The first question about Wheel House American Dry Gin may well be: what’s a wheelhouse?
wheel·house / ˈ(h)wēlˌhous, noun: wheelhouse; plural noun: wheelhouses
- 1. a part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel.
- 2. the part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run.
“Oakland’s closer Street left a fastball in Bonds’ wheelhouse with two outs”
- 3. a place or situation in which one is advantageously at ease.
Officially it’s definition 1, but I suggest there’s a little a bit of definition 3 here in as well.
Straight from Sacramento City, California, Wheel House Gin is Gold River Distillery’s tribute to the culture of the city and region during prohibition. Enterprising sons and daughters of Gold miners from the Gold Rush weren’t having any of this prohibition business. Taking advantage of the city’s geography, bootleggers used river boats to bring the contraband to the speakeasies of the city. Those brave souls steered their ships from the Wheelhouse, or definition 1. It’s a “grain-to-glass” gin, base from distilled red winter wheat and white wheat on a column still before being distilled with the botanicals.
There’s a warm grainy quality noticeable immediately on the nose. A little bit of spice in the background, licorice, hints of lavender, lemon as well as some ripe vegetal, brothy, notes. Deeper there’s a floral quality lying down here as well, with a touch over overripe strawberry. Interesting and deep, with a lot of levels.
The palate begins with a bit of spice, then juniper. Complex and bright, with lots of notes at play here: a hint of cardamom, that hint of overripe fruit again. leading into a close with fresh crisp juniper needles, ginger, and then some nutmeg. The finish is a little bit short, but it finished clean with a touch of citrus and a tight licorice note. There’s a lot of notes here in the middle that compete for your attention, swirling around your palate fading in and out, but rarely subtle.
Chilled, I found Wheel House American Dry Gin a bit more muted at first, but the mids built strongly on the base of a rich grainy character. Juniper and coriander come through, with the ginger fading out leaving way for ginger [grains of paradise?] and black pepper to shine through finish before closing again with some licorice and anise. The spice comes through much more strongly when chilled.
First we tried it in the Moonlight Cocktail. It was verdant and floral with notes of fresh cut flowers; spice in the background, delicious in profile. Wondering though if the gin could have had a stronger perspective here, but overall I quite liked it. There’s a nice balance with some grassy notes and spice to the finish.
The Gin and Tonic was next up. Overall it was refreshing with some definite notes which differentiate it. Citrus at first, coming across as almost grapefruit-like with some tart and acidic background intimations. The finish reverted to form with some grainy, crisp spice. Rich and different, very good and recommended.
The Fixer! I won’t blame you if you don’t know this obscure number. We think its best with a spice forward contemporary style gin, and Wheel House fits the bill. Cherry citrus, and pungent earthy spice, culminates with a rich cake-like and woody finish. Cherry lasts the longest, riding out the finish, but however, the overall feeling is quite dry. Very interesting.
We then gave a close cousin of the Martini a chance, with the Alaska Cocktail. The dash of Yellow Chartreuse adds just a hint of bright herbiness to it, however, Wheel House American Dry Gin really didn’t stand out when compared to simply drinking it neat or chilled.
My favorite cocktail for gins like this is the Negroni. Very nicely balanced. Wheel House American Dry Gin shines in the middle bringing some coriander, and then citrus, coloring in the finish a bit as well. Chinotto and grain, then with a just a kick of juniper. Recommended.
Overall, Wheel House American Dry Gin
Wheel House American Dry Gin lives up to its billing. It is a contemporary style gin, looking to appeal to those looking for something different or new. The juniper is present, but where it really shines is in how the spice notes compliment the character of the underlying grain spirit. Strong adherents to the classical style are best advised to look elsewhere, but fans of the contemporary style are sure to find this gin to be in their wheelhouse (definition 2).