Southern Artisan Spirits boasts an all-organic blend of botanicals for their Cardinal Gin. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they’ve been doing their thing since 2012. That makes Cardinal Gin one of the veterans of the craft, organic gin movement. Featuring 11 botanicals, it has everything from the classic (angelica and juniper), to the overplayed (cardamom), to the downright unusual (Frankincense).
Herbs on the nose, with a hint of spice. A touch of cardamom, fennel seed, and even intimations of licorice.
The palate is sweet, savory and somewhat nutty as it unfolds. Bright herbal notes at the fore, with a hint of citrus, some crisp pine-forward juniper, and celery seed. Things become a bit more spicy on the late palate as caraway and mint truly take over.
You might be mistaken if you think the long finish, rife with spearmint (and the slightest hint of clove) suggests you might have actually bit into a mint leaf. Cardinal Gin is fresh and menthol-laden; perhaps the most mint-forward of all American gins.
If you think that the mint forward approach of Cardinal Gin makes it ideal for a Southside Cocktail, you’d be totally right. It’s one of the best combinations of cocktail + gin you can find. If you buy this gin, you have to make this drink. The mint from the gin adds some rich color to the brightness of fresh mint leaves.
The second drink where Cardinal Gin really wins out is the Gin and Tonic. That spearmint note is absolutely beautiful with a chilled tonic, and I really like that nutty, mentholic caraway note underneath it.
That being said, the mint note does carry the day in many cocktails. While it works in Blackberry Bramble and Strawberry Brambles, I find that it can be a bit over the top in a Martini, or somewhat disconcerting in a Negroni. There’s a lot going on here, but the dominance of the mint botanical on the finish means that will be your lasting impression.
If you want mint, add some Cardinal gin. If you don’t, grab some Gordon’s.
Cardinal Gin is a delicious contemporary styled gin with an assertive, distinctive perspective, that’s as easily recognizable to me in 2017 as it was in 2012. Having endured that long with as unique a point of view, you have to think something is being done right.
Bartenders I think will find Cardinal Gin an easy sell to folks looking for a twist on their ordinary Gin and Tonic or Martini. Home gin-drinkers should decide based on their affinity for mint. Do you like it? Cardinal Gin is a must own.
10 thoughts on “Cardinal Gin”
The spice notes are too strong for my taste. I’m just old-fashioned, but I think cinnamon and nutmeg belong in rum or mulled wine, not in gin. But the experience taught me to trust the blog’s flavor profiles, as this gin’s profile is clearly heavy on spice. Live and learn.
Slap some Cardinal in a last word.. that is the kind of bold this gin was built for
Next time you work up a last word use Cardinal. A street fight gone soft… spot on!
Before I start, let me say that I’m a relative newcomer to gin. That being said, I’ve discovered that I tend to lean more toward traditional gins (Broker’s and Beefeater being my go to’s). When I do stray to a more contemporary (western style) gin, this is the one. I may be a little biased considering I’m from North Carolina, but I find this to be a great compromise between a traditional gin and one of the newer flavored gins (Rangpur) or “vodka style” gins (New Amsterdam). If you can get this in your area I highly recommend buying a bottle and experimenting with it in some of your favorite cocktails. After reading this review, I look forward to trying it in a “Last Word” (a cocktail that i was unaware of).
In a side note: The past five to ten years has seen a great crop of distillers spring up in the state of North Carolina. I think it was around 2005 when the law was changed to allow legal distilling of spirits. In that time we have had several high quality small batch distillers come on the scene. Everything I’ve tried (with the exception of the first one to be approved, Catdaddy Moonshine) has been great. The highlights for me are the Cardinal Gin and Defiant Single Malt Whisky (one of the few whisky’s I enjoy neat) . Also relatively new is Topo Gin out of Chapel Hill, NC which I’ve yet to try. So, If you’re passing through our state be sure to find an ABC store and try some of these with my recommendation.
The first time I tried it, thought it was a “chick’s gin” — too floral for my tastes. But when tried again — and again– realized it was more “ephemeral” rather than “effeminate.” Now my gin of choice
Kudos to Cardinal.
I hate spearmint and love this gin, whaddya know?
I’ve been a gin drinker for more years than I care to remember. Had them all, Beefeater, Bombay, Tanqueray, Plymouth and many others. But when I tasted this Cardinal Gin I was really amazed at the great taste and quality. Converted a few others over. Keep up the great job.
as a founding member of “The Austin Martini Foundation”..now living in N.C..I’ not a pro, but have been a gin drinker for 40 years..and Cardinal is the BEST I’ve found for gin & tonics ..and now that they’ve got the barrel-rested gin..well, that solves the old dilemma of it not being proper to drink white liquor after Labor Day..gin all year long!! life does not suck… – Tom Ringland , Raleigh, N.C
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