An American Gin Renaissance
Aria Portland Dry Gin ($24)
“Making this gin was almost like being a perfume blender,” says Aria co-owner Ryan Csanky. “We did many mini distillations of individual botanicals, like exotic cubeb berries (an Indonesian spice) and grains of paradise (a West African spice). We blended them with other essences to figure out what we wanted in the final product.” What he and co-owner Erik Martin arrived at is somewhere between a London Dry and Plymouth-style gin, which Csanky says makes an excellent classic martini. “It plays well with vermouth—a lot or a little—and is great with olives and lemons,” he says. ariagin.com.
Captive Spirits Big Gin ($33)
Ben Capdevielle is a third-generation distiller: His dad taught him to make rum from sugar mash when he was 26, and his grandfather made Templeton Rye whiskey clandestinely during Prohibition in Iowa. Now Capdevielle is carrying on the family tradition, making a citrusy, peppery, English-style gin in a small 100-gallon pot still at his new distillery. This winter, Captive will release a gin that has been aged in bourbon barrels from Kentucky’s Heaven Hill. captivespiritsdistilling.com.
Oola Gin ($40)
Since Washington state passed a law allowing in-state craft distilleries in 2008, several of them have opened in Seattle. Kirby Kallas-Lewis’s Oola, which makes a boldly junipered gin, is one of the most attractive. (It shares a 4,000- square-foot warehouse space with his wife’s dance studio.) The beautiful two-story sales room overlooks the custom copper still. Tastings by appointment; ooladistillery.com.
Roundhouse Imperial Barrel Aged Gin ($42)
Former beer brewer Ted Palmer makes his soft, floral gin with Colorado-grown juniper, then ages it for six months in oak casks, resulting in a rich, spicy spirit. Tours and tastings Thursday–Saturday; roundhousespirits.com.
Death’s Door 2011 Harvest Gin ($30)
Gin distillers tend to be a very tight-lipped bunch, rarely divulging the exact botanicals (or sources for them) in their blends or even the proof of the base spirit. Death’s Door is the opposite. The labels note the three botanicals in the gin (organic wild juniper, coriander and fennel seeds) and even what year they were harvested. All of the ingredients, down to the hard red winter wheat used to distill the base spirit, are grown locally in Wisconsin. deathsdoorspirits.com.
Watershed Distillery Bourbon Barrel Gin ($40)
Like a lot of aspiring bourbon makers, this distillery doesn’t have “millions of dollars to sit on while we wait for our bourbon to age,” says Dave Rigo. In the meantime, Rigo and co-distiller Greg Lehman are aging some of their citrusy Four Peel gin in Kentucky bourbon casks. The result: this inaugural batch of exquisitely silky barrel-aged gin. After the November release of their first bourbon, they will reuse their own barrels for the next bottling. Tours and tastings by appointment; watersheddistillery.com.
Kings Mountain, NC
Southern Artisan Spirits Cardinal Gin ($30)
With the intention of making the best-ever gin-and-tonic gin, this Blue Ridge Mountain distillery uses a unique method of steeping all-organic botanicals in the spirit for 48 hours before distilling them. This process creates a lightly sweet, peppery gin that won’t be overpowered by flavorful tonic. southernartisanspirits.com.
New York Distilling Company Dorothy Parker American Gin
Mixologist Allen Katz teamed up with Tom Potter (one of the founders of Brooklyn Brewery) to open this distillery and its next-door cocktail bar, which is called the Shanty. The distillery makes two gins, the juniper-forward Dorothy Parker and a high-proof one called Perry’s Tot. The Shanty is open daily; nydistilling.com.
Art in the Age Sage ($33)
Legally speaking, a spirit has to contain juniper to be labeled gin, but this intensely herbal “garden gin” does not. Inspired by a spirit Thomas Jefferson made from his diverse Monticello gardens, it’s distilled from pine and 15 other botanicals, including spearmint, angelica, rosemary and sage. artintheage.com.