Ugly Dog Gin— who by the way bears the picture of a German Pointer called Ruger that isn’t ugly, he’s cute— hails from a distillery of the same name in Chelsea, Michigan. All of Ugly Dog Distillery’s spirits are distilled on stills that were hand built by the distillery’s founders. Ugly Dog Gin begins from a base of botanicals macerated in 190 proof Michigan grain before being distilled with a fairly traditional botanical bill including licorice, coriander and bitter orange.
At first, the ethanol is a bit overwhelming poured straight from the glass. Beneath that there’s oily bitter orange zest and a hint of earthy licorice and forest floor.
The palate of Ugly Dog Gin is a hair astringent. Slightly sweet juniper hits on the front of the palate. A rush of heat is present mid-palate. Abruptly it moves into a long slightly piney finish. But where Ugly Dog Gin really lets me down is in the somewhat harsh texture of the spirit. It’s quite astringent with the almost bitter, vacant taste of neutral spirit takes over.
Ugly Dog Gin is perhaps best suited as a mixing gin where it’s going to be paired with sweet or fizzy mixing partners. The juniper comes through in a Gin and Tonic. But the astringency remains a bit overpowering in a Gin and Soda. Mixed in a Gin and Lemonade or Gin and Juice, pleasant, but rather plain notes of juniper do come through.
Overall, Ugly Dog Gin
There’s nothing wrong with a workhorse mixing gin at a good price. People looking for a Michigan-distilled classic style gin can find one here.
But overall, I was a bit disappointed in Ugly Dog Gin. It’s needlessly harsh at 45% ABV, and the botanical complexity is rather staid— they seem disparate and lacking harmony. It mixes just fine, but those looking for something suited for sipping on its own or gin-forward cocktails like Martinis may want to keep looking.