I’d say more distillers are willing to be highly transparent about their botanical bill than their grain bill. The team at One Eight Distilling doesn’t publicly disclose much of their botanicals, but they will be even more specific than you might expect about their grains. This is interesting, as one of the major contentions of the Craft Spirits movement is that “grain to glass” is the only thing which should qualify as craft*. And what I see in being so precise about the grain bill is that its a subtle marker of authenticity, the same way that photographers shooting with film might leave the border in so you know what you’re seeing is the artists’ composition**, or photographers of the future might leave the arm in the shot so you know it’s an authentic “selfie.” The bill is: 63% local rye, an additional 11% malted Rye (Genever/Holland-style gin lovers rejoice) and another 26% corn. The aforementioned undisclosed botanical bill of Ivy City Gin mentions only the requisite juniper and the novel spicebush.
Spicebush*** is broadly a member of the Laurel family and native to most of the Eastern North American coast. The leaves are aromatic unto themselves, but the berries are as well having a scent similar to turpentine, which might be considered an important aromatic piece in the history of gin****, as it was a flavoring agent commonly used in American gins around the turn of the century. But Ivy City gin uses a local (and way better for you than Turpentine) ingredient to get that resiny harmonic with their juniper. But enough rambling, you’re here for the tasting notes. Let’s get on with the show:
The nose of Ivy City Gin is warm, like a Christmas spice bouquet. There’s a slight tinge of citrus as well. Very gentle spice, and quite inviting. I like the nose on Ivy City Gin quite a bit.
On the palate, there’s a great deal of complexity: resinous juniper, pepper, citrus, fennel all up front, with the finish bringing a mentholated/minty note with green, garden picked juniper, eucalyptus, and some depth from the grain base. Warm, quite very long finish with lots of fresh cracked black peppercorn and emerging spots of lemongrass too. The mouthfeel isn’t terribly thick; however, the overall impression is rich and flavorful. On its own, neat, Ivy City Gin warrants merit. Now onto cocktails.
The Martini has notes of chamomile, light pepper, rye and juniper. Really good, smooth and one of the best Martinis I’ve had in ’15. Highly recommended.
The Gimlet was also memorable and quite remarkable. Lime, celery salt, ginger, fennel and cinnamon sticks. Lovely spice bouquet, finishes sweet with fruit and grain. It’s a perfect marriage of the two. Also, recommended.
In the Gin Fizz, you get more of the grain and malt notes. Nice and warming, though some of the lighter aromatics seem surprisingly dulled and obscured. Good, but hardly as exceptional as the previous couple drinks.
Finally, we tried the Gin and Tonic with Ruby D Tonic Syrup: ginger, cinnamon bark, even more cinnamon, a hint of nutmeg. Later orange and lemon, with a hint of mint, and juniper coming through on the finish. Also, quite good and recommended.
Well made with a rich aromatic profile and a smooth, tasty grainbill. It is great in cocktails and equally as good neat. Ivy City Gin is everything right with gin today. Fans of contemporary gins with a little bit of malt in the base spirit will find plenty to love here. Fans of classic gin will clearly pick out the juniper on the palate, harmoniously combined with the other botanicals in a way that feels complete and unique, without eschewing the style’s roots.
* There are many sets of guidelines out there, here is one such definition from the American Distilling Institute, which is a bit more inclusive than just “grain to glass.” Another good article explaining the varying definitions and the controversy over the definition.
** Or the way Instagram emulates that compositional claim to authenticity.
6 thoughts on “Ivy City Gin”
Nice to see this review and I was able to be at One Eight for the release of Ivy City Gin, which I was anticipating. Aaron, you are so right about the specificity of the grain, which I noted in the almost 1 hour tour. If you are in DC hit up One Eight and around the corner (literally) is Green Hat.
Thanks for the review Aaron! You really nailed the flavor profile. We’re not trying to be secretive about our botanicals, we just don’t think most people want to hear us rattle on about everything we’re using, so we just talk about a few special ingredients when we’re introducing people to Ivy City Gin. In addition to spicebush and juniper, we’re using coriander, grains of paradise, angelica, fennel, licorice, orris root, lemon peel, and lemongrass.
Thanks for sharing! I had suspected a couple of those, and I really like how you get that peppery note with Grains of Paradise (and Spicebush? maybe?) rather than black peppercorns. Really lovely stuff, keep up the good work and looking forward to whatever you come up with next–
I really like this Gin and found it worked well in an Aviation and could happily drink a Martini using this Gin for as long as I had a bottle of it that wasn’t empty. Unfortunately I found this disappointing in a G&T, similar to how most Genevers tend not to work well with Tonic water. Despite this, it is clear Sandy Wood, Alex Laufer and all the crew at One Eight Distilling have produced an excellent Gin and have left me eagerly awaiting their next Gin.
I’m always quite impressed at the range of gins you’ve been able to get a hold of us as well!
I might disagree with you on the tonic, although it might be because I don’t think it’s as Genever-like as other gins using malted grain, I think with a more traditional tonic water the aromatics seem the most prominent, and not the base spirit. However, I think that’s perhaps one of Ivy City’s strengths. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it as well. We do seem in sync on quite a few– This gin is now in my off-the-clock-just-enjoying-a-good-gin shelf!
I like my Gin, so I try and get anything and everything from everywhere I can. Often it’s a case of too many Gins (and other things besides) and not enough time.
I may be a lone voice with an Ivy City G&T, it wasn’t bad and does work but…oh well, let’s find out what others think. I’m sure we’ll get to sit down together at some point and share a drink or two in the future, let’s hope it’s with a bottle of Ivy City…I’ll be the one with it in a Martini.
Best wishes, David.