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.