I visited Kalispell just a couple of summers on my cross-country voyage. The scenery, the place, those mountains and that sky. They’re inseparable in my head. So when I hear the word “Kalispell” I immediately think of these things. And when I think of Ridge Distillery Silvertip American Dry gin, I think of northern Montana.
So like I said, I’m looking for glacial coolness. Mountain air. Fresh mountain flowers, and spry juniper. That sounds like a review already, right? I like to try and do these reviews in isolation. I don’t want to read what my colleagues have said. I try to ignore what the Beverage Testing Institute, Spirits Competitions, etc say. But they’re almost inescapable. A lot of times those lists are one of the ways I discover or learn about some of the great new gins that are out there. So let me say one thing that I found striking was the review written by the above mention Beverage Tasting Institute when they were faced with the gin in their 2011 tasting competition:
Aromas of red licorice, citrus cheese pastry and buttery peanut praline with a soft, fruity-yet-dry medium body and a zesty licorice and clove gum finish. Interesting and very well made, but more of a licorice cordial than a gin.
Those last words are rather damning, and they stuck with me even before I had ever tried Silvertip gin.
The nose has a slight hint of juniper and only the smallest hint of the anise flavor. The taste is remarkably “soft” and rather smooth. It definitely does not taste like it might be an 88 proof beverage. The character is rather creamy and mild. The juniper is a slow riser. It comes in the middle of the tasting, but it is hard to avoid that upon tasting the first note is anise, and the last note that lingers in the back of your mouth along with some residual heat- is also anise. But is it a licorice cordial? Let’s investigate.
Anise is not novel, nor even rare among gins. I’d say that its probably a botanical in maybe a good quarter to a third of gins out there. Its rarely as front-shifted as it is in silvertip, but this in and of itself is not something worthy of note. A couple spirits immediately come to mind as being “anise cordials” of a sort. Annisette: lots of Anise, almost overwhelming. But no Licorice, and the review specifically said Licorice, and not anise. Then you have Pastis, which has a little bit of both- but Pastis definitely carries that specific flavor combination. I just don’t feel that Silvertip even comes close to that level of anise/licorice. In fact, I’m not sure that I taste the licorice. I would have called it anise from the outset and I’m rather confident that is what’s going on here.
That being said, if you do not like anise (or Licorice for that matter) you will not appreciate this gin. It is a big part of what it does. If you want to even get to the subtle caraway notes or the pleasant pine finish, you’re going to have to come through the valley of anise first.
On Reading Other People’s Reviews [and especially wine-like reviews of spirits]
I understand that there is a certain relativism to taste. That’s the idea behind the pentagon. I want to try and objectively talk about taste in an easy to read fashion, and then in my entry (down here what you are) ramble on about the subjective impressions. But I found the Beverage tasting Institute review to not be helpful for me as a gin drinker at all. I drink an awful lot of gin, and I found some of the descriptors such as: “citrus cheese pastry” (delicious by the way), “buttery peanut praline” (also good), to be rather not helpful. I tasted this gin- liberally. In and out of cocktails. I have to be honest, I got nothing that resembled a breakfast pastry. Sure, its warm, creamy, but its junipery and lacking in cheese-like notes. I’m just not sure what the reviewer was trying to hint at.
I sometimes feel like as a gin-writer that the specter of wine reviews looms large over us. Can we be taken seriously in our craft if we don’t offer preposterous pontifications, comparisons to outlandish things? I’m not sure the answer. But I hope that the more everyman approach to gin reviews has a place.
On what I think- and keep it brief, because you’ve been rambling….
Lots of anise, and a fair amount of juniper. Pleasant and gin like. Not for folks who don’t like anise. Floral hints. Decidedly contemporary, but altogether pleasant and flexible.
Works great in a Negroni and a Gin and Tonic. The Anise notes can make for interesting variations on classics such as the Aviation, but whether or not those variations work might be up to the individual drinker. I remain unconvinced.
Price: $27/750 mL
Origin: Montana, United States
Best consumed: I think it makes for a unique and top notch gin and tonic.
Availability: Montana, California, Florida, Maryland and Delaware. But many more coming soon. Distribution Map
Rating: A bit heavy on the anise like notes, but overall rather enjoyable and flavorful.