The United States is far from a homogeneous nation. From region to region, we have as much divergence in culture, climate, and attitude as some entire continents. But yet, often I am asked, “Which gins are the most quintessentially American?,” or “What is the most American gin?”
While I will go on the record saying, “I’m not quite sure that such a thing as the Most American Gin exists,” I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to try and compile a list.
That being said, this list is my opinion/thoughts on which gins are the most quintessentially unique American gins. You’ll notice two things: this list doesn’t correspond with my ratings [if you want that, just sort by the highest rated, find the American ones and boom!]. Second, you’ll notice my rationale isn’t always [only sometimes] about the flavor.
I’ve also set myself a couple of ground rules: 1 gin per distillery. Even if a gin makes a couple of worthy entries to this chart, I’m holding myself to just one. Two, it has to be what could somewhat be considered craft. I know this is a loaded term, but I’m excluding names like Seagram’s and Fleischmann’s [among which those two might be the biggest American distilled gins] to focus on the smaller guys.
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There’s a whole lot of gins experimenting with Genever-style warm wheat bases, but surprisingly few craft distillers outright experimenting with Genever.
There’s probably an element of business logic in there. Gin is a hard sale to some as it is, but at least people know what to do with it what they get it: whether that’s Tonic, Martini, or even Gin and Juice. But Genever?
Genever falls into a category of secondary spirit styles. Some of these secondary spirits have their day. Mezcal has emerged from the shadows and is now trendy and showing up at places not known for cocktail craft. Cachaça is hot and only going to get hotter. Expect the whole world to be talking it when the World Cup and Olympics hit Brazil in 2016. Some of these secondary spirits, such as Arrack or Aquavit, never quite have their day in the sun but still have their ardent supporters. Genever is in this later category. Those who know Genever, know it, and know what to do with it. And to those who don’t, it’s a hard sell. Therefore if you’re a small distiller trying to keep yourself afloat, you’re going to tie your fortunes to known and established spirits.
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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you probably have already heard and seen some of the gins in Corsair’s line of spirits reviewed already.
The fact that there are even three offerings in gin to review is a testament to the level of experimentation and creativity that Corsair Artisan Distillers line of spirits shows. For example, among their other offerings (that aren’t gin) they have an Oatmeal Stout and Chocolate Mocha Porter whiskey, a spiced rum, pumpkin spice moonshine, and a vanilla bean infused vodka. While I’m often excited to see a distillery try one gin, Corsair has pushed it to a new level offering three different gins.
How does their experimental barrel aged gin hold up? Let’s delve forth. First, we sip it neat.
The nose is a little heavy on ethanol. You can definitely tell there’s some alcohol in here. But if you back away, and waft it a bit, you can pick out some citrus and a sweet sugary note of vanilla. Not a whole lot of oak or aged notes on the nose, it surely doesn’t overwhelmingly strike you as aged, or even gin at that rate.
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Naturally, when there’s 30+ gins to be tasted it cannot be done all at once. As much as we’d like to try, to do a proper tasting our livers and mental capacities just couldn’t take it. So in order to give every gin a proper tasting and a fair shot, we spread it out into 6 mini tastings over the course of a long day. So as promised, here’s a recap of what we tasted side by side and with what– and I’ll share with you my top two from each heat.
For full gin reviews of every gin covered in the 50 States of Gin tasting, you’ll have to stay tuned to the Gin is In this fall. If my first post was the 10 miles high overview, this is the one from 50,000 feet. The full reviews will be on the ground: up close and personal.
Heat #1 ///
The Participants: Dogfish Head Jin from Delaware [the nation’s first state, I’m sure you see where we’re going with this], Pennsylvania’s Bluecoat Gin, Southern Gin from Georgia, Gale Force Gin from Masscahussetts and finally, New Hampshire’s Karner Blue gin.
Overall a strong opening.
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