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.