Bristow Gin is the baby of Mississippi’s Cathead Distillery. They’re best known for their eponymous Vodka and their signature Honeysuckle Vodka.
The nose is quiet and inviting. Warm and soft juniper predominates with a slight alcohol burn when you inhale deeply. At 47%, its perhaps in line with many other craft gins and a bit stronger than most imports. On the palette, you get a nice warm juniper and a warm earthy [but sweet and earthy] finish. The full list of botanicals are not known, but I do have this intriguing snipped from Cathead Distillery’s Blog to go off of:
“We’ve been cooking up a test batch of gin. Our pallets are slightly juniper forward so by design this recipe carries a strong juniper nose with undertones of cinnamon, orange peels, hyssop, cloves and six more proprietary botanicals that help aid this distillate through to a more well rounded finish. Keep y’all posted on the progress!” [source]
Hyssop is an herb whose uses goes back to the days of the Bible, and is best known for its strong and distinct flavor, which is often described as being “bitter,” “minty,” and quite strong. It has a tendency to overwhelm. But wait, this is only one kind of plant known as Hyssop. While this one is native to the Mediterranean, there is another kind of Hyssop (better known as “Giant Hyssop“) that is native to much of North America. The leaves of this plant too are used in teas, potpourris and other aromatics. I don’t know for certain which kind of Hyssop is at play here, but I would suspect based on the fact that I think there is a mild minty background with the juniper, that I think it is the Hyssop herb proper. But this aside aside, I would say that Bristow Gin’s use of Hyssop sets it apart from most other gins with its use of this rarely seen botanical.
As for the other botanicals, you can pick out the citrus in the taste, as well as a warm aromatic sweetness which seems to be in the camp of cinnamon and clove. There’s definitely something more in there that supports the earth base. I would guess some Angelica and Coriander, but there might be something else sweet and earthy in here. Perhaps Nutmeg, Allspice or Cardamom. But truly the juniper is the star of the show. So while I may be able to pick out some unlisted botanicals in a gin where they were featured or in the mid-ground, these background players support the juniper well without ever taking the stage themselves.
This gin’s classic profile pretty much gives away its utility and appeal. It works well in most cocktails. At 94 proof, its strength more than holds its own. I thought that it was excellent in a Negroni and made for a delicious summer gin and tonic. Mint was a natural compliment to this gin, perhaps owing to the Hyssop, so I would say break out the fresh backyard mint and make up some Southside Cocktails for the gang.
Bristow Gin is a well-made classic styled gin. I think that it will appeal to those who like London Dry Gin, and its another example of an excellent American-distilled craft alternative to the big names like Tanqueray. While I don’t think its as piney as Tanqueray, the juniper in Bristow is mellower, sweeter, and altogether sure to please fans of classic gin.
Another well-made US Craft Gin that would easily satisfy a gin-lovers quest for an American distilled alternative to the big names in juniper-forward gin. But without enough nuance and distinctive taste to stand out.