Holi Gin

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The Hindu festival of colors, love and spring is an iconic festival, often best known for its colored powders, which festival goers smear on their faces and bodies. Louisville, Kentucky, home to the distillery that makes Holi Gin also is home to a Holi celebration.

Holi Gin is inspired by the founder’s family Chai recipe. Chai is not a single recipe, but a process. The exact botanicals in the gin are not disclosed, but we can generalize that many Chai recipes use some or all of these botanicals: cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, star anise, fennel and/or black peppercorns.

Tasting notes

Aroma: Hot, bright and spicy. Allspice, dry cinnamon and clove adorn the nose.

Flavor: Intensely spiced, but Holi Gin has a surprising almost sweetness. Ginger, cinnamon and cassia early with a hint of vanilla. That hint of vanilla that runs throughout, lends Holi Gin some balance, especially as the spice escalates.

Mid-palate lots of cinnamon takes center stage, with a touch of anise. Sometimes the cinnamon takes on a red hot candy flavor.

Towards the end, the cinnamon dials down revealing a heady background of dry spices. A touch of cardamom adds to the vanilla, with ginger, cloves, and coriander.

Finish: Somewhat warm, with intense notes of spice lingering on the palate.

Cocktails and suggested serves

Holi Gin is not shy about what it is— bartenders are best advised to treat cocktails with Holi Gin on a case by case basis. It is so single-minded and spice forward that it is best treated as its own thing.

I recommend pairing it with bold counterpoints like Campari and Vermouth in a Negroni which can add something other than spice to the one-note gin.

Try it warmed in a Chai inspired Hot Toddy. The addition of honey and fresh lemon go a long way towards adding balance.

Overall, Holi Gin

I love Chai and I want to love Holi Gin. However, I have two small recommendations. Firstly, the juniper is completely absent. It’s so far in the background that one could think of this as a Chai-spiced vodka.

Secondly, the spices are intense and clash with one another. I’d love to see the cinnamon or other botanicals contributing to that almost red-hot spice note mid-palate dialed back.

I understand if Holi Gin was a single-minded goal to replicate a family Chai tea recipe. However, I think the gin could be enhanced by thoughtful pairing of other, maybe not normally Chai ingredients to balance out the signature botanicals. Or perhaps a re-balancing around juniper in a way that allows the gin side of Holi Gin to shine through.

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