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.
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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Karner Blue Gin is the flagship gin of New Hampshire’s only in-state distillery at Flag Hill Winery in Lee, only a relatively short drive from the oft traveled I-95 as it hugs along the coast of the state. Flag Hill Winery was founded in 1990 and has been distilling spirits using local ingredients since 2004. Probably best known for their General John Stark vodka, they launched Karner Blue gin in Fall 2011. I had heard good things, so during my brief sojourn up to Maine last month, I made a point of stopping at the state liquor store just off I-95 to pick up a bottle for myself.
A little background on the Spirit
Karner Blue is the first gin I’ve reviewed which uses apples as the base instead of grain. Locally grown apples add a unique local note to this contemporary styled gin. Among the botanicals there are a couple of unique points of difference from most gins. Joining the classic juniper, citrus and orris root, are savory and cubab berries.
But the question that is still on your mind, what is Karner Blue? You might be ready for Jeopardy if you knew off the top of your head that the butterfly adorning the front of the bottle wasn’t just a novel decoration, but instead the state butterfly of New Hampshire: the Karner Blue Butterfly.The Karner Blue butterfly is threatened in its natural range in New Hampshire, Vermont and Upstate New York, but fortunatly conservation efforts have been successful at maintaining the Karner Blue’s numbers in recent years.
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