Up in the distilling hotbed of the Pacific Northwest, Counter Gin hails from Batch 206 Distillery in Seattle Washington. They’ve quickly become one of the bigger names on the Seattle distilling scene. Today we take a look at their flagship gin.
“Small batch,” “local,” “handmade” and “artisan” are among the words that describe the products and philosophy at Batch 206 from the products themselves all the way to the still they’re made on. The gin begins as their flagship vodka. Then, the eight botanicals are steeped in the vodka for 36 hours. The infusion is then redistilled to make Counter Gin. The cucumber and lavender are local, but the rest have their provenance well defined, the juniper is from Albania for example, and we all know how important that can be.
The nose of Counter Gin is floral and herbal. Orange, tarragon, rosemary and lavender notes shine out. The notes are bright and fresh, each easy to pick out on its own; however, the nose is a little restrained and not overwhelming. There’s a low vegetal note present as well, calling to mind hints of tarragon and cucumber.
Counter’s palate is dominated in terms of representation by the juniper, but it never does it as a solo act. It’s complicated nicely at each step of the taste by the other ingredients, Up front we begin with cucumber and orange. The orange continues to rise until it shines most brightly with notes of sugared orange rind. It then steps down, and we get the herbal complexities.
Tarragon and herbs begin on the edges of the palate, reminding me a bit of Herbs de Provence spice mixtures. Some earthy tones begin to come through, with some verbena notes as well.
The finish of Counter Gin is quite dry with a touch of spice. There’s hints of fennel, oregano, as well as a general “green” taste. It’s herb-forward without ever being brothy or too literal. There’s a touch of heat on the finish. I think the juniper nicely balances the other notes in here, and although not anywhere near traditional, I think Counter Gin has achieved a nice balance.
I might have hoped for a bit more in the low notes. Perhaps some Angelica, Almond, or Coriander type of classic gin note, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it doesn’t work because of this. It’s quite nice, though I suspect this note might be what could take it to the next level.
We put Counter Gin to the test in our latest MxMo entry, the Midnight Sun cocktail. To sum up what we wrote, the Aquavit nicely filled in with some low notes, and the combination of the two revealed a robust herbal complexity, amplified by the presence of fresh mint and thyme. Quite nice, and we quite liked it.
In a more traditional cocktail such as the Tom Collins, we found the lemon a nice compliment to the high orange notes. The herbs continued to come through, but I’m not sure they worked as well with the lemon here.
The Gin Fizz was fresh, bright, and refreshing. The lime was the right citrus compliment in this case, though also the lack of a sweetening agent here [to contrast w/ the Tom Collins] I think allowed the complexities of the gin to come through. Lime dominates though, the flavor always feels balanced. Verbena more prominent on the finish.
Of course, as this is a summertime review the Gin and Tonic came out. And we quite liked the refreshing and dry character of this drink. Candied orange rings at first, juniper and a touch of bitterness on the middle. Herbs de Provence on the finish. Brisk and herb forward, a strikingly different G&T, and one that we definitely recommended.
To throw a curveball of a “drink” in here*, how about some Gin and Juice. It had an interesting finish, with the sweetness scaled back just a touch. Earthy, with hints of fennel, verbena and cucumber. For a drink which is normally anything but, there was a captivating complexity here that warrants recommendation, if this is your sort of thing.
Finally since our “cocktails” veered more towards mixed drinks in this, we had to bring up a Three to One. The Apricot lifted the orange notes and it was a harmonious compliment to the fresh lime. Apricot dominated the finish, but we had a touch of tarragon, verbena and even lavender as well.
Overall, Counter Gin
Among herb-forward gins, this might be the most well balanced in terms of how other notes support the more surprising botanicals [tarragon, verbena]. Additionally, it is among the contemporary gins which best negotiates the minefield of the cucumber botanical, allowing it to come through without hitting you in the face. In short, although I think this gin’s appeal is probably somewhat of a niche gin, the attention to detail and balance in here is outstanding and I find myself turning back to it time and time again because of its unique flavor.
Recommended in its category
*Because I won’t call the Gin and Juice a cocktail.