a superb martini (in fact is the gin style that Winston Churchhill preferred for his famous no-vermouth martini) and a stunning gin and tonic. The smooth citrus and predominating juniper makes it a perfect example of what a gin and tonic in its platonic ideal should be.

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Gin Reviews

Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength London Dry Gin

martin miller's gin

It’s Miller Time. No, not the  Miller that advertises during football games, nor am I talking about Sabres starting goalie Ryan Miller. It’s Miller’s Gin Time.

Let me begin by getting this out of the way. This is my favorite gin. Hands down. The Miller’s regular strength (80 proof) is a solid choice, somewhat more inexpensive ($31-35 for 1 L) and while it still has all of the outstanding features, they’re just a little less pronounced, and a bit more subtle.

Miller’s gin balances a crisp clean Juniper flavor with a  hint of Citrus sweetness. These two flavors are in such perfect harmony, that Miller’s is the epitome of versatility in gin. Whereas some gins are decidedly Citrus (Bluecoat) and others are about the Juniper (Tanqueray), this gin walks the line and is a good choice for whatever you drink of choice is. Despite the strength of the Westbourne (90 proof) it is remarkably smooth, and very drinkable straight.

As for other London Dry Gins I’ve reviewed, this one strays the least from the classic flavor profile. Miller’s Gin contains some faint hints of other herbs and spices, but nothing like Tru2 or Gabriel Boudier’s.

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