Smugglers’ Notch Gin is distilled at Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, named for the mountain pass between Mount Mansfield [the highest point in Vermont mind you, and a beautiful hike] and nearby Spruce Peak. The notch is now also state park, and perhaps best known for the ski resort and ski resort town nearby.
More specifically this is Smugglers’ Notch Blend 802 Gin. On their website they describe their gin as the result of a participatory process wherein Vermont residents taste buds’ were enlisted in testing batches. The base spirit is described as grain on the label.
Right out of the bottle, it’s impressively quiet. Very sedate nose with a bit of juniper. Smugglers’ Notch Gin slowly opens up with a bit of spice and citrus.
On the palate it tastes nicely of pine-forward juniper. Coriander and angelica back the juniper up, and towards the finish there’s a slight hint of celery and fennel. The finish is moderate in length with some alcohol notes, but also some faint earthy, baking spice notes. A touch of coriander, pecan and bitter citrus. There’s a bit of astringency, in particular on the finish, and Smugglers’ Notch Gin leaves the palate somewhat dry.
The astringency that’s pronounced on its own goes away, particularly in mixed drinks. I thought Smugglers’ Notch Gin made a satisfying Gin and Tonic, even with tonic syrup. The pleasant juniper notes gave just enough to come through. It’s very classic and predominantly juniper forward in this preparation. I also found it to pair nicely with citrus, so I recommend the Gimlet and Tom Collins.
Even in the esteemed Negroni, you get a nice burst of juniper. This is a good mixing gin that I think most drinkers would find to be a welcome addition in their home bar. Smugglers’ Notch Gin isn’t by the books classic style, but it adds enough of those classic gin touches that bartenders should be comfortable substituting it for classic gins like Gordon’s and the like.
On the whole, I think Smugglers’ Notch Gin is a good locally distilled substitute to common juniper forward gins for those located in New England. There’s a nice juniper note that works well in most mixing applications. Although it has some rough edges, no doubt, that those looking for a gin on the rocks may notice— the dedicated Gin and Tonic drinker will be well satisfied.
Special thanks to John at Foodie Pilgrim. Since 2012, John has shared and sourced gins from New England and nearby that we at The Gin is In haven’t tried yet. This gin sample was shared by John, who is also a big fan of gin. So check out his New England Gin Reviews as well when you have a chance. Foodie Pilgrim also tried Smugglers’ Notch Gin, and I recommend you check out John’s writeup as well.