I consider Aviation Gin to be the gin equivalent of when an artist writes a manifesto.
At the same time Gordon’s gin launched gin 1769, Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote Discourses on Art— which came to be one of the founding documents of idealistic and internal interpretations of reality in painting.
And then there was Ryan Magarian’s 2009 Manifesto New Western Style Gin Defined. For all of us who consider gin an art-form; The canvas a spirit; The brushes the botanicals— Ryan’s document was a statement of artistic intention. That established the philosophical and artistic underpinnings of why something new was needed.
“In my opinion, for the Aviation’s, Hendrick’s, and other gins discussed above to have any chance at long term success, they need to have a recognized designation of their own, clearly identifying their uniquely balanced flavor perspectives which will in turn, allow potential consumers a easy understanding of these products and how they differ from others in the category for years to come.” Magarian, 2009
Aviation Gin begins with the maceration of nine botanicals in neutral grain spirit. It is then distilled, cut, and bottled at 42% ABV. In 2018 actor Ryan Reynolds bought an ownership stake in the now over a decade old brand.
Looking back on Aviation Gin— it’s a bit more juniper forward than others in the contemporary gin explosion. The nose has dull juniper, wet dark boreal forest, lavender and rooty, earthy spice. Although angelica is not one of the botanicals disclosed by House Spirits, Aviation Gin has an aromatic nose that strongly suggests to me angelica root. In any event, it’s a lovely and inviting nose whether a gin purist or a contemporary gin fan.
The palate is where some of Aviation Gin’s spice flourishes are more evident. Notes suggestive of root beer early lead into hints of cinnamon, cassia and a fair bit of cardamom.
Aviation Gin finishes with a floral and earthy spice note, with a very literal hint of birch beer and flamed orange peel. The finish is long and moderately warm.
Aviation Gin is named for the Aviation and it goes without saying— it makes an excellent cocktail. The floral notes from the creme de violette amplify some of the cardamom and lavender notes. Absolutely delicious.
But I generally found that it worked well in a lot of floral applications. Try it in an Arsenic and Old Lace or Moonlight Cocktail. For bartenders, Aviation Gin is an easy go-to when you have a floral cocktail and you need a good gin complement.
For my money though, Aviation has really come into its own as a contemporary gin-forward cocktail option. I think the Martini warrants a closer look by anyone who is a fan of gin. Maybe half because of the historicity— or just because it’s a good cocktail.
Overall, Aviation Gin
Since Aviation Gin launched in 2006, it has been on the cusp of controversy. I’ve had people tell me that Aviation turned them on to gin. I’ve had people swear of reading my work because they bought a bottle and poured it down the toilet†.
Still over ten years later, this is one of the best contemporary gins available on the market today. Time has made it seem more classic than it was on its initial launch, but fans of either style could enjoy a Martini together and revel in just how far we’ve come as a community.
† If you’re reading this, please come back to American gin. As a nation, our gin has so much to offer.
‡ Perhaps more a technicality than anything, House Spirits was so successful with their gin that they sold it to Davos Brands in 2016.