Junipers are long lived species. A single bush can live for hundreds of years in the wild. Most of the juniper grown in captivity is much younger than this, and with human development expanding further and further into the wilds there’s fewer of these long lived bushes than their once was, particularly in the UK where although the juniper’s demise might have been prematurely declared. One distillery in particular in Scotland, Crossbill Distillery has traded its reputation on locally sourced juniper, rather than the Italian and Balkan sources most distillers rely on because of its invariability and steady supply.
So Crossbill 200 is the distillery’s love letter to the 20 century old bush that grows just outside its distillery; lovingly distilled along with the rosehip that grows alongside the bush in its natural habitat. Bottled at a high proof and swaddled in fancy glass and packaging, the spirit is designed to showcase the conifer berry that all of us gin drinkers so adore.
Hot, fiery nose with lots of alcohol, but also lots and lots of beautiful juniper flavor. It practically leaps forth, into the nostrils, as if aflame. If not for the otherwise small sample (thank you David) I might dilute it and unravel its mysteries; however, I want to experience it in its full throe.
Piney and rich, it comes on at full roar. First quiet than an absolute blast of juniper, but it’s not just a lot, it’s an incredibly beautiful juniper flavor. You definitely pick up some hints of cherry and dry rose, particularly mid-palate, before the juniper begins to dry out on the back of the palate. Warmth emanates from the throat, accentuating a deceptive finish which suggests hints of coriander, with a spicy, dry crispness. Pine resin fades away slowly, ceding along with the heat. The finish is only medium length, but it’s a beautiful one at that, only shining as long as the juniper has light to shine, and then making way for the next sip.
At this proof point, it’s an interesting contrast in where you go next. Spirits bottled at 120 proof tend to be designed to be diluted or mixed; however, Crossbill 200 is designed to be experienced at full blast in order to appreciate the depth of the juniper.
Those looking for something unique or 200 years old in the flavor might be left looking. There’s nothing radically out of the ordinary in the juniper flavor in Crossbill 200, other than that it might just be an extremely well executed, high-proof juniper-forward classic gin. If you miss out on this, Sipsmith’s VJOP, might be the best silver medal out there. But as long as it’s available. the delicate blend of rose and juniper is absolutely stunning on its own and worth enjoying with nary more than an ice cube, or perhaps if you’re so bold, neat.
Story aside, it’s a fantastic product and a gin that I would heartily recommend to fans of classic gins and contemporary gins such as Hendrick’s in particular. It’s a little pricey, certainly, the flavor and beautiful expression of juniper is akin to splurging on that piece of art you want.
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