Many people know the distiller Rich Burch of Caskwerks Gin from his “day job” as bassist of the long running rock band Jimmy Eat World. He told the Phoenix New Times that he “wanted to change people’s associations with their grandfathers’ gin. It was piney, sharp, medicinal — and not so pleasant.” (source)
Inspired by his own love of spirits, Rich teamed up with John Miller in 2013. The process to get up and going was a tough one, but they were ultimately successful and launched with an Apple Pie Liqueur and Gin in 2016. The gin was decidedly contemporary in approach. Aiming to leave those old ideas of what a gin could be, behind— Caskwerks Gin is distilled with a contemporary perspective borne out of some traditional botanicals (coriander, cinnamon and citrus). They source their juniper from Portugal and it is built upon a neutral grain base.
Caskwerks Gin has a gentle and inviting nose. Soft citrus blossoms— orange is there, but a hints of Neroli and lemon leaf round things out. Spicy, woody cinnamon and sweet spice emerge after a short while. I really like the nose on this gin.
Sipped, Caskwerks shows a bit more complexity, yielding some soft spice notes especially early on. I’d characterize it as just on the intense side of center in terms of botanical presence. It’s vivid but not overbearing.
Quiet at initial entry, Caskwerks Gin has a strong mid-palate peak of orange and spicy cinnamon. Honeysuckle and lemon come on just after that— maybe a hint of Magnolia. It’s a peppery floral late palate as the cinnamon begins to shift from spice and wood towards the peppery and red-hot. Echoes of juniper remain after the spirit fades.
Caskwerks Gin has a pleasant evolving journey on the palate with the botanicals ebbing and flowing— not competing. There’s a really nice balance here. Some might not love the heavy hand with cinnamon here as on the finish it evokes a comparison to those red-hot candies, but as part of an evolving flavor on the palate I don’t mind it as a finish. Some gins get the cinnamon on the palate from start to finish. It’s here in Caskwerks Gin, but it’s not the only thing.
The spice-forward moments come out stronger when the gin is chilled. A stirred Martini will echo more spice-forward, but a room temperature one with a dash of Vermouth preserves a bit of that balance. The delicate citrus volatiles present in CaskWerks Gin are not particularly tenacious— overwork them and you lose them. Gentle preparation preserves them. Try pouring it over your tonic water and gentle mixing, rather than adding it before hand. You might lose a touch of carbonation, but I found you kept a bit more citrus flavor.
That being said Caskwerks Gin is a solid mixer, albeit with a spice forward side. It has a nice flavor that lends itself well to a Martinez or Negroni. The citrus doesn’t come through strongly, but those pleasant spices and a hint of juniper do.
Bartenders should treat Caskwerks Gin as a specialty gin with a cinnamon perspective. It is not a swap and play for a gin like Gordon’s— nor was it intended to be. If you’re looking to use this gin in your bar program, I suggest building around it.
Overall, Caskwerks Gin
While admittedly a bit light on juniper for some, Caskwerks Gin is a solid contemporary style gin with a nice spice-forward profile that works well in a range of cocktails.
Also, at retail price of $25 for a 45% ABV gin, Caskwerks is also an excellent deal.