Smugglers’ Notch Gin is distilled at Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, named for the mountain pass between Mount Mansfield and nearby Spruce Peak.
Smugglers’ Notch Hopped Gin adds hops alongside the juniper berries in a basket in the column of their still. Vapor distillation often adds a lighter flavor from the botanicals, which is ideal for hops as their lighter side is more citrusy.
Beer drinkers and brewers may be interested to know more about the hops. Smugglers’ Notch Hopped Gin uses Cascade, which are an aromatic hop that only came into existence through breeding programs in the 1950’s. YCH HOPS describes the flavor as “floral, citrus, and spicy.” Beer Advocate says Cascade Hops have a “fragrant, flowery aroma…[and add] a citrus-floral hop character.” Beer Legends says, “citrus, sometimes compared to grapefruit,” but also “Cascade Hops aroma and flavor is best summed up, as simply, American Pale Ale.”
Similar to Smugglers’ Notch Gin, their hopped one is also sedate on the nose. At first quiet, it opens up with the bright fresh aroma of hops. I want to give props to the aforementioned Beef Legends for their description of Cascade Hops, as I find the nose to remind me of an American Pale Ale.
I also get notes of lemon/lime, and pine-forward juniper. The top notes are heavy on the hops, and the lower notes are a little bit more vegetal and citrusy with traditional gin character.
The palate early is piney-juniper, then a slightly floral mid-palate with notes of grapefruit and berry, and then a finish where the hops come on. Unfortunately, a bit late I’m also getting some slightly metallic notes, with of stone mixed in for good measure.
The finish is moderate length, but hot and fairly astringent. There’s a lasting bitterness that’s quite unusual for a gin, but it’s not clear to me if that’s the ethanol heavy finish or an effect of the hops
I find hopped gins in general hard to mix, so this isn’t just about Smugglers’ Notch Hopped Gin; it’s more of a comment on the style. The way my brother-in-law likes to enjoy gin is to put a shot in his pint. This is quite a traditional cocktail that dates back to the 19th century or perhaps even earlier, when most brewers were part-time distillers. You know like 18th century London during the gin craze. But I digress.
Adding an ounce of gin to a pint of lager, is quite a tasty drink. Unfortunately, there’s not enough hop flavor on the palate in Smugglers’ Notch Hopped Gin to come through in a beer, so I don’t think it quite works as Gin Purl.
The hop flavor is sedate and present in the Gin and Tonic, and it comes through in a simpler Gin and Soda, though you don’t quite that aroma which I found so inviting.
Smugglers’ Notch Hopped Gin achieves a delicate hop flavor, but ultimately the gin doesn’t have enough complexity to carry the day. The beginning of the taste is nice, but it just seems to abruptly trail off halfway through.
That same lack of flavor carries through even in cocktails and makes it hard to recommend for bartenders or those who prefer their gin mixed. On its own, it’s a nice aroma, but the taste doesn’t deliver enough of the hops or classic gin notes necessary to completely pull it off.
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.