Herbalist Gin features a strong emphasis on local, from the base spirit (Red Winter Wheat) up through the botanical selection (and we quote “no tropical ingredients typically used in most gins”). Great Northern Distilling’s Herbalist Gin is evocative of what a Wisconsin distiller might have available to them. Taking two typical botanicals (juniper and coriander), the Great Northern team adds Rose Hips, lavender and Spruce Tips.
The first thing you’ll notice is just what a rich, luscious spirit Herbalist Gin is. It has an oily and thick character that speaks to the quality of the canvas on which the team began their work, the nose bursts with lavender, creamy grain, and some aspects of juniper, though let it sit and it transcends the initial nose to become intensely floral, as musky, deep perfumed low notes from the rose and lavender rise to the fore.
The palate comes in a few distinct waves. The first is the piney/juniper notes that land on the tips and sides of the tongue upon first sip. White pepper intonations emerge as well, but the real centerpiece is the mid-palate whereupon, lavender, coriander, and rosemary come through. The finish is also quite nice, but you’ll pick up on the sudden change on the palate where you’re getting more of that lavender/rose (those really low emerging notes from the nose as the spirit warms itself), but also cereal, creamy vanilla, custard-like notes. The finish is exceptionally long and dry with musky floral, spicy/citrusy coriander, and some hints of grain only very slowly fade from present mind, enduring on the back of the tongue for quite some time. Really nice stuff on its own, and a neat spirit that I really quite enjoyed.
Mixed in a Gin and Tonic with Fever Tree’s Naturally Light Indian Tonic, the creamy grain-like notes, then lavender, and a crisp finish more true to the gin than the tonic brings things home. The finish is chewy and thick, with a surprising hint of anise way back there. Quite nice, and recommended.
The Negroni was all about the usual suspects, though when the gin did come through, it did so by bringing that floral, slightly herbal note to things. Well balanced I think, and although perhaps I’d like a touch more gin coming through, it’s a good drink that I would drink again. And choose to drink with this gin over another one.
Finally, it made a great Martini. I really liked the way that it dominated the nose, and brought a strong perspective to the drink that never seemed deterred until some bitter wormwood type notes came in on the finish. I like the way these two things go together, and really think you will too. I’m going to have this again when I’m not writing about it (as in, I can enjoy it without intellectualizing every sip), and I think you’ll like it too.
Herbalist Gin is a well-balanced contemporary style gin. The juniper comes and goes a bit early; however the overall impression and mix-ability warrants a closer look. I really like the long finish, the warm, rich mouthfeel of the spirit, and the aromatic profile. Fans of contemporary gins, especially fans of gins that are comfortable playing with lavender should find a lot to like here. Definitely among the best US gins we’ve tried this year.
Highly recommended in its category.