If you’ve got as far as the title— you know exactly what New Zealand based White Sheep Co. has accomplished in their Sheep Milk & Honey Gin.
Using a combination of traditional yeasts and brewing techniques, sheep milk is fermented. Specific strains are needed because the lactic environment is toxic to many more standard yeasts. This process takes twelve days. Then it is distilled in a copper still to produce a vodka. Sheep Milk & Honey Gin undergoes another distillation with botanicals and is sweetened afterwards with a dash of local honey.
Sheep Milk Co.’s launch comes at a moment where vodka distilled from milk is having a bit of a moment stateside. It’s not all that new though. The Tuvan peoples of the Siberian steppe used their only source of sugar— milk— and fermented it to produce a beer known as Khoitpakh— and even distilled it to produce a vodka called araka (~ 20% ABV). If it undergoes another distillation, it gets the affectionately translated in English name of “dawn.”
White Sheep Co. were so kind as to ship me a sample of their base spirit to sample on its own.
Base Spirit Tasting Notes
It has an unusual nose. It’s slightly flinty with hints of flat chalk and slate rock. A cautious lactic sweetness hovers in the background though with notes of yogurt, dried coconut and paper. The base spirit sample I have is perfectly clear.
The palate is round and dry. There’s a bit of sweetness, with a calcite and stone edge to it. It has a long durable warmth. Nice mouthfeel and pleasant viscosity as well.
Sheep Milk & Honey Gin Tasting Notes
Sheep Milk & Honey Gin has a creamy vanilla tinged nose at firs that blossoms into full blown chocolate cookies with a hint of butterscotch chips. There is a hint of the slate and stone in there if you dig deep for it. It’s more pronounced at first pour before that chocolate note volatilizes. But to the nose, Sheep Milk & Honey Gin smells like a dessert.
The palate is rich with a heavy impression of chocolate confections on the palate. It’s not simply a note of cocoa, but instead a combination of sugar, honey, caramel, chocolate chips, and vanilla. This is all beset by this slight custard-like creaminess that especially towards the finish suggests vanilla pudding topped with a bit of powdered Vietnamese cinnamon.
The mouthfeel is viscous and nicely textured. A slight warmth in the back of the palate creates a lasting warmth wherein the juniper begins to poke through. While quiet throughout the whole palate, it most clearly is present when the other botanicals and Sheep Milk & Honey Gin’s sweetness subsides somewhat.
I immediately was drawn to Sheep Milk & Honey Gin’s applications in creamy cocktails like the Morning Glory Fizz, Ramos Gin Fizz or the Alexander.
But the creaminess of the spirit itself, its smoothness, and the gentle sweetness already present in Sheep Milk & Honey Gin lend it well to spirit-forward cocktails such as a Martini— but definitely with a twist.
Overall, Sheep Milk & Honey Gin
Sheep Milk & Honey Gin is a surprisingly fun and accessible gin. While some might get caught up in the unusual provenance of the base spirit, ultimately Sheep Milk & Honey Gin is great gin for those just getting into gin or for those looking for something sweeter and a little-less juniper-forward.
On the other hand, Sheep Milk & Honey Gin is exactly the kind of gin that some critics might deride for having too little— almost no juniper presence in it.
I do get the slightest hint of juniper here. But beyond that— White Sheep Co. have produced a spirit that is exciting and most important delicious on its own merits. Sheep Milk & Honey Gin is a lot of fun, and as long as you know what you’re getting going in— I think you’ll enjoy it too.