Rogue initially made a name for themselves in the craft brewing space. One of America’s earliest craft brew pubs, Rogue Ales was founded in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon. Just as they were early to the brew pub space, they were early to the craft spirits space as well. Rogue Spirits launched in 2003, and Rogue Spruce Gin has been one of their flagship products ever since.
Rogue Spruce Gin is notable as it was one of the first American craft gins to make a big deal about its water source right on the bottle. “Free Range Coastal Water.” Echoing the time in which it was designed— a time when Martin Miller’s Gin and Hendrick’s Gin were helping reshape the gin world with their cucumber-forward gins— Rogue Spruce did too. And even though it says spruce on the bottle. the cucumber is a huge part of it. There are 100 (!) pounds of cucumbers in every batch (warning video). They’re even grown on Rogue’s farm, which unsurprisingly is called Rogue Farms.
The nose of Rogue Spruce Gin is vegetal and piney. The cucumber echoes faint notes of pickles, fresh green beans, and celery, all to the background of terpey damp spruce blossom. It’s cool and very green in aroma.
As it sits, the cucumber notes really take over. They volatilize and dominate the air around the spirit.
The palate is cool and green at first, with a rising mid-palate of spice and juniper berry. Ginger adds some color late, even complementing the warmth towards the finish with a fiery note of fresh ginger— but slightly musty vegetal notes distract from punchy citrus rind and resiny spruce.
Rogue Spruce is a bit challenging to mix with, as the cucumber and vegetal notes tend to dominate, especially when stirred or chilled. I’d suggest looking for either drinks that put the gin up front and center (Martini). Or drinks that have a vegetal, fresh component to them. Try Rogue Spruce Gin in a Southside or Gibson.
Given the emphasis on that particular set of botanicals, I have to say I think it pairs disastrously with sweet and dessert like things. I’d avoid the Ramos Gin Fizz, Clover Club Cocktail, Alexander or the 20th Century Cocktail.
Overall, Rogue Spruce Gin
Just as it has been in the time since it’s launch, this gin tends to be somewhat divisive. Those looking for an herbal and almost summery gin without floral notes— Rogue Spruce Gin did it first and may still be doing it best.
Though this gin has changed over the years, and I think some of the newer batches show an upward trajectory in the spirit’s flavor profile and quality— While I like some of the punchy juniper and spruce, the heavy-handed wet cucumber notes detract from the overall flavor.