The concept behind Tamworth Distilling’s Apiary Gin is bees (truth in names). The spirit is flavored with locally, foraged, poplar and red clover, and then sweetened with local, New Hampshire raw honey. Much alike nearby Barr Hill Gin, this gin walks the line of contemporary gin and a throwback to the Old Tom/sweetened gin styles of yore.
But Apiary Gin comes with an impressive Pedigree as well. Steven Grasse, founder of Tamworth has been behind other products such as Hendrick’s Gin and the Art in the Age line of spirits [have I mentioned how much I love their Root and Sage? I suppose that’s another topic altogether]. His experiences combined with the distilling expertise of Jamie Oakes and Matt Power helped make Apiary Gin a reality…
…the first thing you might notice though is how unusual the bottle is. It seems quite different from any other bottle on the shelf with a shape that calls to mind a honeycomb and a “peer-inward” appearance that suggests “hive”, or perhaps even “forest.” Now let’s really go inside the bottle…
Floral, summery and somewhat green, the nose is bright and a big unusual. I’m getting a good deal of pine, intense and thick with a resiny/sappy character, maybe even a touch pine branch. I also get a hint of honey, barley and grain, and some lavender as well. The spirit has a slight golden hue to it as well along with some sediment in the bottom, suggesting that perhaps some of the other botanical additions (along with the honey) may have been added post-distillation.
The palate is quite literally wild, extremely long and unusual with a strange array of notes that you may not often find in a gin. There’s a hint of perceptible sweetness at first when it hits your tongue, floral/green notes at first, with suggestions of jasmine, lavender, lily, and herbs. The middle grows with a thick, pine sap, almost woody, resiny body to it with a slight lift of wildflower honey. Juniper is certainly among those notes in here contributing to the full bodied middle. The finish has some more musky floral notes, hints of grass, and pine again. The finish is quite piney with less sweetness than you might expect. Fairly long finish heavy on pine/pine-cone.
Really unusual, it is sure to challenge the home cocktail-maker. I highly recommend trying it on its own, as that may well be the primary way you might drink this. The promotional material for the gin suggested dropping it in an IPA with some lemon juice. I think that a touch of sweetness comes through, as do some piney notes, but it didn’t wow me as a gin in this use. A lot was lost here. Next they recommend it in a Beekeeper’s Gimlet, which is essentially 3:2 gin to limeade. Again, not bad, but store bought limeade is a bit too cloying for me. Especially when the gin is adding some sweetness on its own. I’m not sure I really dug it with Tonic nor in a Martini. I really feel like this gin is designed to be really on its own, and maybe even in an Old Fashioned, where the bitters add a nice counter-note. It didn’t seem to work as if an Old Tom substitute either, as the Martinez seemed muddied with pine resin and the usual sweetness of the cocktail. In short, at least to me, it’s not a mixing gin.
But that being said, I think Apiary Gin has some merit as a really surprising gin that embodies a distinctive sense of place. It’s rich and unlike any other gin (yes, it’s far from a clone of Barr Hill, despite the regional proximity and similar products) and will set the stage for an evocative gin that will be a welcome addition to your bar as a neat-sipper. As for mixing, I’m just not sure that many of the cocktails we routinely look to in our gin-mixing lives highlight this spirit appropriately.