From Rochester’s Black Button Distillery comes Lilac Gin, a seasonal celebration of Rochester’s floral history. Once the flour city, it became the flower city after several seed companies founded and prospered in Rochester. By the mid-eighteenth century, Rochester was known for seeds, and thusly flour became flower.
One of the chief seed distributors during this boom period was the partnership of George Ellwanger and Patrick Berry. In 1888 the pair gave the land for Highland Park to the city. Designed by Ferderick Law Olmsted, horticulturist John Dunbar began curating lilacs in the park. Today there’s nearly five hundred different species of lilac in the park.
In 1908 Rochester celebrated its first Lilac festival; in 1921, the city celebrated its first lilac week.
Lilacs are an important part of Rochester’s heritage. And Black Button Lilac Gin pays tribute to it.
The flower petals are steeped and distilled. Lilac Gin melds a variety of flowers among its botanical blend including lavender, hibiscus and rose. Produced each year in a limited edition, it’s hard to find— and we were fortunate to get a taste of the 2017 batch.
Lilac has a beautiful “spring” aroma. On its own, it derives part of its aroma from beta-ocimene, also found in spring flowers such as lilies. However, uniquely among many common flowers, lilac’s primary aromatic constituents are named for lilacs.
Those distinctive aromas are on display here. At first pour, rose, lily and heady blossoming lilac. The lilac is fleeting as a top note. After a few moments, some green notes emerge. Lavender and a touch of spice as well.
It evolves in the glass, and perhaps appropriate given the floral accords present. Lilac Gin evolves as if a perfume. It has a distinct top note (lilac), a heart (lavender, bitter orange zest, bison grass) and a long green dry out note.
The palate is an absolute delight. Lilac at the front, with rich notes of lilac, lots of lavender and a hint of rose to follow. Spice notes provide some structure as well. In the background, there’s hints of ginger, grains of paradise and even a hint of clove. A subtle, very herbaceous juniper note ties it together.
The finish is mild and gently floral. Fairly long with leafy green notes lasting long into the back of the palate.
Nice, pleasant mouthfeel with a good texture. Quite beautiful. I really like drinking it just on its own.
Flavored gins can be a bit challenging to mix with. I started with looking at Black Button Distillery’s site for their suggestions on how to mix with Lilac Gin. Their first suggestion— The Aviation— is a stunner. I recommend a little less creme de violette than their recipe, even just a scant 1/6 oz, as the sweetened creme tends to overpower the lilac. At this ratio, the lilac is the star, and the cocktail is spring drinkified. Highly Recommended.
I wouldn’t recommend it in a Gin and Tonic. I much preferred letting the lilac shine. It makes a stellar, very flower forward Martini: rose and hibiscus notes seem to come out even more brightly paired with Dry Vermouth. As a dark horse, owing to Black Button’s success with their citrus style flagship gin try Lilac Gin in a more citrus forward floral cocktail like the Ramos Gin Fizz or Blue Moon Cocktail. Or another one, that I really liked was Lilac Gin in a Blackberry Bramble.
It’s not for every cocktail application, but I think a creative home drink-maker or bartender will surely find plenty of ways to showcase this beautiful gin.
Among floral gins, Black Button’s Lilac Gin has few equals. It tastes like spring personified. But I think floral gins like Lilac Gin are in style all summer long.
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