Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The unusual color is indeed Pinckney Bend Distillery’s Handcrafted American Hibiscus Gin. Distilled from American Grain, the botanicals in the base gin are added via a combination of maceration and vapor infusion; the pink color owes to the signature botanical, which naturally is Hibiscus
Hibiscus is a flowering plant in the Mallow family. Similar to many other plants in this family, Hibiscus has a long history as a comestible among many groups around the world. In Arab Culture, Hibiscus tea is a common drink; while Filipino cuisine makes extensive use of the plant for its sour characteristics. Hibiscus features prominently in Chinese folk medicine and Mexican cuisine incorporates the flowers, also known as jamaica in traditional dishes such as Quesadillas. Many cultures have fallen for the distinctive flavor of Hibiscus, and now gin drinkers can join as well.
The spirit itself is a pinkish violet, when poured that is a rose/lavender in its appearance. The spirit is completely clear, with no evidence of sediment.
The nose has a signature, faintly tart, but clearly Hibiscus note. I get suggestions of green angelica stalk, herbaceous, slightly waxy juniper, and citrus zest.
The palate, while predominantly Hibiscus is not entirely without some more traditional gin-like character. From the beginning, lavender, quickly moves to a mid body dominated by orange peels, piquant juniper with a pine note. Later, more notes of Hibiscus blossom tea with a creamy, lemon and licorice note.
The finish is fairly long, and generally floral (but never sweet). The Hibiscus note is nicely integrated with the rest of the palate. Although a signature botanical, it neither overwhelms or dominates. Instead of Pinckney Bend’s Handcrafted American Hibiscus Gin balances the floral with some of the other botanicals and creates a pleasant floral-forward middle ground that occupies a nice space as a floral-forward contemporary gin moreso than just a Hibiscus product.
Bartenders should note that the pink hue may cause some traditional cocktails to have different colors than expected. I found one of the more beautiful ones was the Aviation. Not only did the Hibiscus complement the violet well, the drink itself had a more vivid and more attractive violet hue. Although also good taste-wise in drinks like the Tom Collins, the unexpected hues can range from a cherry juice spiked lemonade to something a little less aesthetically pleasing, such as The Last Word. Flavorwise, it’s good, but bartenders may want to take note of how the pink will effect their drinks.
I also really enjoyed the Gin and Tonic. This may be perfectly designed to be your next summer party drink. Bright, summery, verdant, and incredibly accessible. I found this gin to be very appealing, especially to those who aren’t normally fans of gin.
Bartenders in well lit bars aside, I think the home drinker focused on taste will appreciate the contemporary floral-forward approach and the pleasant balance between the signature botanical and the rest of the gin. Fans of classic style gin will definitely appreciate the foundational elements of the style, but Handcrafted American Hibiscus Gin is confident in its contemporary approach and with its color and signature botanical approach certainly has an audience in mind. And I think they’ve hit it. Nice balance, with a good cocktail forward approach, Pinckney Bend I think has a good gin that will bring new gin drinkers into the category.