Aside from being my favorite piece of punctuation (sorry octothorpe!), Ampersand is also the name of a family-founded distillery, which opened doors in 2014 on a farm in British Columbia. On their custom built equipment, father and son Jeremy and Stephen Schacht use their engineering background and local grown wheat to design their craft gin. Not much is shared about what is in their gin, other than the aforementioned wheat base spirit and some classic botanicals like juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon and orris root.
Articles Tagged: organic
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.
Times change, and so do distillers’ equipment, techniques, botanicals and so on. A few friends of mine suggested that I take another look at Death’s Door Gin. Initially, back in those early days of the craft gin movement, I was less than impressed. But in those times, you took the good (yay, craft distilling!) with the bad (not so much my cup of tea).
Going into this re-review, I can tell you that this Death’s Door Gin shares a couple things in common with the previous version I had: the name [nope, hasn’t changed] and the botanical mix [same three ingredients]. But the flavor has changed, and because of that. I have to change my mind and admit that there just might be something here.
In our Own <100 Words
One of the earliest gins on the market to bandy about words that now seem like quotidian utterances, to which today’s gin drinkers nary bat a brow: organic and local. It also distinguished itself for the attention paid to its base spirit: a combination of local Washington Island wheat and malted barley from Chilton [yep. I had to look it up too].
In our own (<100) words
From the “Top O(f) the Hill,” —Chapel Hill, North Carolina that is, the folks behind Topo (get it? Top O’) Restaurant, Brewery and Distillery have a line of spirits which thus far has won a great deal of accolades. But where it counts is what’s actually in the spirits, and they’ve left no box unchecked on the craft gin scorecard. Local? Check. North Carolina Wheat. Organic? Yep, certified. Even the name Piedmont refers to the Carolina foothills, bringing us full circle.
Nose: Sweet and a bit floral. Ripe berry in the top notes, creamy vanilla in the mid-notes. Juniper as well and a touch of citrus and cream, reminiscent of lemon curd. Bright and welcoming.
Palate: Some of the citrus present at first, bright in the top notes. Creamy with a butter, flaky crust. Hints of spices, quickly giving way to the meat of the taste. Sharp, punchy juniper. Cardamom and other baking spices.
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.
Aaron’s Note: This was a very early batch of Death’s Door Gin. Some have told me that the formula since these early batches has changed significantly. This review is based on the bottle I bought back in early 2010 and reflects the product and batch I had at the time.
The Botanical Gin revolution is alive and well. I applaud it. Anything that gets people out and talking about gin, or better yet— experimenting boldly with gin is a good thing. Generally, I think a lot of good things have come out of these experiments. There are more delectable varieties of gin out today than I’ve ever seen before. But every now and then, I taste a gin that doesn’t work.
Death’s Door is another gin from the United States, made in Washington Island, Wisconsin (map here, because I didn’t know where that was either) entirely from native botanicals grown on the Island. The gin also fits into a larger picture of local farmers working to promote keep the agricultural community going and to show off the flavors of the great lakes region. This is all great stuff, and really exciting stuff.