Barr Hill Gin

When it comes to a martini, I roll hard-core old style.  Pimento stuffed olive.  Just a few drops of vermouth.  Shaken, not stirred.  Gin and glass straight out of the freezer.  And, that gin is almost always Bombay Sapphire.

But I will sometimes wander, on the gin itself at least.  I recently got an email from touting “The 14 Best Gins to Drink in 2021.”  Who doesn’t like The Best?  One of their recommendations was Barr Hill Gin, and they had this to say about it:

And on the bottle, Caledonia proclaims, “Ryan and Todd perfected the use of raw honey in their distillery, capturing the countless botanicals a honey bee forages into their spirits.”

Todd Hardie, left, and Ryan Christiansen, right

Barr Hill  was founded in 2011 by a beekeeper, Todd Hardie, and a distiller, Ryan Christiansen, in Vermont.  Hardie is a lifelong beekeeper who had been caring for bee hives across the state.  Christiansen had previously operated a home-brewing supply store in his hometown of Plainfield, Vermont.  Their partnership began with a single 15-gallon direct-fire copper still inside of a 6,000 square foot distillery located in Hardwick, near the town of Greensboro and the Barr Hill Nature Preserve.

The original distillery, top and the current one, bottom.

Quickly finding success, by the end of 2012 production increased from one to three distillations per day.  In June 2019 a new, larger distillery was opened in Montpelier.  In addition to Barr Hill Gin, Caledonia also produces Barr Hill Vodka and Tom Cat Gin.

The original still, left, and the current one, right.

Barr Hill Gin

This gin technically falls under the Old Tom category, and with apologies (barely) to Hardie and Christiansen, it is ghastly.  There are plenty of rave reviews on the interwebs about this horrible potion, and all of those, including the one on, baffle me.  The very last thing to do with this gin is to drink it neat.  From the producers, “It is distilled with juniper in a custom-built botanical extraction still and is finished with raw honey – the delivery vessel for countless other botanicals and a hint of sweetness – to perfectly balance the juniper.”  O … M … G.  There is more than a “hint” of sweetness, and I don’t want any sweetness in my martini.  Plus, the juniper is way out of balance.  I like a strong juniper presence in my gin, but with nothing but the honey to offset it, this is JUNIPER, with a taste much more like needles than berries.  (And to be clear, I’m not afraid of pine notes.  I’m the only person I know that enjoys Retsina.)  My wife and I got through two sips, and down the drain our martinis went.  The following day, it did make a barely serviceable Negroni, but hell, Campari will mask just about anything.  Unfortunately, that weird pine flavor still came through.  Finally, this gin ain’t cheap, coming in at about $40 per bottle.  Buy one at your own risk.

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Gabriel Boudier Saffron Infused Gin

Gabriel Boudier Saffron Infused GinIn 1909, Gabriel Boudier took over the house of Fontbonne, founded in 1874, and renamed it after himself. He established the business at Boulevard de Strasbourg in Dijon, France, where it continued to thrive until his death in 1918.

In 1936, his widow sold the house to Marcel Battault, who decided not to change the trading name because of its high-quality reputation, He, in turn, handed the business to his nephew Pierre in 1941. In the years since, four more Battaults, Jean, Yves, Francois, and Claire have joined the firm and enjoyed the company’s penchant for nepotism.

Boudier makes a comprehensive line of Crème de Cassis de Dijon, for which they are most famous, Crème de Fruits, eaux de vie (unaged brandy), liqueurs, and the saffron-infused gin which we’re focusing on here.

Introduced in to the US market in 2008, Boudier Saffron Infused Gin is based on a artisanal colonial French recipe rediscovered in the Boudier archives. It is distilled in small batches using a traditional pot still.

The saffron in this dramatically golden-orange-hued gin is more subtle than its appearance suggests (it is artificially colored). The saffron adds a nuanced spiciness and slightly-honeyed balance to the traditional gin botanicals of juniper, coriander, lemon, orange peel, and fennel.

What to do with this unusual spirit?  Here’s one idea:

Saffron Peach Cocktail

3 oz. GB Saffron gin
1 oz. peach syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. agave nectar
Shake and garnish with a fresh peach slice.

A few other ways to enjoy this unique gin are ‘up’ in a martini glass (skip the vermouth); on the rocks; mixed with tonic and garnished with an orange wedge; or to put a new twist on a Negroni. 80 proof.

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Martin Miller’s Gin

Martin Miller’s Gin
Gin Mill

Martin Miller was an English multi-millionaire, entrepreneur, connoisseur, and self-described enthusiast of “leggy women, cigarettes, and gin.” The restless Miller built his fortune on guides to antiques, investing, and real estate ventures.

In 1999, he decided to expand into spirits. At the time, premium vodkas were being introduced at a prolific rate, while gin languished. Determined to rectify that, Miller introduced the eponymous Martin Miller’s Gin.

Miller’s is batch distilled, like malt whiskey, in a 100-year-old still named Angela. The recipe features the requisite juniper, plus lemon, lime, Seville orange peel, coriander, licorice, cinnamon, cassia, and nutmeg. After distillation, the cask-strength spirit is shipped to Iceland, where it is cut with water from the local glaciers.

The Miller’s Gin flavor profile is in the traditional English style. First comes the green pine of the juniper, quickly followed by the citrus component. The finish is smooth, with just a hint of the sweetness found in superior gins.

Miller’s is offered as an 80 proof bottling, as well as a 90.4 proof “Westbourne Strength.”

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